“Bound,” the opening poem, introduces a speaker who feels limited by biology and cultural expectations. The question “Can I only be one thing / at once?” (1) hints at an answer in the negative but an answer that, as the book progresses, ultimately results in a defiant assertion of self: “I walked away from car and corpse and made / room for nothing but this body’s / first words. See my mouth move, like this—” (79). The book’s trajectory moves from a voice bound in innocence to the pain of speaking, from violence imposed in the form of a spinning noose to a landscape and its objects humanized by memory while at times indifferent, inhabited by the dangerously ignorant and/or unconscious: “Watch boys be forced / into men by men who’ve forgotten their own / forcing” (60).”
‘A year ago, your narrator sat around with four other writers. Three of us white, one Black, one Asian. We were trying to figure out how to talk about the events of April 27, 2015. “Riot” fixated on property damage. “Protests” occurred, but those which took place after April 27 were organized in a way that the initial events weren’t.’ DIVE IN BELOW to full article
Venus Thrash is the author of The Fateful Apple which was nominated for the 2015 PEN Open Book Award.
Love eludes me. I can name a thousand reasons.
The woman with a flair for revenge who tie-dyed
all my whites, the woman with the crooked smile
at the last lesbian bar confessing between drinks
her hatred of women, the woman with the firm ass
and youthful nonchalance flying from mildly agitated
to all-out war in seconds, the woman who pulled
from a fake designer purse snazzy magenta lipstick
and a six-inch knife
the woman who got away.
But baby, this twisted view of love is not my own.
This is what I hope instead, of love, to find you wanting
and unexpected as a breeze blowing kisses on the skin
in the thick of summer, to be rendered nearly breathless
when I take you by the hand, to long for me even
when I am near and naked and lounging on the grass
in a shaded grove, tears safe enough to shed
in your benevolent grace, yes to a walk in the park
in light rain, a bouquet of wild tiger lilies delivered
by singing telegram in the middle of an ordinary
day, an arm around the waist without hiding, a bowl
of chilled oranges good enough for breakfast, sliced
in wedges, served in bed, a scarlet dress fit for a harlot
lifted thigh-high in a dark theater, a zipper undone,
an eager crotch, spooning, talking ourselves to sound
sleep as the stairs to our room grow more impossible
to climb and that old silver moon slips forever
from the late-night sky.
SISTERHOOD OF SORROW
What to make of this growing sorority?
This kinship of sorrow? Mothers of unsung
daughters killed by police, mourning
baby girls in rooms unfazed by sudden
death, where memory won’t die but leans
back in an empty chair, fusses in a bathroom
mirror, kicks off her shoes, or naps
on the sofa to never wake, forever 7,
forever asleep, or hangs out in an alleyway
with friends, voluminous laughter bounces
along the walls still, rain logged teddy bears
sag toward the ground, tattered ribbons blow
away with the wind, or splays in the doorway
where she last stood giving up without a fight,
where each subsequent sweep and mop,
the threshold spills more blood, the floorboards,
the doorjambs, the splattered walls, or rolls around
in a hoopdie with a turbulent engine heard halfway
down the block that will never pull up to the house
again, every beat and throb of the speakers a reminder
of a home now silent, every profanity an endless
raging scream, every night a memorial no one else
attends, every day another death, another restrained
and choked unconscious, another tased to breathlessness,
another trapped in the maze of her own mind abruptly
put at ease, another ride-or-die come true, another old
lady behind on rent, refusing to pay for freezing pipes,
a toilet that won’t flush, a warm fridge, evicted
without mercy in a rush of gunfire, another executed
holding a son not even two, another gunned down
in a no-knock on the wrong door, another hanging
after three days in jail for a minor traffic stop.
Chant their names in the streets. Hold them in your vigils.
Count them among the lives that matter.
Tariq Trotter, lead MC for the Roots spoke and freestyled at Harvard i-lab as part of their Other Side Speaker series. Although most of his time is spent on tour or leading The Roots as Jimmy Fallon’s house band on The Tonight Show, Trotter is also a fashion entrepreneur, a supporter of various charitable organizations, and much more. DIVE IN BELOW
“Between premiering songs,Beyoncé’s Lemonade special featured poetry by Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet. Shire’s poetry collections like Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth seemed to have a major influence on Beyoncé as multiple poems of Shire’s appear throughout Lemonade.” DIVE IN BELOW
“In his lifetime, Tupac was an avid writer of more than just raps and rhymes. His book of poetry The Rose That Grew From Concrete is a must own library addition for any rap fan. And now, TMZ is reporting that a love letter written by Pac has surfaced and is available to purchase for the price of $35,000. The letter, which if being sold by memorabilia dealer Moments in Time, is addressed to a woman Pac refers to as Beethoven for her skills behind the piano. In it, he discusses his love of Prince, and gets candid about his own emotions and feelings.”
“Taken together, D’Agata’s headnotes constitute a meditation on the nature of the essay. For him, the essay is “less a genre in its own right than an attitude that’s assumed amid another genre.” If you had to describe that attitude based on D’Agata’s anthologies, you might say that it’s one of deep preoccupation. The narrator has puzzled over a problem or an incident or a feeling for a long time. She may not have answers, but she has certainly come up with every relevant question. And she has emerged from her preoccupation essentially sane; the form of the essay suggests that obsession leads not to madness but to productive thought. Where D’Agata sees an essayistic mode of address being used in a poem or novel — T. S. Eliot’s “The Dry Salvages,” say, or Chapter 42 of Moby Dick, “The Whiteness of the Whale” — he calls it an essay, a term that for him designates some of the best literature from both sides of the fiction/non-fiction divide. One gets the sense that if D’Agata were able to mold the reading public according to his own sensibility, “essayistic” would be not merely a term of neutral description but high praise, an epithet sprinkled liberally on book jackets the way that “lyrical” is today.”
Twenty years ago Saul Williams won the title of Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s Grand Slam Champion. Over the past two decades, he has forged a career mixing poetry, music and acting. In 2014 he performed in the first Broadway hip hop musical “Holler If Ya Hear Me” a musical inspired by Tupac Shakur. His new album is, “”MartyrLoserKing.”
‘In an extended interview with Saul Williams, a world-renown spoken word artist, he discusses his career of mixing poetry, music and acting; reads some of his poetry, discusses how he became an activist, and describes the concept of his new album, “MartyrLoserKing.”‘
Kaelan Doolan is a student at Xavier University. Poetry is his life’s purpose and his work has appeared in various publications across campus. He notes, “My works come from deep in my heart and I share it with the world so as I may show it.”
‘Bach’s cantata in B-flat minor in the cassette, we lounged under the greenhouse-sky,’ Peter Balakian
Peter Balakian, born on 13 June 1951 in Teaneck (NJ), is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University, where he has taught since 1980 and where he directs the Center for Ethics and World Societies. He received his BA (1973) from Bucknell University, his MA (1975) from New York University, and his PhD (1980) from Brown University. Balakian is the author of six earlier books of poems, most recently ofZiggurat (Chicago 2010) and June-tree: New and Selected Poems, 1974-2000 (HarperCollins 2001). He is also the author of the memoir Black Dog of Fate (Basic Books HarperCollins 1997), which was featured in the New York Times and in the Los Angeles Times, and the prose work The Burning Tigris (HarperCollins 2003) on the Armenian genocide, which was a New York Times best-seller and which was featured in the New York Times and in Publishers Weekly.
Rapper, SongWriter, Poet and PublicPool Co-Editor sits down with Jim Cotter at Articulate to talk the differences between Poetry and Rap.. DIVE IN BELOW.
Literary hub gives us the 30 poets we should be keeeping a eye on this year. Take a look and let us know what you think.
“As we celebrate National Poetry Month, it is a good time to celebrate the poets of the Smithsonian. Poetry can pop up in the most surprising places around the Smithsonian – on images of snowflakes, in scientists’ field books, and in the personal papers of our first Secretary, Joseph Henry. One of the Smithsonian’s most prolific poets was Solomon G. Brown. One of our earliest employees, and the first African American employee, Brown was an assistant to Spencer Baird and a pivotal force in creating the U.S. National Museum. Originally hired in 1852 by Secretary Joseph Henry as a laborer, Brown soon became fast friends with then Assistant Secretary Baird. As an assistant to Baird, Brown quickly rose through the ranks at the Smithsonian, becoming Baird’s ‘eyes-and-ears’ whenever he was away from the Institution. Brown collected artifacts and specimens for the museum, served as an illustrator, and gave educational lectures to the African American community based on the Smithsonian’s collections and research. Within the larger Washington, D.C. community, he served in the D.C. House of Delegates and was a trustee of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church.”
“A growing body of research in cognitive science illuminates the physical and mental toll bland cityscapes exact on residents. Generally, these researchers argue that humans are healthier when they live among variety — a cacophony of bars, bodegas, and independent shops — or work in well-designed, unique spaces, rather than unattractive, generic ones. In their book, Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment, Tufts urban policy professor Justin Hollander and architect Ann Sussman review scientific data to help architects and urban planners understand how, exactly, we respond to our built surroundings. People,they argue, function best in intricate settings and crave variety, not “big, blank, boxy buildings.”
“The core argument of Dan Fox’s Pretentiousness: Why It Matters is that pretense is the “engine oil” of all creative endeavors, that we’d have no art and a very impoverished culture without it. On a basic level this seems to me indisputable, yet there’s something about Fox’s defense of being pretentious that makes me a bit queasy. It’s no easy thing to cordon off a realm of culture from the social world, but in each context being pretentious has different implications. What wins you a prize in one place can get you beat up in another. Unless things have changed since I was a kid, for many precocious adolescents those places might be one and the same.”
Tori Marchiony former member of Babel, Temple University’s spoken word collective. These days she spends her time on other writerly pursuits including arts journalism and developing a comic.
“It’s hard to grasp the impact Malick Sidibé’s work has had on our globalized visual culture. The legendary Malian photographer passed away this week in Bamako but his legacy is everywhere from the biggest fashion publications and music videos to the hundreds, if not thousands, of humble West African photo studios working in the portrait style that he helped pioneer.” DIVE IN with OKAYAFRICA and writer Aaron Leaf below
Writ Large Press is a downtown LA based small press. Founded in 2007 to publish overlooked Los Angeles writers, WLP continues to experiment with the idea of publishing and explore the role of the book in society with DTLAB, a pop-up bookstore and performance space project, PUBLISH!, a continuing underground publishing project, and Grand Park Downtown BookFest, a festival for LA writers and publishers
“American politics seem at least to critics like Bernie Sanders corrupt and money driven. Today of all things the rise of Donald Trumps proves the contrary, says Stanford’s Francis Fukuyama in this interview with Alexander Görlach”
“While there are notable exceptions, many strands of contemporary activism risk emphasizing the self over the collective. By contrast, organizing is cooperative by definition: it aims to bring others into the fold, to build and exercise shared power. Organizing, as Smucker smartly defines it, involves turning “a social bloc into a political force.” Today, anyone can be an activist, even someone who operates alone, accountable to no one—for example, relentlessly trying to raise awareness about an important issue. Raising awareness—one of contemporary activism’s preferred aims—can be extremely valuable (at least I hope so, since I have spent so much time trying to do it), but education is not organizing, which involves not just enlightening whoever happens to encounter your message, but also aggregating people around common interests so that they can strategically wield their combined strength. Organizing is long-term and often tedious work that entails creating infrastructure and institutions, finding points of vulnerability and leverage in the situation you want to transform, and convincing atomized individuals to recognize that they are on the same team (and to behave like it).”
Other art forms have their own variants, such as Nanni Balestrini’s novelTristano, in which the order of the text varies in every printed copy—its publishers claim there are 109,027,350,432,000 possible variations—or Stan Douglas’s video Journey Into Fear (2001), in which a 15-minute film loop is synched to bits of dialogue that are scrambled and recombined by a computer in combinations that play out for more than six consecutive days. Such works may not be literally infinite in scope, but no one reader could ever experience all their various instantiations. They evoke what might be called a kind of mathematical sublime, to borrow Kant’s phrase.”
“The difficulty of reading Lax in part stems from a temporal dissonance. His poems contain so few words, repeated so many times, you almost can’t help but read them fast, too fast, much too fast, even as their form and content gesture toward a meditative slowness that remains just out of reach. “hurry/ up/ hurry/ up/ hurry/ up,” beseeches one stanza, only for the next to admonish, “slow/ down/ slow/ down/ slow/ down” (48). The two stanzas’ forms are almost identical to one another but their contents advocate for opposite reading cadences,each facilitated by the repetitive form. Quick: the reader can skip over the repeated words without much loss because she’s already read them anyway. Slow: the repetitions force the reader to take notice of them and slow down. The back-and-forth commands to “hurry/ up/ slow/ down// hurry/ up/ slow/ down” represent the simultaneous conflicting imperatives of Lax’s poetry (48).”
“April is National Poetry Month and this season’s releases by Latino poets are exceptional, dealing with social issues like immigration and police brutality, reaching across the Americas to speak on the post-colonial condition, and exploring the interior landscapes to address personal suffering and healing. In an earlier column I highlighted the latest book by veteran poet Martín Espada, Vivas to Those Who Have Failed, that must-have title plus the following list will only add to the appreciation of poetry as an artistic medium that allows Latinos to question, critique, and create community…”
“The proposition that a university population — or a corporate work force — should be more diverse can be argued on the simple basis of justice: Doors should be open to groups that have historically been excluded. However, an assumption that a university should reflect the diversity of the larger population already gets tricky. Should all quarters of society demographically reflect all other quarters? Why? Should there be more pacifists in the military? Fewer Indian motel owners? As aggrieved critics of affirmative action have charged, at least when it comes to university admissions, more of one group means fewer of another; say, Asian-Americans or Jews, who are proportionately “overrepresented” at many elite universities.”
Rachel Zucker is the author of nine books, most recently, a memoir, MOTHERs, and a double collection of prose and poetry, The Pedestrians. Zucker teaches poetry at New York University and is currently delivering a series of lectures on the intersection of poetry, confession, ethics and disobedience as part of the Bagley Wright Lecture Series. Zucker is the mother of three sons; she has lived in New York for 38 out of the 44 years of her life.
When the manchild says, You’re not listening, I am not listening.
Another time, when the manchild says, You’re not listening, I am. But it isn’t the right kind of listening. It isn’t a listening that feels, to the manchild, like I am listening. He does not, as the saying goes, feel heard.
When I ask the manchild to stop doing X, he does it again. Some kind of clicking or ripping or fidgeting, a certain kind of language or patting the head of babymanchild or one of the many things babymanchild does not like the manchild to do that the manchild does over and over and over. Stop, I say. The manchild does it again. The way he looks at me as he does X again is called “not-listening.” It is also how I know he heard me.
Writing is a way of paying attention, I tell the students. They continue doing X, which in this case is looking down at their notebooks, which in this case tells me nothing about whether or not they’re listening.
Sometimes, when the manchild speaks, I listen my brains out, listen with my whole heart. But it is not enough. I am the wire monkeymother with a bottle when he needs something soft and cloth-covered.
You’re not listening, says the manchild again, sometimes just like that, in lowercase, more often with cursing and doorslamming.
The figurative bottle means nothing to the manchild; he is not hungry. Actually, he is hungry. He is always hungry but I never seem to have enough food or the right food. He has grown taller than I’ll ever be and is ravenous.
Sometimes I listen as if my life depends on it, but all I hear is the silence after a doorslamming. It is the sound of the manchild not feeling heard.
Actually, it is not silence. It is a muffled tumult in the other room. It is the sound of not wanting to go after him. It is the sound of my body crossing the room, my hand on the doorknob.
Sometimes it is I who slam the door and then lie in bed listening to the sound of my own breathing and then my crying.
When the Husband says, It’s hard to teach him not to slam the door when you slam the door, I think, How true, and I listen to the sound of myself not slapping the Husband hard across the face. That is the sound of my breathing. The sound of the stare between us.
Do you have any questions? I ask the students. How are your dream journals going? How about the automatic writing? Well, I say, I guess this is the part of class when I ask questions and no one responds. Ok, then, I say, Then we’re all in agreement. Alrighty, I say. I can’t believe I just said alrighty, I say.
On the way home I listen to a podcast about how the value of diamonds is held constant by limiting the number of diamonds entering circulation and convincing people not to sell the diamonds they already own. During World War II De Beers—the company with a monopoly on the production and distribution of the world’s diamonds—considered dumping a vault-load into the ocean as a way of staving off deflation.
Can you hear the sound of the white plate breaking in the sink? Can you hear the sound of my widened eyes? Or the text I send my friend saying, “I have become a person who breaks a plate in the sink.”
Sometimes, when the manchild speaks, I am listening to the sound of wanting to be elsewhere and the sound of myself thinking stay and listen, which sounds like the sound of the soundmachine over the Husband’s snoring or perhaps the sound of snoring over the soundmachine, which is to say two sounds at once, which is to say hard to make sense of, which is to say effortful, which is to say a kind of listening unsatisfying to the manchild. Perhaps he wants my listening to look effortless which looks to him like love. Or perhaps he wants more effort?
On the subway two women scream at each other. One says there is no more room, take the next train. The other says, You’re taking up more than one space, and presses into the crowded car. Everyone is listening intently to something on his headphones or has her eyes closed or pretends to be completely unaware of the two women, inches apart, screaming. Stop screaming, I scream above their screaming when I can no longer stand it. Don’t talk to each other that way, I scream, my voice barely audible above their cursing. No one meets my eye. Trash, one yells. Get the fuck out of my face, the other yells. Stop shouting, I shout. No one can hear me.
The poem is what I listen to when listening to the city is just too much. The poem is a way of not paying attention. Of paying attention to the poem instead of. The poem is a soundmachine.
Uh-huh, I say to babymanchild as I walk him to school. He is either talking about Ellen Degeneres or professional soccer. I am not listening. Sure, I say. Ok, I say. I am not listening. I am still not listening.
Actually, I am listening. I am just not listening to him.
On the listserv which is everywhere and always I am accused of conflation. I am asked to be quiet. To listen. I am asked to read the offered links more carefully and to think about my behavior and the way in which asking the questions I’ve asked has caused people of color to perform labor on my behalf such as having to explain racism to me which is exhausting for them and a kind of white violence on my part. I am asked not to conflate race and gender. I am asked not to conflate the Confessional with Appropriation. I am asked not to conflate the personal with the conceptual. I am asked to understand that I will never understand, can never understand, what it is like to be other than who and what I am. I am asked to examine my privilege but quietly, to maybe think about why white people feel the need to take up all the space, why white people like me talk so much, use so many words. I am asked to listen more and talk less. I am asked to consider intersectionality.
You’re not listening, says the manchild when he finds me reading and re-reading the links.
On the subway some manchildren are jostling and joking and using language I don’t want babymanchild to hear. I am trying to read to him but he isn’t listening. He is listening to the manchildren, to the sound of his future. No, not his future for he will likely never speak like these manchildren. He is listening to the sound of his whiteness, which maybe for once is the sound of listening.
On the platform a man is lying on the ground, a wrapped granola bar inches away from his closed eyes. I can’t get reception here, I say to babymanchild, pulling him away.
I want to ask the listserv about the difference between conflation and intersectionality, but I do not know how to ask this question while being quiet which I have been asked to be. I do not know how to listen more visibly, especially on a listserv where no one can see me reading the links and being quiet and sitting as still as possible, even ignoring my children and waiting for someone to post something new for me to listen to. Somewhere, on the listserv: a doorslamming. More than one. I read and re-read the links. The links tell me that I am suffering from “white fragility.” The links say I should listen.
Can you hear me? my friend asks, while reading me a new poem as I sit on the steps of a brownstone and shield the microphone from the sounds of the city. Yes, I say, I can hear you.
I lost you in the elevator, I say to another friend, whose mother is just home from the hospital and lives two blocks away from me and is very private and no, there is nothing I can do. When I ask if there is anything I can do for my friend who lives far from me and far from her mother just home from the hospital, my friend says, Yeah, shoot me.
I call a third friend to read her this poem. She says, Take out the parts about the listserv—only the people on the listserv will understand those parts. Don’t you know, I joke, that this poem is only for you? No one else will care about any parts. Also, she says, People might think that manchild and babymanchild are the same person unless you mention them both in the very beginning. Also, she says, It’s too long. I make it longer.
I’m leaving, the Husband texts. In this context it means he is coming home.
I’m going to bed, I respond, which means, in a way, I’m leaving.
The poem is a soundmachine. Whatever the family says they say over the sound of the soundmachine.
When babymanchild mentions Ellen Degeneres or professional soccer as we walk to school I am relieved because this means I can think about other things and let his barely audible voice bleed into the city’s ever-encroaching surround-sound and in this way I am listening but this time to my own thoughts. Surely I am allowed from time to time such a luxury am I not?
My thoughts, I’m thinking, are associational and interrupted just like my writing and I am probably thinking about my writing and about how a novelist friend once told me the secret was to not allow children to steal your muse time. She thought about her novels while watching her kids in the sandbox, while giving them baths, while putting them to sleep. Don’t waste time wondering whether you have Cheerios in the pantry, she said to me, years ago. The relaying of this writerly advice to you is the length of time in real time it takes for babymanchild to yank my arm. His narrowed eyes and the line of his mouth accuse me. I am not listening. What was I thinking?
Goodbye for now, I write to the listserv. I am tired of feeling wrong. Turns out I am not so good at listening, I write, and I am tired of being wrong. After that I sit and listen to the virtual wall between their posts and me. I have turned off the listserv, which is still everywhere and always but all the other soundmachines whirring and whining.
The city is nothing if not conflation and believe me this city is not nothing. The city is a soundmachine.
When I read to babymanchild I listen to myself reading to babymanchild. Usually it sounds like a childhood. Like a child happy to have a mother who listens even though it is actually the sound of a child listening to a mother reading. Actually, it is the sound of two people listening to a woman who long ago was writing to someone or no one: how was she to know?
The book requires explanation. We stop listening to the mother (me) reading and listen to the mother (me) explaining. Such as rape. Also racism, Hitler, violence against children and what Atticus means when he says: “There’s nothing more sickening to me that a low-grade white man who’ll take advantage of a Negro’s ignorance. Don’t fool yourself—it’s all adding up and one of these days we’re going to pay the bill for it.”
Perhaps all I am is conflation. What then? I would like to ask but can’t ask it on the listserv because I’ve signed off.
When I finish explaining everything in the world to babymanchild and have sat and held his hand until he’s fallen asleep because it is hard to fall asleep when one’s mother has just explained the worst of the world, I tiptoe from the room knowing that all this time I have not been listening to the manchild who has been waiting for me to come and listen. The manchild has been waiting to tell me that I am not listening, which is sometimes all he has to say.
Perhaps thinking is the soundmachine. The city is full of them. Faux rainforest, faux ocean. The jackhammer of it all.
Whirring and churning until the death rattle.
A friend suggests non-violent communication, suggests I cultivate silence. The listserv says nothing and cannot see me listening.
When the husband and I speak to each other we hear things the other did not say. This may be because we are not listening. Or perhaps because we are listening too hard. Or listening wrongly. We break each other like plates in the sink. Other times the breaking is more like forgetting to water a plant for months at a time.
What? he says when I have said nothing. Your face, he says, What??
I didn’t say anything, I say. Perhaps my face is the face of a person who is listening, trying to listen. Perhaps this is the problem since everything we say sounds like disappointment and our silence is overfull of sorrow.
So sorry, I say when a woman bumps me on the subway. She looks at me with diamond-hard rage.
So, I say to the class, Can anyone tell me, what are some effects of addressing someone or something inanimate or absent in a poem? This is called apostrophe, I say. The poet brings the unreal closer, into the real, but the poem itself becomes a fictive space. I look around at real people around me who saying nothing. During quiet writing I put them in the poem where they respond as readily as they do in real life.
Goodness, my friend says when an emergency vehicle passes by, while I’m sitting on the steps of a brownstone while she’s reading me her long poem over the phone.
It’s too long, the other friend says, when I read her the poem while she is in a hotel, alone, in Philly, when the poem is half as long as it is now.
Don’t go, someone backchannels.
Good luck, another backchannels.
We will miss your voice.
My voice is all over the city.
Sometimes, at night, I beg the Husband to be quiet. I want his weight. Tell me, he asks, Just tell me what you want. What I want is no talking.
I am conflating again. Husband, manchild, babymanchild. Gender, sex, the personal, listserv.
I do not have Cheerios because no one in my family eats Cheerios. Otherwise I would have Cheerios. I am thinking about Cheerios. I still thinking about Cheerios. If you said anything just now I was not listening.
In the crowded car I try to step carefully around a stroller so more people can enter the train. Stay there, I tell babymanchild. Hold the pole. No one helps him. The woman with the stroller glares at me.
I suspect that sometimes, when the manchild says I am not listening, he is not saying what he wants to say. He says and says and says and of course I am not listening because he wants me to hear something else, something he is not saying. The thing he is not saying underneath the thing he is saying. Sometimes I think I know what this might be. Other times I think there is no other thing, this is just a way of excusing myself for being a poor listener. Either way the sound of my own thinking takes up too much space in this family.
Stop, I say to the manchild. He keeps going. Isn’t that what I want, isn’t the way he keeps going a sign of his resilience and of my maternal success?You’re not listening, says the manchild. You’re not listening. Stop talking, the world says to me. Stop talking, says the part of me who imagines the world is telling me to stop talking.
Taylor Steele is a Brooklyn-based spoken word artist, playwright, and essayist. She received her BA from The New School, has been published by several online publications (Apogee Journal, HEArt Journal, Wicked Banshee Press, Blackberry Magazine, Rogue Agent, and many forthcoming), and is a content writer for The Body is Not an Apology. Taylor’s work has been featured on Button Poetry and The Huffington Post. She placed 5th in the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam and 6th in 2016. She believes in the power of art to change, shape, and heal.
Out of Body: In the Classroom
Taylor is the only Black student in the class. The class is reading Toni Morrison.
Taylor dares any of these white niggas to say “nigger.” Taylor bets her whole house and her last dollar that one of
these white niggas is gon’ turn to the Blackest page of this book and look at her like she is a rabid dog barking wildly
behind a breaking fence. They scurred.
Taylor is tired of reading good books in bad company. Tired of watching these white niggas lock their mouths behind
cages like she can’t see through the bars. Taylor is the only student in the class there on scholarship. So! Taylor is
a busted payphone on the right side of the tracks, is the abandoned house tourists visit because they’ve heard the
rumors that live inside of it. Taylor wants to scream, “No! I am real! I am a person! I have a body!”
Taylor knows these white niggas see her by looking through her. Taylor is over it. Still, Taylor says “the N word” when
“nigger” shows up in the book; keeps these white niggas from shifting uncomfortably in their seats, god forbid a
loosened splinter. Taylor wonders if god is here, if god finds the whole “Taylor’s life” thing one big joke. Taylor wants
to laugh, too. She can’t remember the last time she did when it wasn’t at her own expense.
Geoffrey G. O’Brien is the author most recently of People on Sunday (Wave Books, 2013); Metropole (2011), Green and Gray (2007), and The Guns and Flags Project (2002), were all published by The University of California Press. He is the coauthor (with John Ashbery and Timothy Donnelly) of Three Poets (Minus A Press, 2012) and (in collaboration with the poet Jeff Clark) of 2A (Quemadura, 2006). O’Brien is an Associate Professor in the English Department at UC Berkeley and also teaches for the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison.
Is arrogant, is like small talk,
Dares you to let it be
Enough, goes most opaque
When clear, most clear when
Sent opaque, a thing which
Never totally happens,
Sign to the eye to ignore
What it passes, trespasses,
Which is that everything
You come to’s false rim
Or edge but still real
Except this night they fell
Or each seemed to as we
Walked past, not on
Their own but right through
The doing of others whereby
They chased away the boundaries
In a usual self-managing
And now could touch again
What presented to the eye,
They were cars, I mean
The people were, but also
That’s what they unsaw
Into fire and sudden webs
Of craquelure we walked
Past, talked of as it happened
Like weather, small, or at least
Local, here, come down
On both sides, changing
Nothing into everything
So briefly the clear went
Clearer, like a sound or
What still keeps you out
Of a putative store when,
The glass gone, its absence
Hangs like an instant repair
Of the law almost running
From eye to fingertips
But not there so much,
Not so much there
As attributed, the difference
Between standing looking
And looking as you walk
With others, too many,
Not enough, while some
Go out to the edge of the edge
Where it waits to be crazed.
Pamela Anderson is founder of the Pamela Anderson Foundation which supports organizations and individuals that stand on the front lines in the protection of human, animal, and environmental rights. By funding the efforts of those who defend the planet and all who live within it, the Pamela Anderson Foundation is an agent of change and an advocate for justice.
I know it’s bad for you…
But, this is when I wish,
I had a cigarette-
something I’ve never tried- (light up)
some kind of relief..
I wish it was Italy 40 years ago–
The moon rising over the Amphitheater–
to tremendous applause… (clap)
Europeans don’t seem to care about silly
We do what we want anyway –
behind closed doors–
Our true character, collective complexities.
childish activities –
patterns- genetics? Attention deficit-
– …SEX … a lost art– a sickness–
Lost sensuality –
The cruel smell of orange blossoms…
I love being in love– but expectations,
make it impossible to be happy-
I’ve tried… so hard..
maybe it’s not in fashion–
Tradition- just seems romantic…,
I guess it’s a used up ideal —
for the old fashion…
Female security.. lost-
Coded, and loaded Cell phone,
ordering sex on line-
is like ordering a book on Amazon–
and … snooping eats you alive–
A mirrored action.
Hopeless- knocked sideways–
There is always this feeling –
Like something is off…
I can’t put my finger on why–
Who wants to be the Warden–
I want out of here– out of this time —
Grey, muted crystals —
dull- no fire– no life…
Laying in my hotel bed–
pulling up my stockings- carefully
re-attaching to the garter- ,
The Cuban heel- the line
(on course to heaven)
Feeling a little guilty-
I started to fantasize–
Il Postino, Pablo Neruda-
Should I go to Capri–?
No man knows what to do with me–
I blame myself–
To play with me, is eternal–
I’m not ‘on the clock’ or…
on the ‘payroll’–
I had to get out of the room-
The velvet stuff and porcelain things
closing in on me–
What have I done…?
I knew it was wrong from the start–
primitive– base instinct..
Never marry a rich man…
Euros from a Vagabond..
Just start walking – (Like Jeanne Morreau)
Never look back-
There is only beauty ahead,
I almost forgot where I was– shit–
Burberry trench –
– on the floor?
A Parkay floor… (this could be real time now)
(Narration by a deep voiced black guy)
BG- She stopped to admire it’s clever design,
ME- “So pretty”
BG- wrapped herself up—
She snuck out the door with a quiet click,
and Seamlessly, floating down the hall- (on wire)
Her Tom Ford feet didn’t
touch the ground–
Falling gracelessly into an elevator
playing Nat King Cole’s ….Stardust?
(remembering the movie)
ME- “Fallen Angel?”
BG- Nobody was up yet-
out into the cool world she goes,
I can breathe…”
BG- looking for a little human contact?
Playful seduction? …
ME- “I’m so Hungry…”
BG- Her heart was racing—
It was barely dawn —
Bathed in perfect light-
magic hour– —
ME- “Everyone looks good this early”
BG- Even cats and hummingbirds
Was anyone watching her..
She gazed up into dark windows…
and let the jacket fall loosely around
The rush coming back- …
a little lost on purpose,
Hiding around corners,
my body is on fire….
my body is never done– trouble finds me–
please find me-
The iron is always hot!”
BG- She Leaned against the cool wall of a
It felt good, soothing-
ME- I wonder how prostitution works-
Does it ever feel good?
Lost little souls – being taken advantage of–
or taking advantage of-
Is it just for money? Is it for attention?
or — both–
rules, rules, rules–
I can’t find the answers– it’s an epidemic–
I know I won’t compete with a computer–
or – a gaggle of hollywood boys hiring poor
Russian girls to swallow loaves of bread
up their anus’?-
or worse– sleep with fat hairy people? —
How does that work?”
BG- she was disturbed–
How far can she take this?– Is it even real?–
ME- “Have we lost men to thin air—
to the Abyss–
Flesh is attached to a heart and a brain-
takes effort…and skill…
Where are the great lovers?– A lost art…
God , I hope not…
I’ve never been to Columbia– Should I go?”
Is this Hysteria?…
now– Coming down from the ceiling,
dripping in gold glitter–
Dancing with Nureyev- eyes closed—
arousing my tenderness,
A sweet rawness-
bruised and scratched up–
Life is sensual– not a “fix it in post”–
ME- I miss PLAYBOY-
The End of an Era–
Celebrated imperfections –
The girl next door– shyness–
— I’m planning a mysterious coup–
want to get in on it–
Is it healthy, to be fantasied about…
by many men –?
Isn’t that the goal-
How many can we effect–
It’s natural– to want to be desired–
The world creeps up on you–
and there you are,
ALL over the place-
places you never intended to be– (desert storm?)
I am human you know–
left to adjust to the madness-
No mercy- pay the price– my fault-
BG- feeling empty, sad– withdrawn-
Left to Isolate– Medicate.
Go to sleep–
ME-NO! I wont- –
ME- You know- It’s not freaky enough,
to just be beautiful–
I’ve never felt beautiful-
I always felt sexual… and blind..
oh wowwy… I’m losing my mind–
I’m shutting down– It’s such a strange feeling…
going numb… in front of everyone—-
It’s like a Self inflicted drowning…hard to do–
When did I want to be this thing?–
To attract what?
When did I go from a curious little girl,
to an insatiable woman? Girl on the run…
Femme fatale… devoted and ….divided.
Are we all going crazy? –
or, is it just me?
Is it that stuff on unwashed vegetables?
When did I lose control over my own heart?–
When did I start believing ,
That this is all I’m good for-
against my better judgement–
fell for it- dammit- it all backfired–
It doesn’t feel good to be used, neglected, ignored—
I’m not doing this—
It’s humiliating – I have to turn this around–
Settling is powerless- desperate–
Can’t buy your way out of this one …buddy!!,
(She can’t stop laughing..)
Reminds me of a play I wrote —
That one about The Hell’s Angels,
Steve Queen and Bridgitte Bardot–
The Entr’ Acte….
** A car chase-
She is going on and on (in french) and
He’s just trying to have his way with her- everything is double entree’ Funny/Sexy-(subtitles projected) they’ve stolen billions in diamonds – she’s dripping from head to toe… in a sparkly madness of laughter— 60’s porsche- (or GT/Bullit car)?)
All in a Car facing the audience– (with BW projections from the 60’s behind them–)… They fall in love–
I’m not sure what the The Hells Angels—have to do with it– but they stay in the title—
Hai-Dang Phan is author of the chapbook Small Wars (Convulsive Editions, 2016). His poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, Boston Review, jubilat, New England Review, Bennington Review, and Lana Turner. He is an assistant professor of English at Grinnell College, and currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa. (photo: Linh Dinh)
WAITING FOR AL-QAEDA
Walking down Broadway today
I get a call from my old neighbor
I haven’t heard from in ages.
“Hy-Vee is having a sale on soda.”
That’s too bad because New York
is so expensive. She’s always
wanted to see the city, but knows
she won’t, “not in this lifetime.”
I recall well our first meeting.
She wore a unisex cherubic
helmet of tight crunchy curls,
a giant sweatshirt declaring
for the record the season
(Cyclones vs. Hawkeyes)
and the state we were in:
A House Divided!
heavyset, and magnetic,
she was a high-functioning
schizophrenic. For years,
a medical transcriptionist until
an episode left her jobless, bereft.
I was a low-functioning poet.
We became good neighbors.
Our communicating hallway
was a dimly lit echoey channel
of humdrum broadcasts.
Often I tuned in for company.
She had the isolato’s talent
for talking to herself. Her laugh
swept the floor, her curses
brightened the corners,
and her humor was Kevlar.
Of our absentee landlord
Cheryl: “total B-I-T-C-H,
all caps, scary letters”;
of her chronically teary cat:
“Poor Miles has herpes,
but you don’t have to worry
unless you’re also a cat.”
Some days were too much.
When her Ziploc gallon bag
of laundry quarters disappeared
she called the cops, who called
Cheryl in San Luis Obispo…
She had until New Year’s Day
to find a new place and move out.
I came over one day to help,
the only time I ever stood inside
her apartment. Above the table
Mia Hamm with a flying ponytail
executed the poster perfect
corner kick; in the only photo
on the fridge, a girl in shadow
calmly stroked a kitten—
“I keep that to remind myself,
‘You weren’t always ugly.’”
She showed me the pantry,
where a shocking stockade
of perished non-perishables
towered on unstable shelves.
Freed from that great wall
a warped can of beans fell
and rolled to a stop at our feet.
A dud. We exploded into laughter.
“Those date back to the time
I was waiting for al-Qaeda.”
Under the kitchen sink
she still kept a blaze orange
backpack, her Wal-Mart
terrorist attack survival kit.
“Do they kill the virgins first
or keep us as trophies?”
She felt wholly unprepared
for what was to come.
Failing to find an answer,
I made eyes with July’s
Cosmo pressing luridly against
a see-through storage bin.
The surf of traffic washes
our rooms away. I still don’t
know what to say, so I promise
to send her a postcard, and do:
an aerial shot of Central Park
in autumn, something someone
might see flying into the city,
their feelings in fall colors.
“What happened to the best African-American literary magazines?” Clutch Magazine and writer Stacia L. Brown help us out with that question. DIVE IN below
“I first met Holzer at the American Academy in Berlin, where we were fellows in 2000. Often we talked about our work during long walks. A few years later, in Venice, she projected, with her xenon light, the text of my love poem “Blur,” a sonnet sequence, onto the Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Granda (currently housing the police headquarters). This was a building Venetians feared during the Second World War, so it was scary, and meaningful, and brave of her to scroll my erotic poem across its face. Seeing my poems projected in this way, onto landscapes and buildings, I feel that the words leap out from a different zone, where they are observed as much as read. Language is more direct, open, unself-conscious, precise, and human. It doesn’t belong to me anymore but to the atmosphere, and this makes me happy.”
“But if the introduction of a new type of word-processing machine started a slow-burning revolution in how writers went about their business, it was a revolution nonetheless, drastically altering how authors did their work. The primary focus of Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s new history of word processing, Track Changes, is a twenty-year span, from the moment that IBM brought out the MT/ST until 1984, when the Apple Macintosh first offered a glimpse of an unchained future with its televised appeal to a nation of would-be Winston Smiths. (As with Bobby Thomson’s home run, millions still claim they remember exactly where they were when they saw Ridley Scott’s celebrated commercial for Apple during the third quarter of an otherwise forgettable Los Angeles Raiders Super Bowl blowout.) The word-processing program that the new Mac included, MacWrite, was fairly primitive—it couldn’t handle documents longer than eight pages, a boon only to the briefest of short-story writers—and it would take years for the mousy point-and-click innovations to knock off the market Goliaths of WordStar and WordPerfect. But the timing of Apple’s campaign couldn’t have been better. “In 1978 or 1979,” Kirschenbaum notes, “writers using a word processor or a personal computer were part of the vanguard. By 1983 or 1984 they were merely part of the zeitgeist.””