Archive for December, 2007

your instructions

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

In 2008, vow to be more creative
And less work-a-day.

* * *

It was coming ‘round time for the annual solstice puppet show in Portland and my friend Moe gave me a call.

She said, The people, they need instruction going forward into the new year. Will you give an astrology reading before the show?

Now, I’ve asked Moe for a favor or two in my day. And my friend Moe has never refused me. Well, I guess she has. But she’s always been very polite about it, so it’s not like I could say, Why don’t you go ask one of those bitches who didn’t just give birth?

So I said, All right.

I’d give the new year’s astrology reading.

But then I awoke the day before the show and I said to myself, I said, I AM NOT AN ASTROLOGER. I mean, if Moe wanted an astrologer, why didn’t she call Rhea Wolf?


I mean, what am I?

I closed my eyes.

I said, God, What am I going to tell these people? They need instruction, going forth.

And when I opened my eyes there was this sort of impish woman standing in front of me, with grey hair. And when she opened her mouth I swear she sounded like she was from the Bronx.

I squinted my eyes, because you know I don’t see so well. I said, God?

She said, No, Grace Paley.

I said, Grace! You’re not God.

And she said, Jesus Christ, Ariel. God’s busy. But I brought you the instructions. And she handed me this piece of paper.

This is a famous poem, she said. Maybe they’ve heard it before. But it’s high time they heard it again. Only this time, tell them they oughta listen.

Because in these times of dire beauty when truly everything we do matters, these are your instructions.

* * *


It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet.

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners
giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets
also leaflets they can hardly bear to look at
because of the screaming rhetoric

It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy to hang out and

It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes
It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory
towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C
and buckwheat fields and army camps

It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman

It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power as the
Quakers say

It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the

It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no
freedom without justice and this means economic justice and love justice

It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original
and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems

There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no
freedom unless
earth and air and water continue and children
also continue

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on
this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be
listened to this time

* * *

In 2008, vow to be more creative
And less work-a-day.

Vow to be a responsible poet.

If the bald eagle
can make a come-back

why not you?

congratulations, Jamie Lynn

Friday, December 21st, 2007

It’s been a trip watching the mainstream media deal with its own bigotry against teen parenting since Jamie Lynn Spears announced that she’s expecting. Supposedly objective news sources call it “sad,” “shocking,” even “tragic.” Scandal sheets are more honest about the way a lot of folks seem to feel: Teen pregnancy is trashy.

People have dozens of reasons why they say having a baby before the magic age of twenty is uncool, but mostly it’s a class issue.

Some schools of feminist thought have allied themselves with the elitists, arguing that women should get their educations first, get their careers on track first, go through years of therapy first. Because the institution of motherhood has been used to oppress us, they insist that we should delay or forgo child-bearing rather than reinvent the whole freakin’ institution. That’s fine if it’s our true choice. But what if it’s a teenagers true choice to parent? Should we not have that right? Instead we’re ridiculed and, adding injury to insult, we’re denied equal access to education.

I mean, I don’t know Jamie Lynn. Maybe she’s a total nut job. Maybe J.Lo is, too. And maybe that straight, married, 40-year-old neighbor of mine is, too. But who gets to decide who’s fit to parent?

When I got pregnant at 36, a few magazine editors asked me to write about how different it was from my experience as a teen mom. When they realized I wouldn’t dis my first pregnancy or characterize it as a sad reality I’d valiantly “overcome,” they decided they weren’t so interested.

I’m glad I got pregnant when I did. The first time. And the second time.

Why are we allowed to discuss only the downside of teen pregnancy? And why aren’t we allowed to admit that by delaying child-bearing, we risk our own health as well as our children’s? We certainly risk not being able to get pregnant at all.

“We don’t want to make older mothers feel bad,” one editor told me.

Fair enough.

But I guess we don’t care how younger mothers feel.


I’m not saying we should have our kids early or shouldn’t have them later but, physically, it’s very difficult to be an older mom. That’s just the truth. With some exceptions, the pregnancy is harder. With few exceptions, childbirth is harder. And psychologically–it’s not exactly a picnic. Most of us are more flexible when we’re young. And we have more energy.

Jamie Lynn Spears obviously doesn’t share the reality of most working- and under-class teenagers in America who can only look forward to a lifetime of poor health care, but if you don’t have adequate health care and probably won’t find it in the future, it only makes sense to start your family when you’re in your late teens or early twenties. You can’t afford to wait.

And, you know, even if you’ve got a hundred reasons why teen parenting isn’t a good idea—don’t you think it’s rude to share your opinions with expecting moms?

The decks are stacked against teen parents. We all know that. So why not unstack the decks instead of making everyone feel bad on top of it all?

I guess I just wanted to remind everyone that when you hear that someone is pregnant, no matter her age, marital status, sexual orientation, or financial situation, the correct response is:


Why We Love Being Young Moms by the members of

solstice puppet show

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Don’t miss the annual Solstice Shadow Puppet Show tonight at Liberty Hall, 311 N Ivy St. in Portland.
First show at 6:30 p.m.

I dropped out of high school 20 years ago

Friday, December 7th, 2007

And in the latest issue of my high school newspaper they printed these words of wisdom…

To the students of her hometown, Ariel Gore offers this advice:

“Drop out and get a real life and education. Don’t get plastic surgery before you’re 30. And — I realize this will nullify all previous and subsequent advice, but don’t do what you’re told. Don’t take my advice or anyone else’s unless it lines up with your own truth. You can be successful because you are smart and creative and tenacious, or you can be successful because you are obedient. I would suggest that the latter isn’t very satisfying.”

Ha! For some reason this makes me very happy.

Give them books by me!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

You just know there are people on your holiday list who need my new book on writing, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, or my crazy lapsed Catholic novel, The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show, or my taveling memoir, Atlas of the Human Heart, or a sexy Hip Mama T-shirt. Shop right here.

Or if you’re in Portland, please come see me at Brooklyn Community Acupuncture‘s holiday bazaar where you can get all things Hip Mama, books by me, and hand-crafted, local gifts from other folks.

Brooklyn Community Acupuncture Holiday Bazaar
Sunday, December 9th, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
It’s at 1212 SE Powell Blvd., but faces SE 12th–so it’s across the street from the German deli
Portland, Oregon

See you!