Rebecca Porte dreams of letters, death, sex and hippie communes

By Stefan Deeran

Stefan Deeran: You have just completed an English honors project titled, “Return to Sender.” Tell me about it. Rebecca Porte: People write letters in 20th century poetry because of a longing for exchange, but often they live in a world where it’s not possible to get a response. In the end you have to let it be enough to write for yourself. A lot of the letter poems are about the disillusionment with religion and I guess it’s sort of like that moment when you realize your parents aren’t infallible. For me, letters are the sort of wistful tragi-comic things and my life is characterized by tragi-comedy.

SD: Let’s talk about the process of creating your college thesis.

RP: It involved not sleeping this semester, intravenous caffeine, lots of time spent in the Kirk computer lab, lots of time mourning my dead laptop, getting my wallet stolen, acquiring a temporary cat-that was very instrumental to project completion.

SD: You are from Missouri. Tell me about life in the horror-land.

RP: Well they sort of proudly call themselves the “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” We have more churches per capita than almost any other town in the nation, so when you’re a little Jewish kid you got a lot of strange looks when you weren’t in youth group on a Sunday night.

SD: What’s your craziest encounter with a “Christian?”

RP: I’d like to say I’ve had lots of good encounters with Christians, but I think the absolute worst was when I used to work the night shift at the maternity ward. I got no fewer than three conversion attempts in one night. One from a nurse who tried to slip me a copy of a book called the Case for Christ, one from an orderly who tried to sing me a gospel hymn at the point desk and one from a woman who was just about to give birth and had heard the orderly singing to me. It must have been very important to her because she nearly gave birth right in front of the point desk. She began hyperventilating and trying to convince me to accept Jesus Christ as my savior at the same time. They had to take her into a side room and give her stuff to calm her down.

SD: So is everyone at Mac hell-bound?

RP: Probably. We will be in good company.

SD: What has been one of your fondest Mac memories?

RP: Nights up talking with friends till 4 in the morning. I just remember random pretentious philosophical debates and I love the fact that there is a period in my life when I was talking with people who cared about Kant, Plato, Hegel for no other reason except that it was something to do on a Saturday night.

SD: What’s your favorite Macalester buzzword?

RP: Heteronormative. I think it’s the one that seems the most absurd when it comes up in conversation, not because of what it mean, but because of the sound of it. It’s a good word to sort of roll around in your mouth.

SD: Do you have advice for the children?

RP: Get some sleep. Watch out for my brother for me (Josh Porte ’09). Stay out of the wrong types of trouble. Get into the right kinds of trouble.

SD: Suppose I built a ship but eventually replaced every plank. Is it still the same ship?

RP: Well I am not the expert.It’s the same ship if you wanna buy into that whole illusion of Platonic forms. It’s kind of romantic to think of it as the same ship because that way you can convince yourself that there are some great universal constants outside of science, which I believe in implicitly.

SD: You were in a first year course titled “Superheroes” way back in 2002. What can comic books teach us?

RP: Words are good, pictures are good, words and pictures also good. Spandex never goes out of style. Anthropomorphic animals acting out Hitchcock stories as in Jason’s new graphic novel can teach us all about the pathos of the party anecdote.

SD: You studied abroad in Athens.

RP: Athens has a beautiful metro and the dirtiest streets of almost any city in the world. I loved it there. There was old stuff everywhere. I’m pretty crazy about old stuff. The best part was hoping around islands after the semester was over. I had experiences too sketchy and wonderful and numerous to mention. I decided I really like traveling alone.

SD: You speak French. Why was John Kerry too French to be president?

RP: Probably something about the mouth muscles. French people have overly developed mouth muscles; it tends to weird the conservative news media out.

SD: You compose music and write lyrics. Of what song are you most proud?

RP: I wrote one most recently about Thomas Alba Edison and I think that if there were ever a potential for a single about the invention of the incandescent light to go platinum, this song has it all.