27 Jan 2010

Women: inherently irrational?

Halt, lady readers, don't book your hostels in Cambridge just yet, as the Valentines launch has been postponed. This time, it's not because I tried to kill myself, but due to publishing technicalities. I'm not bitter, but I do wish I had a bloody boyfriend. Oh the world of a lady writer! Speaking of Lady Writers, in 1925, Scottish Lady writer Willa Muir penned Women, An Enquiry, in which she frustratingly linked the Freudian unconscious with the female gender, and the rational, decisive consciousness with, you guessed it, men. Now, far be it from me to support gender essentialism: I've met plenty of Transfolk and I tell you, it's definitely not as simple as all that. Some mornings I don't feel anything like putting on a bra, and my formidable skills at Scrabble alert me to the fact that frequently I am able to be perfectly rational and on top of things, unlike poor Willa Muir who thought that women were given an important 'creative outlet' in motherhood to match all the fun inventions and science the boys got to do. Silly bitch. The irrational, spontaneous and emotional outbursts of the unconscious/women could, Muir claimed, be channelled creatively and supply society with valuable growth, vitality and humanism, something which starchy men, trapped in their mechanical functionalism, were unable to supply for themselves (for some reason).

Generally, I disapprove, but when it comes to publishing schedules, perhaps Muir was right about women's inherent inability to meet deadlines. Now, one publication which definitely did get off the ground successful was Issue 2 of the Cambridge Literary Review which launched last night in (you'll win a pair of my knickers if you guess it successfully ...) yes that's right, Cambridge! I was trapped in familial pow-wows last night with Aunt Lily over what to do with vast chunks of the family 'fund' which were invested somewhere truly ghastly which might not exist anymore (further proof of our gendered inability to cope with masculine rational constructions, I'll thank you Helene Cixous). The outcome of this was that I missed the launch, which promised to be a good one, with readings from tender Valkyrie Marianne Morris and Tony Robinson from Time Team! I was very glad to have a poem I composed in honour of fleur du mal, Tom Chivers included, and to be able to represent the gritty London scene in the formidable, ivory cloisters of Cambridge, like a female Jude the Obscure, although of course I still use my cantab.net address occasionally.
Do please check it out. Finally, many apologies to those who turned out to see me at the Edinburgh Student Fringe Festival's feminist poetry event, Shout Out! on the 18th Jan, where I had intended to read. After walking around an intimidating student union, full of 'young people' and scores of the sort of idiotic girls who are produced like Sea Monkeys every time a new 'mega-trend' takes off, this time wearing fake fur jackets and palpable Topshop irono-novelty brogues, I chanced upon a sign which made me realise the reading had in fact taken place the day before. Proof, if proof is necessary in your gendered framework of fixed texts and unambiguous language, that women are subject to what Julia Kristeva calls feminine time, which is circular, reproductive, and eternal, in contrast to masculinity's linear, teleological time and its association with culturally valued 'progress'. I contend that if the poetry reading had been feminist, it would still be going on now.


(or is it? another feminist question)

12 Jan 2010

A Year off the Ward: a Posie Rider work in progress...

The mind is a complex organ, and try as they might, clinical psychiatrists have yet to concoct the correct combination of suppressants, stimulants, narcotics and anti-hallucinogenics to remedy its many, many disturbances. Sound like you? Then you're just like me, and will love my new book!

A Year off the Ward,
soon to be published with WPR Books, charts a year in which I attempted not to get sectioned under the Mental Health Act, or because I was stalking someone. My loyal readers will be glad to know my valiant attempts to stay ostensibly sane are finally being bundled into a collectible tome, and they will have been with me throughout the journey via my blog, a garbage heap of the mind like no other. Anyone remember September 2008-August 2009? Let me jog your memory in my book!

And, if you happen to be in Cambridge on the 14th February, you can come along to the launch. It's at Heffers! More details to be announced as I'm currently in frenzied chats with my publishers to ensure the book is in tip top condition, and that I make sure its in proper sentences before I commit it to PDF.

Find below a sneak preview to wet your dripping appetite! It follows the first few weeks of January 2009, when I tried to overcome my mental disturbances by improving my body image through strategic anorexia, and learnt some important lessons about feminism on the way.



“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind

shapes itself to the body, and roaming around its gilt cage, seeks

only to adorn its prison.”

Mary Wollstonecraft

I returned to N1 full of Christmas cheer. A fortnight in Aunt Lily's cottage had reminded me of a kind of happiness I had forgotten long ago, weighed down by the perils of modernity and psychosis. I dread sentimentalising the domestic, but there is something so comforting about spending one's days on brisk Hampshire walks and one's evenings roasting Ladurée mincemeat macaroons over an open fire while Aunt Lily microwaves yet another Marks and Spencer Turkey Crown with extra stuffing. Hitherto, I had thought of kitchens as essentially vulgar things which are best buried in the depths of a copious town house and populated with willing staff able to whisk up a chickpea bake and send it flying up a dumb-waiter at the ring of a midnight bell.

Now, however, I found myself craving the aesthetic qualities of the Arga as much as I once yearned for the Georgia O'Keefe printed screen that currently shields the entrance to my modest cuisine from prying eyes. A great change had come upon me. I went online and started a twelve month subscription to Country Living. I packed away my more outrageous (and blood splattered) wall decoration in favour of distressed pine and vintage cross-stitch baby primers from Islington antiques market. I bought holly and mistletoe and put them in a blue chipped enamel watering can and soaked my white Habitat sofa in tea to make it looked antique, like I did as a child in a school project on the Magna Carta and, most troublingly, I started baking.

It all started with Christmas Gingerbread Partridges, a kind of crisp cookie made with a hand-crafted copper cookie cutter and decorated with delicate icing designs. It was another one of Aunt Lily's great ideas, like taking mescaline at my parent's funeral. The partridges were intended to be tree or package ornaments, or decorative gifts for friends I'd missed over the holiday period. Having no friends as such (except Lara, who's a bit too grown up for that sort of thing, and Melody, who's afraid of pigeons, which are a bit like partridges) and no tree, as I had no burly boyfriend to bring it in, and am not a post-feminist after all, I found myself at a loss as to what to do with all the things. They were so, so hard (like rocks), so I didn't dare attempt to eat them. At first. Soon I had discovered that, if soaked in tea, coffee or any hot liquid, they eventually softened to an edible consistency. At 5.0g of fat per partridge, and with little to do between New Year and Pancake Day, it wasn't long before I'd transferred my mental turmoil to my thighs and, whilst trying to run away from the ward with a basket full of gender-normativity under my cook's arm, I had in fact booked myself a ticket straight back to the ward aboard a special convoy vehicle like the ones they use to transfer the obese around airports.

......... to be continued!