Black Hole Haiku (4/10/2019), by Clara B. Jones

for Shep Doeleman* & Dimitrios Psaltis*

Nobel in your hands,
Isn’t it? Men win again—
History written.

*Event Horizon Telescope Project

Clara B. Jones is a Knowledge Worker practicing in Silver Spring, MD (USA). Among other works, she is author of, Poems for Rachel Dolezal, published in January 2019 by GaussPDF.
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Attachments area

At Your Feet by Ana Cristina César, reviewed by Clara B. Jones

At Your Feet
Ana Cristina César
Katrina Dodson, Ed.
Brenda Hillman, Helen Hillman, & Sebastião Edson Macedo (translators)
2018
Parlor Press
$14.00
103 pp

cesar150

Reviewed by Clara B. Jones experimenting with book review form…

“In literature, it is only the wild that attracts us.” Henry David Thoreau

Who is the author? Ana Cristina César (1952-1983, suicide*) was active in Brazil during the 1970s. Her work has been categorized as avant garde, a term usually reserved for visual artists and writers who are active politically, usually, in leftist groups or movements. According to Brenda Hillman, César was born and raised in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, in a religious, middle-class family. Conducting research on “Ana C,” as the poet was called in her circle and among her followers, I did not discover that her formative years were marked by trauma or dysfunction. However, in an academic paper, Lúcia Villares (1997, Portuguese Studies 13, pp 108-123) reported that the 1970s in Brazil were preceded by military coups (in 1964 & 1968), leading to the isolation, exclusion, and suppression of radicals, activists, intellectuals, and the middle-class.

In response to these measures, strikes and demonstrations were carried out against the military regime which countered the actions with increased repression—especially of the middle-class, including, censorship, seizure of books, attacks on left-wing publishers, among other interventions. César and her circle of poets formed a group, “geração Marginal” (“the marginal generation”) that published and sold chapbooks and books independent of commercial publishing houses and distributors. The marginal (marginalized) poets advanced a view of a fragmented world in which the power of language was reduced. These oppositional writers expressed their sense of impotence, in part, by emphasizing their communal efforts and by asserting themselves as survivors in a hostile environment.

 

Through her writing, “Ana C” identified with the “poesia feminina” movement in Brazil, part of the opposition supporting women’s search for identity and voice. This group held that to be a woman was to be “desdobráve”—a woman capable of transforming herself. Consistent with this background, César’s poetry is in general, fragmented and written in collage style, mostly, dispensing with meter, rhythm, music, and lyric, though her pieces are infused with vivid image and color. The reader of At Your Feet may find that poems seem to increase in complexity, self-confidence, and clarity from beginning to end; though, according to Hillman, there is no evidence that César’s poems were arranged chronologically. Though I am not qualified to say, the translations appear to be excellent; at least, I found them rich with artful language. After a tour of the continent, César returned to Rio, jumping out of a window in her parents’ home not long after.

What is At Your Feet about? The book is a collection of intense poems, mostly about bad or failed relationships with men, as well as their associated emotions and feelings. Also, the book’s title suggests subservience. Thus, for example, “I went on the attack: it’s now, sweet-/heart, in a car going up in flames,…in the early dawn, because of you and furious: it’s now, against this traffic….” (p 19). The author seems driven to make sense of things—with men, with herself; though, there is no mention of political unrest except in the sense that the poems, themselves, may be viewed as oppositional—against the military regime, against traditional mores, and against conventional literary practices and criteria. The primary subject-matter seems contradictory to her reputation as a feminist and her documented identification with women and feminism. For example, she relies upon many female stereotypes (e.g., lovestruck, hysterical, silly) and expresses negative emotions toward other females (e.g., they arouse jealousy or are viewed as intruders: “that total bitch/of a woman”, p 77).

Nevertheless, one of César’s stated goals was to become assertive, authentic, and outspoken, rather than, a passive and suppressed woman. Thus, her bold expressions of emotional vulnerability may be viewed as attempts to be radically, unabashedly honest (“Let’s have afternoon tea and I’ll tell you my big passionate story, which I’ve kept under lock and key, and my heart beats out of sync while we eat gaufrettes…I’m touched by fire.” (p 11); “Call again tomorrow/no matter what.” (p 17); “Without you, I’m really a lake, a mountain./I think of a man named Herberto./…And without bravado, sweetheart, I raise the price.” (p 33). On the other hand, a few of the poems demonstrate moments of assertion and agency (see, for instance, “Final Fire,” p 89), but the intention seems never to be sustained. Ultimately, this collection is about a young woman searching for her own voice, her own agency, and her own will, as well as, the ability to resist socialization and circumstance.

Formal Structure: As mentioned, the poems in At Your Feet, are fragmented, like the political landscape within which César found herself and like her own psychological makeup. Thus, her classification with the avant garde is warranted by the innovative nature of her forms, matching her content. As well, many of her poems appear without titles (a type of erasure?; a silent, “Untitled”?), a convention sometimes used by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet, Susan Howe.

César’s work seems to align with the movement, Surrealism, since many of her poems exhibit “automatism,” sometimes, by way of, impulsiveness (but, “My boy. It’s not automatism. I swear. It’s jazz from the heart.”, p 41) and the mining of unconscious processes (“Poetry doesn’t—telegraphic—occasional—/leave me solo—loose—/at the mercy of the impossible—/—of the real.”, p 47). The collection includes prose poems and an interesting list poem (“Onomastic Index,” p 93) that includes the names of at least two famous females who died tragically. Structurally, many of the poems might be classified as “fragments”—a single or a few lines. In keeping with a fragmented identity, voice, and form (Post-modernism?), most of these poems are cynical, self-absorbed, emotional, or detached, or are about “boredom” (p 85) or “illness” (81) or victimization (p 83) or hysteria (p 19). Thus, as a whole, the poems’ forms are consistent with their meanings and themes—as defined and expressed by the author.

Conclusion: In the final analysis, César’s collection shows the work of a young poet without the ability to see herself through an objective lens. As Marjorie Perloff has stated, a mature poet has the ability to see the humor in themselves [sic], something lacking from At Your Feet. It is a cliché to point out that one would like to see how this writer might have developed over a long, productive career. Without this option, one must view the collection’s value primarily in relation to the socio-political atmosphere in which it was written. In addition, the poet’s work is interesting as an example of a “young adult” sub-genre, and critics could mine the volume for what it tells us about the challenges of early adulthood, particularly, about the development and maturation of females who succumb to suicide when relatively young. Hopefully, César’s complete body of work will become available in translation at a future date. Combined with At Your Feet, the poet’s writings could become a valuable resource for those interested in avant garde beyond the United States and Europe. I recommend this book because it is a very interesting and enjoyable read. Indeed, despite its limitations, I was unable to put the book down once I began to read it because César took me, and will take you, on an intense “joy- ride”—on an emotional roller-coaster that you will enjoy (see Epigram).

 

*Note: César’s fate brings to mind two other young female artists who jumped out of windows to end their lives: photographer, Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) and poet, Elise Cowen (1933-1962), both Americans. One of my motivations for writing this review is the hope that a reader who is an academic or critic will conduct research on these cases—or, pass the possible project on to someone. Based upon my own limited knowledge, there appear to be some similarities among the women’s trajectories. For instance, both César and Cowen jumped out of windows at the homes of their parents, and César and Woodman both traveled in Europe before they took their own lives. Further, all three of these women may have experienced an increased measure of popularity—as well as, disillusionment?—before they killed themselves. I think, though I am not certain, that this apparently contradictory pattern is common among suicides. (My contact: foucault03@gmail.com)

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Clara B. Jones is a Knowledge Worker practicing in Silver Spring, MD, USA. Her poetry collection, /feminine nature/, was published by GaussPDF in 2017.

Final Haiku, by Clara B. Jones

Jamal Khashoggi
“Journalist died after fight.”
Official Statement

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Clara B. Jones practices writing in Silver Spring, MD (USA) and conducts research on experimental literature, as well as, radical publishing. Among other works, Clara is author of the poetry collection, /feminine nature/, published in 2017 by Gauss PDF.

Courts, by Clara B. Jones

This is only a game that the first hominoids
………….played
on savannahs somewhere in Africa where
chivalrous men chained women torn
from their tribes, torn from their homes,
shipped to the New World for lives
………….as uncertain as climate.
This is only a game played in the courts
………….of Europe and Washington,
women (on pedestals—targets of gazes),
………….finding their voices,
surviving panopticons and kitchens.
Survivors—never returning to men
not good enough for friendship,
men who can’t share elevators,
men unable to share power—
to show a different sort of honor.

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Clara B. Jones practices writing in Silver Spring, MD (USA) and conducts research on experimental literature, as well as, radical publishing. Among other works, Clara is author of the poetry collection, /feminine nature/, published in 2017 by Gauss PDF.

Haiku For Lost Innocence, by Clara B. Jones

Beautiful flowers,
Damaged by priests and bishops,
“Too little, too late.”

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/cardinal-says-clock-ticking-for-all-in-catholic-hierarchy-over-abuse-issue-1.3599837

 Clara B. Jones practices writing in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She, also, conducts research on experimental literature and radical publishing. Her exploratory work includes internet publishing, as well as, creative use of mathematical notation, science, and technology. Clara is author of three paper chapbooks, one weblog chapbook (afrobotspoems.blogspot.com), as well as, one volume (/feminine nature/, 2017, Gauss PDF), and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various venues.

Mu-ta-tion, by Clara B. Jones

/myuȫ’tāSH(ǝ)n/
Noun: the changing of the structure of a gene

for Olivia Lone Bear, New Town, ND: disappeared 10/24/2017, recovered 7/31/2018

I told them, you were the smartest one—like
An insect is smarter than a worm when
Choosing a mate in the season for coupling
Or as circuits and replication couple student
And mentor, or as Seton Smith and Turrell
Use light to great effect. GATA4 mutations
Are transforming natives since a poem is
About itself though pine trees are remarkable
In every way. Circuits are scrambled by

Phenotypes while the Anthropocene and mega-
Constraints stop the advance of invasives
And automated foot-soldiers fight climate
Change. Everyone loves to hate dissonance,
But cognition is a gateway to encrypted
Networks if persons of interest labor to perfect
American classes of purpose-built synths. How
Do lakes change lives—and, on a scale of 1 to 5,
How much do you know about pick-up trucks?

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/missing-in-america/fbi-confident-body-found-submerged-truck-belongs-missing-mother-olivia-n897546

Clara B. Jones, a retired scientist, practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She, also, conducts research on experimental literature and radical publishing. Her exploratory work includes internet publishing and creative use of mathematical notation. Clara is author of four chapbooks and one volume (/feminine nature/, 2017, Gauss PDF), and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various venues.

Intersectionality And The Black Poet, by Clara B. Jones

“I think I’ll borrow from Walt Whitman here and say, ‘I contain multitudes.’ I write out of who I am, and who I am is a cis-hetero woman, a Caribbean native, an immigrant, a woman of color, a member of the African, Latino, and South Asian diasporas, a New Yorker, a lover of British crime dramas and ‘Doctor Who’, an Italian-speaker, etc., etc. The poems come out of all of me: I’m not black more than I’m a woman. I’m not a woman more than I’m an immigrant. I understand why people ask these types of questions, but I find them impossible to answer as it always makes me feel like I’m reducing myself somehow, slotting myself into a box. And if I select a particular identity, how do I prove it? Am I then supposed to write a certain way or have certain poetic heroes or write about certain subjects? I want to be known as a good writer who is, also, quite proudly, all of these other things.” Paulette Beete (2018).

The purpose of this brief essay is to present a tentative hypothesis about the practice of poetry by African-American writers and to illustrate my ideas using examples from a chapbook by Paulette Beete (Voice Lessons, 2011, Plan B Press) and by presenting quotes from an interview I recently conducted with her. In particular, I intend to show how form and content can be employed in the service of transformative, even, radical, reinventions of The Race Project. The old project derives from Modernism’s (post-Romanticism—->pre-WWII) reliance upon grand narratives (e.g., Marxism, Fascism, Science) and binaries (e.g., black-white, he-she, fact-fiction) that, applied to the present case, advance the centrality and essential import of race to African-Americans located as victims in a hostile, alienating American landscape. The new project that I discuss herein is rooted, instead, in Post-Modernism, acknowledging a world diffracted, not essentialist—characterized by relativity rather than absolutes and by meaning that is fractured rather than coherent. From this perspective, the world is heterogeneous rather than unified and predictable—an unstable universe of mutable facts and shifting identities.

In  2015, writing in the poetry journal, Yellow Chair Review, I proposed that some African-American poets appear to demonstrate what I termed, “self-directed writing”—discussing what I considered to be an increasing tendency for these authors to project “identity’s heterogeneity and complexity” rather than project themselves from a fundamentally race-based place (consider, for example, poets associated with the Black Arts Movement such as, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, or Amiri Baraka). The “self-directed” poets who come most readily to mind are C.M. Burroughs, Gregory Pardlo, Francine J. Harris, Ishion Hutchinson, Ross Gay, and Alan King, among several others. In this note, I suggest that African-American poets increasingly project themselves intersectionally—as writers with multiple identities and interests, creating work, often, from an interior, subjective place, and, occasionally, from no political or racial or sociological place at all. These authors compose with personal voices, more or less unconstrained by stereotypes and pressures imposed from society and other outside forces.

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My concerns in this note derive, not from empirical research, but from my earlier interest in “self-directed writing” and from anecdotes based upon personal experiences. Several months ago, I attended a reading by a Washington, DC poet—Caribbean-American, male, 45 or so. The reader presented some strong poems; however, I found it noteworthy that his work communicated no angst, no opposition or resistance to the status quo, few references to historical markers that might have identified him as a member of a historically oppressed group. I came away determined to explore my own reactions of surprise and discomfort as well as the extent to which independence from topics generally associated with poetry by marginalized poets might be more common than I might have speculated (see, for example, epigraph, above by Beete). As a result, I was fortunate to be exposed to Beete’s poetry and decided to test the validity of my ideas by studying her forms and content and by interviewing her directly. I was, especially, interested to assess my intuition that writing by some proportion of African-American poets conforms to post-modern criteria (“the new project”).

One such criterion, for example, holds that a poem as a whole may not be meaningful though fragments or particular words, phrases may be meaningful to the reader. In a post-modern world, then, the reader or observer has interpretive control. Some critics have pushed the foregoing perspective to the point of deflating the roles of both reader and author by stating that a poem is about itself. I asked Beete, “What do you want your readers to know about you?” She replied: “The most important thing that I’ve ever learned about poetry—thanks to the poet Maureen Seaton—is that you don’t have to understand what a poem means to appreciate the poem. It’s fine if you just like the sound of it in your ears. Or the way the words feel in your mouth as you recite it out loud. Or how it looks on the page. Or maybe you just catch hold of a phrase or two. And, it’s fine not to like the poem at all. I hate that idea that there is some right answer to what a poem means. That probably doesn’t answer the question of what my readers should know about me, in particular, but it’s absolutely what they need to know about poetry.”  What we need to know about P-O-E-T-R-Y!—rather than what we need to know about Beete. Notwithstanding, the author’s poems are often intimate, telling us a great deal, indeed, about her and her experiences (“Why do I write? Because that’s who I am…Writing is how I make sense of the world. It is how I make sense of myself.”). Yet, her governing framework remains idealistic, even, intellectual, and, as her reply indicates, the poem is, ultimately, about its relation to the reader.

Like much of the canon of post-modern poetry, Beete’s work can be classified as “experimental” in the sense that she explores form (and, content) in non-classical, non-traditional ways. For example, she pushes the bounds of what we mean by a sonnet. Her poem, “Eva Cassidy Sings At Last” (p 33), is an understated reference to jazz (and race?) in 14 lines (but, not in every line!) with universal import: “1. To be gone is to swing or be inspired/2. vibrato & trill-laced ravings, an imaginative flight of melody/or rhythm/….” As Beete explains in her book, this poem “is collaged [sic] from” several sources, including, Simone de Beauvoir, a personal e-mail, and a newspaper article, among others. To “collage” a poem is to arrange and re-arrange fractured parts, not, necessarily, for coherency, but, consistent with a post-modern worldview, for the artistic act itself.

Other “experimental” constructs appear throughout Voice Lessons, violating expectations in numerous ways. Like Gertrude Stein, Beete employs repetition so frequently that it might be said to be her signature convention. In the poem, “She wears her beauty” (p 20), this phrase begins a line 13 times in a 26-line poem that includes other repeated phrases. Using lines such as, “She wears her beauty all out of proportion.” and   “She wears her beauty like a ghostwritten memoir.”, Beete disguises elements of personal narrative with subtle lyrical, often, metaphorical, undertones. Elsewhere, she combines humor and surprise and self-effacement and seriousness, as in the poem, “Curriculum Vitae” (p 31): “1. I write poems to itch things out, to measure the antediluvian folds of/the body, the woman’s abdomen, stretchmarked hoarder of near misses.” Again, identity is heterogeneous and imprecise and, while not exhibiting herself literally as a person of color, the author communicates that she is no stranger to struggle.

It is in this, and other ways, that the author confronts different aspects of her identity—or, maybe not. Again, in a post-modern mode, accurate or literal interpretation is not the point. Though she may refer to jazz or to physical weight or to God or to sex, etc., it is not her primary intention for the reader to form a stable, predictable impression of her “being in the world.” In this note, I have used a few examples from one African-American writer’s words in an attempt to show how an intersectional, heterogeneous pose re-invents what it means to be a writer of color. A related dimension of this perspective inherent to the phrase, “self-directed writing,” is the suggestion that African-American poets are claiming the power to define themselves and to create work on their own terms. I will continue to follow what I think may be a trend. These poets are empowering themselves and creating their own niches that often seem to be independent of the expectations and characterizations others might try to impose on them.

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Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She, also, conducts research on experimental poetry and radical publishing. Clara is author of four chapbooks and one volume (/feminine nature/, 2017, Gauss PDF), and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various venues.

What is a “homeboy” to do? (Sonnet), by Clara B. Jones

for Antwon Rose (d. 19 June 2018, 17 y.o., Allegheny County, PA)

  1. You can buy a house in Collegeville and paint it Federal Blue.
  2. You can join B.L. Matter and wear designer clothes.
  3. You can move to France and make Pinot Noir.
  4. You can pair caviar and collards.
  5. You can shave truffles on your mac’ & cheese.
  6. You can trade your I-Phone® for a bag of chips.
  7. Poetry disrupts the way we see the world, but you can vote Republican and save negroes.
  8. Pittsburgh is a modern ecosystem where you can buy Abstract Art.
  9. More people with depression are living full lives so you can weigh the benefits of therapy.
  10. The barrel is either half empty or half full (rat-a-tat-tat), but look on the bright side, cigarettes could cost more.
  11. Surrounded by violence, you can go anywhere.
  12. They may want to hurt you, but they don’t mean to kill you.
    ..
  13. Henredon® built teak vitrines for Kanye.
  14. Afrobots love the U.S.A.
    ..
    ..
    ..Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She, also, conducts research on experimental poetry and radical publishing. Clara is author of four chapbooks and one volume (/feminine nature/, 2017, Gauss PDF), and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various venues.

Haiku For Broken Families, by Clara B. Jones

Government falters.
You, too traumatized for tears.
Children not guilty.

Aztecs or Mayans
Running in your veins.

..

Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She, also, conducts research on experimental poetry and radical publishing. Clara is author of four chapbooks and one volume (/feminine nature/, 2017, Gauss PDF), and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various venues.

Parts Unknown, by Clara B. Jones

for Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018, suicide)

When the highest point of one thing
is the lowest point of another, the
mist ascends from Mount Kenya,
Acacia rises from loam, succulent
from sand, book from morpheme,
syntax from book, symphony from
note, Chèvre from cream, Paris
from Seine, as you entered a forest
of memories from one prescient thought—
that time would change nothing, a few
pounds here and there or a few wrinkles,
markings obvious as hair greying, feelings
changing, no longer young, the Rockies a recent
formation, slowly aging, unlike the Great
Smokies, never expecting time to mold
his body into something else—like leaves
turning yellow or red then falling toward
another year’s renewal to offer pollen and
nests and other life stirred by our tears.

..

Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She, also, conducts research on experimental poetry and radical publishing. Clara is author of four chapbooks and one volume (/feminine nature/, 2017, Gauss PDF), and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various venues.

Haibun for French Chefs, by Clara B. Jones

Today Jamal is celebrating Martin King since incarceration is caused by poverty, but you want prisoners to see themselves as scholars if they work the system to get degrees from Stanford where Anthropologists found that chickens were buried with their princes in ancient times before Martin followed Buddha’s path fulfilling his true potential after Jamal used umbrellas to model the structure of style, and Jeff Sessions said Get over it, I can make Terrine de Poissons as well as any French chef. America is not losing because Mexico is winning though the Iran nuclear deal is like an article in Art in America about Bill Bollinger’s sculptures or a book about Tibetan dharma though National Wildlife determined fracking will not harm rabbits. Martin thought he lost his chance to save lions from extinction, but there was time for him to perfect Fenouil Braisé.

Chefs Martin King and
Anthony Bourdain sautéed
paté with pine nuts.

..

Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She writes about identity, culture, & society and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. She is author of four chapbooks and one volume, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

LaToya Marries An Impoverished Marxist, by Clara B. Jones

for Robert Wayne Williams

He tried to honor Gramsci’s prison notebooks.
But, ‘Toya required means. A comrade fighting
worldwide oppression married to a princess.
Thesbian Ché chortling for cameras, never
exposing flaws, never so beautiful as in
death, revealing tiny pimples—an otherwise
unworldly face. “Revolution” a meme, violent

insurrection modeled by Lenin, the oppressed
led by a nobleman defrocked, clothed by
tsunamis of Red Tides and by a red flag rough
as workers’ palms, labeled “amoral” by well-fed
republicans, stable hierarchies prevailing,
formed by guilds and nation-states avowing
private ownership. A husband whose theories might

have earned praise, competing with Jackson’s Lenin
Prize, but privileging private domains over service,
showing ingratitude to his Frankfurt School.
Habermas lies disappointed but in wait. It is neither
confirmed nor denied that the husband was once a
belligerent entity, acting on Marx’s behalf, armed
with munitions of scholarship, writing documents as

deputed as manifestos, not binding as signed treaties
but uncorrupted as Capital or Notebooks, extolling
revolution but not trained to shoot a gun. FARC
is the new Politburo, Cano the new Che, Chavez the
new Lincoln, Chavez the new Churchill, Chavez the
new Fanon, Mono Jojoy the new Sacha. Hermeneutics
of sustainable politics coerced by agrarian reformers

and anti-imperialists, avatars in entrepreneurial games
that Robert’s defection empowers. Don’t fall in love
with your work. ‘Toya might have said, Don’t fall
in love. Instead her husband succumbed to her ways,
a negress with genteel ambitions, philistine and
beautiful, whose petulance the husband made a
virtue. Still, he labors for a different social contract.

..

Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She writes about identity, culture, & society and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. She is author of three chapbooks and one volume, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

“Remember what/the world is like/for white people/…”¹ by Clara B. Jones

Remember what Nuremberg
gave blacks.

Remember what your nanny
said in Spanish.

Remember what fried flounder
smells like.

Remember what America
feels like.

Remember what Gramsci
meant by “hegemony.”

Remember what Basquiat
meant by “SAMO.”

Remember what Obama
said to Bloomberg.

Remember what Pope.L
means by Art.

Remember what Hillary
said to Huma.

Remember what Bernie
owes to Marx.

Remember what LaToya
buys at Macy’s.

 

¹Morgan Parker (2015)

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Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). She writes about identity, culture, & society and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. She is author of three chapbooks and one volume, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, reviewed by Clara B. Jones

WHEREAS
Layli Long Soldier
2017
Graywolf Press
120 pages
$16.00

Reviewed by Clara B. Jones

 

WHEREAS confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native America peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators.” Publisher’s release

“I am a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation—and in this dual citizenship I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live.” Layli Long Soldier

Minority poets have found their voices, writing a variety of forms and themes from the conventional to the boldly experimental. Shortlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry, Layli Long Soldier’s reputation has catapulted into the limelight with the publication of her debut book, WHEREAS. With an impressive grasp on storytelling, common in indigenous and minority traditions, Long Soldier introduces readers to her personal and tribal histories—emphasizing acts of cruelty and dismissal relieved, emotionally and thematically, by her experiences as a daughter, a partner, and a parent (“Father’s Day comma I am not with you. I stare at a black-and-white photo of you comma my/husband in a velvet shirt comma your hair tied back and your eyes on the face of our sleep-/ing daughter.”). In order to decode many of the poet’s references, it is important to know certain aspects of Sioux history. The book’s epigraph, “Now/make room in the mouth/for grassesgrassesgrasses.”, refers to a tragic event whereby a trader, Andrew Myrick, refused food to a hungry group of Lakota Sioux, telling them to eat their own dung mixed with grass. Sometime later, Myrick’s body was found with grass stuffed in his mouth. Throughout WHEREAS, “grass,” and, to a lesser degree, “green,” appear (“…I grass/nothing/here I meta-/grass I sleep-/walk grasses….”; “…split/grass wires/little bulbs/silver/green/drop/lets….”), forcing the reader to share Long Soldier’s trauma and, possibly, rage. Indeed, many of the poems address identity, dreams, myth, and the unconscious, and it might be interesting for an analytical scholar to interpret the poems from a Freudian perspective (“…a symbol for/electric/current/something/having the shape/of i/ego…”). The poet does not stray far from politics (“…who what when where why/at behest of the local leadership/e.g. Officer, my name is __________/from Standing Rock….”). Long Soldier’s use of white spaces, erasures, and a variety of forms shows that she is intentionally disrupting formalist rules, though the poems retain musicality and are not didactic or literal for the most part. Part 2 of the book, WHEREAS, refers to a proclamation written by Barak Obama apologizing to Indigenous Americans for their treatment during the colonial period (and beyond?). According to Long Soldier, no Indigenous Americans were invited to the ceremony and, as I recall, the event was not widely reported in the media. In my opinion, Part 2 is the most moving section of the book, and a strong case might be made that it should be placed before Part 1, THESE BEING THE CONCERNS, in order to provide context and currency for the Myrick incident. WHEREAS, is written as a Proclamation in its own right, rendering a powerful response to Obama’s oversights (“I recognize/the special legal and/political relationship/Indian tribes have with/the United States and/the solemn/covenant with the land/we share.”). While Long Soldier’s stories are sometimes heartbreaking, her writing does not take the reader to the edge of despair. This young poet’s work is highly recommended, and I hope that, in future, the poetry community will embrace many more Indigenous American poets.

AAA_Soldier

Bio: Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). As a woman of color, she writes about identity, culture, & society and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. She is author of three chapbooks, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

Morgan Parker Slept In The Best Value Inn For Two Weeks To Write A Poem About Ferguson Using Wretched Of The Earth As A Reference by Clara B. Jones

Capitalism and militarism, co-morbid effects for targets of
the complicit, and all are illicit, from Oakland to Detroit to
Camden, an underclass breeding bored boys hiding hallowed
handguns, crepuscular boys with five-hundred word vocabularies
riffing rap as humid dusk in D.C. with no air-conditioning to
mask offending odors of sweat and alcohol and fried flounder,
boyish boys powerless to reach for Gold Rings except those
on DeShawn’s calloused fingers or in 2Pac’s cold ears, unlucky
Isaiah mentoring no-one, boys silenced by their own limitations
in the Melting Pot of civic swarms buzzing but orderly,
perhaps not orderly like Reston but patterned like Harlem
where every boy has his place. Feminists ascribe madness to
Patriarchy, induced by confining surveillance choking
maturation to manhood, as luteous fat constricts vessels
made impassable by too much crisp chicken and terra-cotta
bacon on chipped plates swelling with sides—maybe glistening
greens or buttered biscuits—soothing a fundamental fury that
may manifest impulsively in defensive displays of violence
that Fanon exonerated as the privilege of all oppressed
found at micro- and macro-scale.

Ferguson, its colonized people, throwaways labeled coons
and monkeys behind closed doors, led by a passive member
of the Lumpenproletariat, a Captain also demeaned by the
powerful, or by what passes for power in Ferguson profiled
as a civic-state incorporated by Africa whose gold is housed
in London and Frankfurt and Paris, France, repressing memories
of Algeria where Frantz penned manifestos, not “polite statements”
for disconsolate dependents, some memorizing History at the
local college, never reading Fanon or Sartre or Foucault, analyses
imperiling owners and the bourgeoisie, not only white and Asian
but natives, also slaves, not slaves but peasants violated by
authority’s constant gaze barring any wish for sublime
moments save sex, mostly heaving and clammy, not knowing
or wanting a sensuous interlude, too time-consuming for
drudges with songs constantly dulling capacities for focus,
too many distractions and interruptions, experience turned
inward, bodies policing themselves, adding minutes, sometimes
hours, to colonizers’ freedoms, both with leisure time invested
differently, not really differently since, like Michel, both invest
subjectively. Would Fanon consider Ferguson a revolutionary
space, or would its wretched impotence make him weep?

Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). As a woman of color, she writes about identity, culture, & society and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. She is author of three chapbooks, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

Race¹ by Clara B. Jones

The game changed when race became fluid

And you learned to fry catfish in Chile

Before Lorna Simpson was shown at Sean’s gallery

Her “Cloud, 2005” praised by ArtSpace®

 

Hal Foster calling it signifier of cultural discourse

After Rosalind Krauss wrote the work is gray on a gray field.

The “serigraph on felt” inspired like e-streams

Disrupting abstract projects

 

But Mykki Blanco’s poems had interpretive power

Inhabiting non-binary boxes—

Like Selk’nam women doing the work of men.

Nam Chau’s mordant memory of Germany

 

Presaged climate change

Though poets were making plastic art

While children in Beijing died from toxic air.

You saw paintings you needed to have

 

And good taste has taken you far

But it’s time to move forward—

Avoid protest art

And weigh the cost of each installation.

 

¹Inspired by Art in America (December 2006)

 

Bio: Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). As a woman of color, she writes about the Arts, Sciences, Technology, and the Environment and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. Clara is author of four chapbooks, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

Tivoli Sonnet¹ by Clara B. Jones

  1.    Tadao Ando created a planet within a solar system.

2.  Luis Barragán preserved the landscape of Mexico City.

3.  Constantin Brancusi experimented with “essential truth.”

4.  Donald Judd remodeled Marta.

5.  Adalberto Libera designed property for Curzio Malaparte.

6.  Hans van der Laan was a Benedictine monk.

7.  John Pawson designed Pawson House.

8.  Bruce Nauman manipulated space.

9.  Hans Wegner designed the Y-chair.

10. Waverly Abbey is both concrete and abstract.

11. Hadrian lived in Tivoli.

12a. Japanese tea bowls symbolize Wabi Sabi.

12b. Kyoto’s Katsura Palace symbolizes Wabi Sabi.

12c. Kyoto’s Ryoanji Temple symbolizes Wabi Sabi.

13. Cameroon chief houses are constructed like colonnades.

14. In this classic art book of 325 pages, only 2 women are named.

 

¹Inspired by Pawson J (1996) Minimum. Phaidon, London.

 

Bio: Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). As a woman of color, she writes about the Arts, Sciences, Technology, and the Environment and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. Clara is author of four chapbooks, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

Children In Somalia Are Starving by Clara B. Jones

Your father was sadistic, but it hurt Him more than it hurt
you. He never spanked, and that wasn’t the best of it since
the Price Equation taught you everything you wanted to
know. You memorized a list of fatal illnesses before He
drove you to a hospital where nurses said children
sleep on linen sheets, and every room was designed by
Shara Hughes whose objects d’Art are sold by Tiffany®
as limited editions. Dying children prefer to wear Hilfiger®,
but He said they should wear Old Navy®—more practical
and stylish with bare feet. Last year He gave Christmas
gifts to the tallest children in wheelchairs and ordered them
lunch from Red Lobster® because Shrimp Scampi is His
favorite meal and a healthy option for hungry girls. You
waited for Him in the lobby where George Grosz drawings
hung on grey walls above serpentine sofas designed by
Vladimir Kagan before he moved to New York. The
hospital visit taught you how lucky you are so you begged
Him to buy you a pair of designer shoes.

..

Bio: Clara B. Jones practices poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). As a woman of color, she writes about the Arts, Sciences, Technology, and the Environment and conducts research on experimental poetry, as well as, radical publishing. Clara is author of three chapbooks, and her poetry, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in various venues.

You’re The Most Beautiful Thing That Happened by Arisa White, reviewed by Clara B. Jones

You’re The Most Beautiful Thing That Happened
Arisa White
2016
Augury Books (NYC)
96 pp
Paper, $16
ISBN: 9780988735576

More than 20 years ago, the artist, Andrea Fraser, suggested that works by women don’t have staying power because women are generally marginalized or incorporated—remaining invisible. Reviewing artistic work by women, then, may be seen as a recovery project to highlight women’s practices that may, otherwise, be overlooked or ignored. In a patriarchy, females are objects, men, subjects, and men speak for women, creating a particularly challenging landscape for women expressing themselves via the spoken or written word (language). One of the pleasures attendant to reviewing books of poetry written by young, female, women of color (e.g., C.M. Burroughs, Francine J. Harris) is reading work with “interpretive power” (Helen Vendler) worthy of being taken seriously by other poets—men and women alike—and worthy of persistence over the long haul. I have been impressed with the degree to which many early-career writers of color, and, many young poets in general, are successfully expanding the strictures of Formalism by integrating form, language, and function.

I read Arisa White’s, You’re The Most Beautiful Thing That Happened (hereafter, YTMBTTH), after reading an essay on feminism and postmodernism by Craig Owens who quoted Fredric Jameson—“…it suddenly became clear that ‘D.H. Lawrence’ was not an absolute after all [a male spokesman about women], not the final achieved figuration of the truth of the world, but only one art-language among others, only one shelf of works in a whole dizzying library.” Young female writers of color, and other female writers, especially, feminists, have taken their place in the “dizzying library” of non-patriarchal forms and, like Harryette Mullen before them, have taken their place among postmodern poets disrupting the status quo by writing, as Owens put it, in opposition to “Western man’s self-appointed mission of transforming the entire planet in his own image.” Contrary to most male writers, most female writers, especially feminist authors, have boldly chosen to address comfort; personal narratives and personal relationships; egalitarian associations rather than ones based on power differentials; emotions and feelings; language as authentic communication rather than abstraction and symbolism; and, a holistic and an organic view of the world.

White’s book exhibits the foregoing characteristics, as well as, being an ambitious and intimate map of one woman’s experiences as a female citizen of the world. Based on an e-mail interview, White stated, “I identify as a feminist poet in the same ways I identify as a black, queer/lesbian poet—these are identities I stand in and write from and out of. These are social locations that help me examine our political and cultural institutions and systems of thought. They are lenses and sites for feeling and knowledge. In many ways, all these things work together to help me nuance the world around me, give language to particular experiences. I am feminist because I care about the political parity of women/females, and I believe this sexist oppression is the root of all oppression.” In YTMBTTH, White addresses themes both subjectively and universally, including, childhood, loss, love, and chaos in lyric-like poems demonstrating a respect for form, function, and, especially, language (“There are little words,/that can fit in little places,/if you say them small enough.”; “She is pretty and perfect in sleep before language must be assigned—“; “When your friends are around, your hands language/near her to confirm she’s close:…”).

White’s poems are decidedly not derivative; however, their cryptic use of language and meaning remind me of Meghan Sterling’s autobiographical and understated, yet strong, poems about female issues relevant to anyone concerned with a humanistic interpretation of life and living. White’s poems invite the reader into her interior space without being didactic or literal (“Men, when they do, cross their legs in the way of academics./Never in the way of churchwomen who keep the secret/covered—there’s nothing to be implored, explored, discovered./In the way of academics, the whole body thinks….”). White’s lyricism often takes the form of homages, usually, to lovers (“Sounds the body/makes to keep quiet/while I take/your camisole down:/purple. Our sable bodies/an inappropriate math/in one stall.”). The author deftly addresses intense issues (HIV, sex, self-concept) without losing control of her emotions or language or focus or material. At the same time, her poetics and style communicate the limitations of language for exposing the full range of experience (Post-modernism), indicated, in part, by her frequent use of nonsense words, repetition (“…There’s no going back from raw. New story/you, mezzo and wood bending. My love, you’re the/darling dang—true-dat, true-dat, true—dat-dat-dat.”), as well as, avant garde conformations (see, especially, and, notably, the poem, “Four Square,” on page 71).

Other themes that struck me as I read YTMBTTH were references to West Indian/Caribbean culture (see poem, “Auntie,” on page 17), and British (colonial?) habits (“I prefer my tea with sugar/when I talk to you. You make/each minute an island where we,/crowned and carpeted by green,/sip Dragon Well from our palms.”). And, then, there is the matter of race—usually present but rarely explicit (however, see the poems, “Who Invited The Monkey To Omen’s Party,” on page 16, and “Drag Up…dedicated to the white people who were asked to raise their hands if they would choose to be black,” on page 18). Via e-mail, White shared, after reading one of my essays, “The essay has me thinking about what it would mean for me to write directly about race, how does it feel creatively within? Immediately, I thinkfeel [sic] about being in an ‘interracial’ marriage, which is more so an intersectional state of being (race, gender, sexuality, class) than a singular way of identifying. I think the pressure is how to write from these intersections/interstices. . . using polarities to make a third thing, to create a lens for seeing what the opposites map out. If black and white are said to be my points of reference, what is the gray communicating in relationship to the blue-black?”

The “intersectional” is postmodern, indeed. Since the 1970s, approximately, identity has become a fluid, personal narrative. My essay, referred to in the previous paragraph, argued that many early-career poets of color, male and female, LGBTQI and hetero-normative, are defining race-gender-class on their own terms rather than writing about race explicitly, directly, or literally. Many of these poets are writing, following Emily Dickinson, “slant.” By her account, some of White’s major influences are Saul Williams, Carl Hancock Rux, Erykah Badu, Toni Morrison, Patricia Smith, Rebecca Seiferle, Pat Parker, Audre Lorde, Hart Crane, Medbh McGuckian, Harryette Mullen, Tyehimba Jess, and Ross Gay—artists who challenge Modernism’s meta-narratives, crafting individual voices and impulses derived from their personal experiences, interpretations, and perceptions. White’s next project is in this tradition, “a craft talk about my queer imaginary [that will] unpack the queer imaginary that informs my work, examining the way my lesbian aunt and her friends languaged [sic] themselves in the world and how that became a model for how I create a poem.” My advice to the reader of this review is—Do not wait for her future projects in order to savor Arisa White’s compelling work. Each of the poems in You’re The Most Beautiful Thing That Happened is necessary, deserving a wide audience, and, with this collection, the author has made a valuable contribution to the literary community.

aaa_arisa

 

“Other people’s comfort keeps me up at night”¹ by Clara B. Jones

I Art a life
of ham-hocks and cornbread.

I Art Pope.L
and Côte d’Azure.

I Art Brooklyn
near Junior’s®.

I Art on the backs of slaves
and the fields of Appomattox.

I Art Phyllis Wheatley
and global warming.

I Art Newark’s ecosystem
and Chicago’s coral reef.

I Art high fashion
and blue eyes.

I Art Armani®
at Paris Fashion Week.

I Art Lobster Thermidor
and Walmart®.

I Art Billie Holiday
and hedge funds.

Trump Arts himself
and he is Arting.

 

¹Morgan Parker (2015)

 

Clara B. Jones is a retired scientist, currently practicing poetry in Silver Spring, MD (USA). As a woman of color, she writes about the “performance” of identity & power & conducts research on experimental poetry & radical publishing. Clara is author of three chapbooks, & her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous venues.