Sunday, August 28, 2011

from Unto

Here, in the alembic corpse, where the cortex
Seethes, I lie and loll and metamorphose
Myself into the most supple
Pleating; and then frogs mistake me for lily pads
Which makes perfect sense:
I must, like flowers upon ponds, appear floating
And don’t you just
Love how self-aggrandizing I am----isn’t such
A stance so seductive; yes, yes, I assume
You feel the
Pull of
My words, my oozing
Reality; or is that expression on your face a formality
Meant to quell
And sends deeper unto hell by accident, by
Volition I can’t
Fathom than to call
Insane: the membrane which has failed
To understand its filtering function, has failed
To be what it is and thus can’t
Even qualify as counterfeit of some other
Dynamic but merely stands wrong, stands
Ripe to collapse into wracks,
Regrets, a slow unsteady anguish, a chafing, a chastening,
Channel and
Overflow, official and interstitial, intuition and
Architrave chiseled
Out by a patient ballsy thief sporting tits
So let’s spell out tittsy not ballsy, and anyways you
Don’t give a tosh and that’s fine
Because I have forged you for my own entertainment; I have forged
You that you may dress
In vintage Versace and ballet
Flats, trill and
Trounce upon
My witticisms which have
Grown weary
Of themselves and anything other than stilettos after five pm
If you are, as
You are, a siren whose caramel curls
Activate the activity known as seeing to some other realm of action, to the
Sublime or at-least subtlest sophistry
Like, like, like, like
Simulacrum won’t suffice nor will seraphim, philandering, patching
Up immortal portals which, well, I’m un
Able to deem relevant now or ever, but never
Is never the point.

[big Ellipsis]

I remind myself I am supposed to be haunted as I stalk through this green.

My hair swings like a hammer, but instead of sprains there are silky strays.

I do not condition my hair, nor do I believe silk to be my hair’s innate state.

Through letters the limiting course is eclipsed, then clipped and dipped in enamel.

The I extrapolates unto a totality, unto a titrate and its profile.

She wanted, desperately, to believe fear other than instinctual.

On four legs, it rose, and the rose reared up too.

Monday, August 22, 2011

From Roxane Gay's essay on The Help

I very much admire the passages below; they so wonderfully don't hide inconvenient feelings, and it's so lovely to read feelings which are both tough and utterly generous:

"I think of myself as progressive and open-minded but I have biases and in reading and watching The Help, I have become painfully aware of just how biased I can be. My real problem is that The Help is written by a white woman. The screenplay is written by a white man. The movie is directed by that same white man. I know it’s wrong but in my heart, I think, “How dare they?”

Writing across race (or gender, sexuality, and disability) is complicated. Sometimes, it is downright messy. There is ample evidence that it is quite difficult to get difference right, to avoid cultural appropriation, reinscribing stereotypes, revising or minimizing history, or demeaning and trivializing difference or otherness. As writers we are always asking ourselves, “How do I get it right?” That question becomes even more critical when we try to get race right, when we try to find authentic ways of imagining and re-imagining the lives of people with different cultural backgrounds and experiences. Writing difference requires a delicate balance and I don’t know how we strike that balance.

I write across race, gender, and sexuality all the time. I would never want to be told I can’t write a story where the protagonist is a white man or a Latina lesbian or anyone who doesn’t resemble me. The joy of fiction is that in the right hands, anything is possible. I firmly believe our responsibility as writers is to challenge ourselves to write beyond what we know as much as possible. When it comes to white writers working through racial difference, though, I am conflicted, and, I am learning, far less tolerant than I should be. If I take nothing else from the book and movie in question, I know I have work to do. For that reason alone, I don’t regret engaging with these texts.

I don’t expect writers to always get difference right but I do expect writers to make a credible effort. The Help demonstrates that some writers shouldn’t try to write across race and difference. Kathryn Stockett tries to write black women but she doesn’t try hard enough. Her depictions of race are almost fetishistic unless they are downright insulting. At one point in the book, Aibileen compares her skin color to that of a cockroach, you know, the most hated insect you can think of. Aibileen says, staring at a cockroach, “He big, inch, inch an a half. He black. Blacker than me.” That’s simply bad writing but it’s an even worse way of writing difference. If white writers can’t do better than to compare a cockroach to black skin, perhaps they should leave the writing of difference in more capable hands. In The Help, Stockett doesn’t write black women. She caricatures black women, finding pieces of truth and genuine experience and distorting them to repulsive effect. She makes a very strong case for writers strictly writing what they know, not what they think they know or know nothing about."

The only quip  I have is with the last sentence, which seems to counter-act the more difficult and interesting vision for art expressed in earlier moments.  This could be me being merely personal: I almost never know what I'm writing----be it about me, or gay "brethren" or Lesbian sisters or women or geography.