GingerSass

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Mourning poets

This morning, upon finding out that Maya Angelou died, I found myself paralyzed with emotions I couldn’t quite convey.

The same thing happened when Adrienne Rich died.

Like Adrienne, I didn’t immediately understand the rich history behind Maya’s words. I discovered Maya when I was in the 5th grade, about 10 years before I discovered Adrienne. You could venture to say that Maya is one of those poet friends who both simultaneously reminds me of my childhood and of my college years, when I truly became aware of the varying degrees on inequality and injustice in our world.

I remember the nerdy conversation I had with my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. B. She was the one who introduced me to reading poetry for pleasure, as well as the idea of being the sort of teacher who takes on a more personal role with students. I told her reading poetry was boring, and she came in the next day with a copy of Life Doesn’t Frighten Me she had checked out of the library for me. I remember begrudgingly reading the book and being surprised that poetry wasn’t a waste of time, although it would be years before I read poetry again on my own. A few years after Mrs. B introduced me to Maya, she died of a combination of various cancers. Mrs. B was an adoptive grandmother to me, right up until her death, and she managed to give me life lessons even after fifth grade was done.

It seems fitting that Maya Angelou passed today, as it’s also the 11th anniversary of Mrs. B’s death.

I’m mourning the loss of a woman who gave a voice to so many people, before they could even articulate words that needed to be said. I’m mourning the loss of the reassurance that a poetic great is still living and breathing words into our struggling world. I’m mourning a monumental loss that can barely be articulated.

When news broke of Maya Angelou’s death at my school, there was a sense of loss amongst my English teacher peers. And then… a few of my students were discussing her death while I took attendance. I was half listening, not ready to answer their teenage ruminations and questions, when I was once again paralyzed, this time by disbelief.

My students confused Maya Angelou with Nelson Mandela.

I immediately stopped what I was doing and played a video of “Still I Rise.”

(The poem starts at 0:44.)

The students were silent until the very end, and then all a single student could say was, “Damn. Preach, Maya.”

students

This is why I teach poetry– to give a voice to students, to expose them to dialogue, to start a dialogue, and to create a relationship between the past and the present.

Thank you, Maya, for giving me a reason to teach, for giving me a voice to listen to, and for giving thousands upon thousands of people the gift of your words.

I rise
I rise
I rise

2012: A Year in Review

Tonight is the last Friday night of 2012, exactly one week after the world was supposed to end. A lot has happened in 2012, and I decided to highlight everything significant that happened to me this year, month by month.

gs2012

It’s been one heck of a year at GingerSass.

January

Not much happened in January. I turned 22, which was actually a better birthday than my 21st. My friend convinced the bartender at a local bar that I should be given a free bottle of champagne because my 21st coincided with a blizzard and I didn’t get to celebrate. I received a stuffed unicorn and zebra print seat covers from my parents. I, once again, pleaded to Ellen as to why we should celebrate our birthday together and she ignored me. Ya know, the usual.

February

I made it onto PostSecret for the first time. Whitney Houston died and I was devastated so I wrote a poem. Ryan Murphy pissed me off so I wrote him an angry tumblr post turned into a letter, which he never responded to.

March

March was a very important month for me– I STARTED GINGERSASS! (All of the posts posted before March 25th were transferred from my tumblr site.) Fun fact– GingerSass was started because I was pretending to be an investigative reporter at the Sex, Love, and Dating Conference. Also, Adrienne Rich died, which devastated me. A lot.

April

April freaking rocked. Highlights of the month include:

volunteering with NOH8 and later being featured on their website
meeting Frank Warren at my first PostSecret event
saw an opera and a concert in one week
my Poefy (poetry-wifey) was fantabulous in The Vagina Monologues and I wrote about it

May

May was a good month for me. Obama came out in support of gay marriage. I won an award. I graduated college. Life was pretty awesome to me in May.

June

June was an interesting month. I started it out writing about suicide after finding out that the partner of my friend who had committed suicide also committed suicide. I wrote a bunch of 10 Minute Musings for a grad class and reconnected with myself. I came out to my family as a blogger, with the support of Cady McClain, aka Dixie from All My Children. I even inspired her alter-ego, Suzy F*cking Homemaker, to create an internet meme. Suzy also encouraged me to write a post on why I want to be a celesbian…so I did. I also  booked and performed my first paid poetry gig, which was pretty darn awesome.

July

July started off with a roadtrip to Massachusetts with Poefy to the wedding of Taylor and Mike. I basked in the glory of cheeseball goodness. (This post is still one of my most-visited posts, btw.) I fell in love with my job over the summer. I also figured out What Obama Taught Me. I indulged in Restaurant Week. Then I got serious about my blog, invested in an actually site host, got free magnets, and was overwhelmed by the idea of going to BlogHer. I also posted about teacher dress codes, which is also one of my most-visited posts of all time.

August

August started off with me going to BlogHer’12 and MY LIFE CHANGING FOREVER. I made so many blogging friends through BlogHer, and I’m going to (eventually) categorize them on her so you can so who I’m reading. I also won a happy hour party in August and celebrated with wings and food at a local bar with my friends. Woohoo! To top August off, I started my new job, got an apartment to go along with it, and ruminated on why Res Life will always be a part of me.

September

September was an emotional, crazy month. I had an awesome first week of September. I was a national runner up to be the next Verizon Ultimate Insider, mentioned on AfterEllen, and yogurt was on sale. I made it through the one year deathaversary of my friend’s suicide, and I participated in yet another walk for dead people. September was emotional, tough, and trying, but I got through it.

October

October started off with me reflecting on how much I love my car. I also met Jack Hanna, which was a childhood dream come true. I had a kickass lesson on bullying on National Coming Out Day and fell even more in love with teaching. I went to the Dodge Poetry Festival for the first time as an educator, and I helped my students fall in love with poetry. I met Geena Davis and she told me, “You’re changing the world to be a place I want to be in. Keep up the good work.” I saw Melissa Etheridge in concert. I survived Hurricane Sandy, was really upset that Sandy canceled Halloween, and was upset by the whole Sandy experience.

November

November feels like such a long time ago. I participated in NaBloPoMo for the first time and wrote about how I’m a Jersey girl, how Sandy domesticated me, and what Obama’s win meant to me. I also talked about bacon, ghosts, and just how important it was that I found my voice again by going to poetry open mics. I cut my hair, took silly webcam pics, and thought about my future. I ended my first NaBloPoMo experience by being grateful for stickers, and really having peace in knowing that I’m on the right track for what I want to do with my life.

December

December flew by. I think the biggest thing that happened to me this month, right before my student teaching internship ended, was that I realized why I want to teach. I arranged for an assembly for my Creative Writing students, and  it really changed my relationship with them forever. It taught one student to not be afraid to be who she is, and this, in return, encouraged me to come out to her. She then wrote me a note and made me cry. Then the Newtown, Connecticut shooting happened and it hit really close to home, as it was the first school shooting that has happened since I began student teaching. My students asked me if I would take a bullet for them, and I was able to respond honestly and say yes. Student teaching ended, and I managed to make it to the parking lot after school before crying. I got creeped out by the whole Elf on a Shelf phenomenon, but secretly loved my creepy little elf.

2012 was a year of growth. I rediscovered my writing identity, and GingerSass became a very large part of who I am. I’m grateful for the opportunities blogging has given me this past year, and I cannot wait to see what 2013 holds.

Happy New Year, folks! What are you looking forward to in 2013?

PS I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend or not, but if you’ll be at home this NYE, consider joining in on #Tweetin13. There are prizes, fun people, and it’s hosted by two of my favorite ladies. Get on it!

More on Adrienne Rich

I lieu of her death, for a poetry assignment this week, I was asked to imitate one of Adrienne Rich’s poems. Although I’ve already imitated her “Twenty-One Love Poems” and been influenced by “Diving into the Wreck,” I decided to imitate the poem “Power” for this particular assignment. I paid particularly close attention to the lines she used in “Power,” and I tried to imitate the poem line by line. As a result, I was able to further explore the poetic lust I (and so many others) felt for Adrienne. I was able to imitate her tribute to Marie Curie and somewhat pay tribute to Adrienne. She was a poetic, feminist, queer icon to so many individuals, and although I don’t think this imitation is 100% complete, I hope that this poem pays further tribute to the impact she made on my life. She truly was phenomenal.

First, here’s a poem influenced by the news of Adrienne’s death and her poem “Diving into the Wreck. It’s still a work in progress.

Diving into the Past

KB

Do you remember the days long ago
when there was pride in one’s craft?
We’d close our eyes and savor the moment,
hanging on to our life rafts.

Profound words would dance between our tongues,
teasing our senses and hearts.
We’d swallow them with the finest of wines,
and discuss the writing art.

Stimulating conversation occurred
fortnightly, shifting between
our rooms, as we exercised our brains,
drinking deep reds and caffeine.

The midnight stars turned to new sunrises.
We said farewell, parted ways.
Our poetic souls were intertwined,
destined to reunite one day.

Now beside our deceased heroes lay our pasts,
symbols of what we used to be,
and as our words are buried in the soil
we recall nights of poetry.

 

As mentioned earlier, this next one was influenced by “Power.”

 

“Lust”

KB

Hiding in the fossilized pages of history

Today a finger trembled beneath a yellowed page
and the pressure of three hundred and sixty eight
pages of intricately placed words
collected over fifty-one years.

Today I was reminiscing about Adrienne Rich:
she must have known she was an icon
as she challenged the norm
she so defied
It seems she thrived to the end
in the difference she made
the words that she wrote
the lives that she changed
by simply being unafraid to speak her truth

She died a famous woman making
a difference
being
herself and a source of lust for women everywhere.