kaberett: a watercolour painting of an oak leaf floating on calm water (leaf-on-water)
[personal profile] kaberett
Of course, this is at once a complete lie and a truth entire, depending simultaneously on your definition of "heal" and of "wound" and, for that matter, of "truth".

Mary Oliver says:
... to live in this world

you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust: from stardust we are made; to stardust we'll return. That is healing, of a kind.

Each From Different Heights, by Stephen Dunn )

Grief doesn't leave us, but we find ways to shift the furniture around it; we learn to live with it, with its tempers and burning needs and silent solitary reflection, and find that perhaps after all it is not so bad a housemate.

Moment by moment, in the flow of our selves and our breath, we are building lives - and poetry is a means of preserving moments.
kaberett: A drawing of a black woman holding her right hand, minus a ring finger, in front of her face. "Oh, that. I cut it  off." (molly - cut it off)
[personal profile] kaberett
It will probably come as no surprise to you that, being me, the thing I want to talk about is literally the body politic, and the body as political: the ways in which we have meanings ascribed to our existence.

Half-Caste, by John Agard. )

Words have cadence, assonance, resonance. Devices used in rhetoric are used in poetry, and vice versa; we construct our realities out of words; and labels, even when they're incorrect, are stars to steer by. Cicero wasn't a poet, but he talked like one; oral histories take, often, the form of epic poems or of songs; musical and linguistic memory interact in strange ways. Poetry has power.

Half-Caste is a poem I was introduced to during GCSE English Literature. Like a lot of them, it's stuck with me

Last week, I finished reading Derek Walcott's Omeros - and oh, but in addition to its lyricism and beauty, its portrait of life, it is bitingly political: from the slave trade, via nineteenth-century wars over the island and a retired British Major in the twentieth, to the ways in which tourism can act as colonialism; through its exploration of Walcott's complicated relationship and personal resonance with Homer; set against the resonances of history, and the claims that the Odyssey is a universal story.

There is Bao Phi's Yellow-Brown Babies For The Revolution. There are slogans to chant: nothing about us without us; we're here, we're queer, get over it. There is every punk song ever (and there's a reason we call them rock anthems).

Poetry has power.

This is in part because we let it. I am increasingly convinced that in poetry - and not quite, in any other medium, at least not to the same extent - it is permitted to be angry, to express hard emotions explicitly. Poems get described as evocative and, yes, powerful - rather than histrionic or overwrought.

So many of us are used to having meanings ascribed to us in ways that align neatly with censorship/dismissal: too loud, too angry, too emotional, too irrational; we take up too much space, we're inconvenient; or we're erased wholesale, because others' perceptions of us is given primacy over our own realities, and over listening to us.

Poetry isn't a simple way to take power back - because after all it's art, and that is oh-so-readily reframed as frivolous; because in so many ways it's very much part of the Academy - but nonetheless it's a way we can tell our own stories.
this is the last song on earth,
this is the last song on earth
there is nothing else,
there is nothing else
so fill your lungs
and sing

-- Bao Phi

Listen & read
kaberett: Photo of a pile of old leather-bound books. (books)
[personal profile] kaberett
[personal profile] jjhunter and I both deal with ghosts at this time of year, I think; certainly I do. We've been sharing some of them with each other, and this is what emerged.

a curious thing, this—
a seed that does not drop until
fire hath eaten up the underbrush of certainties

There is no hopelessnessin loving you.
Precision, yes, and care, delicacy.
Awareness of your absence, bittersweet, and yet:

you don't trail lonely echoes in your wake
or scatter ghosts of leaves, however crisp

your absence cuts rather like vinegar
and pickled thus everything is flavor
almost too intense to bear

your shadow stretches out before me:
still your light casts my life into relief

On hope

Oct. 6th, 2013 05:20 pm
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
[Content notes for Sweetness: cancer, mass murder, car accidents.]

Sweetness. )

Prayer. )

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow. )

Yellow-Brown Babies for the Revolution. )

Thank you, so much, for having me this week: it has been an absolute pleaure. Most of the poems I've shared with you I first came across in the trilogy of anthologies by Bloodaxe Books, Being Alive, Staying Alive, Being Human. I wish I'd had more energy to write you better posts, but I hope that what I've done has sufficed. <3

On motion

Oct. 3rd, 2013 08:28 pm
kaberett: Toph making a rock angel (toph-rockangel)
[personal profile] kaberett

Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsicord pavane by Purcell
And the racer’s twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell’s chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante’s heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn’t, of course, I’ve fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.

-- Michael Donaghy

I used to be a pianist and a hiker, and these days I typically use a wheelchair when I leave the house, and my RSI means the most music I usually do is singing. It's been an... interesting transition to make, to say the least; and speaking of interesting transitions, to this day if I am walking late at night I will shift my gait from masculine-typical to feminine-typical and back again depending on what I think's warranted by my surroundings.

This all ties in with bodies, of course: the body as vehicle; motion between places, between states. Here is a thing I love: the way that we can suggest motion through structure, through rhythm, through assonance and onomatopoeia.

And we can also suggest stillness or constraint: I mentioned, yesterday, the strictures of poetry and how they relate to bodies; but I will also never forget the unseen poem in my GCSE English Literature exam, which was about being imprisoned - and was in sonnet form.

Robert Frost, of course, manages motion and stillness all at once.

And so: this is a way for us to talk about tension, about change of state, about - again - loss, but also about not having to be good, and it's not in the words, or at least not quite or not only in them.

Let's be clear: the poems I link to are not required reading for engaging in comments. They're just things I think you might be interested in, at least some of them.

And so, predictably, I am going to ask you to add to my own hoard of poems: what are your favourite examples of poetry in motion?

I apologise that I have not, anywhere in this post, included any trains - but what I will leave you with (and oh, but this leads in to my next post for you) is a tightrope.


This is the word tightrope. Now imagine
a man, inching across it in the space
between our thoughts. He holds our breath.

There is no word net.

You want him to fall, don't you?
I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.
The word applause is written all over him.

-- Carol Ann Duffy

On bodies

Oct. 3rd, 2013 12:17 am
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
The Cinnamon Peeler, Michael Ondaatje )

In much of my own work this year (seek & ye shall find; [a scribble]; writing my wrongs) I play with the idea of the body as palimpsest: of our histories being written on our skins, metaphorically but also literally (laughter and frown lines, and of course scars, for those of us who have laid our bodies on altars of surgical steel). But it's not just that: it's about struggling with being queer, and genderqueer, and making that legible: the idea of "legible" identities, of being correctly "read". And it's the assumptions that other people make about my queer disabled body (and my queer disabled self) and my capabilities, and how oppressive that can be and can feel.

But more than that, for me it is about coming to terms and, yes, my word for the year, reclamation. Through the constraints of poetical forms I explore (at least in theory!) the constraints of my body: I've not yet written the sonnet about the pillars of my ribcage, but it is mulling, gently.

But it's not just about constraint, about strictures: my words have also been about body-as-poetry, poetry-as-body, encircling and enfolding and making safe. Among others, I think that I am here drawing on Ani DiFranco: your bones will be my bedframe and your flesh will be my pillow. And then, of course, there is Neruda, who is close to my heart because he makes bodies into the Earth into poems.

So: one of the things that poetry helps me with, helps me relate to, is my changing body and my changing relationship to it and why scent is so important to me; and poetry helps me better understand the bodies of others, and the embodiment of others.

And it all circles back, over and over, to my feeling that our histories are (being) written on our bodies, and simultaneously we write them in poetry, and both are cryptic and both are layered, and there is the tension between the action of the world on our selves and of our selves on the world; of the concept of the death of the author and how it applies to spinning our own lives into narratives, and weaving ourselves into the stories of others, and how we are seen by others. (And the shifts of perspective, of course: in Ovid's Heroides, in Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife, who take people whose value was in part determined by their bodies and give them voice, make them into something else.)

As you've probably gathered by now, one of my absolute favourite things about poetry is resonance - how we can communicate via the echoes of poems we love in poems that are new to us (and this is going to be the subject of my next post for you). It makes space for us to talk: and so. If you are comfortable, I would love for you to tell me about your experiences and your favourites, and -- in advance, I thank you, because I am keenly aware of how intimate a request this is.

On loss

Oct. 1st, 2013 08:06 pm
kaberett: Photo of a pile of old leather-bound books. (books)
[personal profile] kaberett
Hey. I'm Alex; you might have seen me around here before. I'm hosting this week, and I'm going to be focusing on change: all else aside, this weekend I moved cities and started a new job. So. I'm going to start by introducing you to a poem about loss.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

—-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

-- Elizabeth Bishop

Loss is not, of course, the only form of change, and I'll be talking more about several of the others over the course of this week. I'm sorry that all I have to offer you today is this poem, but I'd love for you to talk about your own favourites on this topic, or to talk about this poem. (I love, too, the odd constraints of the villanelle, and how they always feel slightly uncomfortable to me. This is reflected, I think, in my favourite villanelles, which are all, yes, about uncomfortable topics.)
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
... the most beautiful thing/on the black earth, wrote Sappho, two and a half thousand years ago.

It was twelve and a half million years ago (this, you see, is why I'm a little inexact: what are a few years between friends?) that Lesbos (or Lesvos) was last volcanically active. And yet: and yet. The Aegean has its volcanoes today, that still bring forth fire and brimstone, but they're a long way south, this being the way of subduction zones and time.

The black earth: it suggests richness, perhaps; dampness. But to me, it also suggests volcanic ash, worried and weathered into fertility.

It is not, you understand, that I intend to provide a close geological reading of this fragment: I am given little else to go on, after all. But I wanted to suggest to you that Sappho's choices, here, said not only fertility, but also home.

What I'm really here to do is to give you a necessarily brief overview of what has grown in that soil, through the gulfs of time and silence between us.

(There is - are - also Michael Field, the pen name adopted by a lesbian couple who lived from around 1850 to the beginning of the First World War. The main bulk of their work, prior to 1906, had among its influences the traces of Sappho, as she was understood by Victorians.)

Borges wrote that every writer makes their own precursors: that a work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future. I cannot, I'm afraid, tell you much about Sappho's precursors - but I can tell you who I see looking back at me from the shards of fragment 16.

Read more... )
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
One: I am trans and I am disabled. For me, intimacy often has physical aspects: [personal profile] lightgetsin wrote an excellent essay on some of these intersections, last year, entitled Do I Do It For You? Service kink and disability, on some of the ways in which disability can encourage or compel physical - and emotional - intimacy.

Two: when we talk about intimacy, about trust, we often frame it in terms of the physical. In terms of romance, yes: we fall in and out of love, and making that fall physical is only a little stretch; but also in terms of closeness, as Simon Armitage's Homecoming: Think, two things on their own and both at once/The first, that exercise in trust, where those in front/stand with their arms spread wide and free-fall/backwards, blind, and those behind take all the weight...

These are my two things, each on their own and both at once. These are what I carry with me when I offer you this poem.

For more about this poem - in origin terms - please see Gabe Moses' website, and his reading of the poem.

How To Make Love To A Trans Person, Gabe Moses [explicit; detailed discussion of surgery] )


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