Feminists, Beat Poets & Me

I have a weakness for country music. I don’t usually admit this freely, but I really love the banjo, the dobro, and Willie Nelson… None of this has anything to do with Connecticut. But I was driving up the Merritt Parkway this evening and I stopped on 92.5 when I heard that Sugarland “Stay” song, which I actually don’t mind admitting I like. (That woman has a lovely voice…but she’s no Allison Krauss.) Oddly enough, it got me thinking about Gina Barecca.

Who is Gina Barecca, you ask? Well, you’d know the answer to that if you’d ever been an English major at UConn…or if you read The Courant. I had her as a professor, though, and that was how I came to know her–and a whole lot about British literature. When she isn’t teaching, writing books, or being a cloumnist she’s giving speeches…well, it’s more like doing feminist stand-up comedy. And she had this bit about how whiny and passive female musicians seemed to be these days. So when I heard this song tonight, I thought of her:

And I’ll be begging you, baby/ Beg you not to leave/ But I’ll be left here waiting/ With my Heart on my sleeve/ Oh, for the next time we’ll be here/ Seems like a million years/ And I think I’m dying

Luckily, the woman in the song grows a pair by the end and tosses this guy to the curb, but it’s one of those songs that just kind of makes you cringe when you think about what’s really going on there. Being the complete weirdo that I am, I made Barecca a C.D. filled with music from angry feminists after hearing her rant about Jewel. (I believe the song she had a problem with was “You Were Meant for Me.”) I remember two of the songs I put on that disc. One was “Blood in the Board Room” by Ani DiFranco, which is just about as aggressive a song as you’ll find anywhere outside of death metal:

I go and find the only other woman on the floor/ Is the secretary sitting at the desk by the door/I ask her if she’s got a tampon I could use/ She says Oh honey, what a hassle for you/ Sure I do/ You know I do/ I say it ain’t no hassle, no, it ain’t no mess/ Right now it’s the only power that I possess/ These businessmen got the money/ They got the instruments of death/But I can make life/I can make breath/Sitting in the boardroom/ The I’m-so-bored room/ Listening to the suits talk about their world/ I didn’t really have much to say/ The whole time I was there/ So I just left a big brown bloodstain/ On their white chair

The other song I remember putting on there was the Indigo Girls’ “Virginia Woolf,” which made sense because we had just read Mrs. Dalloway. (I think I also put a Paula Cole song on there, but all I know is that it wasn’t the “Dawson’s Creek” theme.) She probably thought I was nuts, but whatever…I like making mixes, and you don’t get many excuses to make them after the 11th grade.

Thinking about Gina Barecca got me thinking about some of my other UConn professors, though. (I also think about her any time I hear some girl speak as though every sentence were a question.) Many people know about Sam Pickering, UConn professor and basis for The Dead Poet’s Society. I’m not sure so many people know about other UConn gems though.

A couple of years ago, when I working in New York at HarperCollins, a co-worker of mine from the San Francisco area and I were talking about the Beat writers. I’m not a fan. He is. More to the point, though, he went to UC Davis where Gary Snyder is a professor. He’s one of the few Beats I can stomach, so we were talking about him. Then I happened to mention one of my professors had been Jack Kerouac’s biographer. He said, “Ann Charters?” I was baffled, because I was, in fact, talking about Ann Charters. This whole time I’d just thought it was cool that she went on a date with Allen Ginsberg’s boyfriend to the second-ever reading of “Howl” (and that Kerouac’s anti-semitic mother was horrified to have the Jewish Charters in her home). Turns out, she’s kinda famous.

I may be the only one surprised by the caliber of talent floating around UConn. I was not happy about the financially responsible decision to go to school in-state. I ended up having a lot of great professors there, though, like Lynn Bloom—who made me believe I could actually write for a living—and some truly mediocre ones. So, CT next time you stop by this little site and are offended by the ridiculousness that you find on our pages, you should think about writing to any of the aforementioned professors. They’re kind of how I got here.

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