Pulitzer Prize: Poetry

I’ve only started reading poetry (for pleasure) within the last year. Being forced to read poetry is one of the most painful things, in the world of homework, I’ve ever experienced. So, for me, finding poetry that I enjoy reading is an incredible experience.

When I saw the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Frank Bidart for poetry, I was immediately interested. The title of the collection is Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016, and I was intrigued by the fact that these poems span such a vast number of years. Each person’s voice changes with them as they meet new people, experience new things, and I think that that would really be apparent in including poetry from several different decades into one volume.

As I read the description of the work, I was interested by amount of voices that Bidart apparently uses in his work:

“His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child-murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet’s own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognizes our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us and inside us.”

Taking on a range of voices is incredibly difficult to do. A lot of my own writing revolves around the same themes, attacking the same ideas. I often find myself writing similar characters with similar experiences, and while I think those characters are important, I do think that being able to write different characters and experiences is incredibly important as well. It’s something I’ve really tried to work on this last year in my creative writing.

I found myself reading a Bustle article about the book. E. Ce Miller praises Bidart’s work and discusses the vast amount of topics and issues that he covers, also commenting on the way he writes and the style he uses:

“Bidart is hardly known for being a traditional poet — instead, he is one who plays with typography, word arrangement, and meandering monologues, and utilizes unconventional punctuation and capitalization. His collections have explored a wide range of themes from the darker corners of the human psyche: guilt, murder, eating disorders, disease, illness, death; but also revels in experiences of sex, love, and the desire to live.”

When reading prose, I love looking at different types of formalism and seeing how writers break the traditional realms of writing. From my understanding, Bidart takes the liberties of breaking those rules as well.

I’m also curious how he chooses to handle the topics mentioned above because I think that many of them are difficult to talk about.

Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up the book at some point, but until then, here’s a video of Bidart reading some of his poetry. I really enjoyed “Queer” (4:52).

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Understanding Consent

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In honor of that, I’m going to post a series of blog posts this month about different statistics and areas of sexual assault. If you haven’t already, check out my first two blogs in the series: Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month: LGTBQIA+.

Today, I want to discuss what I believe to be the most important part of Sexual Assault Awareness: Consent. There are some people in the world that intend harm when they sexually assault or harass another human being; however, in many other cases, there is a lack of education about consent and what it looks like.

RAINN defines consent as an agreement between individuals to engage in sexual activity:

“When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication—and it should happen every time. The laws about consent vary by state and situation, but you don’t have to be a legal expert to understand how consent plays out in real life.”

There are many different ways to ask for or give consent, and RAINN details a few of these: asking if something is okay when transitioning to a new activity in the bedroom, explicitly agreeing or giving affirmatives to certain activities, or using positive body language to signal your comfort to your partner. There is many more ways, of course, but it’s important to remember communication when asking for or expressing consent.

According to RAINN, Consent does NOT look like:

  • refusing to acknowledge “no” or other words that signify that your partner is not interested
  • assuming certain behaviors (flirting), clothing, kissing is an invitation for more
  • someone being under the legal age of consent
  • someone under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear/intimidation
  • assuming you have consent because your partner has given consent to you in prior situations

Different states have different definitions for consent, but RAINN defines three key legal terms regarding consent.

Affirmative consent: Did the person express overt actions or words indicating agreement for sexual acts?

Freely given consent: Was the consent offered of the person’s own free will, without being induced by fraud, coercion, violence, or threat of violence?

Capacity to consent: Did the individual have the capacity, or legal ability, to consent?

Capacity to consent involves many different factors. Whether or not a person has the legal ability to consent to sexual activity could be based on age, developmental disability, intoxication, physical disability, relationship of victim/perpetrator (was perpetrator in a position of authority?), unconsciousness, and vulnerable adults (i.e. elderly or ill adult). To view specifics of these factors, visit RAINN.

If you take anything from this blog post, these are the points I want you to remember.

You always have the right to say “no.” Even if it is your significant other or you’ve previously been involved with sexual activity with them.

Someone that is drunk or high is incapable of giving consent. Even if they seem into it at the time, they do not have the capacity to consent to sexual activity in that moment.

You can always change your mind. Consent is continuous, and if halfway through, you decide it’s no longer what you want — tell your partner. You have every right to stop.

Communication is key. Get comfortable asking for consent, and get comfortable providing it. Having open, healthy communication will truly benefit a healthy sexual relationship/encounter.

Remember you are not alone. If you need help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

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Media Criticism: Facebook “News”

I have a few Facebook friends that post some frustrating or offensive stuff. I see a lot of pro-life posts (that bash women more than they protect unborn children), and I see a lot of homophobic or transphobic posts. Typically, that would lead to an unfriend, but when they’re family, I can’t do it that way.

One particular post caught my eye a few weeks ago, and I immediately sent it to my boyfriend, so that we could start fact checking. The problem with these posts is that they don’t link to any sort of source, and we often know very little about the person posting it.

The following image was posted with the caption, “The 1st gun control law passed should be to bar democrats from owning guns. Dems blame The NRA??” (Copy and pasted word for word, by the way). Click here to see the original post.

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The last line invites you to go fact checking, so that’s what I did. I started looking to see if I could find the political party of the people that committed these mass shootings. It wasn’t an easy task. If I didn’t know the name right off the bat, I first had to find the name of the mass shooter before I started trying to find whether they were a Democrat or not.

What did I find?

Very little.

I gave up about halfway down the list. Have you ever tried searching for someone’s political party before? If they aren’t a politician, or someone in the spotlight, you’re not going to be able to find this information more than likely. I confirmed maybe 1 or 2, but majority of the sources I could find were unaware of the mass shooters political affiliations.

I would venture to guess that whoever created this list was aware that this information would be hard to find and/or just created the list to rile up anti-democrat people. And it succeeded. The comments are filled with people agreeing, hating on Democrats, and claiming that they are the ones to blame for everything.

Regardless of whether or not that list is true, regardless of whether or not Democrats are to blame for “everything,” posts like these shouldn’t have the reach that they do.

I’ve gotten so used to including sources in my blog posts that I forget that it’s not commonplace in the world of social media. People post things without fact checking, without providing where they got their information, and other people see it, agree with it, and believe it.

When I see posts like these, I want to ask for sources, for more information, but some people just take this information, adding it to a list in the back of their minds — the “next reason to hate Democrats” list.

An Awkward Tinder Interaction

Left, left, right, left.

The Tinder game has been going, off and on, for a while.

Hardly ever does a real conversation come out of it. Oftentimes she runs into creepy men. Rarely does it reach past pointless small talk.

On one night in particular, she was seated at Perkins. Sarah had been ignoring a specific individual after he had made inappropriate sexual comments and spoken almost exclusively in Bitmojis since their initial exchanges.

Two friends sat across from them in the booth. One already knew of the exchanges; however, the other did not. As Sarah explained, she turned the phone around so the other friend could see.

She gasped, “he’s married!”

“What?”

“I’ve met him! He’s married.” One of her friends knew the wife of the individual, in fact, maybe fifteen minutes after this conversation, that friend snapchatted her to let her know she was going to The Big Apple with her friend (the wife) and her husband.

The group of friends were greatly amused. Sarah decided to confront him about it, sending a message with no other context, “Are you married?”

She didn’t wait long for his response. “Why?”

“Well, are you? I asked first.”

“Yeah, but I’m in an open marriage.”

“Does she know that?” Because according to Sarah’s friend, she did not.

“Yes. Who did you talk to?”

Not wanting to tell on her friend, Sarah said, “I have my sources.”

“Okay, well then. Could you tell me who it is, please?”

“Nah.”

He opened the message but did not immediately respond.

The group of friends forgot about the conversation for a while, enjoying their food and conversation.

When he did respond, they were all astonished. “Okay well, I’m going bowling with friends shortly, and my wife is going to be there too. You are welcome to join us and ask her yourself, if you have doubts.”

Sarah was quiet for a little bit. Her friends asked her if she wanted to go.

Sarah said no. That would be awkward. Plus, she weren’t really considering taking the encounter farther anyways. She never responded to his message.

Upon leaving Perkins, the small party was still discussing whether or not they were going to go The Big Apple — just to take a peek.

The driver of the car, finally frustrated, stopped and told Sarah to make a fast decision. She needed to choose whether or not they were going.

Sarah chose to flip a coin. Heads, they’d go. Tails, they wouldn’t.

The first coin flip was unsuccessful. It was a penny, and it was dark.

After the second coin flip, however, only silence came from the back seat.

“I guess we’re going to The Big Apple.”

They drove in that direction. Upon arrival, they all agreed that they would be there five minutes tops. One of them lent Sarah a jacket, so that she wouldn’t be recognized. They walked in together, Sarah in the middle, her hood up.

They passed the bar, and one friend spotted the other party. Sarah and her friends walked around uncomfortably, trying to spot him and his wife from different doors and windows. They were just about to pass the main bar entrance again when the man exited the bar. Sarah quickly turned around, panicking. “That’s him!”

He stood near them for a moment before heading around another corner, possibly on his way to the restroom. One friend quickly grabbed Sarah’s arm and marched them right on out of the building.

Everyone returned home, and that was the end of that Tinder interaction.

Left, left, right, left.

 

Jello Shots

Skip over this blog post if you’re under 21.

If you’re under 21, and if you’ve kept reading anyways, I no longer feel responsible for your actions.

I turned 21 in August, and it’s still weird to me that I can go out and buy alcohol, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing so.

Tomorrow evening is the Queer Prom (check out my “promposal” blog if you haven’t already), and I will be having a couple people over afterwards, so I decided to make Jello shots. So, I just thought I’d give some brief instructions, including which flavors and alcohols I thought I’d try together.

Then, at the end of this blog, I’m going to include a poll where you can guess which one you think will be the best tasting. My friends and I will discuss it tomorrow night to vote ourselves.

To start out, I got three different flavors of Jello (one out of my cupboard from the last time I did this) and a bag of these plastic mini-cups with lids at Walmart. I used 45 in total, so I’ve got five random ones left. I probably could have filled all of them, but I just wanted the same amount of each color, so I didn’t bother.

Next, I pulled up several different recipes to compare. Here’s what I ended up doing:

STEP 1: Add your Jello to one cup boiling water.

STEP 2: Stir until completely dissolved.

STEP 3: Add half a cup cold water.

STEP 4: Add about half a cup vodka.

STEP 5: Pour into cups and place in fridge.

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I’ve had Jello shots that had too much alcohol, so they’re too runny, and I’ve also had Jello shots that are too weak. So I did play around with that a little.

I also try to let them cool a bit in the fridge before placing the lids on them to avoid excessive condensation; however, by round three of these I had given up on that.

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So here is my three different mixtures:

Berry Blue Jello + 1/2 cup Lemonade UV

Strawberry Jello + 3/4 cup Strawberry Smirnoff

Lemon Jello + 3/4 cup Lemonade UV

 

The end result were some very colorful Jello Shots that are currently taking up a lot of space in my fridge, which is fine because it’s almost always empty anyways. Hopefully they’re tasty.

 

Media Criticism

The column I read builds up to a very specific point. Facebook, and other large companies, have two choices right now: take full responsibility for the content on their networks or operate more along the lines of broadband providers, providing licensing to other media companies who are responsible for their own content.

If Mark Penn had started with that point, I wouldn’t have entirely known what he was talking about. However, he took the time to go through Facebook’s current issues and how they started. Facebook moved away from just being a place for people to connect, to being a media organization, distributing real and fake news.

Penn then went even farther back to explain legislation that has regulated media ownership in the past. I felt like he really provided pertinent media history that the general public wouldn’t know before claiming that the internet should be treated no differently than radio and TV stations in terms of licensing.

“If the major platforms continue to try to serve as full-blown news distributors without accepting the full responsibilities of publishers, Congress should intervene to preserve information diversity and accountability in our marketplace of ideas.”

Overall, I think Penn took a rather complex topic, and did his best to educate his readers on the history and context behind it before making his claims. I really appreciate the time and research that could have potentially gone into writing this. I oftentimes get frustrated reading certain articles because I’m not knowledgeable about a certain subject matter or the newest headlines, but this article provided me with context enough for me to understand his claims.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: LGTBQIA+

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In honor of that, I’m going to post a series of blog posts this month about different statistics and areas of sexual assault. If you haven’t already, check out my first blog on the subject, introducing the topic and some its key points.

Today, I’m going to share statistics and resources that relate to the LGTBQIA+ community.

Did you know that members of the community are more likely to be sexually assaulted, harassed, and raped?

According to the Human Rights Campaign, members of the LGTBQIA+ community face higher risks of poverty, stigma, and marginalization, which can all contribute to a higher risk of sexual assault.

I found the following statistics from the HRC really bothersome:

  • 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of heterosexual women

  • 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 29% of heterosexual men

  • 46% of bisexual women have been raped, compared to 17% of heterosexual women and 13% of lesbians

  • 22% of bisexual women have been raped by an intimate partner, compared to 9% of heterosexual women

  • 40% of gay men and 47% of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21% of heterosexual men

  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
  • Among people of color, American Indian (65%), multiracial (59%), Middle Eastern (58%), and Black (53%) respondents of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey were most likely to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime

  • Nearly half (48 percent) of bisexual women who are rape survivors experienced their first rape between ages 11 and 17.

These numbers are extremely high, but, as a society, we tend to gloss over the struggles of different communities. I want everyone to know that this is a problem.

When we discuss sexual assault, we tend to discuss the white, heterosexual female’s story. Of course, those stories need to be told, but I think it’s really important to remember that there are so many other people that are experiencing sexual assault and the difficulties that follow it: people of color, people of different sexual orientations or gender identities, etc. Their stories deserve to be told as well.

Important resources:

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