Featured TPIP Reader: Qwo-Li Driskill

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

Qwo Li Driskill

CALYX, Inc. is hosting “The Poetry is Political (TPIP),” a poetry reading in honor of those who’s voices have been silenced. Poets will share how their experiences with intersecting identities have shaped their poetry, and how that is in turn political. We will feature each poetry reader with a blog post until the reading on April 23.

Meet our second featured poet, Qwo-Li Driskill, and watch for more poets in the coming week.

Qwo-Li Driskill is a Cherokee Two-Spirit and Queer writer, activist, and performer also of African, Irish, Lenape, Lumbee, and Osage ascent. They are the author of Walking with Ghosts: Poems and the co-editor of Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature and Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions is Theory, Politics, and Literature. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, their work has been published in several publications including The Crab Orchard Review, Shenandoah and the Poetry Foundation’s online poetry database. They are currently working on their second volume of poetry, How to Make a Tear Dress, and their book Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory will be published next year by the University of Arizona. They are an assistant professor of Queer Studies in the Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at Oregon State University.

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How can poetry be political for you?

Poetry is an invitation to language to move into our body and transform the world around us. My poetry emerges from personal and intersecting community struggles for survival and healing in the face of ongoing colonization and violence. What I hope most is that my poetry can do the work that it needs to do in the world: bear witness, help others survive and thrive, and aid in multifaceted and ongoing processes of healing and decolonization.

-Qwo-Li Driskill

Featured TPIP Reader: Hannah Baggott

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

hannah baggott

CALYX, Inc. is hosting The Poetry is Political (TPIP), a poetry reading in honor of National Poetry Month. The event will explore identity and politics and how they are expressed through poetry. Each day until the reading we will feature one of the poets who is reading with a blog post.

Meet our first of the featured readers, Hannah Baggott, and look for more poet bios in the coming week!

Hannah Baggott is a Nashville, TN native currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at Oregon State University while teaching writing courses with a rhetorical focus on gender and media; she has also recently become a regular contributor with PDXX Collective. Her work can be found or forthcoming in Calyx Journal, Bellevue Literary Review (2015 Marcia and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry), Tupelo Quarterly, The Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Stockholm Review, Contrary Magazine, and other journals. Connect with her at hannahbaggott.com.

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Why is poetry political to you?

I see poetry as political in terms of its relationship with power, whether we write from a private, lyrical place or with a particularly public voice. As poets, we are exercising or seeking power over language and through language. When we are heard, we become momentary vessels of pathos; our audiences can experience being swept up in empathy, belief, and support of the poet’s voice.

-Hannah Baggott

10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

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Not sure what to do to make National Poetry Month special this April? Poets.org compiled a list of 30 ways to celebrate. Here are ten of our favorite!

1) Attend a poetry reading.

Calyx-Flyer4

CALYX is hosting a poetry reading at Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, Ore. to celebrate underrepresented voices during this National Poetry Month. Please come enjoy our featured poets, and stick around for the open mic. Bring your friends!

2) Pick you favorite poem and memorize it.

3) Buy a book of poetry from your local bookstore.

via uopfindsomt on Flickr

via uopfindsomt on Flickr

4) Try your hand at writing different styles of poems.

5) Write or read a poem each day.

6) Start a poetry reading group.

7) Write a letter to you favorite poet to thank her or him for their work.

8) Chalk a poem on the sidewalk.

via jaynev on Flickr

via jaynev on Flickr

9) Sign up for a poetry class or workshop.

10) Visit poets.org for more National Poetry Month fun.

The Kinship Collective: Genealogies of Resistance

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Genealogies of Resistance by the Kinship Collective

genresi

The Genealogies of Resistance created by the Kinship Collective is a zine formed by students in Oregon States Queer of Color Critiques course, lead by Dr. Qwo-li Driskill. The zine is a creative and collective project that demonstrates artistic activism, art that critiques, analyzes and reflects particular cultural, political and social concerns with an intention for creating change. Art activism is a powerful mechanism for transforming social phenomena across social boundaries by using art as a vehicle for change..

The Genealogies of Resistance thus utilizes art as a method of resistance, awareness and education, with an emphasis on critiquing dominant, often white, perceptions of gender and sexuality. These pages within the zine reflect powerful voices and perspectives, give honor and attention to QTPOC resistance in response to entwined systems of power, and provide a safe space for a theorizing of racialized sexualities. The use of multiple art forms within the zine further supports the Kinship Collective’s  mission and intention by allowing the artwork, to speak for themselves.

Written by: Karen Osovsky


Poetry I’m Reading: Toward What Is Awful by Dana Guthrie Martin — Written by Tammy Robacker

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Poet Dana Guthrie Martin has released an eBook collection of poetry titled, Toward What Is Awful, through YesYes Books (2012).

Martin’s work has been paired with mute-toned, creaturely illustrations of visual artist GB Kim. The result is a small collection of poems that combine strangely beautiful visual components and multimedia formatting. This is a work for both poetry and art lovers.

Because Martin lives, reads and writes as a dyslexic, she refers to Toward What Is Awful as a “dyslexic transliteration” of the Roman poet Catullus’s poems. She likens her poetic translation process to divining tea leaves.

Transliterating is like faux translating. It is what you think a translation could be. It’s like reading tea leaves or tarot cards.

“When I let my guard down or when I’m reading, my dyslexia acts up. Letters flip around on a page or I scan the page horizontally as I read. It’s about attention and inattention. Perception and misperception. What I see in the work, I will never see the same way twice,” said Martin.

In 2010, Martin began transliterating some of the Latin texts of Catullus and wrote over fifty poems in a few short months. Once Katherine Sullivan, editor and publisher of YesYes Books, was introduced to Martin’s poems, she published seven of the transliterations for her journal, Vinyl Poetry. Then, she asked Martin to send her a whole manuscript of the poems for a much bigger artistic rendering.

“Katherine had the idea of an eBook to expose readers to work in a new format. I was open to it because, why not, it sounded interesting. Katharine Sullivan is someone I admire in poetry and in publishing as much as I admire anybody. She has opened the right doors, she advocates for her authors, she represents the absolute best aspects of the poetry community,” said Martin.

Once Sullivan got Martin on board for producing an illustrated web book collaboration project, seventeen of Martin’s poems were selected and paired with GB Kim’s artistic illustrations for the final version of Toward What Is Awful.

Catullus’ poems deal with the themes of love, women, sex and poetry. So what message rises up from Martin’s transliterations of his work? Martin says her collection is in conversation with Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject, which is distinct from and exists in the space between the subject and object. “Kristeva is concerned with figures that are in state of transition or transformation. The abject is the consensus that underpins social order and, as such, disturbs social order and represents taboo elements of the self.”

To purchase Martin’s book, Toward What Is Awful, or to read samples of the new poetry ebook, visit: http://yesyesbooks.com/store/book/0201009/

Artist Staceyann Chin: Unspoken Identity-A Review

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Staceyann Chin is a Jamaican born lesbian, spoken word poet, artist and activist. She has written a number of poems addressing issues of race and sexuality as well as a memoir titled, The Other Side of Paradise, an unforgettable story that documents her experiences growing up in an unfamiliar and dysfunctional home in Paradise Jamaica. Told with humor and courage, her memoir speaks of home and self discovery. She  has appeared on television and radio stations, and performs both nationally and internationally.  Her work specifically speaks about the intersection of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and sex. She speaks against the patriarchal, heteronormative, racist and misogynist society with strong visually linguistic writing and fueling rage. A common theme in her work relates to the notion of the unspoken identity.

In her poem, Feminist or Womanist, she states:

“And while we’re on the subject of diversity, Asia is not one big race, and there’s not one big country called ‘The Islands’, and no, I am not from there. There are a hundred ways to slip between the cracks of our not so credible cultural assumptions about race and religion. […] The truth is I’m afraid to draw your black lines around me, I’m not always pale in the middle, I come in too many flavors for one fucking spoon. I am never one thing or the other” (Feminist or Womanist, Chin).

We are a fundamentally visual society; we understand our environment based on what we perceive. Often times, judgment of another individual is based on physical connotations that allude to stereotypes related to ones physical appearance. These stereotypes create unfinished stories allowing many individuals to “slip between the cracks” and remain “unclassified” in an inherently classifying society. Staceyann brings an awareness to our individual uniqueness and inherently changing individuality; affirming that there is no need to put labels or lines around ourselves because in doing so, we restrict and confine ourselves to wear only one of our many masks.

The importance of Staceyann’s piece, Feminist or Womanist, is to bring awareness to the unspoken identity. The unspoken identity is the part of us that no one physically sees but exists; it exists in our deepest understanding of who we are as individuals. Without this understanding, we slip through the cracks. Classifying unspoken identity should not be seen negatively but rather as an opportunity to understand and respect the diversity that lives in all of us. There is a fine line between understanding and listening, and pieces like Staceyann’s force the viewer to listen. I encourage you not only to listen but to look in the same way you would look at an individual for the first time, making the same judgments and perceptions. However, most importantly, take a second look and allow the individual to speak for ze, his or herself. Allow the individual or the performer to not be judged by preconceived notions of appearance or identity, but rather, by the content in which is spoken. You may find that there is more to it than meets the eye.

Karen Osovsky | @karenosovsky

Native Guard, a poetry collection by Natasha Tretheway

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What I’m Reading: Natasha Tretheway’s Native Guard

In Native Guard (2006), a collection of poetry by former 2012-2014 United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, the poet creates a strong sense of place and loss when she takes the reader ‘down home’ in the rural South to tell her story.

By sharing personal memories of growing up in Mississippi, these poems confront a difficult childhood: being bi-racial and her mother’s tragic murder. Trethewey also includes pieces that tell the disturbing story of the mistreatment of America’s Native Guard, one of the first all-black regiments fighting in the Union Army during the Civil War.

In technical terms, I found a number of poems in Native Guard had a graceful, precise, and repetitive construction to them. That technique lent itself to their musical feel, many reading like a tight, bluesy tune. I was especially interested to see how Trethewey incorporated memory with this technique and built them into elegies — a poetic form mourning things she has lost. Works that confronted her mother’s death, while being grievous, also narrated a bigger truth about her experience of being bi-racial in the rural South.

As Trethewey’s book builds momentum in its grieving, she introduces the poem, “Native Guard,” as a timeline account of an all-black regiment’s participation in the Civil War. A poem of ultimate loss, her speaker tells the story of how slaves were moved into supply units to do ‘nigger work’ and given none of the support, rations, credit or honor for all they contributed to the war. Tretheway calls them ‘exiles in their own homeland’ and chronicles the abuses, suffering and abandonment these men endured in their station.

When combining the personal with the historical in her body of poems, Trethewey brings up an important discussion in Native Guard about the larger racial heritage of loss, aggression, and hardship in the Deep South. She finds a way to place herself and a dishonored body of soldiers in the context of American history. In addressing this loss and grief, Tretheway’s poems become the ultimate transformation and gift as they sing honor and praise for those history forgets.

Tammy Robacker| @pearlepubs

Cherríe Moraga — The Simultaneity of Oppression

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When Cherríe Moraga spoke at Oregon State University on February 10, she captivated the packed room of audience members and reminded all of us why we strive for social justice and change. She spoke about gender and sexuality, growing up in a mixed-race family, and her own struggle with identity. She addressed the important influence writing, such as This Bridge Called My Back, has for people with intersectional identities. What stuck with me most: she spoke of the simultaneity of oppression and freedom and how it affects all of us.

Moraga is best known for the feminist anthology This Bridge Called My Back, which she edited with Gloria E. Anzaldúa in 1981 and first published through Persephone Press. This book became what Moraga calls “the Bible for women of color” (WOC) feminism, because nothing like it was available for women who truly needed it before. Its original mission was to find its way into every city and corner, and it certainly did. Intersectionality could no longer be ignored or denied. It allowed women, all kinds of women, to speak out and be heard. Upon discovering This Bridge Called My Back, “women of color feel their consciences catch fire,” Moraga said. Having felt out of place, unrecognized, unimportant, women of color were able to feel connected, to realize their power and value, through this book.

Moraga explained that the process of writing and publishing This Bridge Called My Back tore her up because the radical feminist WOC vision of change didn’t produce the results she and the other women hoped for. During the years after publication, she said there was a systematic breakdown of social justice movements politically and economically. Many of President Reagan’s policies were detrimental for women and nearly cast out people of color all together. Feminists struggled to keep momentum and conversations going, but they feared they would be drowned out. Luckily, this discourse is quickly re-emerging.

It’s strange to think of the 1990s as a time where anything happened, especially political or social turmoil, because I spent those years in such an ignorant bliss of childhood. But as an adult, I look back and realize that the years before and after my birth were harrowing times when women and people of color had to relentlessly lay the stone path to lead to where we are now. I am certainly grateful for activists such as Moraga who worked so hard for the change in which they believe.

This Bridge Called My Back was written by radical women of color during a time when their voices were muffled under the louder voices of white feminists and shut out completely by systems of power. These women sought to bring forth recognition of the importance of intersecting identities in this country, emphasizing race and class. This anthology brought together the many WOC voices into one powerful, unforgettable collection of experiences and ideas linking feminism, race, gender, sexuality, and class. This book allowed them to express to women the experiences that divide feminists in order to come together.

I have always known feminism to be about all identities, that we are yearning to bring equity and importance to everyone no matter their race, gender, sexuality, class, or ability. I recognize this has a lot to do with my generation and the way the movement has shifted. It is hard for me to imagine feminism as an exclusive movement, one that favored middle-class white women who had the privilege of being radical. Of course, this makes sense. How can we expect women to be outrageous and misbehave when oppression breathes down their necks, and their lives literally depend on staying in line?

One thing that struck me most in Moraga’s presentation was the idea that oppression is simultaneous. In movements of social justice, nobody should be asking, “What about me?” because, as Moraga made me realize, freedom of one group of people means freedom of all, because it means the breaking down of all systems of oppression. Nobody is free from oppression until we all are, until systems of power change fundamentally or topple entirely to allow equality for everyone.

To me, feminism (of all kinds) is a freedom movement. Freedom to unapologetically be who you are. Freedom to commit acts of resistance against the patriarchy on a global scale. Freedom to fight back. Feminism is a way to connect us all and give us the freedom to make change.

Books and collections like This Bridge Called My Back are invaluable to those of us who seek social justice and change in this world, and to those whose identities have not been given the importance and recognition deserved.

“We wrote this book for you,” Moraga said, “and the next generation, and the next after that.”

Kelsey Sutton | @kelsanne92

The Fifth Sacred Thing- An Ecofeminist Vision

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Inside Starhawk’s visionary novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing (Bantam, 1993), lies a lush, thriving community of people in post-revolutionary California who have adopted an earth-based, ecofeminist set of values and ideas. While the rest of the country, and presumably the world, suffers through extreme corruption and poverty, the people of San Francisco seem to have figured it out. They live simply, help one another, and, above all, value the earth and its elements.

After a violent revolution, the people of this not-so-distant future San Francisco decided they want to live life differently- live a life in harmony and appreciation for the environment. They have chosen to honor the Four Sacred Things that sustain life.

“The earth is a living, conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water, and earth. Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood, and body of the Mother, or as the blessed gifts of a Creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.

To call these things sacred, is to say that they have a value beyond the usefulness for humans ends, that they themselves become the standards by which our acts, our economics, our laws, our purposes must be judged. No one has the right to appropriate them or profit for them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeit its legitimacy” (Starhawk, 1993).

The magical city is filled with productive gardens growing on street corners, flowing streams, gondolas as public transport, and a happy, engaged community that fosters cultures, roots, and ideas. Energy healers, witches, engineers, strong female leaders, and all kinds of people- young and old- live in multicultural neighborhoods where everyone speaks more than one language and all religions are honored.

Starhawk’s writing centers around ideals of goddess spirituality with political undertones that together create a narrative explanation of the ecofeminist movement. The Fifth Sacred Thing is a great introduction to ecofeminism, as throughout the story she highlights all the values and ideas of the movement such as cultural diversity, matriarchal leadership, and social justice and how they can be applied on a large scale.

The book is set against a backdrop of a desperate and failing authoritarian country, a stark contrast that shows what could happen to our society. In her example of southern California, people are forced to obey a corrupt official religion, dying of hunger and thirst, and suffering from even greater crimes of humanity. The environment has been ravaged, almost to the point of no return, by which everybody is negatively affected.

When one of the main characters, Madrone, ventures south, away from her safe haven to offer her healing to rebels fighting the government, she describes to those she meets the way her “fairytale” city works. They can hardly believe that everyone has enough to drink and eat and that everyone is given equal respect, opportunities, and access. Additionally, everyone’s daily habits contribute to sustainability, bartering is the mainstay of the economy, technology furthers the health of the earth, and healthcare is free to everyone. Gender roles are nearly obsolete, marriage is no longer institutional, and integrity replaces the justice system.

Through the lovable characters’ interactions and reactions, page-turning events, and inner dialogue, we see an ecofeminist analysis and criticism of the world we currently live in, as well as plentiful reasoning for why we need to turn it around before the possible worst happens.

While the politics in this book are subtle and the story is mostly spiritual in nature, Starhawk is a known ecofeminist and this book seems to be a way for her to creatively spin an example of her idea and values. Within this world of pagan rituals and rich cultural diversity, Starhawk has created a working example of how ecofeminism can benefit our species and world.

If you are interested in ecofeminism or earth-based spirituality, The Fifth Sacred Thing is a great springboard for learning more about the movements. I would also recommend this book to anybody who is dissatisfied with the way our society works now, to anyone who desires environmental harmony and social equity, or to those who wish to see how love can save the world.

Kelsey Sutton, Volunteer

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