Category Archives: Fragments

from “Problems of Language in a Democratic State” by June Jordan

I believe Americans have wanted their sons and daughters to write just well enough to fill out a job application. Americans have wanted their children to think just well enough to hold that job. Not too many people have wanted to start trouble, or get into it.

So I would say that our schools have served most of us extremely well. We have silenced or eliminated minority children. We have pacified white children into barely competent imitations of their fear-ridden parents.

But now there are no jobs and, consequently, somebody needs to write aggressive news editorials. Somebody needs to write aggressive new statements of social design and demand. More and more Americans finally want to hear new sentences, new ideas, to articulate this unprecedented, and painful, majority situation. But is there anybody new around the house? Someone who can think and organize a solution to this loss of privilege, this loss of power?

I’ve started reading essays from June Jordan’s Some of Us Did Not Die in the morning. This essay in particular, written in the 80s, is strikingly resonant with where we find ourselves as a country now.

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by Darren Pearson

“Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn’t matter. I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for.” – Alice Walker

Words to Write By: Jonathan G. Silin, 1995

by Todd Chilton

I once believed the work of advocacy was the work of picket lines and protests, sit-ins and street theater, public hearings and private lobby efforts. Now I realize that the work of advocacy is also the work of the word — our talking and teaching, our writing and witnessing, our texts and testimonies.

from Particular Voices edited by Robert Giard

“…and maybe this poem is my real republic…”

from Tina Chang’s Of Gods & Strangers

Addendum: Dante Micheaux on “Black Gay Poet, or Gay Black Poet, or Poet”

by Olaf Hajek

Dante Micheaux‘s response to “Black Gay Poet, or Gay Black Poet, or Poet” adds insight worth sharing:

I was an undergraduate when José Muñoz was just beginning to make a name for himself. His book DISIDENTIFICATIONS: QUEERS OF COLOR AND THE PERFORMANCE OF POLITICS was all the rage in my circle and off they went, my Queer friends, to put Muñoz’s theory into practice. I never could get behind disidentifying. I wanted all the identities at once. In some respects, I still do. I much enjoy telling the world, when it gets up in face, “Yes. I am that, too. And what?” When I think about being a poet, however, I have to question which aspect of my multidentity is responsible for that being. If I were not Black, I would still be a poet but I do not believe my being a poet would be possible if I were not a homosexual. My sexuality was the catalyst for childhood introspection and, having to keep a major part of myself hidden, forced me to hone my powers of observation. I had to be aware of everything around me, to protect myself when I thought no one else would. As the images and language began to commandeer the synapses, an outlet was needed. Poetry. I think all poets must have an experience that makes them see themselves outside the center of things. For me, it was the gift of homosexuality–for which I am eternally grateful.

A Black Gay Poet, or a Gay Black Poet, or a Poet

by Margaret Bowland

I. 

The first thing I did after weathering Irene’s apparent disappointment was go to a diner with a friend for breakfast. While eating, I noticed a old Jewish woman wearing a FUBU do-rag. It might take some reminding to recall that FUBU stands for “For Us, By Us,” the moniker of the 90s black urban fashion brand that seemed to be a direct answer to Tommy Hilfiger’s rumored irritation that his clothing brand had become so popular among black urban youth. While I loved the idea of clothing as a direct response, an argument, FUBU just wasn’t my style. Nor would I have guessed — back in the 90s or now — that it would fit the style of the Jewish woman in the booth across from me. What on earth does this sartorial meditation have to do with the title of this post? Well, seeing that woman brought to mind a question I’ve been asking myself more and more often as of late: Who is us exactly? 

II. 

When, in middle school, I sheepishly confessed to my mother that kids at school had been teasing me for “acting white,” she laughed. Actually, laughed. “Oh, baby. Kids used to call me an Oreo when I was in school.” She went on to explain that nobody — white or black folks — is ready for smart young black boys; they don’t have a name for us so the best they can come up with is white. She turned up the radio and started singing along with Luther Vandross. 

Later, when discussing the black community’s thorny engagement with gay activism, a friend — a black friend — said “The truth is that many African-Americans still think of homosexuality as a form of whiteness. It doesn’t help that the dominant gay images in the media are of white gay men.” Perhaps we don’t have a name for ourselves after all.

III. 

“The black experience is any experience that a black person has.” – Gwendolyn Brooks

IV. 

“Only a really shattered, scotch- or martini-guzzling, upward-mobility-struck house nigger could possibly deny the relentless tension of the black condition.” – James Baldwin

V. 

There is no specific inciting incident for this meditation — I prefer meditation, than essay as essay purports a kind of coherence that I’m simply not in the mood for — aside from perhaps the “relentless tension” Baldwin speaks of. Rather, the question of whether I’m a gay poet who happens to be black or a black poet who happens to be gay, or a poet who argues that such things as “blackness” and “gayness” need no proceed my nouns is just once that I — almost literally — enjoy dancing with. It troubles my waters; it keeps me questioning my self/selves; these days all I have are my questions. 

VI. 

Or maybe it’s just easier to debate gay/black and black/gay poems rather than to write the poems themselves. Or maybe I want to crack all of the “names” open.

Radio Silence

by Kim Anno

Sorry for the silence, so to speak. In a world other than this one, I’d update this blog regularly every two or three days. In that very same world, there’d be an antique chandelier above my bed & a vase of fresh orchids in my kitchen. We’ll get there one day, I’m sure.

In the meantime, though, the mental space in which I’m able to write thoughtful blog post is the same space in which I’m able to write & revise poems. One of the realities of my life as a new high school teacher is the limited amount of time I have to be in that particular space, so I have to make a choice: write a blogpost about the writing process or write.

I will say, though, that I have poems forthcoming in West Branch, Jubilat & Emerson Review. And the chapbook (slated for release in November of this year) is well on its way thanks to Bryan Borland’s amazing work at Sibling Rivalry Press.

Until next time, write on.