As I work on my project of giving an account (or, actually, accounts) of myself over at my other site, Undisciplined, I feel it’s important to warn readers of how I am untrustworthy as a narrator of my own life. I’m trying to think through how to express this and what it means to not be trustworthy. So, I decided to compose a few haikus about it. Have I mentioned how much I love composing haikus? Hooray for pithiness!


don’t trust what I write
in my stories; I don’t care
about facts that much

you should know I write
accounts that aim to question
and unsettle Truth

do not be alarmed
if my accounts seem suspect;
that’s done on purpose

Meeting Butler

Right now I’m slowly working on my intellectual history. It’s a daunting task. And I’m approaching it in a mostly undisciplined way. This morning, on the last day of 2012, I decided to look through my old notes to find evidence of my first encounter with the theorist, philosopher, troublemaking role model, Judith Butler. In my video introduction to this Trouble blog, I claimed that this first encounter occurred in the fall of 1996, my first year in graduate school. But this morning I discovered that I actually encountered Butler and Gender Trouble in February of 1997, in my Contemporary Feminist Theory course at Claremont Graduate School. According to the syllabus, I first started reading Gender Trouble on February 11th:


In my notes for that week, my favorite line about trouble being inevitable is the first thing I wrote:

But, even though this line gave me pause, it wasn’t what really moved me about her preface or the chapter on that day in 1997. I was interested more in Butler’s challenge to the subject/identity “woman” and her critique of feminist identity politics. And, having recently been exposed to deconstruction and postmodern critiques of the self, I liked her idea of politics as parody, her rethinking of agency through Nietzsche and her discussions of Luce Irigaray. I wanted to add in some links to a few of my papers from that year, but I’ll have to keep looking for them. Hopefully I have them in a filing cabinet somewhere.

Side note: In the process of looking for my papers, I found a syllabus for one of the other classes that I was taking that spring of 1997: Feminist and Womanist Theory with K. Baker-Fletcher and Karen Torjesen. We were engaging with Black Feminist Criticism the same week I discovered Butler:

The recommended reading is Barbara Christian. I don’t think I actually read her Black Feminist Criticism until Emory University in 2002 or 2003. I wonder if reading her Race for Theory and its powerful critique of the limits of theory, would have influenced my initial readings of Butler? It definitely helped to shape my doctoral exams and dissertation writing in 2003-2006.

A few responses to the AIC

I’ve been experimenting with various ways to organize and express my thoughts about my academic training and my experiences in the Academic Industrial Complex (AIC). Today, I decided to quickly (and perhaps inelegantly) compose a series of haikus. Then I tweeted them.

on learning

to learn is not just
to collect facts, earn degrees
but to engage life

on theory

theory works when it
heals pain, moves us to struggle
and creates new worlds

theory doesn’t work
when it alienates us
from that which we love

on graduate school

when I started school
my wonder was fueled with joy
but lacked direction

when I finished school
my wonder was directed
too much; it lacked joy

on meaningful gifts

Last year my dad’s wife encouraged him to convert several of his camcorder videos from the late ’80s/early 90’s to Dvd. For the past six months, I’ve been borrowing them and using bits and pieces in a few digital stories. I hope to do more with it in 2013. There isn’t that much footage, probably less than hour total, but what my dad did record is fascinating…and maybe a little bit embarrassing. I didn’t remember how obnoxious I was when I was 18. Wow.

One event that took up over half of one of the Dvds (12 out of 21 minutes), was Christmas 1992. 20 years ago. That’s a scary thought. Since I’m getting together with my sisters and their families (13 of us in all!) for Christmas next week, I wanted to create a digital moment out of some of the footage. The 12 minutes that my dad recorded (with a minute or two recorded by me), includes embarrassing footage of me being obnoxious (singing “let it snow,” hamming it up for the camera, being LOUD), awkward moments of my sisters feeling uncomfortable as my dad video-taped them, shots of my dog/my sister’s dog in a santa hat, and brief fragments of my mom expressing gratitude for gifts that she received.

Looking closely at the footage, I can imagine several different digital stories about holidays, traditions, family dynamics, and being obnoxious. For the digital moment that I created yesterday, I decided to focus on giving and receiving gifts. I was inspired by the revelation (for me, one of the more significant moments of this footage) that my sister Anne had given my mom—as gifts for Christmas and (probably) her birthday—many of the dragonflies that my mom had collected and that I had chosen to take as a memory of her after she died in 2009.

In a blog post on her birthday this past March, I reflected on how meaningful these dragonflies are for me and my memories/understandings of mom and her curious and playful spirit. As part of this reflection, I posted a poem that I found in one of her notebooks about dragonflies. Here’s her poem and some of what I wrote in that post:


Must you spoil my hours on the beach?
Just as I get my blanket straight
Wiggle my body into the accommodating sand
Comes movement like a spit-fire bomber
Zooming toward my head with the sound of a buzz saw
Swooping directly like a kamikaze pilot
And then instantly changing its course
Turning at a 90 degree angle toward the water.

Making me wonder about you dragonfly.

Sapphire blue wings of gossamer
Sprinkled with bits of glittering silver
Catching the sun like crystal mirrors
Ringing your wings like horned rimmed glasses
Around the delicate eyes of a sunbather.
Black, wormlike body directing your movements
Deliberately investigating creatures in your territory.

Pondering why your image sticks in my mind so long.

Crystalizing years after our close encounters
The intricacies of your insect nature
Finding that you are incredibly pleasing.
Recalling out of all of images of childhood
That of my beach time and your constant interruptions
Into my safe and secure world of dreams
Allowing me now the fun of investigation into your domain.

Realizing that it is indeed wonderful to be my age…

Now I actually thrill at learning about your unique jaw
And the playful nature of your buzzing and stunt pilot
Tricks which are really means of survival and territorial claims.
Not feeling ashamed but amazed by your water life
And stages of development and not least of all your
Incredible desire and instinct to eat the bane of
Minnesotan’s north wood’s life–the Mosquito!

Feeling gratitude for dragonfly antics on the beach.
Judy Puotinen
April, 1987

Wow, I love this poem and how it illustrates some of the qualities that I loved and valued most about my mom: wonder, curiosity, playfulness! How I deeply and desperately miss sitting beside her, maybe on the beach in the Keweenaw Peninsula, sharing in those qualities! This poem is especially valuable to me because it also speaks to my mom’s love of dragonflies. When my sisters and I were dividing up her stuff, I decided to take her dragonfly pin collection. I wasn’t quite sure why I picked it, but after discovering her poem in a random notebook, I know why. This poem and these pins enable me to bear witness (at least in memories) to my mom and her vibrant, joyful, creative/imaginative, always-questioning-and-wondering life. It’s nice to feel joy on her birthday, not just grief.

Part of my mom’s collection

It was a powerful revelation to learn that Anne had made a big contribution to my mom’s collection. Why? I’m not quite sure how to express it so I won’t try (at least, not right now). Instead I’ll just offer up the digital moment and my gratitude to Anne for giving such meaningful gifts to our mom.

In case you didn’t check your twitter feed, it snowed in Minneapolis this weekend

Tons of people documented the first “real” snow of 2012 in Minneapolis/St. Paul this weekend. I did too. I can’t remember how I decided to experiment with video and haiku in order to do my documenting. Maybe it was because my 9 year old was writing haikus in class last month? Maybe it was because I like the pithy form of haikus and was looking for a way to express and share my thoughts in my digital moment without offering up a long-winded voice-over? Whatever the reason, I decided to document the warm-up snow on Friday, the calm-before-the-storm on Saturday, and the first big snow (10 inches) on Sunday using my iMovie app and my limited haiku ability. Here they are:

snow falling as dusk
i wonder, will we see grass
again before spring?

i wouldn’t have thought
i would enjoy winter runs
but i really do

the snow really came
it’s a christmas miracle:
the forecast was right