of sounds and something else

From Sicilian poet Maria Attanasio’s Amnesia of the Movement of Clouds & Of Red and Black Verse – the first full-length translation of Attanasio’s work, done by Carla Billitteri and freshly available from Litmus Press. This book moves me more and more, the more I move through it – so many things in it, literal things, animated by a beautiful heaviness for its world. So good to see this iteration, a long time coming, out, in it. 

Words to Dust: Language, Loss and the Coca-Cola Super Bowl Controversy

"But history is crucial in this conversation on language. What I’ve lost is, essentially, a link to my history. And it’s a history worth remembering, because for all its foreignness, it contains an essentially American story. My grandparents were school teachers, but my grandfather was fired from his job after getting into a fist fight with his principal. (That’s not the American part, though it’s a little bit John Wayne.) He parlayed unemployment into entrepreneurship, building the first corn and rice mill in the then-rural city of Mandaue. That business supported my mother and her seven brothers and sisters, who were able to go on to various successes. My Uncle Mart became a leading neurologist in the Philippines, my Aunt Almira became a nurse in Chicago, my mom Daisy earned a master’s degree in agriculture at the University of Missouri. And now here I am, the product of an American dream.

"I know this from interviewing various family members after my mom died; she never spoke much of it herself. But while I’ve cobbled together a shell of history, the stuff that binds it together is fading. I will never be able to go to Cebu in any role other than as a foreigner. My bonds are limited to blood and curbed by language. It is the fate of the first-generation American. We trade our parents’ homes, their histories and languages for a new life in a new world."

Fred Moten: “where the blues began,” from hughson’s tavern

where the theoreticians will become senses in their practice

where the theoreticians will not be seeing, hearing
where the theoreticians will sear, the theoretician is a seer
where the theoreticians will be seen and heard in their practice

where the theoreticians will touch themselves
where the theoreticians will become sensual in their practice

where the reverse will always be in excess
where the sequence is for nono and maxine
where reading and recite this scene to John Gwin, my daddy

where they go plot paradise, blue bolivar, boll and marvel
where mask and boll and cut and fry and groove

where the senses will become theoreticians in their practice

From the space of the interwebs: this sleeve illustration for The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (1965) is stellar in all senses of the word. As certain writing deadlines loom and I start thinking towards moderating this very exciting event in a couple of months, I’ll try posting relevant thoughts, sounds, visuals and otherwise up here, more so than I usually do. Next stop, Jupiter… 

From the space of the interwebs: this sleeve illustration for The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (1965) is stellar in all senses of the word. 

As certain writing deadlines loom and I start thinking towards moderating this very exciting event in a couple of months, I’ll try posting relevant thoughts, sounds, visuals and otherwise up here, more so than I usually do. Next stop, Jupiter… 

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976. 
From Veronica Gonzalez Peña’s The Sad Passions:

 The ease with which I write my sisters and myself into that image, the ease in turning those girls into us, again leaves me to wonder whether it matters at all if one of those girls is in fact Woodman. Whether, as we move ourselves into that picture, it matters, really, if any of those girls is anyone specific at all.
 How is it that Woodman’s body, her ghost-girl body, is there and not there at once, sympathetic flesh and blood pumping as well as phantom spirit husk? We do recognize the formal games she is enacting, but there is also that thing both weighty and playful there below it all; beneath the elegance of surface we sense the tension in the sometimes frolicsome if not mischievous inside, a face smiling through a headstone. For it can, at times, be dark and terrifying too, Francesca’s depth, as it is never fully tamed; and it seems to have a hunger for what lies there waiting on the other side; still, we are led to believe that the young Persephone will always again rise up, pomegranates being tossed in her deft and graceful hands; even if those fingers were only moments before, in a child-like curiosity, dipping deep into the river styx. If we prod her, we know she will respond… if we kiss her, beg her out of graveyards even, ask to take her by the arm and lead her from the world of dusky shadow, beg her to come and sit beside us here on this stone bench, we believe that girl will come. For, unlike Bellmer’s dolls, who never approach the living, who are a terrible fantastical fact of the imagination, of some perverse desire, these are actual girls who, though they may seem untethered at times, are fully living too, searching, investigating, playing out the games of their lives in something which resembles the early childhood theater of taunts in gardens. 
 And is this not the space which art too inhabits? The space between things, that of the terrifying incomprehensibility of life as set against the possibility that the game of creation––game as creation––makes possible. That play we see permeating Woodman’s work is necessary in between place, the unclaimed transitional space, from which we can actively create our own lives. 
 Woodman’s is not a body being acted upon, but a body acting, with the promise of possibility inscribed upon it; it is in the moment of taking on the theater of her own life that it can become anything, we realize; anything she does is her creation, with the potential of turning her very body into art. 
 So how is it that––though we see all this there thriving, pulsing at the surface of her photos––in the midst of experimenting with all that her art had to offer, at twenty-two, the fantastic, magical (though not surreal) brilliant and thoughtful young photographer, Francesca Woodman, took her own life? Twenty-two. The same age at which my mother had me, the age at which, for the first time, my mother’s weighty eyes met mine. 
 But we know it is a deep struggle that, the taking control of the outlying voices, the reining them in, and making of them something like art. 

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976. 

From Veronica Gonzalez Peña’s The Sad Passions:

The ease with which I write my sisters and myself into that image, the ease in turning those girls into us, again leaves me to wonder whether it matters at all if one of those girls is in fact Woodman. Whether, as we move ourselves into that picture, it matters, really, if any of those girls is anyone specific at all.

How is it that Woodman’s body, her ghost-girl body, is there and not there at once, sympathetic flesh and blood pumping as well as phantom spirit husk? We do recognize the formal games she is enacting, but there is also that thing both weighty and playful there below it all; beneath the elegance of surface we sense the tension in the sometimes frolicsome if not mischievous inside, a face smiling through a headstone. For it can, at times, be dark and terrifying too, Francesca’s depth, as it is never fully tamed; and it seems to have a hunger for what lies there waiting on the other side; still, we are led to believe that the young Persephone will always again rise up, pomegranates being tossed in her deft and graceful hands; even if those fingers were only moments before, in a child-like curiosity, dipping deep into the river styx. If we prod her, we know she will respond… if we kiss her, beg her out of graveyards even, ask to take her by the arm and lead her from the world of dusky shadow, beg her to come and sit beside us here on this stone bench, we believe that girl will come. For, unlike Bellmer’s dolls, who never approach the living, who are a terrible fantastical fact of the imagination, of some perverse desire, these are actual girls who, though they may seem untethered at times, are fully living too, searching, investigating, playing out the games of their lives in something which resembles the early childhood theater of taunts in gardens. 

And is this not the space which art too inhabits? The space between things, that of the terrifying incomprehensibility of life as set against the possibility that the game of creation––game as creation––makes possible. That play we see permeating Woodman’s work is necessary in between place, the unclaimed transitional space, from which we can actively create our own lives. 

Woodman’s is not a body being acted upon, but a body acting, with the promise of possibility inscribed upon it; it is in the moment of taking on the theater of her own life that it can become anything, we realize; anything she does is her creation, with the potential of turning her very body into art. 

So how is it that––though we see all this there thriving, pulsing at the surface of her photos––in the midst of experimenting with all that her art had to offer, at twenty-two, the fantastic, magical (though not surreal) brilliant and thoughtful young photographer, Francesca Woodman, took her own life? Twenty-two. The same age at which my mother had me, the age at which, for the first time, my mother’s weighty eyes met mine. 

But we know it is a deep struggle that, the taking control of the outlying voices, the reining them in, and making of them something like art. 

Amiri Amour: Baraka in Memorium (Greg Tate)

"At 79, our man Amiri refused all prognostications of him being anybody’s fossil. His out-the-blue jettisoning from the scene creates a power vacuum in our brainwaves. One of the many immeasurable losses of his absence is going to be those must-read memoriams Baraka wrote in bloodfire for our Struggle’s most vaunted fallen soldiers, like Mr. James Baldwin.

"So many once-hot causes, personages and organizations dissolved around Baraka seemingly ages ago—as many of his most beloved younger comrades (notably filmmaker St. Clair Bourne and Sékou Sundiata) shocked him abruptly by transpiring long before he did. In their honor, one suspects bruh’s twinned passions for art and social justice sustained incendiary intensity. The poet and publisher Jessica care Moore recently broke how any event, poetical or political, always got more gangsta whenever Baraka shuffle-bopped into the room.
To this, we can testify recalling a gathering of Black Arts veterans convened by the producers of the Eyes on the Prize series about Civil Rights. Speaking last, Baraka rose and let the producers know that if they couldn’t come correct in narrating the co-terminus histories Black Power and The Black Arts, ‘We will come find you.’

"Since that Eyes on More Inflammable Prizes never happened, assume some figured they couldn’t get it right—or Left—enough, and didn’t need Baraka coming after them.

"That said, let none assume Baraka’s too far gone now not to suddenly jump up and roundhouse they petit-bourgeois comprador asses from beyond the grave with the quickness."

on being in progress

In this short life there have been few times that I have felt adequately prepared for anything: always a sense of unpreparedness, being unpolished, being inelegant. This is not unique to my experience, I understand: that cliche about life always being a work in progress. Why does the sense of faltering feel so lonely sometimes?

I don’t know how one can ever overcome that sense of gracelessness without some sense of faith or narcissism or some combination of both, and I seem to not be good at either. Everything, always coming back to a negotiation with this world and how to be in it.

"Grace / to be born and live as variously as possible," the closest I have a prayer, and as I write this I realize that it’s a line that I must have said to myself nearly everyday for the last four or five years. How is it possible to be graceful yet untethered to one life? A multiplicity of lives: what falls in lieu of the stability that seems impossible.

I am home again, and I am more and more convinced that there is nowhere where the necessity of grace becomes more apparent than in the place where one is from, that /where/ which one has been away from for sometime. When your idea of happiness has shifted from that of the ones you love there, and seems to be lost in translation.

Besideness: a way of love, and if I cannot explain myself, the best that I may have.

"We could never provide a whole bunch of smooth transitions for this order of ditches and hidden spans. There’s just this open seriality of terminals in off transcription. Some people want to run things, other things want to run. If they ask you, tell them we were flying. Knowledge of freedom is (in) the invention of escape, stealing away in the confines, in the break. This is held close in the open song of the ones who are supposed to be silent." 

from The Undercommons, “Blackness and Governance,” Stefano Harney and Fred Moten

"We could never provide a whole bunch of smooth transitions for this order of ditches and hidden spans. There’s just this open seriality of terminals in off transcription. Some people want to run things, other things want to run. If they ask you, tell them we were flying. Knowledge of freedom is (in) the invention of escape, stealing away in the confines, in the break. This is held close in the open song of the ones who are supposed to be silent."

from The Undercommons, “Blackness and Governance,” Stefano Harney and Fred Moten

on resonances, repetitions

These days, learning overload, to the point where I don’t know how to begin saying things. It is a theme, I am learning. I am so grateful for the people that surround me, that I learn from. This past week at school there was a celebration of Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic and so many things that came up from those discussions set sparks, but most beautifully I will remember, for awhile, a presentation by Tina Campt that came out of her encounter with four anonymous rejected passport photographs of black men, from decades ago, found in the archive of a photography studio in Birmingham, England. She spoke of how there is a way in which we can listen to the things that we see — how in photography there are “sonic frequencies of quiet,” comparable to a hum, an utterance made without words, often when words are unsayable. I was thinking of how, in Space is the Place, the first thing that Sun Ra does when he lands on the new planet, far from Earth, is hum. Then, he says, “the music is different here, the vibrations are different.” More and more I am thinking of how so often we are never quiet, always making sound at low frequency, never quite rested. And more and more I think of how quiet noise is a way of sounding – in the sense of, testing the air for its resonance, trying to learn what is permissible, with a small step, with your own immediate space, before reaching further. I am thinking of how we learn this through music. Loose thoughts, for now, though I am grateful that they come.

More loose thoughts. Articulation – I don’t know why I find this such a useful word, and I don’t think that it was through academic training. There was a point in which, several years ago, I became so hesitant to speak because I was afraid of not being articulate. This fear made me loathe my upbringing, made me think that I lacked the ability to function “correctly” in English – something I realized that I had been worried about for a long time before. When I think of “articulate” as an action instead of an adjective, I feel like I can begin to own it better.

Have I said this before? I find, more and more, that I have to repeat myself and make a little progress. I am learning, also, that this is the way I write, make things, learn things in general.

What does it mean to find resonance with something or someone that comes from such a different place from you? Is that something that I am allowed to ask out loud? I need to say it somewhere because I am trying to re-trace how it happened. Growing up where I did, in Alief, everyone was a little placeless in some away, and something about that made it home. A place where bonds that were unimaginable, in so many other places, didn’t make anyone blink. Sometimes the blinking happened, but your eyes always open quickly after. There are limits to a way in which an encounter can be theorized, you just have to find a way to be in the feeling. As with listening, as with music. When we hear it we are in it, there’s no leaving then. But I need to correct myself. Hearing is not listening; listening is a choice. In the grand scheme of things we inhabit the same room.

Repetition, coming full circle. All loose resonating. Loose thoughts, quick thoughts, necessary now because I am otherwise so deliberate. The more I say things again the more things move forward, slowly but surely.

on im/possibillity

Now I am trying to articulate what it is that angers me about phrases such as “possible hate crime” or “possible discrimination”etc.; maybe first and foremost it is because, of all the things impossible in the world, to see such cruelty acknowledged as “possible” seems truly devastating, even though I should hardly be, maybe hardly am, surprised that such things are truly possible. But, what I mean to say is: it is really the juxtaposition of that terrible thing that has become possible against all the impossible things that we cannot seem to have – that is the devastating thing.

The other thing that might be so enraging: how could it be only “possible” in writing when another writing seems so clearly on the wall? Once a little over six years ago, in a conversation among those who I thought I had felt a sense of safety, I was trying to explain that I understood why one might subscribe to living in a particular way – an explanation of understanding which quickly became a defense of myself. One of these people in this (what felt like less and less of a) civil conversation said something along the lines of - or really, exactly along the lines of, “don’t you play identity politics with me.” This, among my peers at an alma mater that so prided itself in diversity. In other words, “what you are saying is forbidden, not possible here.” And how I have been burning since, lit up by having been dismissed as irrelevant for speaking from my own perspective. Well, to hell with political correctness, and to hell with your attempts at universality. Don’t mind me, I am angry today – so rare when so often I try at patience. I always feel that I am in a fumble, at a loss for words. But really, you should keep these thoughts to yourselves – as they prefer. In other words, really, you should keep your self to yourself. I generally prefer to keep to my self, I used to embarrass at doing otherwise. I felt safer that way. What a strange place we are in, where we are told to keep things when so often things are taken from us. What a strange thing, to feel safest when you accept a limited given permission.

To quote Frank O’Hara, who so haunted my state of mine/mind those little over six years ago: “I am the least difficult of all men, all I want is boundless love.” What is close to universal, maybe, is the devastation that such a sentence can hold.

And to quote Sun Ra, who so haunts my state of mine/mind now: “the planet is the way it is because of the scheme of words” and then, “it is not that / the planet is wrong or man is wrong / it is just that / the scheme of words are not possible / to either man / or the planet” –– what else is close to universal, maybe: how could we possibly go on trying to fit into what has been schemed for us? We could not, possibly. Maybe it is why holding onto what we are told are such impossible things is so critical for survival.