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“Why these sisters struck me as the most dangerous of artists was because of the work of, say, Morrison, or Octavia Butler, we are shown the awful radiant truth of how profoundly constituted we are of our oppressions. Or said differently: how indissolubly our identities are bound to the regimes that imprison us. These sisters not only describe the grim labrynth of power that we are in as neocolonial subjects, but they also point out that we play both Theseus and the Minotaur in this nightmare drama. Most importantly these sisters offered strategies of hope, spinning the threads that will make escape from this labrynth possible. It wasn’t an easy thread to seize-this movement towards liberation required the kind of internal bearing witness of our own role in the social hell of our world that most people would rather not engage in. It was a tough praxis, but a potentially earthshaking one too. Because rather than strike at this issue or that issue, this internal bearing of witness raised the possibility of denying our oppressive regimes the true source of their powers-which is, of course, our consent, our participation. This kind of praxis doesn’t attack the head of the beast, at the beast’s heart, which we nurture and keep safe in our own.”—Junot Diaz, When asked “What do you think was the most important advance that women of color made on work of [those] earlier male thinkers?”The Search for Decolonial Love Part 1
The Good Historian
by Graham Foust
“Blind as light”—three of the right words where wrong ones
would’ve done—was all I meant then, if not now,
not bound to go the way of louder voices,
many useless as the phrase “the mind itself.”
Half enthralled and more peculiar in mirrors
(not so much as an inch of real skin in ‘em!)
I’m prepared for dawn to warn me to morning,
at which point I’ll sleep and know the sun’s still there.
I’ll know so again beneath the one rushed moon
and in the screensaver’s flat glow of jungle.
Almost anything’s a toy—I forget that—
and maybe I’ve moved around the house enough
to’ve missed the bleached flag expiring on its pole.
I’ve never closed my mouth to the past; in fact,
I’ll cry right now so there’s a music in place—
and apropos—of most of what could be here.
I miss dial tones and cigarettes and blizzards.
Three earrings hang from staples in a corkboard.
A painting certainly changes, not unlike
the usage of a word I’ve never spoken;
bit of rain, familiar wind, another room…
One thing’s for sure: something’ll have to go last.
And until then—or, more likely, until well
before then—the usual: saying what I’m
forgetting (soon to be what I’ve forgotten)
and nostalgia’s just the fact of not having
attended to the present in the present.
No rain, a different wind, a failure of room.
—Boston Review September/October 2012
In Conversation with Ricardo Maldonado, Managing Director @ the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center, and Accomplished Poet in the N.Y.C.
Booklr caught up with Ricardo Maldonado, Managing Director at the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center, poet extraordinaire in his own right, and gem of a man. Over drinks at KGB Bar, where writers and booze mingle lovingly, we Romanced deodorant, talked baseball, and conceded the lovable sentimentality of humans.
Our conversation dabbled and brushed around these corners:
On sentimentality vs. digitalization: “I’m uncomfortable with e-readers. I feel like an octogenarian … I guess as a writer I’m trying to find excuses not to like it … But I do like that publishers are embracing this kind of technology; poetry isn’t just for the elite, and this technology is democratizing literature and art in a wonderful way … I can’t even make up my mind about this; we’re all about to dive, and we just haven’t done it yet.”
On a love of baseball: “Baseball seems to be a sport that welcomes all these metaphors from all camps and all kinds of literature. I can think of many writers that equate writing with baseball, and they all come from different schools … I was really stunned by [baseball]—I just sit there and watch and ponder and think about the game as it has been played and my memories of the game … It feels like the romantic sublime.”
On intuitive writing: “Most of what I know about structure I’ve learned from fiction, not necessarily from poetry. But I rarely write prose, although I would love to. At this point I’m learning how things should unfold on the page—learning how to cultivate a sense of intuition or feeling towards [prose].”
For the full discourse, and the premiere of a new poem “My Book Report on Deodorant“…
Longreads Member Exclusive: Deconstructing Mare Island
This week, we have a Longreads Member Exclusive recommended by one of our members, Boston Review Web Editor David V. Johnson. His pick is Richard White’s ”Deconstructing Mare Island: Reconnaissance in the Ruins,” published in Boom: A Journal of California. Here’s an intro from David:
Eureka! Boom: A Journal of California launched in the Spring of 2011. The quality of writing and artwork has been absolutely superb. There are so many articles I could recommend, including one by the aforementioned Solnit, but I was especially captivated recently by ‘Deconstructing Mare Island: Reconnaissance in the Ruins,’ a piece on the Carquinez Strait by American West historian and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipient Richard White. Before reading the story, I had experienced the Strait exactly the way White says most Californians do: by driving over it. Little did I know that in that body of water and its environs you can trace the rise and fall of California and the nation.
p.s. You can support Longreads—and get more exclusives like this—by becoming a member for just $3 per month.
Photo Credit: Jesse White
“Every morning I look up at the moon and I think You are a kiddie-pool and I will drown in you.”—Sasha Fletcher, “when i go to bed i go to bed with the lights on,” published in Boston Review
A More Ordinary Poet
While the fascination with Dickinson’s biography and the complexity of her words have long kept her readers, critics, and poetic inheritors engaged in unraveling her, Dickinson criticism has recently shown a marked interest in combining these two challenges—the biographical and the textual—in order to study Dickinson’s material trace: a real woman whose life took place on paper.
Read Gillian Osborne’s look at recent criticism of Emily Dickinson (Boston Review, May/June 2013)
FOUR MORE YEARS
Yesterday Boston Review published a poem I wrote in a basement two winters ago. It’s called “Poem for Four Years.” BR editor (and poet to end all time) Timothy Donnelly wrote an introduction to the poem that makes me want to throw confetti all over the place:
Danniel Schoonebeek’s “Poem for Four Years” is a beautifully constructed and powerfully affecting lyric narrative—something you don’t see too many of these days. Bringing together the lyric’s highly subjective and resonant language and the linear progression of narrative, Schoonebeek’s poem tracks a sensitive young boy’s evolution from captive of his own ambivalent mother-worship to accidental successor to her throne. That ascendancy and the scrambled family dynamic that makes it possible are presented in the poem as part dysfunctional fairy tale, part Lynchian bad dream, and part TV tragicomedy—a potentially tricky or too-flashy amalgam that Schoonebeek handles with an expert’s surefootedness and clarity of purpose. Frequently disturbing, almost always darkly comical, and ultimately heartbreaking, “Poem for Four Years” is a bold, ambitious, unforgettable new poem from one of our most exciting young poets.
You have to imagine that the birds I photographed above are a ribcage and my heart is pattering through them. It’s gratitude, it’s gratitude. Read the whole poem here.
“How can you change something if you won’t even acknowledge its existence, or if you downplay its significance? White supremacy is the great silence of our world, and in it is embedded much of what ails us as a planet. The silence around white supremacy is like the silence around Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, or the Voldemort name which must never be uttered in the Harry Potter novels. And yet here’s the rub: if a critique of white supremacy doesn’t first flow through you, doesn’t first implicate you, then you have missed the mark; you have, in fact, almost guaranteed its survival and reproduction. There’s that old saying: the devil’s greatest trick is that he convinced people that he doesn’t exist. Well, white supremacy’s greatest trick is that it has convinced people that, if it exists at all, it exists always in other people, never in us. ”—Junot Diaz, The Search for Decolonial Love [x]
“...most of us resort to all manners of evasion—averting our eyes, blaming the victim, claiming the whole thing was an act of god—in order to avoid confronting what geographer Neil Smith calls the axiomatic truth of these events: “There’s no such thing as a natural disaster.” In every phase and aspect of a disaster, Smith reminds us, the difference between who lives and who dies is to a greater or lesser extent a social calculus.”—Boston Review — Junot Díaz: Apocalypse (Haiti, Japan, earthquake, tsunami)
Acorn Duly Crushed | Heather Christle
Dear stupid forest.
Dear patently retarded forest.
Dear beautiful ugly stupid forest
full of nightingales
why won’t you shut up.
What do you want from me.
A train is too expensive.
A clerk will fall asleep.
Dear bitchy stupendous forest.
Trade seats with me.
Now it is your birthday.
Someone will probably slap you
about the face and ears.
Indulgent municipal forest.
Forest of scarves and of beards.
Dear rapid bloodless forest
you are talking all the time.
You are not pithy.
You are like 8,000 swans.
I cannot fit you in my mouth.
Dear nasty pregnant forest.
You are so hot!
You are environmentally significant.
Men love to hang themselves
from your standard old growth trees.
Don’t look at me.
You are the one with
the ancient noble terror.
Bad forest. Forest with
important gangs of leaves.
Dear naïve forest,
what won’t you be admitting!
Blunt international forest.
Forest of bees and of hair.
You should come back to my house.
We can bag drugs all night.
You can tell me
about your new windows.
How they are just now
beginning to sprout.
Lo Kwa Mei-en
And the sea wave, wasted on its want, too, takes the method to
heart and crashes against. Life-like, I waste, too. My hit comes
again and the green breath breaks against as for rock leaping at
and far beyond the surface, its wet fiction, the facts of fracture
mere seed locked down in the wave. O well with a false bottom,
no, pit, undrinkable, I drink from you and dawn to find I drank.
I am no current but a bolt. This time I will exit myself, sure, but
then again I wonder through a valley with an exit sign every time.
My hit comes again and the jealous breath breaks. My hell come
again and again and against. That old edge. Like breathing so life-
like breath wastes itself over me. There was a time the tremor
came and halved the vane it struck with a love like a bell that rang
to the body of the sea. There was that jolt. But I’m no current but
a volt and chain. And control, that thing with a hull with a hole.