Virginia Woolf Tattoo

“we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself”

And so my body is tattooed (again).

Growing up in a religious culture that frowned upon tattoos, I was always hesitant if not judgmental but also intrigued when it came to people with tattoos. They looked dangerous, sinful, hip, and I loved people that wore their masochistic art like a manifesto for the world.

After coming to college and transforming into the magical being that I am now (*humble*), I now have four tattoos, although in my mind they are only two (since they are in pairs). My first two (“Yes.” and “the”) are a testament to my love for James Joyce (Ulysses and Finnegans Wake (Shem), respectively). My newest one, split between my two forearms, is a testament to my undying love for Virginia Woolf. The quote is from Sketch of the Past, which is her autobiographical/memoir essay that she wrote a few years before her death. It was written during the beginning of WWII where the entire world and her life started to deteriorate and fall utterly apart.

To me, the context and the quote itself are almost a summing up of my entire college career–this is why I got my tattoos a week before graduation, that, and I had to have it immediately.

There are moments for Woolf and I that we call moments of being. It can be an extraordinarily good or bad moment that shocks our reality into letting us know that we are alive. For Woolf, writing is a way to keep herself alive, mentally healthy, and meditating on life, existence, and reality. Something that I do with writing but also, more generally, thinking. She calls into existence a type of ontology that is foundational to reality itself (something I just wrote about in connection with Deleuze and Guattari). But, interestingly enough, she takes it all back by proclaiming, “But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven, certainly and emphatically there is no God.”

We are it. ‘We’ remains ambiguous, which is beautiful and perplexing and why I love Woolf’s identifications. We are language (which I take to be a later meditation on Lacan and psychoanalysis at large), we are the music (something that Deleuze and Guattari theorize about that has important metaphysical implications by destabilizing us), and we are the thing itself (and every philosopher rolls over in their grave because Woolf just layed down some truth).

For me, this quote means that we are it in the most positive way. We are transcendent, we are immanent, we are the best, we are the world, we are existence, we are it and that is beautiful and comforting and earth-shattering.

And it just so happens that this is my last blog for Arts,Ink. I start my rounds of graduation next Thursday and I’ve never felt more alive. Not because I’m graduating, not because of UofM, not because of any of this.

But ever since I was in 7th grade I was planning my college experience. I planned out college applications, future course plans for high school, course plans for college (that all fell through . . .). And I realized three days ago that I had just successfully completed and lived one of my longest dreams that I’ve ever had.

Every day now I try to remind myself that no matter how lost or sad I am that I am living my dream. I am living my form of happiness.

And today, April 25th, my favorite date, is a day that’s not too cold, not too hot, all you need is a light jacket, umbrella, Woolf tattoo, impending graduation, and being surrounded by existence, loved ones, and infinite poetry.

Writing to you all has been such a blessing, a treat, and something that I will always cherish. Thank you infinitely.

The Art of Graduating in 2 Weeks

It’s at this point in my life—second-semester senior, post-thesis, part-time student, burnt out, uber-queer angst land, etc.—where I think it’s appropriate to reflect and teach others the senior-year lifestyle, or as I like to call it, “so you’re graduating and are no longer able to give a f**k.” So yeah:

1. Attend less class this week than days you consecutively visit bars.
And I’m not talking about just skipping class (I am, partly) but  look at your schedule and notice that the sheer number of classes you have is dwindling and that the nostalgia for meeting up with friends, lovers, mentors, and those who can pay for you is at an all time high. In short, I am now friends with all the bartenders at Savas and I’m more than OK with this.

2. When someone asks you what are you doing after graduation, outline EXACTLY what you will be doing everyday:
“well the day after I plan on having an existential breakdown to be met the next day by getting together for brunch at Sava’s with my friends (Brian, Audrey, etc.), and then I’m planning on starting ‘House of Leaves’ the following day but maybe ‘Paradise Lost?’ And when people get bored and ask you, “NO, what are you doing professionally or educationally,” just reply, “well, it really needs to be contextualized within my daily routine all summer long because in isolation everything is meaningless.” Basically just be really sassy and blunt with everyone you come into contact with. It’s not like you’re going to see any of these people again possible ever again.

3. Invite academics to campus and get excited about preparing questions that “destroy” them, either:
i) call them out for being problematic, or ii) interrogate their methodologies and bash their disciplinary location. “So I see you use ‘LGBT’ as the realm of discourse you’re analyzing on a national level, but the evidence you cite blatantly excludes trans* folks, how does their exclusion and your implicit blame onto a highly marginalized community fit into your argument? Don’t you really just mean ‘gay and lesbian’?”

4. Wear every pattern that you own so that people will know and be visually convinced you are graduating.
Look i) hip, ii) hip not in the hipster way or appropriative way but like in the damn cool and stylish way and so so “out there,” iii) a little bit out of your mind eccentric, iv) not to be tested, v) ready to leave. There’s no use in pretending that I’m not COMPLETELY ready to start a “new chapter” (chapter 22) of my life that is not located in Michigan.

5. Get really frustrated when people don’t want to hear about your term paper on Deleuzoguattarian metaphysics in conversation with Woolf’s “The Waves.”
I’m at the point where my schooling is something I’m both frustrated and in love with, similar to other folks in my life, and so I talk about it all the time because it is my life. Those that don’t get that don’t always deserve to take up all my time.

6. Say ‘no’ to everything you can because this is the last chance, at least in my opinion, where you have the privilege to prioritize self-care to the max.
My job lets me say no, my classes let me say no, my friends let me say no. But come a year from now I’ll be in a different community, a different job (that I have to keep in order to live), and a different location. I know that ‘no’ isn’t always an option, especially in the foreseeable future; so say ‘no’ and love the time you can self-create.

7. Be direct, be open. 
After living life for 21 years, I finally realized that I could be direct with people while not being rude. Saying that you don’t want to be friends isn’t rude, it’s honest on both a time and personal level. Telling someone that you need to talk isn’t a passive aggressive move or a manipulative move, it’s letting someone know you need better communication and that you value both parties to find a time that works for both schedules.

8. Fall in love more often and deeper.
Granted, this is EVERYONE’S advice for growing older but seriously. Tell everyone you love them. (Ask before you can do any of the following:) Hold on to everyone’s hand. Hug everyone for minutes not seconds. Kiss everyone you can on the cheek. Start conversations with strangers. In all of the ups and downs that I’ve been on and through for Ann Arbor I love the space and I love many of the people. And I’m so thankful for my life and the lives of others/places/things. I show my gratitude through my love.

When Actors Can’t Even Save The Play They’re In

(Content Warning: brief discussion of trans*phobia, Nazism, sexual violence.)

I’m a huge fan of thee-aye-tah (theatre). I like venues, I like stages, I like audiences, I like lights, I like music, I like actors. Sometimes, however, a production cannot save a play from just tanking.

I’m also all for weird-ass-shit. I like performance art. I like Finnegans Wake. I’m queer and pretend to be hip. I can stare at upside down urinals for hours. All of these together morph my aesthetic tastes, which, at times, can be questioned (but I’ll never admit it).

Last weekend, I attended the second night of “Marisol” that was put on my the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. I was SO EXCITED. Not only did I have a friend in the show (who performed AMAZINGLY) but I also haven’t been to a SMTD production in a while (I usually go to student group performances). I was anticipating the flawlessness of the performance, which is exactly what I got. The acting was amazing. There was so much passion present. I could feel their emotions emanating off of them and hitting me in the face. The energy never faltered and I was emotionally fatigued at intermission, at the end, and for days to come. The acting, for me, sold the entire performance and I think that I’m going to miss the amount of talent that is present on this campus when I move away.

The actual written play was horrendous. While I think Rivera’s post-apocalyptic landscape was admirable insofar as he tried building and executing many different themes, tropes, and imagery, and pull it off as cohesive, it just didn’t work. When I attend a play I can accept the fantastical, I can accept the absurd, I can even (sometimes) accept problematic bullshit. But all together and at once was traumatizing.

Why is the moon orbiting around Saturn? This never was explained fully besides God’s senileness. God “being old” (whatever this means) doesn’t destroy physics. And if age could destroy the world, why were all other laws of physics seemingly still in place? HOW COULD HUMANS FIGHT A COSMIC ANGELIC WAR BY THROWING STONES AT THE SKY? These questions remain unanswered.

Why do plays have to perpetuate gender norms and stereotypes and use pregnant men as jokes? Not only is this bordering on trans*phobic, but it isn’t ever explained. God is so out of it that everyone just gets a womb? But why? For why?

Why are there Nazi’s? Sure, there could be neo-Nazi’s but there’s a really important difference. Also (neo)Nazi’s don’t hate everyone (even though they do hate most people), and to have them as these mass serial killers made little sense? Why use a historically loaded term when you could just make something new up?

Why was a man burned by the nazi’s trying to jack off to the moon, which he was trying to pull back into orbit via a giant magnet from his wheelchair?  This scene, while, yes, the most poetic, was the biggest *facepalm* moment of my life.

Why does sexual violence have to be used as a plot device? And for a shitty plot? I’m tired of sexual violence being used in ways that either perpetuate rape culture, or used in ways to develop plot (and not characters), or used in ways that are just bad. Everything is the worst.

People have told me that my critique isn’t valid. The play is just “edgy.” But, to me, the term “edgy” doesn’t mean that you can have an incoherent plot with problematic details, angsty angels, dying god, New York City, and a fog machine that smells a little like tobacco and weed (that doesn’t give highs just headaches). Ugh.

The acting almost saved the play. And then the whole thing ended with a message of hope after a lengthy narrativizing soliloquy. AKA the students of SMTD shine even in the midst of the apocalypse. AKA (passibly) queer women of color ended the play hand in hand and that was enough for me to clap. And, perhaps, that is the point.

Waves, Avesw, Veswa, Eswav, Swave, Waves

“The birds sang their blank melody outside.”

“There is nothing staid, nothing
settled in this universe.
All is rippling, all is
dancing; all is quickness and triumph.”

“I would rather
be loved,
I would rather be famous
than follow perfection
through the sand.”

“I am this,
and the other.”

I will reduce you
to order.”

“I am rooted, but I flow.”

“I am not single and entire
as you are.
I have lived a thousand lives
already. Every day I unbury–
I dig up. I find relics
of myself in the sand that
women made thousands of years ago . . .”

“The weight of the world
is on our shoulders.
This is life.”

“I do not wish
to be a man who sits
for fifty years
on the same spot thinking
of his navel. I wish to be
harnessed to a cart, a vegetable cart
that rattles over the cobbles.”

“I have reached
the summit
of my desires.”

“I desired always
to stretch the night and
fill it fuller and fuller
with dreams.”

“There is no repetition for me.
Each day
is dangerous.”

“. . . we are extinct,
in the abyss
of time,
in the

“We have destroyed
something by our
presence . . .
a world perhaps.”

“I, I, I.”

“But if there are no stories,
what end can there be,
or what beginning?”

“It is strange
how the dead leap out
on us at street corners,
or in dreams.”

is a dream

“For this is
not one life;
nor do I always know
if I am man
or woman . . .
so strange is the contact
of one with another.”

“I said life had been imperfect,
an unfinished

“Life has destroyed me.”

“I begin now
to forget;
I begin to doubt the fixity
of tables, the reality of here
and now, to tap my knuckles smartly
upon the edges of apparently
solid objects and say, ‘Are you hard?’”

“It is strange
that we who are capable
of so much suffering,
should inflict
so much suffering.”

“It is death.
Death is the enemy.”


After I finished reading The Waves by Virginia Woolf, I realized that I needed to meditate more on passages, the construction of prose vs. poetry, and my visceral connection with the text. The above are some of my favorite passages that I thought could work by themselves and with more fragmentation (of lines, spacing, etc.). Also, it’s national poetry month . . .

May Virginia not roll over in her grave and topple my shore with waves of despair.

Out @ the A2 Film Festival

Under the beautiful umbrella of the Spectrum Center, I was able to attend the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s “Out Night,” which showcases short films that focus on LGBTQ identities. Donning my all-black apparel and tapestry-turned-scarf, I was sufficiently visually prepared to enter the space. After getting through the initial sausage-fest reaction (all the non-university Grindr men in Ann Arbor seemed to be in attendance) of entering the space, I was ready to watch some weird shit.

I love weird shit.

But, for better or for worse, there was no weird shit present besides myself.

The films were brilliant and took me to many different locations, many different emotional states, many different lives, many different bodies. What surprised me the most, besides the non-experimental nature of the films (which is a partly misleading generalization because all the films were experimental in their own right since the representation of queer bodies and, particularly, queer bodies of color are experimental in the visual register in-themselves) was the relatively un-in-your-face-queerness, which I did not expect.

Most of the films had some very poignant remarks about identity but it also seemed that all the LGBTQ folks were more or less real normal. A couple took a roadtrip to an amusement site, a rapper told his story, a musing on an author’s stay in Istanbul, a mother and son reminiscing, etc. While there were definitely parts of the films that spoke to LGBTQ identity in its visceral, raw form, there was nothing too out of the ordinary, at least not for an audience mainly comprised of LGBTQ folks.

What was shown, then, were beautiful meditations on LGBTQ life and what it means when identity isn’t just identity but bodies, experiences, and ways of living in the world. A topic that can particularly be unpacked in the short film.

Glimpses and moments were captured. Plots were developed or left out entirely. Emotions were given in their raw form before they could be turned into some metaphor for queer existence. Connections could be made and hinted at, but nothing clear came in conclusion. The short film, while transgressive to real life, has an interesting way at really holding moments that I have experienced and that I wish could be untainted by the continuity of life and my endless goal to make or unmake meaning.

In short, the film festival offers what most movie theatres, televisions, and computers cannot: a real film. Something that doesn’t fit into the pre-made notions of what movies can do, what they are, how they are, and why they are.

The Multi-Valenced Ann Arbor

I really had no other reason to be at this concert besides who I was sitting next to. He asked and I said yes. Luckily.

I glimpsed (more like studied; the room was silent and there was little else to do besides read since my voice tends to fill most spaces even at their largest) at the program and read, “Schumann: Dichterliebe.” Or I at least read Schumann and had a flashback to curly hair, beautiful professor, Deleuze event, and something about “the Refrain.” Lately, I’ve often forgot how amazing it is to be at the University of Michigan, not because it is amazing

(the Central Student Government silences and oppresses the very students it claims to represent)

but rather because there are a lot of opportunities for class and life and interests to have a real conversation. Namely, there are chances to take what I study and apply it to situations OR I can see what I study “in the real world,” which, as an English and Philosophy student, is sometimes difficult. Tucked behind/beside/near the Aut Bar (some could say a gay bar, family restaurant, or gay studies lab), the Kerrytown Concert Hall is one of the cutest venues I’ve been in and I absolutely love the cozy atmosphere. There is a facade of escape at such concerts, and for me the escape is heightened when the music performed isn’t from this century–it is my form of time travel.

(Since, as I’ve said, campus life is beyond unbearable, and this is coming from a person with almost all agent social identities, i.e., I identify as a white, cis-man, middle class, temporarily able-bodied person . . . . And to see not only the student government act atrociously but also other students stand behind such actions makes me (on the tame side of my emotions) want to never look at this campus again. And then when you pile on my queerness, I’m ready to evacuate immediately and call this campus, more or less, a war zone where a majority of my friends and my community remain unsafe on a daily basis. I would like to travel by any means necessary: time, space.)

As the Schumann started, I realized that I had analyzed (or been in the presence of an analysis of) this very piece’s first movement. For a Deleuze Interest Group event. How did a friend taking me to a concert send me spiralling into the philosophico-musical feels? I don’t know, but it happened.

The song melted away, much like when I oil pull in the morning–it starts of granular? or at least in some conglomeration of solid until it melts into a liquid and congeals in some sort of liquid mass of “detoxification and whitening”–and only solidified, perhaps, when I left the venue, walked away, into my night (a drag show). Chords unfinished continued to haunt me as a queen flashed the audience and I was left agasp not at perfectly sculpted breasts but at Schumann, lurking just behind me, never to be fully seen or taken in.

After a few more songs that helped to fill out the theme of “A Lovers’ Discourse” started, happened, and ended, the pianist/composer/friend-of-my-friend-on-the-left-of-me’s compositions began.

The first. Three Frank O’Hara poems. The second. One Sylvia Plath poem.

Now it is dangerous, as someone who “studies literature,” to attend such events. I have been trained to be a snob, although the training has been undertaken, more often than not, by myself. SO. I obviously have a lot of feels about these two songs.

I think what matters most to me, and to this blog, is not how I felt about the composition itself (which I loved by itself, however, I disliked the tenor singing the lyrics of the poetry since I felt there was a HUGE disconnect between form and content, which could be the point even though I doubt) but how I felt inside of someone’s interpretation of the poetry. Live music is not just something I listen to, but I become the music. It fills my nostrils, it enters my body, and fills, yes, “my soul.”

(My soul aches. I am aching because the Ann Arbor campus, a place I was taught and eventually learned to love in some real way, is parasitic to its most important inhabitants. It is a sad thing for an institution to remain passive when individual, one-off microaggressions happen. It is an unspeakable offense for an institution committed to “social justice and diversity” to enact the very crimes it condemns. The rampant racism, transphobia, ableism, homophobia, sexism is abhorrent. I can only hope the University and its various governing bodies take responses like this one to heart and take responsibility, acknowledge their accountability, and do things (not just say things) to rectify what they’ve done.)

And I hated the interpretation. Though it was refreshing to be in a conversation about poetry without using any words. It was like listening to the most beautiful one-sided debate, and I was the other team refusing to speak.

What is beautiful about this campus may be purely aesthetic. I can study, I can read, I can feel, and then I can go and see things enacted, performed, experimented with by those in or near my community.

Days like today I cling to the aesthetic, sit in my corner, and count the minutes I have left before I can take flight.