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Journal, Day One

By Erin Belieu

Every time I hear the word “blog,” that song from Ren and Stimpy goes through my head—

It’s blah-og, blah-og, it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood! it’s blah-og, blah-og—it’s better than bad, it’s GOOD!

I’ve never kept a journal or diary—just lines written on scraps—but not anything like a “Dear Reader, Dear Self” hard copy with a little gold lock–

Oh. Actually, I did have one like that once—a present for my 11th (?) birthday from Sheryl Hanson who lived next door—she was the girl who made her mom embroider pink pointe shoes on everything she owned—

It seems I made an effort to write in it–the diary—for a while. Found it in a box a couple of years ago and nearly vomited at the contents (I remember the first couple of pages were an analysis of trying to impress a boy on a 6th grade field trip. My lack of game was astonishing)—

not to say that I’m against the idea of journals or those who keep them. I just spend so much time trying not to be a self-conscious, self-absorbed ass in my daily life and this works against those efforts. Which is again not to say that most EVERYONE who keeps a journal is an ass. But some of us have tendencies that need policing. This feels a little like giving a truck load of psuedophedrine to a budding meth head—

I’ve noticed that some people here use initials when talking about others—definitely the classier move—but then, don’t you wonder if you can figure out who the initials are and end up focusing on that?—like it’s a secret code you feel compelled to crack on the acknowledgements page? I’m going to name names because 1) it feels less artificial to do so, at least for me, and 2) who doesn’t like a shout out when they’re Googling themselves? And 3) if a poet’s name drops in the forest, does it even make a sound?

I have a new book coming and have spent the last few weeks (when not making peanut butter sandwiches for my 5 year old Jude or teaching my classes) working with my press on the cover—they’re great about allowing the author input—so now I’m trying to find an image. My friend Adam who does graphic design was kind enough to put together some mock-ups for the press to look at. The book’s called Black Box—as in airplanes, but feel free to fill in your own smutty joke here—and Adam came up with this great image he got from some archival erotica site—it’s a picture of a woman circa turn of the 19th century—she’s naked except for the black veil over her face, sitting on a chair facing the camera with her legs spread. The thing that makes the image arresting is what you can see of her face. She’s not a pretty woman—very ordinary, a little lumpy—but her expression is a fierce mixture of grief and contempt—a mind at war with the object of the body—

We knew we couldn’t get away with using the image straight up, so Adam worked on blurring the naughty bits—now her body is more of a suggestion than a fact. We showed it to the press and they liked it—they got why it would be a good image for this book and will go for it if I want to—but even in its blurred state, they weren’t exactly sure what the distributors and booksellers might make of it—

a conundrum—I mean it wouldn’t be the worst thing if it wasn’t buried alive in the stacks—but still, I can’t believe the climate we’re living in anymore. Increasingly, I realize what a hothouse I’ve built for myself (and even here, in an area that constitutes the last book in the South’s Bible-Belt, I live in a blue county).

So political realities compete with what feels right for the book—is this a case where I need to muster some courage for my convictions? Conversely, should I really be sweating a cover this hard? Isn’t it the poems that matter most?

Okay, Jude is demanding dinner. See you tomorrow …

Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, February 13th, 2006 by Erin Belieu.