I could see myself fantasizing

Names I would name my twin daughters: Cora and Colette
Places I might live: San Diego, Vancouver, Vienna, Philadelphia, Baltimore
Programs I could attend: UCSD (Lit), UMD (Library), Penn (Anthropology)


About Jessica Smith

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28 Responses to I could see myself fantasizing

  1. Amelia Lohrenz says:

    Catlover’s children’s names: Thomas, Alison, Tabitha.

  2. K. Lorraine Graham says:

    I sometimes fantasize about anthropology programs, but I probably fantasize about Europe more.

  3. Jessica Smith says:

    Penn’s program fostered the development of kinesics in the, what, 70s? So they have some history of understanding that language isn’t primarily oral/written– that it’s syntactical, cultural, performative.

    For that matter, Berkeley’s Rhetoric program, perhaps.

    I know you like Berlin but I love the opera in Vienna.

    I am beginning to think that I write better when in exile. Something about foreign-ness that allows.

  4. Jessica Smith says:

    I’m just going to come live near you and Mark (and Michelle).

  5. Jessica Smith says:

    and jonathan and rachel and kasia.

  6. Jessica Smith says:

    and sandra.

  7. Michelle Detorie says:


  8. Jessica Smith says:

    UCSD is the one place other than Buffalo where I think I could get a lit degree without compromising my interests. Plus it would be so cool, personally and artistically, to be out there with you guys. And why not. I can work at Barnes and Noble anywhere 😉

  9. François says:

    I was going to whine about the lack of love for SF, but that was before I saw your comment for Berkeley’s program.

  10. Jessica Smith says:

    SF seems too good to be true. Like moving to heaven before you die. Like eating the pomegranate seeds.

  11. mark wallace says:

    While many of us would be very glad if you were in California, Jessica, it’s important to be clear on what the UCSD graduate program in literature is. It’s basically a cultural studies program; there are very few grad classes if any on poetics as such, and the names of writers with whom you are familiar there are not automatically teaching grad school classes. Even Michael Davidson teaches cultural studies rather than poetics, for the most part.

    The good news would be that you could probably get support for a dissertation in your area of interest, but it’s not clear to me that the grad classes would be well focused for you. It would be very important for you to take a look at their offerings.

    I know, it was all fantasizing. But you know me: when somebody fantasizes about a grad program, I feel my jaw tightening with empathetic pain.

  12. Jessica Smith says:

    Thanks Mark–

    I’m not really looking at grad programs right now. I’m more thinking about where I’d like to live and practice (art). A cross-country move is a bit of a commitment, so if I wanted to go back to school in the future I’d want to know there were places where I could do that.

    But, I’m in no rush to get back into grad school. And I want to live out of the country again. And if I do go back to graduate school, chances are it won’t be for English. As long as I’m not going to get a job, I might as well study what I want, right?

  13. Logan Ryan Smith says:

    i know you have friends there but san diego SUUUUCCCCCKKKKS.

    don’t bother.

  14. Jessica Smith says:

    Right– I do have family in SF 😉

  15. Logan Ryan Smith says:

    that’s right, cuz.

  16. K. Lorraine Graham says:

    You don’t mind driving and you like birds, so sure, come live out here. But honestly, Vienna would be better. I speak from pure self interest, you should either move to Carlsbad, CA or to Vienna. If you lived in Carlsbad, then I could see you every week. If you lived in Vienna, then I could visit you in Vienna, and we could go to the opera.

    I researched the Penn Anthropology program a few years ago and was/am excited about it for the reasons you mentioned. But I bet anthropology as an academic field is deranged and interesting in different but equally painful ways from literature.

  17. Andy Gricevich says:

    If you’re not going to school at UCSD, I highly recommend not living in San Diego. It’s a terrible place. Even the university is a cooler place to hang around than to be in; I had a great time as an unofficial member of the music department (probably still the best in the country), and taking Rae Armantrout’s undergrad poetry workshop was wonderful… but I don’t think anyone is left in the philosophy department who you’d find tolerable. And there’s no artistic community to speak of. And, though KLG might be cool enough to make it worth it, Carlsbad is even bleaker, or was when I was there. Interesting place to visit, though.

  18. K. Lorraine Graham says:

    Strangely, I’m growing fond of Carlsbad.

  19. Jessica Smith says:

    @klg actually, i think i stole this idea of anthropology programs from you. it was a good idea. also, you can come visit me wherever i am. i need a city with more art/s than this town offers. vienna certainly delivers. and is perhaps cheaper to live in than cville (at least equal).

    berlin is big, like nyc, maybe too big for me.

    @andy, i have a friend at ucsd now who seems to be having a better experience than you describe, although it’s only her first semester so maybe she hasn’t hit the rough patches yet (and she’s not in Lit) … what’s so bad about Sd other than the driving KLG mentions? I have no problem with driving. I haven’t ever lived in a city with really stellar public transit and really walkable streets, so I don’t think that kind of thing would bother me.

  20. Michelle Detorie says:

    I have only been to SD to go to comicon, which is like its own universe, so I can’t comment on the town, but I know it’s near the ocean, which is always a plus. Also, I *love* LA. Lots of people *hate* LA b/c of the traffic and the smog and obnoxious people, but I find it a very stimulating/interesting place. It’s a complicated city, like Baltimore, and there are lots of different types of people there. Also, it doesn’t have the whole hustle hustle vibe that I find so intimidating in nyc. The whole cal arts scene seems pretty hip too… but it isn’t the most walkable city. the bay area has much better public transit.

    you should go someplace where you are going to feel nourished — where you feel like you can thrive.

  21. mark wallace says:

    “What’s so bad about San Diego?”

    The answer: Republicans. And lots of them.

    If you can stand the general culture, though, and like to spend time outdoors, then there are lots of good things here.

    Culturally, Los Angeles and San Diego have almost nothing in common. In fact most people in San Diego fear L.A. and never go there.

  22. Jessica Smith says:

    Hm. Ok. Well, that makes a pretty good case against SD.

  23. Andy Gricevich says:

    I actually had a pretty good time at UCSD, met some great people, got involved in ongoing performance projects that kept me there for eight years (five more than I swore I’d permit when I moved there). I got to meet some poets I’d been reading, and caught a couple of very good philosophy professors right before they fled the dept.

    SD’s conservatism doesn’t always come through as a cultural environment, and in fact meant that lefty activism there was highly charged and exciting (an energy missing here in smugly self-satisfied Madison, “the Berkeley of the Midwest”). Here’s what I didn’t like about the town:

    1) People are unfriendly (young guys in convertibles loudly cursing old people who take a while to cross the street, a lot of folks who really need their day to be perfect–or else!) or

    2) friendly in a way best described by a friend who moved there after 40 years in Jersey: “In Jersey, people tell you what they think of you right away, whether it’s good or bad, but in SD you have to know someone for five years before they’ll really tell you anything at all.” Another version: new-age passive-aggressiveness.

    3) The terrible transit would be ok if things weren’t so damned far away. Everything takes forever (even in a car).

    4) No culture, no real arts scenes to speak of (except a vaguely antipolitical folk music scene, some good songwriters)–if you really dig you can find evidence of the fact that it’s one of the most racially diverse cities in the country, but there’s a thick layer of white paint on everything.

    5) Real estate people own the town, and have tremendous power.

    6) The weather almost never changes. I realize that this is exactly what some people want. The lack of change utterly screwed up my sense of time, so I could never tell whether a week had passed, or a month, or two days. You have to like really direct, bright, unfiltered sun.

    7) The police force is very powerful and horrifically racist. The number of unarmed people of color and homeless people shot many times by the cops while I lived there was staggering. When it happened to a homeless guy, the Union-Tribune ran a prominent column about the police dog who was injured in the confrontation.

    There’s a lot more.
    On the other hand, I visited this spring, and two years of distance made me see it as a strange and fascinating place to visit. I love the canyons that wind through the city, full of strange plants and animals. Great used bookstores. Great Mexican, Vietnamese food, and a Lebanese cafe that might still be my favorite eating establishment. Excellent Asian groceries. And there is still some “funky beach culture,” especially up in North County (Carlsbad, Encinitas, Leucadia) which rubs me the wrong way but is understandably appealing for some.

  24. Andy Gricevich says:

    Noting how grouchy that may have seemed, I should acknowledge the fact that you could make such a list about all sorts of places.

    Also, a bunch of cool poets seem to have moved there right after I left, which would help prevent the kind of isolation I felt as a writer.

    Finally, my first SD job involved working for a couple of meth addicts, selling Mexican-style pottery to tourists in a particularly harsh area on the outskirts of Carlsbad. I got the worst sunburn I’ve ever had. So Carlsbad and I got off on the wrong foot.

  25. K. Lorraine Graham says:

    Ah, Mr. Gricevich, so you’ve lived in SD and been to school at UCSD, so now that makes some sense. Your description of new age passive aggressiveness is right on. I wish to quote it.

    Jessica: I love the idea of Berlin because people I know and like like it, and because it is cheap. But I’d hardly turn my nose up at any major city in Europe. I even love Bucharest. Not Budapest (never been there, I’m sure I’d love it), but Bucharest.

    I totally agree with Michelle about LA. I’m continually shocked by how much I like it, and I really like the poets there. That doesn’t mean you should move there, though.

    If I wanted to move out of the country but not to Europe I’d move to Vancouver or Mexico city. If I wanted to move to a city for art and to make some power art moves in the US I’d move to New York or LA. If I wanted to move to a city in the US for the food, the environment, and some good art, I’d move to San Francisco, if I wanted to move to a city were I could do some art and be around some good artists but not be in the thick of it all, I’d move to Baltimore or Philly. If I wanted and could move to Europe, I’d move to Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, or Bucharest. If I wanted to move really really far away, I’d move to Shanghai, Tokyo, or KL.

    So, what do you want? Berlin is NY big. So that leaves Bmore, DC, Philly, and SF stateside. Vienna in Europe.

    PS Your new clothes are awesome!

  26. Jessica Smith says:

    Berlin is big, but it’s not NY. It’s spread out, centreless, and interesting in that way, although there seems to be less going on there in terms of experimental poetry than in NYC. Shanghai is too big, and I don’t speak Chinese, but otherwise, yes it’s awesome.

    The NYC poetry scene turns me off. It seems too competitive. I need a friendlier poetry scene like DC or Philly. Toronto seems great too. The Canadian poetry scene is more my speed in general.

    I miss Scandinavia, I love Stockholm.

    I like Baltimore, but I don’t think I could live there right now. Too much awkward personal history.

    I think I’d like Budapest too. Let’s go! Have you been to Vienna? It’s wonderful. Although I don’t know about the poetry community there, you’re aswamp in the other arts (which for me is more stimulating anyway). I wonder what the Great City for architecture is?

  27. Jessica Smith says:

    p.s. I have no idea what I want.
    p.p.s. A whole city of passive-aggressive people sounds terrible.
    p.p.p.s. Thanks! I like my new clothes too. Much as the cheap prices at Old Navy creep me out ethically, I love that I can get a whole new wardrobe for $100.

  28. K. Lorraine Graham says:

    Yes, I suppose if we knew what we wanted all the time, things would be different.

    San Diego isn’t all passive-aggressive. Or rather, even if it is, I think passive-aggression is pretty much a key element of US culture.

    I am due to buy a few things before I go off back east. I haven’t decided if I wish to be a disturbingly unironic parody (is that possible?) of my fake SoCal self, or if I’m just going to enjoy darker, thicker fabrics.

    LA and Mexico city also spread out forever and ever. I’m sure I’d really like Vienna.

    I was smitten with Vancouver and Portland–big but small. Good art, good people, not at the end of the world. I’m about to say something uncharacteristically optimistic, but I think there are a lot of good places to live and be an artist.

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