Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Here it is - what I've been waiting for: THE SECRET: FLOAT!


Ana-Maurine Lara - Enslaved African #1
Wura-Natasha Ogunji - Enslaved African #2
Czarina Thelen - Camera and Ocean Tidal Wave

Thank you to Manda Manda for assisting in the technological transfer of this video.

What is the Secret? Float.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jane Dabney Shackelford pictured with her class at Booker T. Washington School during National Negro History Week, February 1969. Photograph by Martin's Studio. Image from Indiana Odyssey: Celebrating our African American Authors website.

I wonder what the little girl holding the sign is really thinking.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's been a hectic couple of weeks, but here I am, on a sunny morning in Austin, blogging.

There was a great interview/discussion (coordinated by Anne Bowling) about poets and blogs featured in the new 2008 Poets Market. It was actually incredibly insightful, and provided great perspective on how blogging becomes both a tool and a space for poets to tease out ideas and such. Featured are bloggers Amanda Johnston, C. Dale Young (Avoiding the Muse), Kate Greenstreet (Every Other Day), Janet Holmes (Humanphone), Reb Livingston (Home-Schooled by a Cackling Jackal), and Jilly Dybka (Poetry Hut Blog).

The National Poetry Slams were in town last weekend, and though I didn't get to any of the events, it was awesome to hang out with some peeps who were in town. We didn't know it, but we were bound to meet each other. W. & I had gone to Resistencia to pick up our friend C. when we ran into a whole bunch of folks. They were there to hear the report back from the U.S. Social Forum. So, we all rolled over to the local watering hole Polvo's and hung out for a bit. I found out from Tara Betts that she has a review of Erzulie's Skirt in the upcoming issue of Mosaic (thank you Tara!). And that there are people hard at work finishing manuscripts even right at this moment.

I just got a lovely package in the mail. My baby brother just put together a hip hop album, Reflections, under the name Geometrik. I'm proud of him on many levels, but in addition to being proud of him as my brother, the beats are off the chain. The lyrics are powerful and full of intention, and the musical riffs are awesome, incorporating reggaeton, blues, old school hip hop and samba. Yeah.

On Friday, Shia Shabbazz, Wura Ogunji, Amanda Johnston and I got together. Manda had her camera, and we were talking about being black female artists in this world. Here's a little taste of what the black cats brought in (filming/editing by Amanda Johnston):

And yesterday was the 95th day of the Written on the Body project. 95 Days! I have five days left. I've been getting some great words for the past 3 months, so it's going to be an adjustment to not run out at 9pm in search of words.


Things are up in Austin. The Book of Daniel is coming to town September 7 - 10th. Daniel Alexander Jones is going to be tearing it up. Before then, there's a fundraiser for raulsalinas this Saturday August 25, 2007 at the Mexican American Cultural Center. raulsalinas, if you don't know, is a cultural and political force. he's an elder, and precious. he's been sick lately, and so we're coming together as community to raise funds to cover medical expenses. this is a powerful model. Then, next Sunday is "Sundays in Paradise" - the new house party at the Victory Grille. I haven't heard house this good in a long time. It's so much fun. And DJ Philly Phil is off the chain.

So yeah, on my end, I'm hunkering down to write for a minute. Take care of some bizness. Finish my written body project. And be out in community.

Till we meet again - peace.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I just received news of these wonderful photos of Cave Canem folks and wanted to post them. They are courtesy of Patricia Smith.

From left to right:
Back Row: Hermine Pinson, Lauren Alleyne, David Mills, Patricia Smith, Yusef Komanyakaa, Erica Hunt, Cyrus Cassell, Amber Thomas,

Middle Row: Charles Lynch, Indigo Moor, Carolyn Joyner, Amanda Johnston, James Cagney

Front Row: Aya de Leon, Roger Bonair-Agard, Jonathan Moody

Group E in the HOUSE
elen (Alena Hairston) , Richard Hamilton, Deidre Gantt, Vievee Francis, Qiana Towns, Roger Bonair-Agard, Yo, Charles Lynch, Patricia Smith, Amber Thomas

As Toi Dericotte says "Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A bridge fell yesterday in Minneapolis. This made national news rather quickly, raising levels of tension and fear across the country. We are a society living in fear. That's so not okay.

I remember being in high school and seeing Magritte's painting "The Human Condition" for the first time. Now, it seems rather trite, but at the time - I am at the core of my being an existentialist (how's that for an oxymoron?) - I spent many hours pondering the idea of reason and the question why? In the painting, I realized I would never know what's behind the canvas. That I had to trust the artist's rendition above all else, at the risk of being absolutely duped. There's nothing to say that anything in that painting existed - the house, the curtains, the field, the painting of the field. And even less to confirm that what's on the canvas inside the painting is what is behind it. So, I had to trust. What within that was the human condition? Was I suppose to fret at not knowing? Perhaps I did. Perhaps the concept of the piece was so unified that I didn't at all.

My friend V. always says that when difficult things happen, why? is the wrong question. That it feeds into fear. There is something inherently human about that question, and about needing to know why things happen. It's almost as if our emotional state of being rests on knowing why. I can think of plenty of scenarios: break ups, tragedies, death, illness, even great success. Somehow, knowing why things happen helps us navigate the emotional landscape behind the event or moment. And what? and how? are directly connected to the why?

Another reference: The Jewish Book of Why? A must have for every bat or bar mitzvah. Am I wrong? The reason I cite this is because I remember seeing that book and understanding why? as a fundamental and necessary question. Why is the sky blue? Why do we fast on Yom Kippur? Why is swine treif? Why do we die? And why do bridges collapse?

Why is the basis of our belief systems, science, religion and art. At the heart of these questions is an attempt to understand the order of the universe. To understand our role in it and our relationship to other human beings, creatures, the sun, the moon, the weather and human events. Especially events that shake a connected psyche - like war, slavery, awful foreign policy and structural collapses.

While I'm not in disagreement with V.'s belief that Why? is the wrong question, I do think it's all about timing...why? is not the question when we're faced with uncontrollable circumstances... that" why?" morphs into "what?" what can be done? what will we do from this moment forward? what can we do to support each other? what do people need?

Getting back to my original point, the "that's so not okay" of earlier in this blog, what is the place of "why?" in relationship to fear? And I think "why are we fearful?" is a good place to start. And then followed with "what has happened to create this sense of fear?" "what's real and what isn't?" and "what can be done?" and most importantly, "what do we feel behind the fear? what is at the root of it?"

This leads me to the last point I'm going to make. The other evening, at a party, I was speaking with someone about the current state of Latin American politics. We were discussing Daniel Ortega, and I was really curious about her opinion. I concurred with some of what she had to say, but where we really differed was on the notion that this moment in history is depressing. As an artist, I am actually really excited to be living in this moment in time. It's not to say that I'm ecstatic over the state of world affairs. I am deeply troubled and angered by globalization and U.S. foreign policy, genetically modified seeds and the role states are playing throughout the world in dominating human communities. Simultaneously, I am deeply moved by the response to these forces: the demonstration of public dissent through mass mobilizations. The way that women throughout the world are organizing and re-constructing our communities. The public conversations about grief and loss. And, the surge in artists emerging in our societies - I'm not talking about the rise in MFA programs or applications. I'm talking about the rise of a creative response to chaos. As an artist, I feel that it is not only my responsibility, but that at this time, I must absolutely be working to create. It's part of the balance of things. In my creative processes, I try to move myself and to move others past fear and disillusion. To reclaim a part of our collective humanity in the face of destructive forces.