Poet as genesis

It took an hour
to make song   another hour
for stone        the river
& stone are conjugate verbs
acting together
       to make the verdict of song
       ring true

“I have always had the sense of Armageddon and it was much stronger in those days, the sense of living on the edge of chaos. Not just personally, but on the world level. That we were dying, that we were killing our world — that sense had always been with me. That whatever I was doing, whatever we were doing that was creative and right, functioned to hold us from going over the edge. That this was the most we could do while we constructed some saner future.” – Audre Lorde recalling when she had heard of Martin Luther King’s killing.

a deliberate earthing

I.
“I am deliberate
and afraid
of nothing.”
An act of will that
    mourns wonder
    weaves magic –

– Quoted words from “New Year’s Day” by Audre Lorde

II.
“Green essence pooled again in my eyes, which paint the grass, which will later bloom in the memories of animals.”
I as earth
    I as animal
    woke as essence of green –

– Quoted words by Alejandra Pizarnik

Poet as difference

Poet as difference
the smellsweet
    wrungtooth, it keeps us in guess
    in

deference to differ
the snuckroot
    earthsweat, as blade wishes blood
    in

rain – the differed
the nailred
    skyrust, as air as parch as wet as pain

that deep inner place where we have been taught to fear all difference—to kill it or ignore it

Audre Lorde

Tao as Lorde

When I speak of the Tao, I know not
but vaguely I

speak of Lorde       the fruit of my wis-
dom is twenty

                  inches too far from soul, twenty
                  years too large, twenty
                  something, perhaps more maybe
                  much less
When I speak of the Tao, I speak of Lorde

for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are — until the poem — nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt

— Audre Lorde, “Poetry is not a luxury”

An unhandsome toil


Here are poetic tangents – mine with Lorde’s and Rukeyser’s – to a podcast I heard last night: a tribute paid to Eqbal Ahmad by his friend, Edward Said. Said contrasted his personal ‘filiation’ with his ‘affiliation’ in relation to Ahmad and the world of idea(l)s, Ahmad’s unceasing commitment to the creative versus mere politics, his fiery exhortations rooted in peace, and the sacrifice one has to make in pursuit of love (justice by any other name).


To engage what is true with what is most
true

It's the moor to an unhandsome
toil
     the imperfect
     the stone
it's the moor to loveless anchor   blanched in
      yellow   in-&
      out of tune

It’s compensation for kin with what is most
akin

"I say across the waves of the air
to you:
     today once more 
     I will try to be 
non-violent one more day this morning, waking the world
     away in the 
     violent day"1

To once more blur imagination with what is most
inconvenient

"Disrobed need shrieks through the nearby
streets...
     a brown sloe-eyed 
     boy picks blotches 
from his face, eyes my purse shivering 
     white dust a holy 
     fire in his blood"2

1. from “Waking This Morning” – Muriel Rukeyser
2. from “The Politics of Addiction” – Audre Lorde
I have taken the liberty of changing the line breaks in the two excerpts above.

Poems, Justice and Data Visualization

I have long been entertaining the possibility of somehow tying together the three areas: poems, social justice and data visualization. It has been tricky, but here is my first attempt.

The 10 poems by Audre Lorde and Muriel Rukeyser (wellsprings of poetic sensibility) are intended to provide context for the accompanying data visualization on gender (using data from genderstats.un.org). This is intended in a tangential and somewhat disruptive way. Data for indicators in the development world is mostly presented in a cut and dried way. Add to that their lumping together in neat categories and the bobbing up and down of pretty graphs and charts, and you end up euphemizing the underlying reality. The technical brilliance on display then serves as spectacle. That of course does not take away from the fact that the underlying numbers have been painstakingly collected and systematically organized. And these numbers are pretty much the only authoritative ones that map the reality that social activists use to change the world.

Hence the poems as corrective.

this need & dare

“This first bright day has broken
the back of winter” (1)

As you will it, as you make day beckon its
wince, its sense of pay

“it does not pay to cherish symbols
when the substance
lies so close at hand” (2)

at hand is metal
it is shunned by pieces of,
remnants of burnt life

“my shoulders are dead leaves
waiting to be burned
to life” (3)

leaves welled up as tears are
torn again with the grind of
spade    another morning, an
other funnel of seedless faith

“I do not know when
we shall laugh again
but next week
we will spade up another plot
for this spring’s seeding.” (4)

And I know not when your
sun will drown this
piece of land, this need &
dare    yours, mine.

1-4: from Audre Lorde’s poem, “Walking our Boundaries”