Reviewing my work

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am writing poems again, or poem-like things anyway, on nanotechnology. Tonight I went back and read my chapbook, published here, which is basically a sifting out of poems from the ten years prior to publication. This is to say that though the chapbook is, um, uneven, there are still poems I’m happy to read.

Writing about nanotechnology is one of the methods I’m using to talk about our ever-expanding surveillance state. State as in nation and as in state of being.  I’m surprised to see (though I shouldn’t be) that surveillance is a theme in my work going back at least 12 years. I was always writing about being watched and judged and misjudged. Well, about that and plants.

Here I have to post a disclaimer and an explanation. I have a family that is much healthier now than it was when I was young. Over the course of many years we went from dysfunctional and abusive to functional and loving. My family now is a source of great joy to me. I wouldn’t bring up the awfulness of my childhood, except that it shaped me. Being hit shaped me. Being judged, distrusted, and disregarded as unreliable then has a part in how I think now.

A surveillance state turned against its people, making us into the watched, judged, data-mined, seeing its own people as not a gift but a danger – this is abusive. Infantilizing. This is a great sadness as it turns us against ourselves.  These tight, closed, secret narratives of what we are (and who we do, probably), they become the record, the history.

We live in an anti-intellectual climate. It’s not just the watchers. Many ordinary people also view the arts with profound suspicion. The arts are both ridiculed as unserious and at the same time seen as destabilizing. And we are reduced to credit scores and snapshots, networks and habits.

I come again and again to the same thought. In the face of such a reductive, intrusive, infantilizing system, it is more urgent than ever that we tell our own stories.  Our own open, unfixed narratives.  Our truths in all their complicated richness.

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