Friday, December 29, 2006

So, I'm completing the Gift of Freedom grant application from A Room of Her Own Foundation. And I check out their webpage on statistics about women in the arts. Here's what I found:

  • Only 9 out of 52 winners of the National Book Award for Fiction are women.
  • Only 11 out of 48 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction have been women.
  • Generations of students studied art history with a text that did not include one woman artist—Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Nevelson and Lee Krasner were all excluded.
  • Women writers won 63 percent of the awards but less than 30 percent of the money in awards and grants reported by Poets & Writers. (January/February 2003 issue)
  • In 2002 all but one of the Pulitzer Prize finalists for Fiction and Poetry were male.
  • 94 percent of all the writing awards at the Oscars have gone to men.
  • Of the major artists represented by major New York galleries, only 16 percent are women.
  • Only 25 percent of the advisory members of the National Endowment for the Arts are women.
  • A recent study by the Coalition of Women’s Arts Organizations showed that in all one-person shows for living artists in American museums, only 2 percent of the featured artists were women.
  • A 1992 study showed that only 17 percent of artists in galleries nationally were women, whereas the Bureau of Labor indicated that 48 percent of professional American artists were women.
  • 51 percent of all visual artists are female and women hold 53 percent of art degrees, but 80 percent of art faculty members are male.
  • 68 percent of total art income in the U.S. goes to men and 73 percent of all grants and fellowships in the arts go to men.

I don't have the original sources for these statistics, but I'm appalled!!! APPALLED at the state of things for women in the arts. It's what makes our efforts doubly important and despite the difficulties, so, so necessary. And then we wonder why we're struggling when the powers that be are still dominated by patriarchial structures/values/norms. Hmph.

Oh, and let me not comment on how these statistics would look if we add race and sexual orientation into the mix. As T.B. said, "We're always being quartered." Ouch, but...

On that note, may 2007 bring lots more support for women in all of the arts, for people of color and lgbt folks. May this year allow for abundance, vision, independent thought and free will. And love. Lots and lots of love.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Last night I watched the film, In the Mirror of Maya Deren, directed by Martina Kudlacek. I had known about Maya Deren's work because of the book "Divine Horsemen". I also knew she was a film-maker and a dancer. But I hadn't ever seen much footage of her films. At UCLA back in 2003 I saw the film "Divine Horsemen" filmed in the 1940s in Haiti. I remember feeling simultaneously in awe at the beauty of the dances and movements of voudoun dance and horrified at the fact that these dances and rituals were captured on film.

I felt these contradictions last night as well, as I watched her incredible avant-garde film-making, her conceptual dances and images streaming across the screen. Her film, At Land, was brilliant in how she moved us from the sea into the forest and over into the boardroom. I could see how she was Erzulie, a true mermaid stuck on land. I love, also, how Meshes of the Afternoon takes us into dream time. So carefully choreographed and visually intriguing.

At one point, Maya Deren worked with Katherine Dunham and she was also served the goddess Erzulie, Papa Loko and the Kanzo. She was a powerful woman and brilliant filmmaker, not without her deep, painful contradictions. She was Jewish, born in the Ukraine, raised in Syracuse, NY. Dedicated to the drum, the image and to the tempest.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another review *yay*

From Books To Watch Out For, the Lesbian Edition
Volume 3, Number 8

Suzanne Corson
for Books To Watch Out For

The Dominican Republic is the setting for Erzulie's Skirt by Ana-Maurine Lara. Miriam and Micaela come from different rural villages and spiritual traditions, eventually meeting each other in Santo Domingo. Their strength, fortitude, and resilience swim throughout this mystical book, peppered with the traditions of Vodoun (Vudú). Think magic realism with an African Diaspora flavor, mixed with a heavy dose of survivor instinct and the desire to not accept the status quo. These women face tradition, prejudice, deceit, and abuse head on while on their path to fulfilling their dream - which brings them round circle, though not exactly back home. I strongly suggest that you read the author's reference notes and glossary in the back as an overview before beginning the novel itself, and mark these sections for easy retrieval during your read. It's a much richer experience having some fore-knowledge before opening the spirit-full pages. Redbone Press, $15, 9780978625108.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I made my first radio appearance today since high school. It was a KOOP radio - community led radio. Tuesdays is the day when everything's in Spanish or bilingual. Ari Chagoya does this show,
Firewalker News, KOOP Radio from 3pm - 3.30pm where she interviews local folks of color. It's important

I read a little excerpt from Erzulie's Skirt. Talked about Areyto and then we mentioned Baile de Amor - the event that ALLGO has every year here in town.

Well, off to do some grant writing.


Sunday, December 17, 2006


a gathering of Caribbean artists featuring

Ana-Maurine Lara, Carole Metellus,

Courtney Morris, Leo Guevara,

Rebeca Castellanos and Las Krudas

Artwork by Wura-Natasha Ogunji

Last night's Noche Caribena/Caribbean Night at the Rhizome was absolutely wonderful. The energy, love and attention was deeply felt.

We had a lovely spread of food made by the artists, and it was beautiful to eat together. And then the readings, performances and music were powerfully tight and I was especially amazed how folks stood in the space. We had many Caribbean folks in the audience, and it was humbling to have that space happen here in Austin. Humbling, and beautiful and amazing. To be multilingual as a given, to have Caribbean expressions of what it means to cross water, what it means to not be able to. What it means to have family, and what it means to be artists in our own right - here in the lush desert that is beautiful. And what I loved especially is that everyone's work was so, so different in its form, in its content and in its presentation. Rebeca (Suenos de Nebula) had work that's inspired by Greek mythology/physics/self. Carol's work was home and love and family. Las Krudas broke it down (Yo Soy La Gorda, La Gorda Soy Yo) with their theatre and performance critique of societal expectations. And Leo, well, he always starts by saying, "Al fin, yo soy poeta." and he just went into his brilliant work about his wanderings across internal/external landscapes. Courtney - girl - you took us there in her work about memory and exile. And then the lovely MC Wura who made us all feel at ease.

And, oh how incredible to have children running around the space. That is special and yet doesn't need to be. I want to thank the children for being there, and the parents for bringing them cause we wouldn't be complete without them.

After folks left, and Wura and Carole and I were cleaning up, a few folks streamed in, hoping to catch the tail end of the event. We could only say that we hope it happens again, and that they can catch us then.

I send thanks to all who came last night and made that space happen. And, I also want to extend a thank you to the folks who kicked off this beautiful month of December by coming to the Resistencia reading/drumming. For some reason, it feels continuous, this "ola/wave". Thank you for supporting my work, and for allowing community to happen in languid moments of warmth, words and music.

May our paths soon cross again.

peace and love

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A lot of people ask me about my writing process. I decided that I would like to share my process in case someone finds it useful/helpful.

Here goes:

I carry a pen with me wherever I go. At least I try to. The couple of times I haven't, I've really regretted it. One time, when I lived in Brooklyn, I was walking my dog. It was about 35 degrees out, and I was one city mile away from my place. And I had a whole bunch of ideas come to me. And not one pen in sight. I spent the next ten minutes repeating things to myself outloud and then thankfully, I found a pen on the ground, a receipt in my pocket and a stoop with a light. I sat down in the cold, my dog pulling on the leash, to write down what I had been thinking. It was a close call.

I also recently discovered the notepad on my cellphone, which has saved me a few times. But nothing works like a piece of paper and pen. Not even touchtone keypads. Some people carry those moleskin notebooks, notecards, flip pads, calendars..... These all help cut down "can't find paper" risk factors. So, I guess that's the first thing - always being prepared to write down an idea. I have found that it's not just the idea itself, but actually the way it forms. Something about that moment, the language of that moment, the sense of time...none of that can be recaptured in memory.

Another piece of my process is time. I'm not disciplined like Maya Angelou. I don't write everyday. Some days, I just want to stare at the wall, paint, make origami balloons, clean the house or read some really good books. I consider all of these things part of my process. I stopped beating myself up a long time ago when I realized that this is so. And I started to embrace the way that I can actually get to the space of writing.

Reading novels is a really important part of my writing.
Reading poetry is a really important part of my writing.
Going to poetry readings is a really important part of my writing.
Reading other friends' work is a really important part of my writing.
Talking politics is a really important part of my writing.
Having incredible conversations about my friends' lives and my life is a really important part of my writing.
Watching movies is a really important part of my writing.
Listening to music is a really important part of my writing.
Painting is a very important part of my creative process. And writing is an important part of my painting and vice versa.

When I've been fortunate enough to be in writing residency (meaning, all I'm doing is waking up, eating, writing, hanging out with people, and doing more of the same), this is how I structure my time:

I wake up. This takes me about two hours. In that time, I eat, I write letters to friends and journal. This reflection time is super important and allows me to enter the creative space.

After I get going, I put my pen to paper. I still write using a pen and paper. The actual physical sensation of a pen in my hand allows me to access emotions and visual images in a very specific way. I will usually write with a pen when I'm in the "creation" stage of a piece, meaning, putting words down for the first time. I will then type the work into my computer and do all of my edits on the computer. At least until it is time to "create" again.

I usually have very different kinds of writing going on at the same time. So, right now, I am making format changes to a novel manuscript. I have also started thinking about and researching for another novel manuscript; I have a poetry manuscript (my goal is to have a 60 poem ms by April) going; a long term experimental project that I'm actively researching and writing; and two critical writing projects. I write letters almost every other day. And I've been painting.

This is, by the way, how I deal with writers block. I move into a different kind of writing, or creative project. Or I read.

Still in residency, I write usually for about 8-10 hours after waking up.

After that, I break completely and go do something that involves other people. Art openings, dinner, movies, getting a beer, talking on the phone, etc.

When I'm not in residency, meaning, I'm working a full time or part time job, I treat my writing as my primary job and my income generating job as my second job. I have set hours for writing. During those set hours, I don't answer my phone, I don't hang out with my dog, I don't talk to anyone. I don't open the door to my workspace. I don't go on the internet. I don't do anything other than write or edit or attend to the business of writing.

For the two years I lived in NYC, I worked at a job 40 hours a week. And I wrote 20-25 hours a week. I worked on my writing Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6pm - midnight, and I worked all day Saturday, usually from 9am - 6pm; sometimes Sunday morning. I started a writing space at work, for other writers, and we workshopped every other week. I went to workshops around the city, and I met up with friends to talk about writing. Sometimes, because I had a desk job, I'll admit that I even worked (on my writing) at work.

And that brings me to the last element that I believe to be critical about my writing process. While I write all by myself, none of my work leaves my hands without being read by a lot of other people. Peers. People who can provide real feedback. While my girlfriend can be my cheerleader (and I thank her for that), my writing peers are the ones who tell me - "That sentence isn't clear." or "I'm not sure what you're trying to do here." or "That's cliche." or "That's gorgeous. I like how you do that." Which, of course, helps me see that I'm effectively communicating an image, a world, emotions, etc. (and when it's stuff like the last quote, it makes me feel good, too - also very important).

So, I don't write every day, but on the days I write, I write for long periods of time. I discovered that my process is best informed by others, but shaped by my obligations and how I work best. And, I know that I can't effectively write about the world around me without engaging it on some level, too. And ultimately, the most important thing I know is that I need to have a pen with me - wherever I go. Cause sometimes, the best ideas are on the street walking your dog looking for a lit stoop.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Starting the week off pretty well. I've had some great conversations recently about artists and sustainability. Meaning, how do we balance life and work, work and life? For the long term...and in such a way that makes it possible to still do our creative work?

Anyway, that is an on-going conversation.

I'm so excited. Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Carole Metellus organized an event at the Rhizome Collective this coming Saturday, December 16 (1st night of Chanukkah) for Caribbean artists. The event is called Areyto - the pan-Taino word for gathering/convite and Wura's going to MC. The artists are:

Carole Metellus

Courtney Morris
Leo Guevara
Rebeca Castellanos
Las Krudas
and me....

And we're going to have Caribbean food (yum!): pasteles en hoja (for those who don't know, this is a plantain based `tamale'), Haitian chicken (poule kreyol), cuban rice & beans (moro/congri), and a lot else. I'm thinking of making my arepitas de yucca (yucca latkes), perhaps.

It's going to be fun and sweet. All the writers/performers are awesome and dynamic and it's amazing to me to have Caribbean energy up here in the lush Austin desert. Carole and I will be having a conversation about Haitian-Dominican relations and the role of the artist in social transformation. I'm excited and honored to be in this conversation with her, and I think it's the beginning of many conversations I hope to have.

Speaking of which, there is going to be a forum in NYC in February on Haitian-Dominican Representations. Here's the call for papers:

The Puerto Rican/Latin American Studies Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice is currently soliciting papers and presentations for its international conference on "Dominican Haitian Representations: Migrations, Citizenship and Human Rights" to take place from February 22-23, 2007 in New York City. Currently, an estimated 500,000 Haitian immigrants and Dominican-Haitians are living in the Dominican Republic without any form of identification, which leave them exposed to summary deportation to Haiti. The Dominican Republic and Haiti share an island in the Caribbean Sea; with a legacy of colonialism, foreign interventions, migrations and long history of political and social struggles. This international conference will bring together scholars in history, cultural studies, sociology, law, human rights, elected officials, cultural workers from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and their diasporas to explore the problems of legal representations of Haitian immigrants and Dominican-Haitians in law, policy, economy and culture. It also examines the role that Dominican and Haitian Diasporas can play to find common ground.

Proposals, which should be no more than 250 words, should be sent to : or no later than December 1st, 2006.

It should be interesting to see what comes out of this conversation. Leading up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, FLACSO, in the D.R. organized a series of conversations on racism in the Dominican Republic.
Since then, they have monitored deportations, published reports on discriminatory policies and generally provided a space for looking at the cultural, political and social implications of racism on Dominican society. Let's see what comes out of a forum in the space of the Diaspora.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Torch is out!!!

How can I say this... Amanda Johnston is a force of nature. This woman is brilliant and beautiful and gives so much to the world. She is an incredible poet, a weaver of emotions and images. She is a dynamo; I love that she collectively helps us remember each other by the simple acts of taking our photographs and posting them on the internet. And now, she has published the online journal - TORCH - a journal dedicated to the writings and artwork of African American women.

I have not "studied" the history of publishing of black women's writing here in the States. But, I think I've only known of a few spaces where this has happened, this being the specific publication of black women's writing in one place. I can only think of Kitchen Table Press - which is no longer in operation, but was the avenue for the publication of radical works by women of color, and black women in particular. I am thirsty and would love to learn of more avenues/spaces where this has happened.

Something that came up in the discussion with Sekou Sundiata last week was the role of the artist in teasing out, collecting and creating memory. Because memory is what helps us stay continuous, and gives us something to stand on. Storytellers are memory keepers; our elders are memory keepers. These endeavours, all the love, energy, time and resources that go into creating these spaces and avenues for the chorus of voices, are so so important.

So, thank you Ms Johnston for giving this to the world. And congratulations.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I would just like to note - I NEVER post this much. Ever. It's just been kind of an incredible week. It really has. Right now, my body is coursing with life, and energy. And so, even though I'm sleepy, my brain, heart, mind and spirit have been ON. Not to say that I'm not usually on, but somehow this has translated into cyber-communication. It has really been quite incredible.

Last night was the reading at Resistencia. SO MUCH LOVE to raulsalinas and rene, who make that space happen, who make it sacred and who make it whole. We grooved up in there. Apparently, I broke with Austin tradition and started almost on time (I did not know this until later), but it couldn't have happened any other way. Tonya Lyles aka SistaDrum was on drums - the sistah is beautiful and she commanded our presence by honoring the space with the djembe and the kalimba. WHAT?! We met for the first time in person last night, but Erzulie spoke to both of us because it was so beautiful. She played, I read and it was beautiful. It was a nice, nice time and a true honor to work with her. And the audience was absolutely amazing; it is so incredible to be witnessed/witnessing so many beautiful, big-hearted people. Among folks, Krissy Mahan, who took my photos, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, who did the cover art, and Sharon Bridgforth, big sis at RedBone Press, were all there with big hearts and lots o love. I am blessed.

And of course, what's a performance in Austin without a party. Following the reading, K.M. and C.D. opened up the carport (Austin style) and we had a great, great party all up until the wee hours.

Tonight, I just got back from a performance at the University of Texas. Helga Davis was singing. Or rather, we were witnessing her prayers as she went through her work "The Gods Have Feet of Clay". Krissy put photos of the evening up on her website. Helga is a composer/singer/being extraordinaire. She just directed Black Nativity at ProArts here in Austin, and was recently in Warsaw working in/on Robert Wilson's piece "The Temptation of St Anthony". This diva is not to be missed, wherever she may be. She's extraordinary, and gave so deeply. This poem is for her, and uses a quote from her song for her brother that says "I am just the beat of black wings"

I am just the beat
of black wings
the pulse of
stolen moments.
Do not confuse
these tears
for sorrow - they
are pure rage
fueled by
deep, unfettered love.

I am just the beat
of black wings
just the shadow
of bodies stacked
in crisscross
on the pavement
in the desert
brown black
patches across
pink red sands.

We will hold you.
We will hold you.
We will hold you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tonight I had the honor of reading with Sekou Sundiata at Resistencia Bookstore. Pretty incredible experience. Not only because of being in the brilliant presence of Brother Sundiata, but because it happened in the Resistencia space, with so many other brilliant people in the room. There were several of us reading and talking within the format of Sekou's "51st (Dream) State" project. So what it looked like was like this:

Shia Shabazz read her piece "Cyanosis" and we then engaged in a conversation about motherhood and responses to the world around us

Amanda Johnston read her piece "Electric Green" and we then got into a bigger discussion about how to do and how to be with response to the crises in the world around us, how to balance a sense of urgency with pause

Lisa Moore read a really powerful piece (I'm forgetting the title right now) about memory, childhood violence and survival. And we then discussed the role of the artist in generating/preserving/shifting/embodying memory.

I read a new piece from the Lexicon series (more on that later) that I'm working on. And then we discussed spirituality, paradigm shifts and language.

Andy Johnson read from a short fiction piece about a boy's search to remember the smell of rain. We then discussed shifts in the U.S. civil rights movement, the voices of children, and then...

Rene asked us to consider the question of why 9/11 is a relevant/important moment. This is a huge part of Sekou's work with this piece. So the rest of the evening was spent discussing collective trauma, family, genocide, fragility, humanism, personal and collective memory, citizenship, the role of the artist, the role of family, empire, lynching and terror.

Check out photos from the event on Amanda Johnston's blog. We were having a deep, good time.

All thanks to Sekou's intention. So thank you, Sekou, for engaging us - all of us in the room - with this discussion. A deep, deep honor.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Dominican friend of mine shared her experience with me today about an interaction that had to do with Erzulie's Skirt. She was reading the book on the subway, when a Haitian man asked her what she knows about Erzulie. She showed him the book. He got very angry when he found out the author was Dominican, and stated something to the affect that Dominicans cannot write about Erzulie. She attempted a conversation with him about people who are attempting to confront anti-Haitian racism in the Dominican Republic, but she didn't have time. She had to get off the train.

I can't imagine how this experience was for both of them. I do know, however, how poignant it is for me. And I feel that I have to write about this incident, because it involved someone reading a book I wrote and put out in the world. I hope to generate dialogue and present an alternate truth to what we believe about nationality, race and survival on the island of Sto Dgo/Ste Domingue. A young woman at LaGuardia Community College asked me to state what the message of this book is. And on the spot, I had to condense many years of work and craft into a tiny statement. This is what I told her: Erzulie's Skirt is about our ability to love in the most desperate of circumstances. And the power of that love to transform us and each other.

Bottom line, I believe that the Dominican and U.S. governments must recognize the human rights of all peoples living within national boundaries. This includes Haitian migrant workers, the children of Haitian peoples, lesbians, gays and transgenders, poor people, dark people, indigenous people and women. And, that we as the people, must fight for what the nation state does not wish to provide.

I also believe in artists' rights to creative freedom. We must create with clear intentions, deep vulnerability and honoring our craft - and we must do so without falling into the trappings of society's violence and limitations.

And lastly, if we do things out of love for our lives and each other, we will have already changed our chances of survival.

As parting words, at the same time that I received this news from my friend, my mother sent me this article, pasted below. Yet another profound moment of synchronicity.


Dominican-Haitian Activist Hopes Award Will Help Fight Against Discrimination

Sonia Pierre was just 13 when she was arrested and threatened with deportation for leading her fellow residents of Haitian descent in a march for sugar cane-cutters' rights. In the three decades since, that lanky teenager has grown into the 6-foot tall champion of a beleaguered minority in this Caribbean nation. Her tireless work securing citizenship and education for Dominican-born ethnic Haitians has made her the target of threats here, but has earned her recognition from overseas as a fierce defender of human rights. On Friday, November 17, Pierre was to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award at a ceremony in Washington. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million ethnic Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, many in isolated village slums that dot the countryside. Most born here are descendants of Haitians who crossed the border fleeing violence or seeking economic opportunity. In 1976 when Pierre led her fellow Haitian-Dominican neighbors in a march to demand rights for those who cut sugar cane, police arrested her. She was jailed for a day and threatened with deportation to Haiti, where her mother was born. At 43, the towering Pierre's high cheekbones and weary eyes have become a public face of her people. As head of the Dominican-Haitian Women's Movement, she has garnered acclaim from abroad, including a previous award from Amnesty International in 2003. In Pierre's mountain-ringed hometown of Batey Lecheria, an hour's drive north of the capital, her efforts have helped secure government aid, including the installation of running water and electricity. Citrus trees have replaced the state-owned sugar fields where she mobilized residents to demand better pay and housing. Last year, Pierre helped shepherd a landmark case through the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which ruled that all those born in the Caribbean country must be granted citizenship and receive schooling. But as the court does not have authority to alter laws or enforce its decisions in the Dominican Republic, changes have not been implemented and even the plaintiffs are yet to receive their full court-ordered compensation.

SOURCE: International Herald Tribune

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I'm back in Austin after a fabulous week in New York City. Here are some photographs from the wonderful book party hosted by G.C. and K.D. in their lovely home. Thank you to all the beautiful amazing people who were there and in whose light I got to relish.

Lisa C. Moore and I standing up to talk about RedBone Press and Erzulie's Skirt. Note cheesy grins, mile wide. So happy.

This is me reading from Erzulie's Skirt, chapter one.

Ileana Jimenez, the photographer, and me.

Much love and peace.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yes, I am the queen of bi-weekly blog postings. So, here we go.

I am in New York City right now, having a grand time. I was in Kansas City last week, at Creating Change. So many amazing people. Got to sit next to Amber Hollibaugh for a minute (sigh) while we hung out with the folks of Left Bank Books for our signings. I even got to tell Amber how she was *the inspirational motivator* behind a lot of the organizing work I did for many years in Boston. Yes - a rare, beautiful moment. I was psyched.

Also, I got to sit in/moderate/witness incredible workshops and caucuses on issues related to sexual freedom, movement building, capacity building (what is it in the context of movement building?) and anti-Semitism/Islamophobia. Wow. Very powerful. I haven't fully digested all of these lessons and moments yet. Still spinning around many questions having to do with individual authority/organizations/movements and social change. Still digesting the profound exchanges of the anti-Semitism/Islamophobia workshop. Still vibing off of the sexual freedom interactions. I'm feeling incredibly proud and charged by all the brilliance.

On Monday I arrived in New York City in time for my debut NYC reading at LaGuardia Community College. It was a wonderful experience. I loved all the young people I met, from all parts of the world, whose enthused commitment to the moment energized me. It was kind of fun, too, to hear papers rustle as many students followed along with my reading. Not so lonely as the stage is prone to be.

On Wednesday night I read at the Noche Bohemia put on by Yoseli Castillo for the Dominican LGBT community. Beautiful energy, and such sweetness. And, as Lisa C. Moore says, lots of Spanish. It was GALDE's fifth year anniversary, and there were other fantastic performers and writers. I had such a nice time.

What's cool is that I'll have a chance to be back in NYC in February, for a few other events. One at St. John's in Queens, and the other a group reading in Manhattan. Details to follow. And between now and then, I'm going to have a couple of readings in Austin, and I'm going to be working with the fabulous Jaclyn Pryor on her brilliant performance of the year: Pink.

For now, I must work on some edits and get some sleep. SO NEW YORK!!


Monday, November 06, 2006

This past weekend, I had the honor of attending a poetry workshop with Afaa Weaver, beautiful person, wonderful poet and profound teacher. We did a couple of exercises and looked at each others' work. The Gibbous Moon Collective hosted the workshop, and afterwards, we all headed to Sam's BBQ for dinner. Good times, indeed.

*photo by Amanda Johnston

I'm on the road for the next couple of weeks. Heading to Kansas City for Creating Change - NGLTF's yearly conference. There will lots of great people there. And I hope that in addition to a book signing, I'll be doing some sort of open mic with the folks of color...maybe Thursday night.

After Sunday, it's onto NYC for me. Old haunts and all. I'm really excited to see people and to participate in a couple of events. GC was kind enough to offer her home for a book party. I'm really looking forward to that.

November 12, 2006, 12.15 - 1pm
Creating Change/Left-Bank Books Table
Westin Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1 Pershing Ave
Kansas City, MO

November 14, 2006,10.30 am - 12 noon
LaGuardia Community College
The Little Theatre, 31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, N.Y. 11101

November 15, 2006, 7pm - 9pm
Noche Bohemia at the Monkey Room
597 Fort Washington Ave & 187th Street
Washington Heights, NY

December 1, 2006, 7.30pm
Resistencia Bookstore
Austin, TX

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's out! It's out! It's out! And it's beautiful. It arrived last Wednesday. I'm in College Station today at Texas A&M for the Southwest Literary Festival. I read with Barbara Youngblood Carr and it was chill. A small crowd of ten folks. But it was my first reading from the book itself and not a print out. That was fun.

The past week, I've just been working on gearing up for upcoming readings and such in Kansas City, St Louis, New York and beyond. It's pretty fun.

Onto other readings.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

IMPROMPTU....the reading was a success last night. Tisa and Amanda were incredible headliners, reading from their new bodies of work - Tisa's "Unexplained Presence" (forthcoming from Leon Works Press), and Amanda's "Tuff". Phenomenal women.

They were followed by lovely, lovely, powerful beautiful readings/performances by Leo Guevara, Wanda Kruda, Rasa Hollinger, and Jibade-Kahlil Huffman. Beautiful. I had such a nice time. Photos coming shortly. Hoa Nguyen was also here - she told us about the Poetry Bus coming to town this Thursday.

It was really lovely.

Other exciting live webcast reading went up today, too. It's going to be on myspace/zorashorse for a minute. I put it on youtube for greater access, too.

Peace and light

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

There are so many great things happening right now. For one, the anthology Divagaciones Bajo la Luna/Musings Under the Moon has come out and is meeting with great success in NYC and the D.R. It is an awesome project and anthology gathering the writings of Dominican Lesbians in the Dominican Republic and abroad. The book was edited by Jacqueline Jimenez Polanco, and published with the support of: Astraea, FLACSO, GALDE and now Las Buenas Amigas. They've had events in NYC and Santo Domingo.

The amazing contributors to Divagaciones Bajo La Luna/Musings Under the Moon are: Anacaona, Ariadna Vásquez (Distrito Federal, México), Sargenta G-PROSAS (Deyanira Garcia)(Bronx-NY), Dulce Reyes Bonilla (Brooklyn-NY), Elisa Morel (Santiago), Erika Herfurth (Santiago), Glenda Oval (Bronx-NY), Huracán (Santiago), Jacqueline Jiménez Polanco (Santiago-Santo Domingo), Jissel Ravelo (Queens-NY), Lissette Norman (NY), Magie Sánchez (Santo Domingo), Mari Zabala (Washington Heights-NY), Miriam Ventura (Bronx-NY, PA), Nelsy Aldebot Reyes (Santiago), Ochy Curiel (Bogotá, Colombia), Paola F. Volquez (Bronx-NY), Sandra T. Ramírez (Zen) (Brooklyn, NY), Violeta Michel Pantaleón (SF-CA),Yaneris González Gómez (Santo Domingo), Yoseli Castillo Fuertes (Washington Heights-Bronx, NY), Yuderkys Espinosa Miñoso (Buenos Aires). I also have a piece in it

Then this weekend, Tisa Bryant will be here in Austin, so we're putting together an informal event featuring her and Amanda Johnston:

SATURDAY OCTOB ER 7, 2006 @ 8pm
IMPROMPTU - A Poetry/Fiction Reading
with Amanda Johnston & Tisa Bryant

Hey everybody - We are excited about this IMPROMPTU gathering at our house to enjoy the work of writer/editorsAmanda Johnston (Poet and Editor of Torch Lit. Mag) and Tisa Bryant (Fiction Author and Editor of Encyclopedia Lit. Project).

I'm also hoping that folks bring their own work to share. There are so many talented, brilliant beautiful people here that it would only be right. And, of course, we must dance.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Here it is - the official announcement I sent over email. Feel free to distribute the info...

Also, note the reading preview video that's going up on myspace on October 8....yeah!

Erzulie's Skirt
a novel by Ana-Maurine Lara
Release Date: October 1, 2006
Published by Redbone Press:
Set in the age of urbanization in the Dominican Republic over the course of several lifetimes, Erzulie’s Skirt is a tale how women and their families struggle with love, tragedy and destiny. Told from the perspectives of three women, Erzulie’s Skirt takes us from the rural villages and sugar cane plantations to the slums of Santo Domingo, and along the journey by yola across the sea between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It is a compelling love story that unearths our deep ancestral connections to land, ritual and memory.
To see a webvideo reading preview , visit Ana's myspace page on October 8, 2006:

Ana-Maurine Lara's myspace page:

One day only....

To order Erzulie's Skirt, go to:

RedBone Press
ISBN 0-9786251-0-2
Small Press Distributors

Or order through your local independent bookseller

For more information on the author, visit:
Ana-Maurine Lara's webpage:
Ana-Maurine Lara's blog:
Ana-Maurine Lara's myspace page:

I love the cover (the art is by Wura-Natasha Ogunji) and the cover design is by E.M. Corbin (thanks E!!!)


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A quiet, warm day in Austin Texas. That's what today is. I've been resting, recovering from some muscular injuries. Employing the healing arts. As many of them as I can access.

I've met some great people here, right now. The folks over at the Rhizome Collective impress me deeply, with their sense of humanity, community and human rights. I'm learning a lot from them right now. Then a whole group of other folks here in Austin, doing their thing in their own way.

I was supposed to be in College Station, Texas at Texas A& M watching Paolo Piscitelli's sculptural performance, Platonic 5. But the universe had other plans for me. I'm sleeping at home, getting better. Waking up from time to time to watch the live webcast instead. It's an engaging piece, and I love that on the webcast, the light throws complimentary shapes onto the lens, and that I can see a dimension of his movement that I might not otherwise see in person. I love, too, that I can look outside and onto the web and see that the light is the same, though we're miles apart.

More later. It's back to sleep for me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Florinda's readings are done. The last run was this past Sunday. K.M. put a clip up for folks wanting to see a little bit.

Also moving forward with planning. It's probable I'll read at the Southwest Literary Festival at Texas A&M. I'm also hoping to do a reading at Resistencia sometime soon.

Moving right along.


Monday, September 11, 2006

I did it. I put myself on

I am slowly seducing technology, trying to get it to work for me. This is no small feat, especially given my inherited tendencies to blow up microwaves, make clocks run backwards, and the such. Though it's a slow relationship, it's really giving back quite a bit.

I've been in Austin for two weeks now working on Florinda Bryant's production: half breed southern fried check one.

WHAT??!!! This woman is amazing. Talk about taking life and hip hop in all its forms and blending it into a theatre production. Here's a line for flavor:

"It was the 1930's sharecropping, legalized slavery. For sale, pennies extra a week.

My dad met his dad in Arizona. His dad met his mom, in Texas. Been working places all over four states, she heard. Been working women all over four states, he said. She was sixteen and he was in his 40's. He was handsome and yellow with pretty eyes and hair. She was pretty and young with a homesick heart and open leg. Sex the only thing either of them had the freedom to choose. He never looked back and it took a while for her to look forward. My dad has two brothers his age born to mothers working places within miles of each other.


WHAT??!! I've been stage managing and listening to this piece unfold and it just gets deeper. Every time I look at a section of it, I feel the need to kneel and bury my head in the words.

So, yes, this is my blessed entrance into Austin, Texas: working with Florinda Bryant, Got the official carport party welcome from K.M. and C.D. It's been excellent.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

This is my last post from the Dominican Republic. Next time I post, I will be in Austin, Texas and getting ready for my autumn book tour on the east coast.

This has been an incredible experience and I have gotten a lot done. Something to be grateful for.

Peace and until Austin.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The war rages on and history begins to implode on itself. How can we sustain ourselves?

I remember, when I put out the chapbook "When the War is Over, I Will Still Be Here Fighting" I was thinking about the fact that war occurs on so many levels. There are the physical losses: bodies, institutions, land, resources; the psychological, social and emotional losses, the destruction of landscapes - both internal and external - and societies. But as a woman of color in the world, I know that the struggles for liberation and human dignity are on-going. And that even when this war is over, there will be much to fight for, because of all that has been lost.

I also remember saying to a friend, a year ago when the Iraq war was reaching new heights yet again, `I am so over war'. I knew it was ridiculous. It sounded ridiculous coming from my mouth. It was a momentary sense of exhaustion at our continual struggles for survival. Surviving war takes its tolls, and those tolls are getting larger.

Through all of this, I'm still here, little victories appearing in my life on a daily basis. I'm talking about moments of deep humanity, creativity, joy, love and brilliance. I am talking about looking outside and seeing the flamboyan trees and the ylang-ylang trees and being thankful a bomb didn't land here today. I'm also talking about remembering my connections with inspirational people. And the witnessing of history.

In terms of writing work, I finished what I came to finish. Which is overwhelming and exciting. I also got great news: Eddie, the story I published in Blithe House Quarterly in the Fall 2004 was optioned for production's filming this week! Here's the webpage: I'm really honored by all the hardwork Chandra Stapleton, the producer, has put into making this happen. It's inspiring. Little victories.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I was born in 1975. There has not been one year in my life that has not been marked by war in Africa, Southwest Asia, or Eastern Europe. Not one year. Not one.

I don't know how to start today except to say that what's happening in Israel/Palestine/Lebanon/Syria right now is too much. There is no clearer evidence to me that divide and conquer tactics continue to operate in the favor of imperialism and corporate greed and profit. I received this email message today, from a family friend in Lebanon, which I will only excerpt here.

"Our neighborhood is spared until now... we pray it will continue like this... nevertheless we are hearing every sound ( of explosions that is) and seeing all the fires and smoke from not so far...The main Beirut area targeted by rockets is relatively far but the sound of the explosions is sometimes of big magnitude & unbearable. Yes we are stressed and afraid... for the least...I am sad to tell you that Lebanon is in very bad shape as you have seen on TV. The only places open in Achrafieh are the supermarkets, groceries and pharmacies, in other words food and medicine, we pray the blocus will not be long provoking shortages in basics needs. Not far from the house, four public schools are sheltering refugees fleeing the southern suburbs and south Beirut. This afternoon we heard that Israel threatened to attack the main electricity generators. If this happens, It will be a deadly blow which will result also in acute shortage of water supplies that depend fully on pumps in distributing stations."

Mainstream media sources, including sources in English, Spanish and French, continue in their biased coverage of these affairs. I am here in Altos de Chavon, writing, halfway around the world. To pretend that I am not affected by what is happening right now would be a lie to myself and to others. I am deeply affected, angered and pained by this useless and imperial war: a war that is not a "pre-emptive" war, but is based on state abuses of power nonetheless.

What's so ironic or intense is that I'm here, trying to do my best to create worlds where history is reconsidered, where things that seem normal are revisited, where I as a writer can explore the places of my deepest vulnerabilities and fears in order to best serve my craft and my vision, while all around me, the world is being destroyed one road/block/building/person at a time.

I write because I believe that fiction, poetry, art are a tool of the spirit and the people, because historically African peoples in the New World survived slavery through art; Native American peoples in the New World have survived genocide through art; people who know oppression in the deepest part of their memories, the memories inherited from our ancestors...we use art to ensure the survival of our secrets and ourselves, to embed our stories and spiritual powers in the subconscious, and to document our continued existence.

Let it be known, as things continue, that I do not support the on-going occupation of Palestine or these wars - the ones in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan or other territories currently being sought for occupation. I also will not support the collapse of this war into a platform for anti-Semitism or anti-Arab racism. There is a profound difference between a people and a state. Let us not forget this, either.

I pray that all the peoples trapped by war do not suffer more than they have at this moment, every day, I pray for this. I place my heart, my mind, my body and my pen at the service of creation, a vision and the actions necessary for a world of love, peace, healing and humanity.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

It's been a series of very productive days here at Altos. I'm slowly getting over my bug phobia, with W.'s help. A few days ago, a centipede crawled out of the tub drain while I was showering. It was 8 inches long. I've never seen one here on this island IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, so I was shocked. Terrified, really. Like I said, I'm slowly getting over it.

A couple of days ago, this beautiful moth appeared. It looked like wood and made me think of the story I'm working on.

Other than working on stories, I was finally able to upload the photos from Pico Duarte onto the web using snapfish. If folks want to see, cut and paste the following url:

into the browser and either log in or create an account to log in. I hope you can see them from there!


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Currently I have installed myself at Altos de Chavon , where I will be working for the rest of the summer. It’s absolutely beautiful – there are lime trees mixed in with oleander trees, flame trees (flamboyant) mixed in with patches of bougainvillea. It’s really quiet, which I appreciate since it’s a hard environment to find in the Dominican Republic (land of bachatas, merengues and Optica Issa multi speaker truck announcements – if you’ve never seen a truck passing by with multiple speakers attached to the flatbed, you’ll see it here – or in Brazil), and I’ve been able to set up a nice area in which to work.

Since part of what I’m working on this summer couldn’t be completed elsewhere, it’s a real privilege to be here and especially at Altos de Chavon, where I’m able to visit the museum’s collection of Taino artifacts, their vast collection of documents, and work with Arlene Alvarez, who has expressed a lot of excitement about this novel and has been super generous with the resources here. There’s a beautifully carved canoe in the museum, and I’ve also been told by many here that there is a resident ghost. Let’s see if the ghost has anything to share with me!

In general, people have been so wonderfully generous. On Friday I boarded the guagua through Villa Mella (an experience which inspired a play), and went to Yamasá. Yamasá is where the Taller Guillén – the craft shop of the Hermanos Guillén – is located. When I went to the Faro a Colón a couple weeks back, I found several ceramic Taino figures in the shop. And on the tags, I found information on where they are made. So I decided to visit the workshop directly. And, it was an incredible, inspiring, moving experience. I’m so glad I did, despite the madness of the journey getting there...I suppose I should say something about the journey, since it inspired a play and all.

Currently there is a project to build an underground metro in the Capital. I will refrain from any public opinion on building a metro on an island and in a country that lacks electricity. Anyway, the main corridor to get to Yamasá is the street Máximo Gomez, which is also where the metro is being built. Even before the metro was being built, Máximo Gomez and the bridge into Villa Mella were famished roads . And I do mean FAMISHED. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the National Cemetery is on Máximo Gomez. The chocolate factory is also there. So while we were driving by the cemetery, I was slightly distracted sniffing the chocolate and coffee in the air. So here we were on Gomez. The bus driver had already left people almost falling onto the sidewalk. One guy got on with his frothy fighting rooster. I didn’t think I could get upset at riding buses anymore, except for the fact that right before crossing the bridge, our guagua driver drove over a sidewalk piled with materials because he didn’t want to wait for the light. After the guagua stopped rocking and everyone on the street stopped shouting at him, and everyone on the bus stopped screaming, I decided that I’m getting too old for this kind of adventure. That’s when I decided to ask the cobrador (simultaneously the person who collects the fare and ensures that you get off where you need to) how long to get to Yamasá – at which point he looks at me and says “We’re not going to Yamasá. Did I say we were?” Of course, totally denying the two times I asked him BEFORE getting on the bus. He incorrectly interpreted my stare as fear. After I clarified that it was actually annoyance, I made him stop the bus, and I walked through traffic and clouds of construction dust to catch the correct bus to Yamasá.

Once on the correct guagua, the journey was actually much smoother. Yamasá itself is a small, hilly town with a Parque Central (a town square) and houses spread across green fields. The Taller Guillén is about 1 km away from the town center and what I first saw when I got there was a small building with beautiful, elaborate murals on the side. We drove into the property and I was immediately humbled by all of the gorgeous pottery embedded in the landscape. It felt like an ile – a Yoruba spiritual community – but with a different kind of energy. I was received by Manuel Guillén, an incredibly humble and generous man who showed me around the workshop. He describe how when the clay is collected (there are four primary kinds of clay they work with, though many more are found throughout the country), it is put in a water bed in order to clean out the impurities. While it is there, people will knead it with their feet. And then let it sit for seven days. They have a gas kiln, and after sculpting the statues and figures, they let it dry and then fire them in the kiln. Few of their items are glazed, most retain their original clay colors. What I love about their work is not only how beautifully they work, but also their intention behind the work. The Guillén brothers, in addition to running this incredible workshop, also head a 102-year-old spiritual lineage of St Anthony (San Antonio); every year on the Sunday closest to June 13 the Guilléns hold a massive fiesta for San Antonio who, in the vudú pantheon is Papá Legbá – healer and path finder. The 5,000 guest fiesta allows the brothers to give to the community of Yamasá, consolidate their power as heritage keepers and town leaders, and to appease the spirits in order to enable abundance for their families. In other words, the space of the workshop was not only amazing for the artwork, but also for the spiritual energy that charges the property.

All of this from a tag I found in the gift shop at the Faro a Colón. Which by the way, is a strange monument. It was built by Balaguer to commemorate the 500 year anniversary of Columbus’ landing. It’s in the shape of a cross, and back when Balaguer was still in power, and the country lacked electricity 18 hours out of the day, the Faro (lighthouse) used to project a lit cross into the sky that could be seen (they say) as far as Puerto Rico (60 miles away). Eh – hem. Inside the Faro is a museum that holds such random items as a Mayan codex (one of four in the world); an iron chest that supposedly encloses Columbus’ remains; Japanese warrior masks and watercolors; an extensive panel on Israel’s various social projects; and a small document on a wall detailing a journey taken by a group of physical and social scientists from the Amazon all the way up to Miami on a canoe. This document intrigued me, because it served to confirm what I’ve read about the movement of populations around the Caribbean, indigenous economic exchange systems parallel to Polynesian systems, and the sharing of similar cultural materials throughout the region.

All of this is serving to inspire my work and to move me forward. I’ll share more shortly, but that is all for today. I’m off.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's currently raining here in Santo Domingo. It's hard to believe that just a few days ago I was up in the mountains where the only thing in the world to think about was, "How can I make sure the mule and I can get up and down the paths?" Well, of course there was a lot more to think about, but the mule and I were seriously bonded.

I just made a trip to the South of the Dominican Republic where we (we were a group of four) made a trip across part of the Cordillera Central from Sabaneta to La Cienega. It was a 98 km hike, up 3100 meters (app. 10,000 ft). I had made this trip before, but this time, it was absolutely incredible. We didn't have much rain, and the forest was incredible. There was a fire last year, so most of it was burnt down, but even the new ground cover was gorgeous. There were a lot of agave and the fir trees had their tops to them. We saw parrots, rolos and hummingbirds, among other birds. And we made a two day trip down to El Valle del Tetero, which was absolutely one of the most difficult hikes of my life, but one of the most gorgeous. The valley was stunning, and sacred.

The route, as it were, took us from Sabaneta to Alta Rosa, down to the Mata del Aguacate, where we camped by this beautiful river. We then went up 1,000 meters to El Valle de Macuticu which had fields of wild irises, azulejos (forget me nots?), and wild roses/blackberries. From el Valle we went up La Pelona peak, down to El Valle de Lilis and then down to La Comparticion. We ran into some German journalists who were coming up for a few days, and shared a fire. From there we went down to El Valle del Tetero and finally, the last day, to La Cienega. There are tons of photos on digital camera, but I'm currently trying to work out the technical issues on how to download them. I would really like to share them, because this is an incredible part of the country, and it's close to impossible to find visual images of the flora.

There were several highlights to the trip.

Sleeping by the Piedra del Aguacate, which is absolutely a magical place. I fell asleep to the sound of the river.

The smell of wild roses in the valleys.

That Biuti, the dog accompanying us on the trip, caught a wild boar which we ate for dinner over the course of two days. The first day, it was incredibly gamey, but by the second day, it was absolutely delicious.

Bathing in the river in El Valle del Tetero right by a small waterfall.

Finding the petroglyps in El Valle del Tetero (finding is a strong term - they were indicated).

I was on the hike/trip as part of my research for my second and third novels, one which I'm here to finalize and the second which I have just begun. We're here in the capital, Santo Domingo for this week. I'll be going to Yamasa to visit some artisan workshops, whose mission is to preserve Taino imagery and art. And then back down to San Juan for the Fiestas Patronales on the 24th. Then it's off to Altos de Chavon for the remainder of the summer. And to writing, writing, writing.

I'm thinking of my friends on their journeys this summer...including trips to the concentration camps in Poland, for initiation rites in Nigeria, to Headlands and other residencies...there is always movement in the world. And it's powerful and beautiful.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Today I attended the second day of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers conference. There were several highlights, including watching Miriam Alves perform her poetry in her roda aesthetic. She was so dynamic and beautiful to watch/listen to.

Angie Cruz presented some interesting points on key elements of Caribbean aesthetics, influences and connections between works. A science teacher, Sandra Inniss, gave a beautiful presentation on everyday Caribbean women's oral history.

The conference is going through Saturday, but we'll be heading out to the Dominican Republic for the summer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The postcards for my novel, Erzulie's Skirt, arrived today. They're gorgeous!


The text on the back reads:

Erzulie's Skirt
by Ana-Maurine Lara

Set in the age of urbanization in the Dominican Republic over the course of several lifetimes, Erzulie's Skirt is a tale of how women and their families struggle with love, tragedy and destiny. Told from the perspectives of three women, Erzulie's Skirt takes us from rural villages and sugar cane plantations to the slums of Santo Domingo, and through the journey by yola across the sea between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It is a compelling love story that unearths our deep ancestral connections to land, ritual and memory.

Order through your local independent bookseller, or contact:

RedBone Press
phone/ 202-667-0392
fax/ 301-559-5239

ISBN: 0-9786251-0-2

Cover art by Wura-Natasha Ogunji
Cover design by E.M. Corbin

Go on - order it! It's beautiful.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Here I am, my second to last night in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We made this journey last Tuesday and arrived in time for the National Latino Writers Conference, which was a lot of fun. I felt blessed to be in a workshop with Rudolfo Anaya, brilliant writer of Bless Me, Ultima and many other stories (Tortuga, etc). He was a lot of fun, as were the other workshop participants. Most everyone was a writer/professor and I have to say it's inspiring to see that model in action. People are teaching classes full time and writing. I always ask, thanks to P.H. and her example: do you grade or write, first? Needless to say there was an entire spectrum of responses, all very interesting.

I think some of the highlights for me were: the workshop with Rudolfo Anaya, Levi Romero's reading of his poem Gavilan from the collection In the Gathering of Silence; Monica Brown's reading of her children's book My name is/Me Llamo Celia about la diva Celia Cruz; Denise Chavez's performance of her Taco Stories (which completely resonated with Laurie Carlos' performance "The Cooking Show" earlier this year); Rosa Beltran's platica on the interactions between the reader and the protagonists on the page; talking with Luis Urrea about the love of writing, and man: profound insights into the balance of our spirits; reading and listening to the work of so many brilliant Latino/Chicano writers.

By the way, I started crying at two points this weekend. And that's a big deal. I don't cry easily - only when I'm profoundly moved. The first was because of the poem Gavilan and the second was in talking with Denise Chavez - when she mentioned a piece she's working on about sorting through beans, which was really about how we as women pass on hope (at least it was for me). She'll have to say more on it, but let's just say that art is powerful.

Thanks to the suggestion of one of the participants - also a Lara (thanks M.!), I got to think about the books that move me/inspire me...that I love. So I thought I would produce a short list of authors who I love, and whose work moves me or profoundly affects my thinking about my own writing.

Here we go.

Louise Erdrich (both her fiction and poetry)
Octavia Butler (We miss you, Octavia...the Parables are amazing)
Ursula K LeGuin
James Baldwin
Zora Neale Hurston (of course)
Ben Okri, Ben Okri, Ben Okri
Leslie Marmon Silko (Almanac of the Dead is one of my favorite books of all time)
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Jorge Luis Borges
Rosario Ferre (Vecindarios Excentricos)
Ana Castillo (Watermelon Woman/Opaque Men is currently turning me out...I'm on my third reading of it as I try to unpack all of her references)
Audre Lorde (Zami: A Biomythography as well as her poetry)
Mario Vargas Llosa
Carlos Fuentes
Isabel Allende (Eva Luna is a book I pick up at different points in my life to read as if for the first time)
Gloria Naylor (Mama Day)
Sharon Bridgforth (Love/Conjure Blues)
Umberto Eco (when I'm feeling in the mood for mysteries involving conspiracies)
Orhan Pamuk (My Name is Red, copy of My Name is Red - gifted to me - is slowly losing its pages)
Rudolfo Anaya (Bless Me, Ultima)
Renee Gladman (The Journey, The Activist)
Sherwin Bitsui
Clarice Lispector (The Hour of the Star)

And that's to name a few. Yeah - I would say that these are the people I'm thinking about when I'm writing. The way they use language, images, and structure. Or, just that they tell a good story. I like good stories.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

This was the entrance to the performance space for our piece, Serving Desire, which was performed at the Center for African & African American Studies, May 2006.

This is behind the scenes. We serve 10 courses, so usually, we set up all the "dishes" and performance items up prior to heading out into the dinner space.

Here I am drawing the veve on the table.

And the final table installation around which guests sit.

An installation in the space.

Details of Oshun's Altar.

Our costumes... Wura-Natasha's references Nigerian/Yoruba aesthetics; Ana Lara's (mine) references Dominican voudoun/gaga aesthetics.

This is the dinner table after the performance. Traces of peoples' presence, conversations lingering in the air, finger markings along the edges of the table cloth and placemats.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Austin Project is completely over for this season/semester. We had a training this past weekend and it was fabulous. Though, really, learning how to teach the Jazz Aesthetic is also learning how to live in it; it's interesting to consider living in it for moments throughout life - such as these past few months and then perhaps in the fall.

In addition to the Austin Project crew coming together, Maiana Minahal was here from Califas, gracing us with her BRILLIANCE. Amazing individual. She's an amazing poet and is also leading the Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley. It's a blessing to spend time in her light, as well as in the beauty and light of all the luminous individuals of the Project.

This coming weekend Wura-Natasha and I will be performing our dinner piece, Serving Desire and I am tremendously excited. We have two full nights (each performance is limited to 10 people), and it has been an eye-opening process to get this performance going. For one thing, we have none of our installation pieces with us (they are in New York City), so we are making the installations from scratch. Secondly, because we're in Austin, the piece itself is being informed and developed in a completely different way...
...and that is what is so eye-opening.

This is our fifth performance (SF, LA, NYC, New Mexico) and each time, the piece requires a bit of re-invention. At first, Wura and I thought it had to do with where we were in our lives and changes in our artistic vision. BUT, what I have realized, and what we have discussed, is that this piece is about re-invention, engaging our landscape (emotional, phsyical, social, political), and about the possibilities arising out of that space.

We first performed this piece four years ago at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco as part of a larger show: r(ace) x desire = [eros x ethnicity].

We called it Serving Desire because we wanted to construct a space where desire became an axis around which the language of race/ethnicity/gender/etc was collapsed. So, in the piece, we inserted ten aspects of desire, corresponding to ten forces of nature, and ten separate sensations of sound, sight, taste, smell and touch. Out of this, we also began to ask audiences to engage with cultural and ancestral memory.

Following this performance, the next full run of the dinner was in New Mexico, in Santa Fe as part of the Messenger's House show in March 2003. This time, we titled it Dinner at the Crossroads. We removed the table and had people seated on the floor:

This was not only due to the space of the performance (The Alto Street Art Barn of Santa Fe), but also to the experience we had had with a rectangular table. Having people seated in a circle meant that interactions were different. Also, in calling it Dinner at the Crossroads, and inserting a center pole into the installation, we were moving away from focusing on the desires and more on the individual experience of nature's forces and possibilities. In other words - asking people to contemplate every moment as an opportunity for openness and growth. These were two incredible performances -

Our most "recent" performance, which in fact was not all that recent - it was in July 2004 - was in New York City. We decided that in New York, it would be interesting to explore the idea of performances in peoples' homes. We didn't fully explore that route, but we had one dinner in the home of Margarita Garcia & Daniel Liao. And that was also completely different. Though we maintained the name of Dinner at the Crossroads, we created our own center pole, an entirely new table cloth and installation. Within that performance, we were most interested in the idea that food, desire, and understandings of nature are completely influenced by cultural lenses and ancestral memory. As we described it then:

"Dinner at the Crossroads is an interrogation of place, race, and interaction via the vehicle of performance. In this piece, we are telling stories through visual, performative and written languages that touch upon the nuances of human interaction (sensuality), ancestral and living memory, historical consciousness and spiritual force.

In African cosmologies, the crossroads is a symbol of possibility, the place of facing fears, the moment where embodied spirits and ethereal spirits interact. It is also a place of loss, change, and redefinition. The crossroads is a place of beginnings.

The installation that forms the space of the performance is symbolically placed at the crossroads between this world and the next: around a center pole. Through the symbol of the center pole, taken out of popular religious practices in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, participants in the performance engage in forming both an altar and a table to share with each other. The visual language of the piece consists of ritual objects, everyday items, and a written story embedded in the brightly colored cloth draping that surrounds the center area. The written story is inspired by the sensual aspects of desire and memory.

Conceptually, the piece asks questions that are confronted in the development of American identities: What are the existing socio-political and historical factors affecting our individual and collective understandings of ethnicity and race? How do our ancestral heritages, and the deep knowledge that comes from our ancestors, affect these understandings? What powers do we have to affect changes in our socio-political surroundings and how doe these powers manifest? And, finally, what are the limitations of language in speaking of these concepts and in interacting, and how do we overcome those limitations - as individuals and communities, as nations and as a region? "

And I suppose that is where we find ourselves right now: at a new interrogation of place, language, memory, art...possibilities. We have gone back to calling the piece Serving Desire, because we are interested in asking the audience to consider desire as a manifestation of history and complex emotional possibilities. Because we always get to have a question and answer period after the performance, we'll get to see where this setting, this landscape, this energy takes the piece and us as artists.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Our performances this weekend were phenomenal. I had such a great time. Everyone pulled through and really gave their best and were just absolutely amazing. I got to work with some fierce, fierce artists including D'Lo, Dulani, Florinda Bryant, Jaclyn Pryor, Shia Shabbazz, Amanda Johnston, Krissy Mahan, Virginia Grise (of the Panza Monologues), Erika Gonzalez, Rosalee Martin, Bianca Flores, Kristen Gerhard, Alyssa Harad, Courtney Morris, and Lisa Moore.

Beautiful, beautiful people.

We did our second performance at the Off Center, right here in Austin. It's a great space, and though it was an adjustment from our UT-Austin rehearsal spot, it was fun to work in. We were on the set for Decameron Day 7: REVENGE, and that was fun to work with as well. Virginia set up two altars (in each space) and we went through everybody's pieces. The way that Laurie choreographed it was, as Florinda called it, like spinning on the turn table - overlapping pieces to see how they fit together. We also had a series of movements to work with as we moved through the performance. We sat in a semicircle, and as people performed in the center, people sitting along the edges worked on movements. It was incredible.

We're off to San Francisco this weekend for Passover. Then on May 6th and 7th, Wura and I will be performing Serving Desire at the Center for African & African Diaspora Studies. More later.

peace and love

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

March winds have given way to April humidity and spring. Spring - I am remembering what Spring feels like. NYC hasn't had spring in the past couple of years, and so this is my first continental spring in a long time - since 1999!

Laurie Carlos has been in town these past two weeks. We've been working with her on movement and our upcoming The Austin Project performance, scheduled for this Saturday at UT and at the Off Center. It's been daily and intense work. For example, taking what we've written and breaking it down into a series of present moments that are elicited by different people simultaneously - how to explain it? It's within the jazz aesthetic, and so in order to understand what's going on, it's first important to let go of linear thinking, melodies & harmonies as "pretty" things, and it's also important to think of the body, including the voice as an instrument. And so we're using the instrument of our bodies - our hands, eyes, feet, bellies, butts, everything - to move through space and time. Each movement has to be a total integration of our experiences not just of each others' work, but of our own experience within each others' work and within the world. Simultaneously, we're using our voices in syncopation harmonic dissonance - so there's a harmony, but the harmony is based in non-linear time, and the listening takes place within each person.

It's exciting, it's unlike anything I've ever done and it's blowing me out of the water. I've been contemplating what it means to be brilliant and vulnerable in our work (collectively, individually), and to hold the responsibility of all of that. Laurie always says, women will heal the world and make it whole. And, I think a big part of that is finding wholeness/integrity within ourselves. At least, that is part of the lesson of what I'm learning.

The work for the Austin Project has been so intense, that I've only been able to work on a few other things. Friends have been in town, and that's been lovely. I got to discover Barton Springs with H.A. and that was gorgeous. Next to the Springs there is a hiking path and a riverbed, which is dry at the moment. We all walked through the cedar grove, and down the riverbed looking at rocks and plants - spring wild flowers popping up through the grass. Wu and I discovered that the fossils in the riverbed are over 100 million years old. Yeah - I barely understand what a hundred years looks like.

We ushered for a local ProArts production of Kissing the Goodbye, staged at the State Theatre here in Austin. It's interesting - the show made me think about the need for critique of people of color's creative work. In other words - it's so important to think about the context of a work, the purpose, the delivery and the integrity of a work in order to understand its implications. Between that show, and the show of Black Women Artists at the Dougherty Arts Center here in Austin, I think it's very possible to begin a dialogue that looks at the energy, dynamics and presence of works by artists of color in central Texas. And again, the implications of this work at this moment in history.

On a final note for today, I am excited to be getting the cover for Erzulie's Skirt soon. Once I have it, I can post it on my website. Yay!