Thursday, October 8, 2009

Delirious Lapel is a new forum curated by Danielle Pafunda and Mark Wallace addressing the issue "This is What a (Pro)Feminist [Man Poet] Looks Like." Every weekday this week three new responses are being posted. It's like the "This is what a feminist [poet] looks like" except the essays are written by gentlemen poets instead of lady poets.

We all have our preferred labels, those are mine. It's OK if you don't like my labels. Your labels are valid too.

I appreciate the gentlemen poets who took the time to think about and respond to the invitation. I understand the possible trepidation entering a conversation where one may be perceived as culpable to a problem or appearing as if one is trying to make it all about himself or take over. There's a million ways to respond to the topic and I'm approaching each response with interest and curiosity.

The response posted so far that resonates with me the most is Hugh Behm-Steinberg's because he directly addresses what some do not. I can't help it. I love a man who takes action. He's taking action on a situation some (here I'm speaking in general) spend a lot effort avoiding or denying. Hugh writes of how he sees himself fitting into both a problem and a solution and how he actively addresses it as both a teacher and editor. I find this valuable for a number of reasons.

One is it helps me frame my own part and participation as an editor in the wider scheme. I'm partial to useful and constructive. These past few years I've put my editorial work under more internal scrutiny than I had before. Where am I doing well? So-so? Where am I sucking? How do I address the so-so and suck? What am I trying to do? What message am I sending out? Where do I go from here? type stuff. Maybe every editor does this, but I don't hear a lot of editors talk about it. Well, who walks into a room and announces "Check out this huge zit on nose"? Maybe a masochist. You put that out there, you can expect others to step up and tell you exactly why you have a huge zit on your nose and what you should be doing about it. Although often that can be useful and constructive, if one can get past that the only person who said "Oh, that's really small, hardly noticeable!" is the person with a boogar swaying from his nostril.

Another reason Hugh's response gives me solace is because he perceives a role for himself. Whenever an issue affects a part of the community, is it every members' responsibility to find ways to do his small part to make improvements? Even if it he doesn't perceive it as directly affecting him? Or should he do anything at all if possibly it indirectly gives him an advantage through no fault or doing of his own? Is feeling guilt enough? And if one doesn't see it as his responsibility, is that because he doesn't consider those who are directly affected to be part of his community? Who do we consider to be part of our tribe and who are the others? Or is it one big tribe with multiple layers of hierarchy? Is it a pre-divided pie chart? Is it not his concern because he thinks other people within the community should address it, not him because ________? Or does he blame those who are adversely affected for not doing ________? Or does he view it as all circumstances out of his control?

My feeling is that if you recognize and are bothered by a problem, then you should work towards a solution, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant your role may seem. And if you don't recognize a problem and/or are not bothered by it, then do nothing and stay out of the way of those who are addressing the problem that is not your responsibility. Unless of course, you consider those addressing a problem to be creating another problem. Maybe the "problem" isn't really a problem. Maybe the "problem" is really a good thing? I suppose if one believes that, that's quite a good reason to discourage others from making their own adjustments.

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