Sunday, January 23, 2005

2:58AM – Pacific Standard Time – Thursday Jan. 20th

My set at the Seattle Slam tonight (or last night) was very good. A packed, standing room only house, listened very very intently for my half hour and I felt for my whole set like I was “on”. Moreover, it was good to reaffirm my work by doing a lot of my Trinidad based work to audiences that know nothing about the culture I’m referencing and have them still dig it. I felt like I was very firmly involved in my ability to make form out of the performance that did with my body what my writing did with the page.

Seattle’s slam dn open-mic are of a fairly high quality. In fact, there slam featured tonight many poets whose work I really admire – Karen Finneyfrock, Jack McCarthy, Karyna McGlynn all were part of the show. Daemon Arrindell (originally of Queens) graced the open-mic and Roberto Ascalon (originally of NYC) hosted the show.

We capped the night off with a game of big-booty. If you don’t know what big-booty is then this next segment will mean nothing to you, but the home-field advantage was in effect so that in the long run I lasted through the field of 13 to be the last one eliminated, with Karen and Karyna (who is responsible for having taught us big-booty in the first place way back in 2003) capturing the top spots. Karen wasn’t drinking enough anyway and playing sober should be considered cheating.

Mikela, who I met on the bus to Eugene came to the show; and judged in the slam. It was her first time ever to a poetry reading and she stayed on for the big booty festivities. It was cool to connect with someone as randomly as that and to have that person like come through and just chill with you.

Karyna, Roberto and I ended the evening at IHOP (after a dance club called Des Amis) getting into some mad complex poetic stuff about artifice and honesty / artifice and manipulation. We talked at length too about identity in poetry and modern literature as a whole. One of the few things we managed to conclude is that while literary study encourages us to separats the writer from the narrator, we feel that the writer needs to be held accountable in many situations for the narrators approach to the world, since the line separating them both (especially in poetry) is either thin or non-existent – it is of course not so cut and dry – but in essence, our work and the extent to which we as writers are willing to self-examine and hold up our own understanding to critique have to be held responsible. Modern literary study often lets us off the hook with thily weiled sexism, racism, homophobia etc under the guise of the personas for whom we are writing. Understand of course, that there are occasions in which there are indeed personas through whom we are intending to trumpet a particular understanding (or lack of it), but our work should always (I think) be attempting to examine everything about the ways in which we see the world; and taking to task these views when they do not hold up to our examination.

Still, a good night though. I’m tired. I’m going to see Hotel Rwanda tomorrow. Will tell you how that went.

1:50PM PST January 21

On plane back. Last night in Seattle was a good one even though someone stole my jacket with my cell-phone charger in it out of the Cha-Cha Lounge. Was having some drinks with Mikela and Laura Nicona (sp?), after having a fantastic dinner at a Senegalese reataurant in Belltown with Christa Bell (Yes, Christa Bell lives in Belltown at the corner of 1st and Bell – no joke), Daemon, his partner Inti and Karen Finneyfrock. We preceded back to Daemon and Inti’s house where we hung out and watched the DVD of Bamuthi’s one-man show, Word made Flesh; a good show with solid writing, which uses poetry and dance to tell the story. Ultimately, we felt there were some aspects of his story that we felt needed to be fleshed out, if we were to feel more emotionally connected to the show; but again, a good show, well-worth the time and money to check out.

Before that, Christa and I went to check out Hotel Rwanda. Holy Shit! it was a brilliant movie and one that was thoroughly draining to see. I recommend the movie highly, but never alone. You WILL need someone to hold you midway through the movie. I cried for about 20 minutes straight. Some days some things rob you of all faith in humanity. The circumstances depicted in this movie did that on a number of levels, but never more than in the scene in which a Tutsi journalist is telling a foreign cameraman that the fundamental difference between Hutu and Tutsi was one made by the Belgian colonists; and not an organic ethnic one (not that even those are ever absolutely organic, or that they justify atrocities), but to have a people set-up over time for this sort of possibility based on aritificial differences made by a conquering colonist is beyond me. It was weakening to watch. Still… go see it. Don Cheadle is phenomenal and absolutely believable in the lead role, as are most of the other actors and actresses, largely unknown to American audiences…

(and switch…)

The Seattle airport bar was hilarious this morning. This is the drama as it unfolded next to me.

(Main character Roger has had his second pint of Alaskan Amber and an order of Buffalo wings. There are two bartenders, whom we shall call Jennifer and Art. Art is a 50-something year old man and Jennifer an early 30s blonde with a nose ring. On both sides of Roger are two Businessmen. Businessman 1 and Businessman 2)

Bus’man 1: Heeeyyy! how about a Bloody Mary?

Art : Sure thing! you can get an extra shot in there for only 2 dollars

Bus’man 1: I should probably just go with the single shot. I’m best man in a bachelor party tonight in Reno and there’s a helluva night planed…
(half smiling into his drink and to no-one in particular) Got a long night ahead of me…

Art: Can I get you something to eat, Sir?

Bus’man 1: Noooo sirreeee…
(then to Jennifer)
Lemme gues, you go karaoke twice a week too, dontcha?

Roger: (head swivels around, stunned by the utter randomness – says to self in low tones)

Jennifer: that’s right, but only for your pleasure and only when I’m totally fed up of work, tired and need a drink

Bus’man 1 – Yup! just gotta sing on them days, dontcha?

Jennifer: That’s right!

Roger: (bewildered) What??!!

(On the TV overhead are several nattily-clad black men being judgemental on other black folk and examining the question “Is Poverty a Disease?”, while giving testimony on how they used one of the black men’s self-help books to cure themselves of the disease of poverty.)

Roger: What?! Check Please!!

The End…

But now my flight out of Seattle is delayed and there is every chance I will not make my flight connection in Chicago. If there is a place I’d have to pick to be stranded at an airport, it would be Chicago. I know the whole damn city and O’Hare airport has every manner of distraction available – food, drink, video games, magazines and it’s easy to get to the city from the airport on their subway. I’m not relishing, however, having to get in even later than the 8:30PM I’m scheduled on right now. Freakin’ Alaska Airlines!!!


8:15 PM – Central Standard Time

Crazy delays out of Chicago. So I missed my connection of course, the one that would have meant that I’d already be back home and instead I’m flying on a seven o-clock out of Chicago to LaGuardia that actually got going at 8:10.

There was de-icing of the wings, then waiting, then the pilot getting out of the cockpit, walking back into the plane and checking to see if the de-icing stuff had “held” so to speak after the long delay. I’m not sure if it’s more or less reassuring to see the pilot come back and look out the window at the plane’s wing. I mean, I could have done that for him, and I figure that if I could have done it, it’s not good enough. Shoukdn’t there be a really cool robotic machine that comes up from inside the wing and checks to make sure that shit ain’t frozen? Wouldn’t that make everyone more comfortable?

Anyway, if I’m on the final leg of a flight back home, I guess the tour is officially done. I have VIA rehearsals for the next week steady (including all day tomorrow and all day Sunday) to get ready for Fairleigh-Dickinson next week or week after or whenever that is…

I’m reading Karyna McGlynn’s chapbook which is really quite fantastic. She is a Seattle poet, who is very active in their slam and in the spoken-word world and her “Strawberry Coats” shows a sublime attention to and understanding of the specific American landscape that makes her. The language she choses to convey that understanding is itself quite evocative and her chapbook is easily one of the best I’ve read amongst those of us in the spoken word world and would be considered very good in just about any other forum too. I’m also re-reading Kimiko Hahn’s “The Artist’s Daughter” again. It is darkly fascinating, pehaps even moreso the second time around.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Modern literary study often lets us off the hook with thily weiled sexism, racism, homophobia etc under the guise of the personas for whom we are writing."

I am not sure if you read the replies to your Journal entries, but I will take a chance that you do and ask for some clarification.

What exactly is the above-quoted phrase supposed to mean? To what exactly does "modern literary study" refer?

UnderstSomehow I am getting the sense that what you want to say is that artsits should be responsible for their art. However, what you want to say and the way that you express are different things. I quote another line from your entry.

"...of course... there are occasions in which there are indeed personas through whom we are intending to trumpet a particular understanding (or lack of it), but our work should always (I think) be attempting to examine everything about the ways in which we see the world; and taking to task these views when they do not hold up to our examination."

Now this sounds good but it presumes that all writers write themselves. The writers with whom I have discoursed and interview tell me that they do not choose the writing, it chooses them. As such, they write what they see in all its complex glory, even if it reeks of the many -isms that you name. That being said, I beg to differ that writers must examine themselves (since the act of writing itself already puts writers in a hyper self-critical space) and insist that it is the reader who must also bear responsibility to examine critically the words put forth on the page; to read onseself into the text as it were in a way that avoids easy genaralizations.

I have one or two more things to write but I am running out of time. I will try to continue tomorrow but I would love to hear your feedback so far.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so back to the commentary....

Another question that I have is what happens if a writer really is a racist, or a homophobe, or a sexist and they choose to write that?

Case in point is your fellow countryman and the Caribbean's own dear VS Naipaul. Now he happens to be a particular favourite of many people, despite his many isms, because he is a master literary craftsman. Now do his isms diminish the beauty of his works? Like you he wrote several novels based on Trinidad (his great ambivalent love, I argue) and as painful as his observations are, can we not sometimes "see" what he writes when he describes the poverty and humour of life in Port of Spain and/or rural Trinidad?

Does the fact that he is patently racist in his life and his works undercut the painful feelings of ambivalence about the Caribbean that he displays when he visits often and maintains ties there that leads us to believe that his "unproductive Caribbean" is still [part of] his center?

Yes his works are racist because he is a racist, but does that mean that they are of no [self] [communal] reflexive value because of that fact?

I think what makes this writer uncomfortable with the small part of your entry that deals with writers holding themselves up to examination is that it seems laden with a sort of well-meaning liberalism that tends to push certain ideas and to feel good once those ideas/observations have been made. The thing is that maybe writers like Naipaul, have done the self-examination and decided that they do not mind being racists, homophobes, etc. And it is in that space that I think some critical work has to be done, where a writer can still choose to be the things that we say they ought to eschew (simply because they are writers and therefore should be responsible in what they write) and yet readers learn not to hold it against them or at least their craft.

All in all I think what I value more than just a willingness to self-examine is a willingness to make an informed decision to be a writer who writes, even if it leaves one a little more racist, sexist and homophobic than before, and for the reading public to deal with that writing in an intelligent way.

Any response?

4:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home