“I care deeply about the language I create for books. I call myself a wordkeeper, or a keeper of words. I enjoy words and looking at them on all sides . . Words are magnificent . . They form rhythms of living in meaningful prose . . It is the force of my desire, my wish to make myself understood, that powers these words."
“. . . a spirit free that says I can . . ”
"In philosophy, the word androgyny doesn't have any meaning. I think there is no difference between men and women. We are different in body, but sense, spirit and soul are the same."
"What they need is a wound. And so it is that I am forced to call up a friend who owns a gun to come over and shoot me, somewhere harmless like my leg, where it won't kill me, just make a big gushing wound large enough so the ants can get out, and he does, and they do, and now I miss them."
—from The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu
1) Quote from James Baldwin: “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."
2) I always return to Jennifer Chang's essay "On Forgetting and Other Natural Erasures":
I often struggle to discern the difference between what I remember and what I imagine.
A note in the grass explains.
I look up to see the winter grass, no snow.
How do I explain what I cannot describe?
3) This FKA Twigs song forever:
“An early slogan of the women in print movement was ‘freedom of the press belongs to those who own the press’. This is even truer for multiply disenfranchised women of color who have minimal access to power, including the power of media, except that which we wrest from an unwilling system. On the most basic level, Kitchen Table Press began because of our need for autonomy, our need to determine independently both the content and conditions of our work, and to control the words and images that are produced about us.”
—Barbara Smith, “A Press Of Our Own” (1989)
“Unexamined oppression is just really unexamined oppression. Usually, you find in oppressed communities a higher level of consciousness because they understand the system is not working for them. We have a lens of not taking stuff at face value and going along with the propaganda that our society puts forth as ‘is the United States and everybody can succeed. All you have to do is work hard. Blah, blah, blah, blah.’ We have lived experiences and examples of someone who did all the right thing sand still ended up in a very difficult and challenging set of circumstances. Our objective status gives us an avenue and a pathway to consciousness.
I think consciousness, though, comes into being through collective dialogue. It’s probably not possible to be fully conscious if the only person who you ever ran your ideas by was yourself. That gets into political organizing and movements. It’s not enough just to have the markers of identity that would say logically, this person would be really very sharp about what’s going on in relationship to power and oppression. . .”
—Barbara Smith. The last sentence ends with et cetera
Instruction, Final: To Brown Poets from Black Girl with Silver Leica
& camera, black-eyed aperture. Be diamondback terrapin, the only animal that can outrun a hurricane. Be 250 million years old. Be isosceles. Sirius. Rapshody. Hogon, Dogon. Hubble. Stay hot. Create a pleasure that can stir up the world. Study the moon with a pencil. Drink the ephemerides. Lay with the almanacs. Become the lunations. Look up the word ‘southing’ before you use it in a sentence. Know ‘southing’ is not a verb. Imitate them remarkable days. Locate all your ascending nodes. Chew eight times before you swallow the lyrics and silver lamentations of James Brown, Abbey Lincoln, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, and Aretha. Hey! Watch your language! Two and a Quarter is not the same as Deuce and a Quarter. Two-fisted is not two-faced. Remember: One monkey don’t stop no show. Let your fat belly be quilts of quietus. Pass on what the great winemakers know: The juice is not made in the vats but in the vineyard. Keep yourself rooted in the sun, rain, and darkly camphored air. Grow until you die, but before you do, leave your final kiss. Lay mint or orange eucalyptus garland, double tuck those lips. Careful to the very end what you deny, dismiss, & cut away.
I have spoken the best I know how.
—Nikky Finney from her book Head Off and Split
"The experience of time translates itself into language, and language translates itself into distance, which translates itself into longing, which is the realization of time. (…) how sad and strange that I, Jenny Boully, should be the sign of a signifier of the signifier of a sign, moreover, the sign of a signifier searching for the signifies."
—from The Body by Jenny Boully
Translated by a Chicana poet stalina emmanulle villarreal. Sor Juana inés de la Cruz was the daughter of a Spanish captain and a Mexican criollo woman. Abandoned by her father she eventually chose to become a nun and started writing poetry. She touches on power dynamics in her quatrains titled Enigmas. Part of señal a chapbook series of Latin American poetry in translation. My fav is:
“What is that deity
that with such blind ambition
utterly becomes liberty?”
"The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers."
"Before each footstep became an apology"
“There are times when personal experience keeps us from reaching the mountain top and so we let it go because the weight of it is too heavy. And sometimes the mountain top is difficult to reach with all our resources, factual and confessional, so we are just there, collectively grasping, feeling the limitations of knowledge, longing together, yearning for a way to reach that highest point. Even this yearning is a way to know.”
―bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
This is a line from Alok Vaid-Menon of Dark Matter Poetry from their poem “The Bible Belt" found off the Feminist Wire:
“the doctor traces the muscles in my back
he asks me if i had an accident
he needs an explanation of how it is possible for something
to feel so irrevocably broken and yet
still somehow work”
Nina Simone's Novus, 1972 is like a microcosm of total life experience. I played it on repeat when I was in labor with my firstborn.
“But I want elegies while I’m still alive, I want rhapsodies though I’ve never seen Mount Olympus. I want ballads, I want ugly, grating sounds, I want repetition, I want white space, I want juxtaposition and metaphor and meditation and all caps and erasure and blank verse and sonnets and even center-aligned italicized poems that rhyme, and most of all — feelings.”
Or anything by Kim Hyesoon
This is really important to me today-- taking time for myself and saying no to things
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”
I just love that she says that self care is an act of political warfare in itself! That, by saying I need a break (like I can have nice things too! I.e., The beach!) is an act of resistance too
Cathy Linh Che
Forgive me for thinking I saw
the irregular postage stamp of death;
a black moth the size of my left
thumbnail is all I've trapped in the damask.
There is no need for alarm. And
there is no need for sadness, if
the rain at the window now reminds you
of nothing; not even of that
parlor, long like a nave, where cloud-shadow,
wing-shadow, where father-shadow
continually confused the light. In flight,
leaf-throng and, later, soldiers and
flags deepened those windows to submarine.
But you don't remember, I know,
so I won't mention that house where Chung hid,
Lin wizened, you languished, and Ming-
Ming hush-hushed us with small song. And since you
don't recall the missionary
bells chiming the hour, or those words whose sounds
alone exhaust the heart--garden,
heaven, amen--I'll mention none of it.
After all, it was just our life,
merely years in a book of years. It was
1960, and we stood with
the other families on a crowded
railroad platform. The trains came, then
the rains, and then we got separated.
And in the interval between
familiar faces, events occurred, which
one of us faithfully pencilled
in a day-book bound by a rubber band.
But birds, as you say, fly forward.
So I won't show you letters and the shawl
I've so meaninglessly preserved.
And I won't hum along, if you don't, when
our mothers sing Nights in Shanghai.
I won't, each Spring, each time I smell lilac,
recall my mother, patiently
stitching money inside my coat lining,
if you don't remember your mother
preparing for your own escape.
After all, it was only our
life, our life and its forgetting.
—Li-Young Lee, "For a New Citizen of These United States"
"Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers."
Attached is Captain Pham Ngoc Luy’s account of the Truong Xuan’s last voyage - - - he helped more than 3,000 Vietnamese flee the country, including my father. It is longish; in the interest of time I highlighted some parts I found particularly striking
The Pillow Book is a weekly treat ( <3 Shonagon's careful lists/her intermittent naivete/her delicate aestheticism ), so a favorite quote:
Surprising and Distressing Things
While one is cleaning a decorative comb, something catches in the teeth and the comb breaks.
A carriage overturns. One would have imagined that such a solid, bulky object would remain forever on its wheels. It all seems like a dream -- astonishing and senseless.
A child or grown-up blurts out something that is bound to make people uncomfortable.
All night long one has been waiting for a man who one thought was sure to arrive. At dawn, just when one has forgotten about him for a moment and dozed off, a crow caws loudly. One wakes up with a start and sees that it is daytime -- most astonishing.
One of the bowmen in an archery contest stands trembling for a long time before shooting; when finally he does release his arrow, it goes in the wrong direction.
Visual artists, but - - - Ruth Asawa and Fujikasa Satoko
Movement artists, but - - - Costume en Face - A Primer of Darkness for Young Girls and Boys by Tatsumi Hijikata/Moe Yamamoto/Sawako Nakayasu
"be transformed by the renewing of your mind"
That article is genius and gives mad props to a seriously terrifyingly brilliant and liberated artist.
Grace Jones destroys.
"Your silence will not protect you"
"If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty."
This poem by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is blood in the mouth, an elegy I don't want but need:
to punk shows ever since the summer of ‘98 when
danny went into the pit and got his front teeth
divorced from the rest of his mouth by the fist
of some white boy from the side of town
where no one buries a body that came into the world
after they did and no one ever has to swallow
their own blood and pray that it will keep them
fed until morning
so danny told us that he was going to
go home with someone’s teeth even if they weren’t
the ones that he came here with
because how many things have we boys had ripped
from our mouths and never replaced by anyone?
how much of our language has been pulled over the tongues
of everyone but us?
reparations were sought in dark alleys with a blade sharp
enough to scare a jaw open and a prayer out of a sinner’s
body which explains how the white boy wept
and called his father’s name when being pressed
into the brick with danny’s foot against his neck while
we watched until danny finally let the boy
go and we ran back out east towards our homes and maybe
it was the way the rain howled or maybe where
we come from we see everything drowning in red anyway
or maybe there is no other way to explain the haste with which I make
my pockets barren before leaving the house
or why my wife needs a bigger purse to carry such weight
for the both of us
but when the police came for us that night
we did not hear a sound until danny’s blade fell out his pocket
and the bullets that followed
because I guess anything can be a gun if the darkness surrounding it
is hungry enough
or at least that’s what I’ve been told when
the bodies of black boys thrash against what
little life they have left tethering them to the earth
and isn’t that what we’ve always been fed? that it is
just like the nighttime
to rename everything that moves
into a monster?
Jenny Zhang, Hags