Badass Women in Combat Gear: Valentine’s Day Edition, Or, Dorothy Parker Was Wrong

((For those of you who, like me, were not Math Majors in college, I apologize. But this particular blog post seems to need a ridiculous number of parentheses and a rather surprising number of braces {curly} and brackets [square]. Be warned.))

There is a fairly famous rhyming couplet by the 1920s Algonquin Round Table wit, Dorothy Parker, that has been widely anthologized (and it suddenly occurs to me that a whole slew [this is a technical literary term] of the editors anthologizing this were {white} men], which says, “Men don’t make passes/At girls who wear glasses.”

I have been thinking about this since Mike Allegra (heylookawriterfellow) asked me to add to my BWCG series some BWCGs who wear glasses. I thought of this most recently after viewing a teaser for this coming Tuesday’s Agent Carter, in which Agent Sousa (the delightful Enver Gokaj) says to (an injured and therefore unavailable-for-the-mission) Agent Peggy Carter (the even more delightful Hayley Atwell) that what they need for the coming mission is someone who can “blend in with the glamour and throw down in the gutter.” Damn, Spanky, I LOVE the writers on this show!


Any Gentle Reader who has spent any time at all reading this blog will recognize that this is not only the dual nature of what I look for in my Female Leads of TV, Film, and Life, but also a micro-blueprint of who I would like to eventually be. I have to admit that the second part sounds much less painful to me than the first part, because as Agent Dana Scully admits in the most recent New X-Files episode, running/fighting in three-inch heels is no country for really anyone, but absolutely not Women, Older Men or Sane People of any Gender. Okay, she didn’t say that.

But as Jane Austen might have said, “It was nowhere said, but everywhere implied.” Come on. Amy Acker has said that at one point her only “stunt ability was running in heels” (Citation, as Wikipedia would point out, desperately needed. My guess? A ComiCon. San Diego? Maybe. Who knows?).


My point here is simply that Dorothy Parker was wrong and Mike Allegra is right. (Full disclosure: I wear glasses. So sue me. {Twenty-odd years at MIT’s Writing Center (some of them more odd than others) has made me as blind as my cat Musashi, if not as a bat or a possum. [If M. were a little boy, he’d be wearing Coke bottle glasses and a bowtie]}.


So in honor of a Sunday-facing Valentine’s Day (black Tuesday meets the Lord’s day), I offer you some of my favorite female actors (Nope, don’t call me a teacheress, professoress, editoress or martial artistess; I avoid calling them actresses for the same reason) in glasses.


I tried very hard to chase down the pics I have seen online of Lucy Lawless as herself, rather than Xena, wearing glasses, to no avail. Similarly, her soul-grandmother, Linda Carter (the always-and-everywhere Wonder Woman, despite DC’s brilliant work with Gal Gadot).

And because I believe it is important to look back and forward at the same time, I also give you Ingrid Bergman and Scarlet Johansson.

Also, the classic, brilliant, unimitatable Katherine Hepburn on a skateboard, because duh.


To my pal, Mike Allegra, men and women who love women in glasses or, you know, on skateboards: YOU’RE WELCOME. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY. NOW WE WILL LET THE WEATHER BECOME WARM AGAIN.

Poetry and Cathedrals: An Introduction

When I think about poetry, I often think about cathedrals.

This does not mean that I think poetry is a place to get lots of people who believe more or less the same thing, and a bishop who would probably LOVE it if they actually did, together to sing really loud so it echoes a hundred feet up in the rafters where the gargoyles can sing along, although that is nice too.singing gargoyle

Nor am I necessarily thinking of it as a place where a thief on the run could claim sanctuary from the posse carrying torches and pitchforks and chasing him down, although, now that I think of it, it would be very cool if poems could do that.

No, I am thinking about the architecture, the repeating fractals of the arches and windows and niches for statues of saints, repetitions like rhymes in stone. Salisbury_cathedral_plan

I am thinking about how, back in the twelfth century or so in Europe, they did not have a single consistent unit of measurement. A foot in a particular building was based on the length of one guy’s foot, say, Geoffry the masterbuilder. Then they figured out a good solid square size, say, twenty feet by twenty feet, and they repeated that square size outward to create the cross-section that made the plan of the cathedral. Given this apparently random style of measurement, the classic Gothic cathedrals of Europe are remarkably consistent, each within itself, even if not compared to each other.

Poems are like that. Even when there is a formal form, like a sonnet or a haiku, each poet is going to interpret it in his or her own way, turning something that is, after all, just a rule driven construction into a piece of art, a place where we can go to inhabit the poet’s ideas and imagination and hopefully his or her love of language. (I say hopefully because, unfortunately I think many poets are so in love with rhyme for its own sake that they don’t give the words they choose enough thought. And that can’t be good.)Salisbury_Cathedral_Detail_Arches

This blog will examine these kinds of ideas about poetry. There is a great line, attributed to Martin Mull, that says, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” It is difficult to talk about one sense without referring to the other senses. Similarly, trying to elucidate structure means we use whatever language we have for structure, which is often architectural. I believe that to best represent the work of creativity that is poetry, I am going to have to draw on a lot of fields and the language of a lot of different arts. (Whoo hoo! Research party!)

I also intend to be very opinionated, because after all, I have been writing poetry for over thirty years, publishing it for more than twenty, and I feel that I have a right to my hard-won professional opinions. I can tell you what I have learned from my students, and also hopefully teach you the things I taught them that they have found useful.

We will also have fun, because I grew up reading the poetry of Ogden Nash, Dr. Seuss and Walt Kelly, and if I had only read the Terribly Serious Poets, I would most likely not be a poet today. So I will end with the words of Dorothy Parker:

“In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”
Dorothy Parker, The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker