Friday, July 15, 2011

i'm reading the new critical edition of the narrative of the life of frederick douglass, including angela davis' lectures on liberation as well as juliana spahr's well then there now, which came in the mail today. just finished james baldwin's the fire next time and am put on motion , , have been spinning. rainbow arc, fish-fin, tail. circled orb/electrons: in greece. 15. this is how you do it. (self)

for instance: "the slave is actually conscious of the fact that freedom is not a fact, it is not a given, but rather something to be fought for; it can exist only through a process of struggle. the slavemaster, on the other hand, experiences his freedom as inalienable and thus a fact: he is not aware that he too has been enslaved by his own system." -angela davis

and: "togetherness of the lesson and the splitting" or "when my mother was saying we were middle class she was saying something less about our house and more about our location on the block and about our location on the globe at the same time. i was trying to think about what was right about what she said." -juliana spahr

these women are talking about some holes. are talking from parts of oakland, from female lips.

these women. these women.

the 26th of july will mark the 21st anniversary of the americans with disabilities act. i work for an independent living center which is a disability rights organization that functions on the basic premise that people with disabilities deserve to live in the larger community and to not be pathologized to death or lonesome all the time - another nod to freedom, split, touchingness.

i am going to call 2 hours worth of wisconsin voters tomorrow in an effort to help recall their republicans. i live across the street from a motel and the government wants me to pay them $313 a month for my $93,000 poetry degrees which i never intend to pay (entirely) off. i deserved those years reading and writing, god damn it - everyone truly does. this world is better off that i did that for my self and for my mind and it should never have cost that much, besides.

wine or orchids

crinkled iridescent foil

in my comments section, please humor me with answers to these questions:
1. tell me about where you're from, who your people are.
2. talk about language, as it was experienced by you, growing up where you did, in relation to family, place, being a worker, your mom teaching you how to work--etc.
3. breifly/ your perspective (divinatory/psychic) on where we are at, as a society in capitalism - we writers who use the art of invocation, as all language must be said to do.
4. a sentence on liberation.


ILRCSF (the organization i work for) is hosting a commemorative reading for the anniversary of the ADA at the san francisco public library (100 larkin), in which i will be a featured reader. you should come. 7/26 - starts at 6pm in the koret auditorium. it's accessible and you're welcome there.


Marlon said...

(this all feels so disjointed...but I can't quite bring myself to delete/shape it overmuch so you have it as it is)

1) My people. In a town for upper-middle-class white folks on the outskirts of Boston, with tiny cheaper pocket neighborhoods of East and South Asian and Middle Eastern and East European and South American immigrants, because diversity makes us look good in our schools but not in our 'hoods, not unless they have money.

My people? My father: son of a Scottish trucker and Irish homemaker in a trailer park in Michigan. He raised himself up out of poverty by being brilliant and chasing and valuing the almighty dollar. All that intelligence and will.

My mother: daughter of a German lawyer and a Belizean nurse, she did not want for things -- making strides after college to become one of the first women in a major real estate brokerage firm, she quit the man's world and became a kindergarten teacher, specializing, among other things, in anti-bias education for teachers.

Apart from her story, I carry the story of my grandmother inside me: the literal standing up of a human being in a 60s anthropology class to point out "inferior" indigenous features: wide nose, round face, dark skin. The story of a woman who, on a scholarship to an American school, surpassed all manner of matter-of-fact hatred to find a place in this country. She loves to write. She has arthritis in her hands. She does not talk about those days.

My people. I grew up with the immigrant boys because they didn't play as violently as the white boys, and I'm sensitive to that sort of thing. A mishmash of Pakistani, Ukranian, Turkish, Russian, Chinese, Argentinian...I loved going to their houses. Loved and feared it - the strange wall hangings, the elderly speaking different languages, the shadows in places where shadows shouldn't be, all the bookshelves... Not mine. Not my people. Just my friends. Just the memories that stick.

My people? We did not need for freedom. Suffering was not discussed; positivity valued over realness. Don't embarrass yourself. The development of need was a psychotic break from childhood, not fully made, not fully healed, reaching back generations. My people were not the slaves in the Angela Davis quote above. We did not remember a shared narrative of oppression. In an era where capital and privilege dynamics replaced the overt buying and selling of human beings, we were the slavemasters.

Marlon said...

2) We did not remember a shared narrative of oppression. No. Language consisted of games that I was good at - school games, and the games of getting away from family so I could be alone. The family game was simple: get good report cards so you're on the right track to college. After that, you're on your own.

Being a worker? No. I was a player. Work is what people who have to provide for themselves do. The work lives, the work histories, were kept secret from me. The language was of finding your place in the world. Individualist. Contingent upon success at the school games. What I thought of as games I was good at; what they thought was a natural proclivity for hard work. Maybe they were right about me. They just never told me.

Disjunct in language with relation to work, stemming from an unawareness of class position. All middle class kids are players. It's why they perpetuate the system of getting other people to produce for them. The smart ones realize that production is fucking hard.

But all that language came after. As a child, the family language was universally positive. No narrative to enter into when I felt suffering. Other people were the ones who suffered - we? Apart from our meds and our eating disorders and our anxieties, we fulfilled our expectations for ourselves. Blue skies.

When, at 16 and 17, my appearance and grades radically shifted and declined, it was too fast. There was no language, none at all, to speak to my bizarre experiences. Inexplicable emotional overwhelms. Desire to escape from a lifestyle of decay. All the money in the world felt like decay. Decay, decay, decay all around me. Visions brought on by willful lack of sleep, lack of food. If I hadn't played the game of "hide my true self from everyone" so well, they would have pumped me full of antipsychotic meds.

Not aware of its difficulty, I yearned for soulful realness. I did not know that its name was WORK. There was no language for that state. By the time people were aware there was a problem, I had run away from the place, thinking that would help me run away from my people as well.

Language: if you speak it, it's everybody's problem, so keep it to yourself unless it's nondescript. A language of walled cities in permanent, uneasy truce, hiding from one another. The Urdu, Russian, Chinese spoken by the elders at my friends' houses may have been incomprehensible, but there was a spike to it - a spike that felt terribly real.

Marlon said...

3) We are at a time in history, astrologically speaking, that mirrors the 1930s - a time of global Marxist revolutions, the New Deal, mass movements, existentialism, folk music, etc. Only instead of a clash between the burning human flame and culture, hearth and home, it's a clash between the burning human flame and the institutions the culture has created. There's a difference.

This time, the struggle is more rigid. Resistance to capitalism doesn't just "catch on" organically like it did 80 years ago. The momentum caused by global indications of capitalism's flaws - market crashes, major food shortages, the rapaciousness of industrialization - flowed more naturally then and changed more minds more quickly, allowing for real revolutions. We may dream of those revolutions today - the people in the streets, the spontaneous new self-government - but we are dreaming the realities of 80 years ago. They are still happening today, but they are not catching on with the collective as a whole.

Today is different. Today there are castles in every person's mind protecting the capitalist way. The capitalist class made sure of that, utilizing advances made in psychology since then to maintain its power in the world. Change feels more like a internal crumbling and less like a wave washing over us.

The other difference: right now, the desire for change is far more explosive than it was then, under pressure from the walls of institutions that bind us. Water is moved more easily than mountains, but mountains make a bigger boom when they shift. The status quo - labor capital - dreams of conspicuous consumption - "keeping up with the Joneses" - the American dream - are behind these capitalist institutions that bind us. The world conspires to force us to rip them out of ourselves and it is painful, like cauterizing a piece of your own heart.

Uranus is a strong planet in Aries, and over the course of the next four or five years it will continue to make little explosions inside our souls, yearning toward a new order based on upwelling self expression - but Pluto is also strong in Capricorn, and the problem is not merely social-systemic - the capitalist institutions are psychological as well.

Any socialist/anarchist shift/dream that occurs will be contingent upon the collapse of the American walled psyche - the "git 'er done" rugged individualist mentality. All the financial system collapses, all the recent challenges to capitalism, are forcing us toward that particular mass psychic collapse. The system will continue to fail us until we take refuge in one another rather than in capital. An internal-collective tectonic shift - new mountain ranges and new continents must be created.

4) Ownership is oppression; I am not liberated until we are all liberated together.

Tai Amri said...

1. tell me about where you're from, who your people are.

i come from a place spoken but never said, too queen to be dead, instead, the boro, the block, unwilling for a shilling, with innocent dreams of killing. you want to know where i'm from? the belly of the wahle, ripped clean from my dream as far as i can tell. she was my solmenist vow, and now, i sit in the slit carved in my brow. once knew me, daughter of dogon, the people of star blood. wood carved in moon mud and menstrual flood, mama, she pushed me through, papa he pulled. and all the while nigger hate did what it could, yet there i stood. praying a whisper, a spiral, squeezed through the fingers of gawd.

2. talk about language, as it was experienced by you, growing up where you did, in relation to family, place, being a worker, your mom teaching you how to work--etc.

language is black or white. either you black, or you white, when you language. anything else got the shit stank on it. we'll gut you for your language. break it out your eyes, tie it 'round the phatness, and abbreviate yo' pronouns, sun, 'cause you shine. my house be nastier than yours, don't compete, 'round here we live under the coroner's sheet. put in work, life a hustle. mom's down the way, visioning a new dream at mountain's peak, to bring to the people, in song-speak.

3. breifly/ your perspective (divinatory/psychic) on where we are at, as a society in capitalism - we writers who use the art of invocation, as all language must be said to do.

where we are at is where we was, trying to figure out what side of dust cous[in], playing dirty dozen with all life, til someone get struck with strife and stab that shit with a rusty knife. who wants to shed the reptile mind of fucking and drunk, killing what stunk. our self-hatred so deep in the other, don't even know when we rapin' our own mother, but we will, when the sting of the kiss that we missed reminds us of lost limbs.

4. a sentence on liberation.

liberation comes from libations to her.

Michelle Puckett said...

DAMN! u guys did me proud! thank u SO MUCH for these gorgeous, gorgeous responses. love yr sentence on liberation, tai amri...

Sirama Bajo said...

1. I was born in the post-colonial country of Nicaragua but I’ve forgotten her original names. I was raised as a Latina, but my people are, either the Nicarao, the Subtiava, the Matagalpa or the Chorotega, or a combination of any/all of these, though we were forced to assimilate by a process called mestizaje and I’m really not certain about which people are mine.

2. I grew up in a very socialist environment, during the Nicaraguan civil war where slogans and images of propaganda were in their apogee during the 80s. I grew up with language that referred to family as “the children of Sandino, (or Nicaraguans) cannot be bought nor sold” meaning, will not compromise their ideals. Or also the popular, “building a nation for our children” slogan accompanied always by extremely anti-imperialistic and anti-US sentiment and only secondarily, anti-capitalist. I remember learning that my family came from maids and servants and that the male parents were missing in my line or only sporadically appeared in our history. I am a 5th generation female worker. We are good workers but great cooks, in my family of women. I grew up knowing this. I also grew up with an educated mother, whose father was middle class and therefore she was middle class too, unlike the rest of us. In short, I grew up having pride and dignity in doing things well, in using my body efficiently and expertly to labor, particularly in preparing food. Sometime in the 90s I immigrated to this country and a while later I learned about the work that immigrants do here, first hand. I also grew up with a mother who was both bourgeois and critical of the bourgeoisie who had a complex understanding of gender and passed it onto me. So that I see myself as not only a worker, but I am a female worker and a woman, an immigrant person and a person who was raised poor.

3. We are in the aftereffect of the Obama “hope” campaign. If it is possible to contradict 500 years of genocide and elect a Black president then what else is possible? We are asking, we are pissed, we are disillusioned and we’re shaking it off. We are getting it: we are connected and us, the US is not leading, we are in dialogue and in solidarity with other people in the world. With the Arab Spring, with Spain, with Israel, with Chile. We’re waking up in this spanking new century, I’m waking up and I’m outraged.

4. Sitting together around a fire, as human as we are, connected to the land, to the beasts and the brush, contemplating the mysteries and the darkness beyond.