Thursday, July 23, 2009

The New Thing

The new thing keeps changing. I have always thought about the clothes as well as the lines while at poetry events. The new thing, one of the news things, is that now I share my thoughts. What has become a my fashion project -- or I should say our fashion project – seems not so much trivializing, okay maybe a little, as to address the practical physicalities of being there. Whether it’s dealing with the hour long drive over the bridge, finding a way to get somewhere distant from public transportation when your car is broken or you never had a car, humoring your non poet partner or, worse, your poet partner or figuring out who it is you might be when you show up -- it’s all part of the context.

One of the new things for me is enjoying the context more as a result of being older. People think it’s bad but for me at least it has been mostly good. No kidding. I think it might have something to do with the A Tonalist dictum “that much that seemed forbidden is in fact required.” Lately, because of writing these posts I have felt it my duty to up the ante on what I think of as Mr Outfit. I don’t have the will to document my daily look like Nada, though I enjoy checking in with hers and approve of the skirts -- especially the foofy one. I can’t really believe that she makes many of them. How great is that? Today's cranky outfit is particularly good. At some point I mean to do a whole post on black and white.

Sunday there was an excellent reading at The New Series of Vanessa Place and Peter Culley. When I was chatting with Vanessa before the reading we acknowledged to each other the challenging aspects of conceptualist practice – the part where the audience might feel sad or threatened or bored or, you know, all of the above. But fashion can also be challenging. Lately, I have felt the need to follow my rule of one wrong thing and in doing so have felt a nagging sense of worry – maybe two giant ropes of pearls were a little much for the situation (luckily I had a scarf to cover them) but I was calm, feeling it was my duty to amp it. I think this is what Nada refers to in questioning her boring (but successful with the students) outfit of, well, I forget when. The rule of not scaring people has to be balanced with the rule of not boring yourself to death with the ensemble.

Vanessa chose to wear a suit to read, giving her a very professional air and providing a background for the reading she did of material from her law practice – sexual, visceral, conflicted, strangely speechy and filled with numbers that turned out to be page references. It was very compelling – riveting actually. She read it intensely, working it and working the outfit. You can get a glimpse of her below, played off against fellow conceptualist Suzanne Stein in ultra floof, flawlessly pulled off.

Suzanne Stein & Vanessa Place

Peter Culley read second and was fascinating with a lot of almost cruel rhyme and a use of words that has driven me from the reading to the page. I have The Age of Briggs and Stratton on my desk. How could I not have read him before? His work reminds me a bit of me, not surprising because we are of an age. My photo of him came out dark, but I liked his plaid shirt with a kind of lime green in it and lime green t-shirt under it. Understated but totally worked.

Another Canadian was there, Lisa Robertson, looking chic in a translucent sweater tunic thing with straight-legged jeans rolled up at the cuff. Proof positive that the black and blue thing with cuffs rolled can be new. Of course the jet like hair takes the whole thing to another level. She is below along with Brandon Brown, truly astounding in peach jacket. He is talking to Jacob Eichert who is doing a balanced almost invisibly successful version of basic guy poet – nothing foofy there.

Lisa Robertson

Brandon Brown & Jacob Eichert

Working backwards in time (and this one was the hour on the bridge reading) we have Alli Warren with David Buuck at David Highsmith’s Books and Bookshelves where I hadn’t been since I actually bought a bookshelf there in the 90s. During and after the reading I discovered what I already knew -- that I can’t go around taking a lot of pictures of people. It’s easier when I know them. So we have another of Brandon below. He was looking unusually dashing, if I might say that. Brandon is willing to go the extra mile when it come it to Mr Outfit. Here he is talking with a person I don’t recognize (I really need to get out more.)

Alli was dressed up in her signature nonfoofy way, really bombshelling it. Buuck always dresses with diva level cool so parsing the look is just a matter of noticing the details – in this case the old work boots looking like they might have belonged to Jackson Pollock. They both read great. Alli kicked in with a lot of deeply ironized material that was very talky and direct. There were list poems, the word “dick” was used frequently and with fine feeling. She had the audience in the palm of her hand, as they say. I like it that people are wearing large plastic glasses. David first did a sort of graffiti reading routine that I thought entirely creditable and then settled in to read a long nuclear poem he said he’d written a while ago which I really liked. The readings were worth the hour on the bridge, which is saying a lot.

Alli Warren & David Buuck

Lindsey Boldt & Sunnylyn Thibodeaux

I had a conversation with Lindsey Boldt about blogging and influence. She was doing a modest tweed and knee socks thing that you can do in the summer only in San Francisco. Kevin had on fantastic new shoes of a sort of deep rose which I photographed along with my pink sandaled toes. I think he facebooked about them or maybe blogged. I seem to be electronically over-optioned these days. I am including this shot of myself and Cedar Sigo taken because we were both in pink, gray, yellow and black.

Laura Moriarty & Kevin Killian's shoes

Brandon again

Cedar Sigo & me

BTW, sorry for random sizing of photos.

I don’t promise not to write about fashion any more but some incredible books are piling up that I really need to get to. One is Bhanu Kapil's Humanimal which I blurbed and which, incredibly, is better in person than it was in manuscript. It is entirely the new thing – a documentary poem much felt and yet also somehow science -- a report, a project, a narrative – A Project For Future Children, as the subtitle reveals. More on that.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Me, ships, Nate Mackey (one of my great heroes of poetic fiction) at X Poetics. It's like my dream post. Thanks, Robin!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Foof and Its Discontents

Thanks to Lindsey for her post and especially for the photos, though I don't really think they capture the impact of a well-thought-out Boldt ensemble.

As promised, let’s briefly discuss foof. Foof or foofy -- I have heard it both ways -- refers to items of clothing or style that are very feminine. Girlie. Some people just don’t go there. I have seen Alli Warren arrive at work at 9 wearing earrings only to ditch them before 10. On the other hand, there are those of us who never met a ruffle or a spangle we didn’t like. Alli would helpfully send me vest websites back in the day and I have some vests but tend to wear them with frilly blouses (or as frilly as is currently possible, which is not frilly at all, alas.) Many people foof it up when they go to a party of some event but others always amp it, wearing necklaces, pins, scarves, bracelets, and other accoutrements -- as for example fans. (Is it hot in her or is it me?) Guy foof can be subtle but of course exists – hats, ties when not required (esp bow ties). I don’t actually think gender preference matters here, unless we are talking about feathers. I am sure I don’t have to say that Brandon’s pearls count. The great goddess of foof was Frida Kahlo who painted herself wearing a fair amount of ornament even when she was bedridden. As is well known, I am completely unafraid of foofing it to the max, though I try to exercise restraint.

Is the tattoo as aspect of foof? Is it ornamental? I tend to think yes, but invite comment.

This leads us to another sensitive issue – age appropriate fashion. Here we need to fall back on the rule of not scaring people. Just two words here – underdo it. We could call this the Cher Rule. Consider dressing older than you are. That way you actually look younger – unless you are, you know, 25 or something, in which case consider not dressing like a high school person. Okay I’m being a bit dickish here. A nice current trend in foof is the Barbara Bush pearl necklace worn by someone young, usually with a knit dress that looks easy to wear but, darlings, give it some thought before going there. If gravity is a problem for you – well you know who you are, or I should say we know who we are.

About costumes. (And as per Nada's post. You're going to have to scroll a bit here.) I am basically for them because they cause a level of discomfort and weariness that I think can be edifying, especially after a few hours. A line of mine – I think this is from Symmetry – “Virtures smoking in the corner “ is about costume. I urged poets to wear masks for the San Francisco Poetry Extravaganza that SPD hosted (thank you Poetry Foundation) at the MLA in December. Some poets refused to wear masks and sent peevish emails about the very idea of it. Others went all out. While we weren’t exactly costumed, Brent and I exhausted ourselves by wearing masks in the glare of the lights while we introduced everybody. I enjoyed the jaded feeling I had with too much glitter amid too many poets. I had foofed it a bit with a white silk top that was part nightie, part smock. With black jeans. Of course it’s not something you want to experience every day.

An ancillary counter-foof issue is not wanting attention. I don’t like too much of it myself and understand that often dressing in jeans and a black top or jeans and a green top (or t-shirt with oblique sports team or old business logo), for a big change, occurs because you want to slide in under the radar and communicate only to a chosen few, with your pastel keds or whatever your group likes, that you’ve still got it. I get that. Then if you add at least one annoying or hilarious detail you will at least be able to stay awake when you look in the mirror.

I realize that I need to do a little more research to continue with this thread so, watch out, the next time you see me my camera might be pointed at your “outfit.”

Monday, July 06, 2009

A Few Fashionable Thoughts

Just a few comments at the end of the fashion day.

For me, fashion is simply what people wear and I should admit that I have a very low threshold for thinking someone who has made the slightest effort looks great.

For example (this happened yesterday) I will look at a middle aged guy at the gym and think. Good blue on blue shorts and top, not too short, nothing showing that shouldn’t, hides the gut which is at a way acceptable level.

Another recent sighting: a young woman, teens or early twenties, was waiting in line at the grocery store to buy two bags of chips. Two bags. She was wearing very short cutoffs, torn stockings, off-yellow t-shirt, gray hoodie, some kind of sneaker-like shoe. It was sexy without being, you know, ‘I am going to Halloween as a crack whore.’ I do think you have to be under 21 to pull that one off.

I was glad that Lindsey Boldt posted her outfit today on Facebook because that woman can really wear clothes. Of course it helps to be 6’5” or whatever she is. But she always adds just that touch of scraggily knitted scarf or beanie (“hearts on sleeve”) or something else crazy that is completely compelling. Lindsey – please send photos!

A few more rules, well, suggestions:

The rule of not scaring people. This is important. i.e. No more than two scarves, no matter what.

Don’t overdo the matchy poo thing. (I have this so I know it's hard.) This especially applies to red. One red thing is enough. Okay, maybe a print red thing or a thin line of red somewhere, but that’s it.

Important to wear clashing purples – and easy.

One exception to the matchy thing -- people with gray hair should wear lots of gray. It emphasizes the whole old thing and any degree to which you are still in shape etc will seem amazing.

Pink and brown. Turquoise and brown.

And of course taupe chinos and yellow bow tie is so Brandon Brown. I mean you want to swoon just thinking about the appropriateness of the bow tie.

About the rolled jeans, I was thinking of the six to eight inch well crafted roll and I agree it is still good if you can get your jeans to do that.

Sports jackets. I am very fond of them.

Tomorrow: black and white. More response to Nada's excellent post Re: costumes etc. Also age-appropriate cut-off dates.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Black & Blue

I have been waiting for Brandon Brown to post about fashion as he promised last month but can wait no more. In the the spirit of and in response to The Talking Points, I herewith discourse upon some fashion points, gleaned over the decades.

I thought to start with basics. Some kind of denim, let’s say jeans or a skirt, and a black top. A completely neutral, unisex ensemble that says about you only that you might like to play it safe. It doesn’t even say for sure that you like to play it safe. It’s that neutral. I went to a party a while ago and wondered what to wear and wore black shirt and jeans and found that about half the people there were similarly attired. Conclusion? Always a good choice, but not really a statement.

But what about the rule of having one thing out of whack? A rule that can be applied to poetry as well as to fashion. For me, in the case in point, it was a ridiculous necklace and mildly absurd scarf. Right now today – in black & blue – I am wearing bracelets and a necklace that I made myself. Nerdy? Oh yeah.

Of course an easy solution to the statement thing is the used t-shirt with something written on it. The t-shirt should be faded, the statement oblique. I believe this began in the 80s but it might have been earlier. It is always effective but a little too cool.

Okay, hard to get anything written here on during breaks. Back this morning and am in denim again, jeans. I believe these are classic mother jeans. More turquoise than indigo (didn’t I just hear a story about real indigo-dyed jeans being expensive – can’t remember details.) I am wearing these jeans because I am a mother and also of a certain age. There was a time when I worried that light jeans were actually stonewashed, having forgotten the exact meaning of that term from the 70s, even though I was, you know, there. Alli Warren said something one day about stonewashed jeans that put the fear of god into me. I think it was “I definitely need to wear stonewashed jeans” or something equally devastating. Do they even exist anymore, I worried. Was I accidentally wearing them? Finally I gave up and focused on pegging the jeans I have, something I hadn’t done since the aforementioned 70s when there was a traverse from bell bottoms and back to them. Finally I gave up on that and just wear em as I buy em.

Note: I remember Dinah Shore had a daytime TV show a long time ago. This was in the Burt Reynolds days. She said once that jeans cover a lot of “figure faults.” I was intrigued by the term “figure faults” which I intuited she had retained from the 50s. I had assumed you had to be perfect to wear jeans, but not true! I think this was in the 60s. I was just a child, darlings.

Next, folded up jean cuffs – is it over?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009