Monday, May 16, 2022

Private Acrobatics, 9/15/1983

Too long ago, my priorities and creative energies shifted from written expression to other forms. Some of my pursuits manifested in mothering, teaching, studying to advance myself, identifying as career-achieving, and making domestic crafts. I also infused my social network presence with my ideas, rooted in feminism. I spent a lot of energy writing for work and creating for teaching. While I regard what I've shared with the world positively, others have over-lorded my expression to some extent for a long time. At this point of my lifespan, I want to generate my own art into the world, which mostly appeals to me through writing, knitting, moving, dancing, making music and exploring. I reserve the right to try new things, too.

To kick-off this introspective initiative, I am reviving my blog. I have plans to interact with photos of my creations, new and old, and address my memories and impulses in order to establish the parameters of my growth in this world. Reflecting on my artifacts might help me to make sense of myself as I am now and reveal the common threads and the raveled edges of this Hoffman experience.

In this piece I explore the poem Private Acrobatics, which I wrote in 1983. As an undergraduate Creative Writing major at Hamilton College, I had to produce a seminar of written poetry. My diligent professor worked me through a semester of reading and writing poems, providing me titles from mostly dead white males, the grist of artzygrrrl death of the 1980s. I took it as my own failing that I didn't usually connect with the presented patriarchal body of work and didn't often glean the central themes.

My parents gave me the middle name Frost for my dad's favorite poet, the big Robert. I look at RF now as a wonderful poet, as I have developed an adult perspective in rural New England and appreciate that fences make good neighbors. Another professor had advised us to write what we know, and so my poem developed from a child's voice:

Private Acrobatics

Typed copy of the poem, as submitted to my professor.

Who has left me alone again
for other things although I was
the first? Sure she is smaller and
more helpless perhaps but sometimes
I want to show you what I've learned.
Like I can crawl up on this rack,
look at myself in the watchful
mirror, the only probably
thing that always watches me and
never changes. The mirror is
as my own fun is. The mirror
will watch my sun acrobatics
even as I can watch myself
fall, swinging lower with the too
unbalanced audience as it
crashes to the floor. Each broken
piece of the mirror is a new
member of my made-up private
audience that is the only
probably thing that will always
watch and never change for other
things even though I was the first.

I was pretty chuffed in 1983 when I first produced this piece. Most of my suite-mates brought electronic typewriters with them to college, but my mom had insisted on purchasing a manual Royal unit, the 1980s version of her ancient machine of her youth. She'd advised that I should be able to type anywhere, like on a train, on a ship or on the road. Mom possessed not so much a romanticized perception of writing, but more a pragmatic one. Maybe she thought I'd go all Jack Karouac, and she wanted me to be prepared. One of my dad's classes at Syracuse University had met with JK at a local pub and Mom assumed I'd need to type anywhere. Current laughs as I type on my Chromebook at a bar in the Dominican Republic frankly a little day-drunk on a 22-oz local beer. How could she have known?

I wrote Private Acrobatics about breaking a mirror when I was a little girl. My sister was born in the car on the way to the hospital when I was almost 4 years old, and therefore her dramatic debut was my first cancel culture. My parents worked very hard to bring us up with opportunities that transcended theirs, so when my brother came while my sister was still soiling diapers, I required too much supervision for my hard-working mom, who worked nights as a nurse and took care of us by day with only naps to get her through the toil of mothering.

I climbed up the beloved hat rack with a marble drawer shelf topped with a semi-length mirror. My parents were proud of their antiques, and this hat rack was a rare example of something in good condition. When I climbed up on it to see myself in the mirror and toppled it, their dismay resulted in a lifetime of reminders about my behavior and their replacement of the ancient glass. I layered my feelings of independence and lonesomeness in my role as big kid in the house in this poem so to process having to share attention. I think my ongoing need for relevance comes from being the eldest child, and I certainly still do take challenges to see myself reflected. I am defined by doing, not by being. More about my becoming a yogi later.

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