Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An immense change

As those of you who follow me elsewhere are probably aware, early this year I started having to deal with a severe case of dizziness that left me unable to drive anymore. Over the course of several months, I've had to sell my car, start the process of selling my condo, sell about half of my library, and make other large changes in my life in order to relocate to a place where I could walk to things and where public transit would be actually useable. During this process, I decided that, all things being as they are, I would try to move to Italy.

You may wonder why Italy, given my attachment to things Celtic.

A primary deciding factor is the fact that my brother lives there and has for years. He's got his permanent residence and could help a great deal with getting my visa application approved by sending me a formal invitation to come live in the country. Although the process took several months, and a great deal of paperwork, yesterday I received my residence visa from the Italian consulate in San Francisco. The process from my meeting with them to receiving my visa was less than a week, which was shockingly fast considering everything I'd been told.

Secondary factors included the fact that European cities in general have walkable city centers, and that public transit overall tends to be better over there in terms of availability. The north of Italy will allow me to visit so many of my overseas friends that I've been corresponding with for years and have not yet met, and to see those I visited last summer more often. The food is wonderful, the Italians I met were very friendly, and the country is beautiful. It seemed to me that it was worth at least taking a chance on; if my visa had been denied I would simply have moved back to Seattle to a neighborhood that I really love, and where transit is reasonably good.

I spent a lot of time since March, when the dizziness hit in earnest, trying to sort out my life's priorities. Writing is important to me and will continue to be so. I definitely still intend to write the Brigid and flamekeeping book, though when the dizziness first came on, I was unable to focus enough to even read a few pages, much less write anything that required research and discernment. It has taken some concerted effort on my part to regain that focus and be able to put words together on the page again, but I'm back to a place where I can do it. What's standing in my way right now is an international move but, once I'm settled in my own place again, I'll start getting back into my writing and publishing.

Working on learning Italian has been rather easier than the challenge that Irish has always presented to me. I'm still working on Irish but for the moment the Italian is more pressing simply due to the fact that I'll have to be speaking it in order to get along once I get there and build a new life for myself. I'm hoping to meet other Pagans once I get to Italy and to find community there in whatever city I settle in, though I know that will take time.

This won't be the first time I've moved thousands of miles. I was born and raised in New England, and the Navy took me to Hawaii and the west coast, but this is orders of magnitude different in terms of adjusting to a new culture. I will make mistakes. I'll look like an idiot. I'll be entirely obviously American. There's nothing to be done for any of that, so I'm going to try to roll with it all. And I'm going to try to reestablish a spiritual practice in an entirely different land on the other side of the planet from a place I've considered home since I stepped off a plane onto the tarmac at SeaTac airport in late October, 1980.

I'm going to miss people. I'm going to miss my friends and my community. I'm going to miss the land here on the Salish Sea. I haven't really written a lot about my process through all this because I wasn't absolutely certain until yesterday that this was genuinely going to happen.

Yet I will carry my gods and my spirits with me. Like any other immigrant, I am going to end up a mix of my old life and my new one, of my birth culture and the one I hope to integrate into.

On December 12th, I'm going to step onto a plane in Seattle and into a new part of my life. I'll be back for visits, but my intention is to live over there permanently, unless things go very badly for me. Aside from a trip back in early 2014 for a couple of weeks to have my belongings shipped and pick up my dog, I probably won't be back next year, but I anticipate coming back to the US once or twice a year from 2015, given how much there is here for me.

It's going to be a test of my ability to find community, as a very introverted person who still loves having a social life. I'll be starting with the very large disadvantages of a language barrier, knowing nearly no one, and not being able to drive myself anywhere. I'll admit up front that this is a scary prospect. It can be hard enough for me to talk with someone I don't know in English, much less trying to open my mouth in a language I know I'm going to slaughter for quite some time. It's going to be an exercise in letting go and allowing things to happen as they will. And immigrants from time immemorial have had most of these same challenges - language, community, transportation. My own ancestors left their homelands to come to the US, leaving their languages behind and taking a chance to live in a new place and build new communities for themselves. They persevered, they dealt with the challenges, and they made lives for themselves. I have the great advantage of instant international communication to support me, a thing they never had. I will be able to stay in easy touch with friends and family and community here and globally, as I have from the chair I'm sitting in right now for many years. When I'm lonely, there will be someone to reach out to who does speak my language. I'll have my brother nearby who can help me negotiate a culture that he's integrated into over the years he's been in Italy. And I'll have the gods and spirits to turn to as I learn a new place and a new way of being.

Although I don't put stock in fortune cookies, when I opened one yesterday, it said "traveling to a new place will lead to a great transformation."

I'm eager to see what transformations arise from this concatenation of circumstances.

Once I am a little settled in over there, I'll post here again. For the moment, things here will be quiet because I need to focus on other things until I've arrived in Italy and got my feet under me. I'll be thinking of you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On poetry and my life

Earlier this year, rather out of the blue, I entered a literary competition. It was very last minute; the Lambda Literary Awards were close and (as with too many years in the past) there was very little entered by or about bisexuals. With this all-too-common result in mind, Sheela Lambert of Bi-Net USA proposed a Bisexual Book Award, to be given annually to bi authors or to authors writing on bi topics or about bi characters. I sent my book, Fireflies at Absolute Zero, to her in New York and was asked if I could come out to NYC as a finalist for the competition and to read at Bi-Lines VI.

I had originally planned to drive out to New York for the Wellspring festival in late May, but in March I was hit with a severe dizziness that made it impossible for me to drive. I had some isolated incidents in January and February (including during my drives down to and back from PantheaCon), and this caused me to have to cancel my trip out east. This, however, gave me an opportunity to go to New York City and to read at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe - a very famous venue and one of the places where the slam poetry scene got its start. I was glad for the opportunity, as I'd never visited NYC before, and I had friends in the city I wanted to see.

On June 2nd, I won the Bisexual Book Awards prize for poetry for Fireflies at Absolute Zero, taking the stage and reading a few of my poems along with many other writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I was delighted to be given the award.

My life since then continues to be affected by the dizziness. I was forced to sell my car a couple of weeks ago and am in the process of trying to sell my condo and move, at least temporarily, to Seattle. My ultimate destination is Italy, if I'm granted a visa. My brother lives there. My most compelling reasons for going (aside from the fact that it's Italy, and the food and the country itself are fantastic) are that European cities are, as a rule, much more walkable than American cities, and that public transit there is orders of magnitude better. These are both things that I need if I'm going to live without a car.

As this has been taking up most of my time and energy of late, writing has fallen by the wayside, but despite this I have an essay coming out in Lupa's anthology Engaging the Spirit World, on animism in Gaelic traditions. The essay was accepted a couple of years ago, but Lupa's taking a graduate degree put her writing and anthologizing on hold until that was taken care of.

This morning, a further publication opportunity arrived in my email. I was contacted by Jerome Rothenberg, who will likely be best known by my readers as the editor of the poetry anthology Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. He's asked to publish my translation of the Cauldron of Poesy poem. I would be delighted to be published in one of his anthologies, and we are going to talk details when he responds to my answering email.

To be asked at all is pretty amazing. That I should receive this kind of notice from the mainstream poetry world is very exciting. Even with so much of my life on hold right now, and in complete chaos, I find that my writing life continues. I expect that once things are more or less settled again, I will be able to take up writing the Brigid book again; right now not only are things too chaotic, but it has been several months since I've been able to focus well enough to do research and serious nonfiction writing. My focus is getting better as I get used to living with the dizziness, but I'm still not in a place where I can do that work again as yet.

So thank you, Jerome, for asking to include a little of my work in your upcoming anthology.

I'll keep you all posted on the details of this anthology as I get them. It is apparently due for publication next year.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

PL Henry Cauldron of Poesy article

With thanks to Erik G, I was supplied with a PDF of the PL Henry analysis and translation of The Cauldron of Poesy, which you can find at this link in PDF form. It's well worth reading, so please have a look!

This article includes a version of the original Irish as well as Henry's translation. It's from Studia Celtica 14/15, (1979/1980), pp 114-128.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Nora Chadwick's Geilt article

I've had more than a few requests for this over the years so, while I had some time today, I scanned Nora Chadwick's Geilt article and have posted it as a PDF that you can download at this link.

While the article was originally published in 1942, it covers a lot of ground regarding these figures in Gaelic mythology. It's an important work for anyone interested in the mad poet figure in Gaelic texts and has been very helpful in my research and work over the years. If you're interested in reading Buile Suibhne, this will help with understanding the background and context in which this and other geilt tales were written.

Since I posted her Imbas Forosnai article here some months ago, it seemed fitting to post this companion piece. I hope you'll find them useful!

Oh, and blessed Imbolc!