Thursday, May 31, 2007
The Lambda winners will also be announced later tonight! More on that, later.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
This is the Rogue River...and a rainbow that was up in the sky while we were eating lunch on the big rock by Horseshoe Bend.
The view from the upper cabin. On the left, it's from a misty morning, and on the right a sunny afternoon. It's so gorgeous. Keep in mind there is no one around for at least several hundred acres. That's a couple of miles.
On the first day we were there, Keetje Kuipers - who is the writer in residence - was tending to her garden. Her mom was pulling weeds from the strawberry patch when she saw this bull snake. The bull snake was in the process of eating a garden snake. We interrupted, saved the garden snake's life, and the bull snake snuck into the earth under the ripening strawberries.
And here is the writer's cabin. It's beautiful, peaceful. Looking out over the garden, the orchard and the meadow.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I just got back on Monday from Oregon, where W & I went to check out the Dutch Henry Homestead. We were awarded a PEN Northwest writing residency for 2008. As part of the process, the Boydens - who own the homestead, asked us to come check it out. It's 95 acres off the Rogue River and it's absolutely gorgeous. We saw a bear cub on our way into the homestead, and lots of cougar scat. No cougars, though I'm sure they were watching us. And the birds were amazing.
W. has the photographs and as soon as she downloads them, I'll put them up. There are some gorgeous photographs.
The residency is all about living by ourselves for 6 months to write and be in the world. The closest town is two hours away. We could fly fish in the river. Go hiking. Plant a garden. There's an orchard there, too. The writer's cabin is sweet - complete with wood stove and a viewing deck. The Boydens are great folks. And so is John Daniel, who is the Chair of PEN Northwest. We had a nice, nice time together.
W. and I are in the process of figuring out how we would occupy that space during the residency. It's an interesting question to consider - how do we create a welcoming environment in the community? How do we engage with folks in the area? How do we learn to be out in the wilderness on our own?
Oh - and such exciting news: I got accepted into Cave Canem. Yes! I'm so excited. So, so excited. This year's poets are: Cyrus Cassells, Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Erica Hunt, Yusef Komunyakaa, Patricia Smith,and Carl Phillips. SO exciting. I can't even believe it. I barely know what to do with myself, except jump for joy and connect with the other folks who are in Cave Canem. For whom I have SO much respect. I'm completely humbled to be in their company.
So, I'll be heading to Pennsylvania at the end of June. I may stop in New York for D'Lo's show: Ramblations. That would be off the chain.
Well, I'm off to Illinois.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
And following is a list of the artists who were at the residency, should one be so inclined to check them out**:
Musicians working with Robert Dick:
Mary Clare Brzytwa
Gerg M. Sinibaldi
Renee Michele Walrafen
Visual Artists working with James Hyde:
Giacomo Castagnola Chaparro
Thomas J Simon
Poets working with Alice Notley:
Jayne Fenton Keane
Claudia F Manz
**If the names aren't linked, it's because I couldn't find one right now.
I'm getting ready to fly out to Oregon tomorrow. To visit the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Many of Bilal’s projects over the past few years have addressed the dichotomy of the virtual vs. the real. He attempts to keep in mind the relationship of the viewer to the artwork, with one of his main objectives transforming the normally passive experience of viewing art into an active participation. In Domestic Tension, viewers can log onto the internet to contact, or shoot, Bilal with paintball guns.
As an Iraqi, Bilal is no stranger to the ravages of war. But it's something altogether overwhelming to consider the reconstruction of a war zone in an art gallery. Not as a passive space, but as an active space of engagement with what he has constructed as well as with the larger world via the internet. On the first day of the project, over 1000 people paintballed him. There are paintball traces all over his "living room"; clear evidence of the attacks. He just lost his brother in Iraq to U.S. gunfire; is this a healing process? Does this piece alleviate guilt at being here in the U.S.? I know it's more than that, but I'll be really curious about his journal/log of the process for him as an artist. I wonder do people regret paintballing him after they've done it, or do they go back for more? What are the lengths of human cruelty? Apparently, he has not been able to sleep through the night on his bed, either. Too many shots. Are there more or fewer rounds of paint than bullets in Iraq? Will we examine ourselves through this process? Or is it another video game? Will a common sense of humanity triumph over racism?
On a similar note, tomorrow I am starting a performance writing project, tentatively titled "Written on the Body". For 100 days, I'm having people write words on my body. One word each day. Different person each day, no repeats. I'll be photographing each word and posting it on the internet over the course of the project, along with my journal of the experience. I'm curious to see all that comes out of it.
Anyway, I'm out.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
I'm finally back in Austin after many weeks of being away. I've finally slept. I had forgotten what it feels like to sleep, really, I had. Not like I've ever been one to sleep much, but still. I think it was good to get more than 3-4 hours of rest.
The Atlanta Airport and I made good friends. I think the folks in Terminals B & D got to know me by name - especially in the bookstores. There are only so many times one can peruse through the new fiction before being noticed. Shout out to Theodora.
One of the great highlights of the residency was meeting the visual artist Lauren Austin, who creates a series of incredible quilts that incorporate photographs, dyes, embroidery and collage. She's currently the community Artist-in-Residence at ACA and not only took a couple of hours to show me her work, but also told me about the African American Heritage Museum in New Smyrna Beach, and some of the local history of folk. I hope that I get to go back in the future and work something out with her, cause she was tellin me about the village on the west side of the tracks where I might find some folks with stories. So yes- Lauren, we're on.
The very first week I was there, a group of us led by the ever affable Hyde went to visit the DeLeon Springs State Park in Deland. There are these beautiful enormous oak trees with Spanish moss everywhere- plenty of ghosts hanging in those trees as well. And the oak trees stand over the springs where we swam. Hyde lost his keys at the bottom - a snorkeler found them, ironically, only moments after the Singing Muse asked the question: "why would anybody snorkel in a spring?" - to find lost keys?.
The springs are also at the site of a sugar mill - what looks to me like ruins from the 18th century. My stumble onto the ruins was quite transcendent of time and space. I stood up to walk from the table, where I had just gorged on all you can eat pancakes with blueberries, to the bathroom. As I was waiting I looked out of the screen door in the back and the first thing I saw were the copper cauldrons - smaller than the ones at Ingenio Diego Colon in the D.R. but in the exact same shape. The trapiche - or sugar mill itself was also different. It seems to have been operated by a water mill, rather than by human or animal labor. I looked back at the building now spouting out a light smoke from the cooking of pancakes and eggs and noticed the chimney and the layout. Wow - we were eating at a sugar mill surrounded by the ghosts in the trees. And the Springs seemed so benign, really.
It was a moment where I felt how Caribbean Florida truly is, despite its resistance to its own character.
Only a day later, the Owl, the Lover and I drove down to the Canaveral Natural Reserve. We could see the launch pad off in the distance, the only skyscraper around. The Owl entertained us with stories of Allen and Peter, and all of the characters who populated the Beat dramas. The Lover had her own stories to share, like poets going temporarily blind with nerves, and the death of children. I stood silently to the side, a mere voyeur into the world of poetic drama. We journeyed in awe as a manatee greeted us, her nose poking just above the water. Out of the corner of our eyes we saw birds. We mulled over whether the pink bird we saw is a spoonbill or not (Owl - you were right - it is a Roseate Spoonbill), and drove through the swamps in search of an alligator. We saw one skim the surface as we drove down to the beach, but alas, it disappeared into the water.
Thinking back on the last three-four weeks, I surprised myself with how late I stayed up at night - sometimes until dawn. Though I suppose I couldn't have carried on forever, really, I quite enjoyed the euphoria of exhaustion. The Composer and I kept each other company in the library one night as I poured over poetry and art books and he composed his oeuvre. He was frantically scratching out notes on the paper, waving his hand in response to my seemingly inane questions.
What are you working on?
Do you have a deadline?
Well, eh...[hand wave]
No, no deadline. But I need to finish something. Anything.
Aah yes. I understand.
I wandered up the spiral stairwell and stared at de Kooning for an hour. I suppose that was something. Right?
Well, it led to the creation of a new type of work for me. The gathering of bones...a centu. I'm curious about centus, ever since Tai Freedom Ford talked to me about her work I've been curious about the form. But, I never dared embark on it myself. Until I found myself in the library at 4am. I wrote one titled May Day Revisited (surprise, surprise, it was written on May Day).
Though I was disconnected from the world while out in the swamps, I did manage to read some news while I was on my way to Minneapolis. Like news on the disappearance of bees. And about the sister planet that scientists are seeing for the first time. Did you ever wonder why we're constantly searching for other planets to live on? I'm always curious about that. I personally love Earth. Plan to be here my whole life. Know plenty of other people who feel that way, too. It's why I try to take care of the Earth really well. Anyway, that's a tangent.
Back to the swamp of iniquity...
For awhile, the Fierce Bad Rabbit, the Lover and I kept finding ourselves in the kitchen at 1am. How does that happen? I don't know, but something was in the air. And then the Lovers found themselves and I was, well, running off to the ocean.
I can't say I got my fill of the ocean, but I certainly did enjoy spending three of the last four nights in her waters, swimming towards the full moon. The moon was showing her face at around 11pm, dressed in red to lure the weary, and then stripping down to her marvelous silver face. If you must be by the ocean, the full moon is the time to do so.
I've many thoughts lingering - like - the construction of personae. Frances being a key example. She is a fabulous persona. Simultaneously embodied/disembodied. She's going to have an amazing life. And then there's the Warrior, who was able to make our nerves float up to the surface of our bodies. Instead of embodying a persona, she simply embodied Nerves - complete with shingles outbreak and all. Quite literal. And talk about an intense creative process. Then there are people who are singularly brilliant with a solid exterior/interior life that is reflected in the mere simplicity of their character. And no, simplicity is not a bad thing - it's absolutely beautiful to watch. It's amazing to watch someone be kind all the time. And present all the time. Hyde taught me that. He demonstrated such genuine generosity, and by that I was truly humbled.
So, now, I'm back at home. I finally checked my email after four weeks on hiatus. It took me all day. I can feel the tendrils of cyberspace reaching down into my psyche and connecting me to a greater ethereal world where time is suspended in little boxes and satellites. I caught up with some friends and read exciting emails - like my 10th year college reunion survey. I, of course, had to spend 30 minutes of my life filling it out. Oh Harvardites - may you ever get your fill of yourselves. And no, I won't be there.
On that note, I'm off to work on some things that have been lingering in the void of my absence.
And to all the characters of our most recent artistic drama: love. I miss you all already.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Nightingale: The Ponderous Muse, Light Man, the Architect
Frances Duncombe stumbled out this morning in all her beautifully messy wonder. She and the Light Man had wrapped themselves around a bottle of champagne early this morning (as is only fitting for an exit), and thus love became. "Such a beautiful. Such a beautiful. Such a beautiful." After three weeks of bacchinelea, we (the Coven slowly morphed into the Lovers) wound down this morning with mimosas and southern home cooking at Mom's on the North Dixie Highway.
Last night the brushfire/gleam in a hound's eye/turnip/chango moon greeted us yet once again as we kissed our skin with ocean salt late into the night. Frances was Free. The Lovers were gleaming. All of them. The Mother Goddess spent hours in the ocean. The High Priestess coveted the moon. The Three Muses joined us in our romps, pulled out by the tide and returning yet once again. The Coven was missing our Warrior, and today the Mother Goddess, the Star, Frances and the Owl all departed. Who remains are the Lover and the High Priestess. We are joined by the Fire Keeper and Venus. And the other side of the Lover.
Departure is sad. Apparently the Owl walked into the kitchen this morning, searching for a place to land before flying off. We were all lost in the throes of sleep, or wandering through the misty forests (thanks to The Gardener) of hedonistic pleasures. None of us dared to call the birds or the armadillos out from their nests.
Oh, where to begin to describe this wonderful mystery that occurred while here? I have to admit I was closed when I arrived. I was hesitant, confused. Unwilling. I surprised myself with my impatience. I had come prepared to enclose myself in a studio and write for hours on end. But I've been writing in marvelously short stanzas of time. And spending hours with the other artists, just soaking in our collective knowledge and even brilliance. The Singing Muse taught me about the beauty of chaos, as did Frances. All the Fierce Bad Rabbits taught me a ton about collaboration and the sound of wind. The other side of the Lover just went to town and worked with everybody. He is the original Fierce Bad Rabbit. The Gardener left a few days early, but his heart beat left echoes that rippled through us. The Architect and Hyde built us solace in the woods.
The Laughing Muse made a bar for us, invited us into her art space where we could sit for hours (or as long as needed to lose feeling in our legs) to enjoy cocktails and Sophie the Unicorn. We discussed Godard, Cat Power and all manner of obscure films up in the Hyde & Smoke Fuck Off Bar. On the off nights that we celebrated creative endeavours such as the Nerve Opera, we ended up in the Dance Studio, singing Karaoke. The Scribe inspired me to consider a new project when she wrote Most on my arm, a tingling which lasted for days. Her handwriting is so beautiful, and the words were so ephemeral and smart. That was fun. Thank you Scribe.
The Owl, Frances, the Lover and I went strolling on the beach yesterday, combing the sand for shells and chasing off sandpipers. Words were exhausted from our mouths and minds, we had just visited the strange bookstore in the strange strip mall, only to discover we couldn't find any strange books. Despite all of this, the Owl managed to compose a love-filled poem for the Coven early Friday morning, with which she surprised us on Friday night. Before the moon. And the ocean. And The Muses' wanderings in the sea.
I have spent the last three nights at the ocean. The first night was at 2am, and I went by myself. The second night it was the Coven and we went to watch the moon rise. And last night, all the tribes gathered around the light house and watched the moon and stars dance off the waves. I just learned this morning that The Mother Hen knows how to make flutes. By hand. And to think a week ago today I was having a picnic in Powderhorn Park with The Crew up in Minneapolis.
In the midst of arriving, I left and went up to Minneapolis. I did a couple of readings, one at Amazon bookstore and the second at the University of Minnesota, which I really enjoyed. I read with Latasha N Nevada Diggs - and who knew our work would speak to the other's in the ways that it did. That was definitely a highlight. As was going to Ananya Chatterjea's dance class and being a part of the dance company's space. Their dancing was incredible - it opened me up to an entirely new relationship to the vocabulary of dance. Ananya uses Odissi movement style in completely contemporary arrangements. Because I don't know enough about dance to understand all the subtleties of what she's doing, let me just rest on the fact that her commitment to embedding new narratives in the bodies of women of color, using a vocabulary based on traditional Odissi dance form is powerful. So. Amazingly. Powerful. And I loved being in a room with dancers, to see yet another group of artists and how they relate to space and time.
Other highlights of the trip included meeting the fabulous crew of grad students from the "U", who danced, dj'ed and partied with great questions at the tips of their tongues. Y'all rock!! And, as someone who doesn't spend a great deal of time with academics, it was wonderful to connect with embodied brains. Also special meeting Jigna Desai, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota (Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies) who was wonderful to talk to, especially about all the incredibly interesting work on South Asian Diasporic cinema and gender/sexuality research. Special shout out to my sister Omise'eke and The Crew who greeted me with such generous love. All round props.
I'm off to mellow in the sun for the rest of the afternoon. I will be posting some pieces up here shortly; I did not even come close to completing the work I came to do. But I learned that I have a lot of research to do in order to complete it. Instead, I was able to create a performance piece - thanks, again, to the Fierce Bad Rabbits who completely inspired me on the Tuesday night jam session - and a few new types of poems. I cracked the labyrinthine structure of the hybrid text "Cantos" on which I plan to work for the next 10 years. And got nourished by the words of the powerful, brilliant Coven. I feel so fortunate that we got a zine out of the whole thing and that I get to walk away with a small physical/material representation of all that came out of this rich time together.
I am so especially grateful to have spent such precious time with The Owl. I will never read Allen's White Shroud the same way again, and Kaddish, Kaddish, Kaddish...to understand the sorrow of Kaddish in a whole new way, too. The Owl, both fragile and precise, gave me tarot, dreams, the self/soul dialogues, and so many, many words with which to work. Thank you.
The sun beckons my heart falls forward. I go.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I. The Land
The group marched overnight, holding photos of lost loved ones and torches.
Who’s sorry for our trouble?
The stakes in the square one afternoon in
were so thick it seemed to be a forest: We are still learn-
ing to recognize what we see.
Traces erased. Details removed.
Letters sewn into quilts – or burned.
Self-portraits hidden in trunks – or burned.
Let us remember
THE UNITED STATES, WHEN HARDING
The bridge under our wheels moaned, some said, because it was built in a time of war. Others were more specific – it moaned because of the two men buried in the concrete.
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
II. The Dislocation
It’s difficult to decide which is more frightening – car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.
An ecstatic response surges from the static:
then I =waste=, =zap=, =nuke=, =rub out= you, I =croak=, =snuff=, =bump off=, =knock off=, =bushwack=, =lay out= you, I =polish off=, =blow away=, =blot out=, =erase=, =wipe out=, =blast=, =do in= you, I =off=, =ice=, =hit=, =gun down=, =pick off=, =put to bed with a shovel=, =take care of= you, I =take out=, =take for a ride=, =give the works to=, =get=, =fix=, =settle=, =spill blood=, =let blood as in waste=, =nuke=, =zap=, =croak= youThe response knows, as they know,
Soon they will cross
on their bellies; kissing
your ninety-nine names
trill the tip of my tongue.
They must run to
color of earth,
is a brand
Still they come.
A hungry people
have no country.
Many of the bodies have never been recovered.
Who dreamt that we might dwell among ourselves
In rain and scoured light and wind-dried stones?
III. The Trial
Mishandling classified information
Failing to obey
Failing obligations as approving authority for expenditure
Basalt, blood, water, headstones, leeches.
will be took
will be lost
will know again
becomes a common occurrence
On matters of life and death
The court gave no reason for its decision but three out of nine judges said they would have heard the case.
On matters of life and death
bbc.com May 1, 2007
Michelle Cliff Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise
Ishmael Reed Mumbo Jumbo
Anne Waldman IOVIS, Book II
Luis J Rodriguez Poems Across the Pavement
Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones
Khaled Mattawa Zodiac of Echoes
Seamus Heaney Opened Ground
Audre Lorde From a Land Where Other People Live