Stand-up, Slam-down

April 22nd, 2013

Don’t you just love when things line up in your life? I do, and today, it happened!

For the past two weeks, I’ve forgone my usual lunch break to attend the Anthropology Department’s Senior Thesis Presentations from 11-11:50 every Monday/Wednesday/Friday. My favorite of today’s lecture had to do with the way “black humor” is used as a form of political resistance against the day-to-day stereotypes made about people of color. My pant-suited classmate argued that Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock are perhaps the best examples of this in action.

After showing clips from the above videos, Mandy asked the audience: Do you think this is effective in changing racial stereotypes? Those who spoke up agreed that Chapelle and Rock’s stand-up acts presented a double-edged sword: On one hand, they exposed just how ridiculous the popular assumptions that comprise racial stereotypes are. On the other, the giggly conversational delivery by each comic, created a window for listeners to take their statements less seriously (than perhaps they ought to) and/or laugh, then move on. What was missing from the performance was the incentive to change their behavior, and do so with a sense of urgency.

Slam Poetry seems to be the new-improved model of poltically-charged stand-up. Sure audience members involuntarily laugh at Staceyann Chin’s one liners:

“she tells me how she was a raving beauty in the sixties
how she could have had any man she wanted
but she chose the one least likely to succeed
and that’s why when the son of a bitch died
she had to move into this place
because it was government subsidized.”


“Will I still be lesbian then
or will the church or family finally convince me
to marry some man with a smaller dick
than the one my woman uses to afford me
violent and multiple orgasms”

But she isn’t laughing. Her humorless delivery makes a statement that no one can misinterpret. In the end we are downright scared of her (or at least I was).

What do you think?

Direct Your Anger Here

April 22nd, 2013

After class today Molly informed me that I was likely to be crucified for my remark about Staceyann Chin’s piece “If only out of vanity,” and also that I might want to explain myself on the blog a little bit more. It’s not that I don’t believe there aren’t any artistic merits to her poem/performance – it’s just that I personally find the style abrasive and somewhat rudimentary.  What specifically do I find obnoxious and or childish about the poem/performance? 1:56. The resemblance of her yelling, repetition, and rumpus-ing about in this instance is uncannily similar to another well known tantrum from a boy in his wolf-pajamas.  Dr. Scanlon helped articulate the thought behind my somewhat crass remark a little better by saying that it might seem to lack many of the traditional qualities that I value in poetry: subtlety, grace, beauty, and technical prowess. Yes – I realize that many of these qualities are subjective and whether or not this poem/performance possesses any or all them is certainly debatable. Different strokes for different folks and all that fun stuff. Sorry if I offended anyone but I just felt particularly compelled in that moment to share my opinion. All that said – you’re more than welcome to disagree with me as my thoughts/tastes change accordingly as I learn/grow more.

Breakdown of Adios, Carenage and some Woman stuff

April 18th, 2013

07 Transatlanticism

05 Why You’d Want To Live Here “Leaving Carnage”

09 Coney Island

07 Someday You Will Be Loved

11 Beacon-“Take the deep end and swim till you can’t stand”

The title ‘Adios, Carenage’ tells me that Shabine is saying goodbye to an Island. However, the name of the Island that Walcott chooses “Carenage” makes me want to change it to “carnage.” Carenage is a real place though:Carenage is a community in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in northwestern Trinidad, and is administered by the Diego Martin Regional Corporation. Located close to Chaguaramas, it is more of a residential area than a commercial or industrial locale.The name is derived from the practice of “careening” (i.e., beaching) sailing vessels for maintenance, which had been done in the area for many years(Wikipedia).[

In the this excerpt of this long poem he refers to the place he is leaving to a carnival like its a circus that he is tired of being a clown in: “So leave it for them and their carnival.” But first things first, Shabine leaves his wife in the middle of the night:”I blow out the light by the dreamless face of Maria Concepcion.” A. Rogers talk about how Shabine spoke rudely to his dry neighbor but he actually didn’t say anything to her at all:” and I nearly said: “sweep softly, you witch, ’cause she don’t sleep hard.” how would you feel towards a women who was making ruckus while you were trying to sneak out of the house while she was sleeping? Shabine hops in the taxi and it seems as if the taxi driver has driven him a number of times: “a route taxi pull up, park-lights still on. The driver size up my bags with a grin: “This time , Shabine, like you really gone!” ” Since the park lights are on it tells me that the taxi cab is there on call or is easily accessible, maybe it’s in his own mind. The reason why I would change Carenage to carnage is because Shabine talks about that in the rearview mirror he saw a man “exactly” like himself like he could have left his physical body behind:”exactly like me, and the man was weeping for the houses, the streets, the whole fucking island.” Shabine is leaving carnage because he says: “If loving these islands must be my load, out of corruption my soul takes wings. but they had started to poison my soul with their big house, big car, big-time bohobohl, collie, nigger, Syrian, and French Creole, so I leave it for them and their carnival.” It is like all the materialistic shit in the world is too shallow and that he must go to deeper depths. If there is any confusion about whether Walcott is Shabine I think it is clear that he is when he says: “a rusty head sailor with sea-green eyes that they nickname Shabine, the patois for any red nigger, and I, Shabine, saw”  Shabine brings up “colonial” half way through the poem. When he says “colonial” I believe he is talking about collegiate and formal education:I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me. The Dutch had slaves. Sounds a little like he is America because he is a melting pot of a person: “I’m a nation.”  I feel like his misses his wife even though he left her in the middle of the night because he brings her up throughout this section of the poem is positive ways: “But Maria Concepcion was all my thought.” “Strokes of the sun signing her name in every reflection”. However, it does turn dark in the next line when he describes the darkness as a woman: “When dark-haired evening put on her bright silk at sunset.” At the begininning of the poem dawn is brought up if you can remember:”as a seaman on the schooner Flight. Out in the yard turning gray in the dawn”. When he said “dawn” at the beginning of the poem and in that context I thought of it as his own dawn, like he departed is his own mind. Anyway, there is a link between him taking Flight and the woman that is the night that I just mentioned, after the “sunsets” this follows; “folding the sea, sidled under the sheet with her starry laugh, that there’d be no rest, there’d be no forgetting. Is like telling mourners round the gravesideabout resurrection, they want the dead back, so I smile to myself as the bow rope untied and the Flight swing seaward.” This reminds me of dreaming and how people sleep but if you are dreaming all night you wake up as if you were never really sleep.  He leaves his wife but when the night falls there is this other woman ,the night, that he is with or maybe it is that he is constantly haunted by leaving his wife and family.  you know the phrase ‘there are more fish in the sea’ when referring to women? Shabine says to that cliché,”Is no use repeating that the sea have more fish.” He says this because when he is with the sea it is more of a spiritual connection:”I aint want her dressed in the sexless light of a seraph(angle).” He wants her is a more animal way or physical way. Her describes he and his wife on Sunday afternoons and describes her as a squirrel:”I want those round brown eyes like a marmoset” “Those claws that tickled my back on Sunday afternoons, like a crab on wet sand.” He always links himself with the water in some way. He links the sea with the “woman of the night I mentioned early with the word silk when he is describing that Sunday afternoon: “as I worked, watching the rotting waves come past that scissor the sea like silk”  Shabine tells the read that he truthfully loves his wife and family he swear by his mother’s milk and “by the stars that shall fly” from that night “furnace”:”I loved them, my children, my wife, my home” I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it is a Love/Hate relationship because hate is such a strong word but he says,” I loved them as poets love the poetry that kills them, as drowned sailors the sea” Walcott is the poet. Shabine is the drowned sailor:”Shabine sang to you from the depths of the sea” All this to say that Shabine has nothing against women, he just loves himself more. And that since he is man women will always be in his mind whether it be in the form of guilt or the sea that is womanlike that lures him to her.

A preview to tomorrow’s slam poetry presentation.

April 18th, 2013

In Response to “A Far Cry From Africa”

April 17th, 2013

I personified Africa as is it were crying from a far in, “A Far Cry From Africa”

In the first four lines of the poem Walcott describes the terrain and the state of Africaand how like the Kikuyu, who have an agricultural economy, other countries like America have benefitted from African people or Africa’s natural resources like diamonds and coffee.  If other countries would have left Africa alone there would probably be less corpses scattered through the paradise. “Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries”: Colonel-a French and English word, parts of Africa have been colonized by the French, English nation have stolen Africans. Carrion-Anglo French word as well meaning rotting flesh. Colonels of carrion are the worm. Think of an apple with a worm in it borrowing through destroying the entire apple for its own health. Colonels of Carrion cry out, “Waste no compassion on these separate dead.” Clinton did not save Africans as soon as he could, many countries turn a blind eye to Africa and their troubles and consider Africa dead already. “Statistics justify and scholars seize”- Do not underestimate the half meanings in this poems, they speak for themselves. “The salient of colonial policy”- colonial to me goes back to the British embarking on the new world, pushing the natives out and setting up shop on new land, colonialism is the begininning of a rotting apple due to a worm that is colonialism. The term color white is innocents not the race in the first stanza: “What is that to the white child hacked in bed?” “To savages, expendable as Jews?”: similar to how Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.  Africa has been “threshed out by beaters” and the white dust from the beating of Africa spreads like white birds(ibises) whose cries have wheeled since the dawn of civilization where all humans come from. The uprightman seeking his divinity (spread of Christianity) by inflicting pain. “While he calls courage still that native(natives dread what he calls courage)/ dread of the white peace(white peace-death) contracted by the dead.”

“Again brutish necessity wipes its hands/ upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again/ a waste of compassion, as with Spain,/ the gorilla wrestles with the superman.”-gorilla, a wild or native animal that must be colonized by a white superman. At least Walcott curses the drunken officer of British rule. Walcott does not betray both, he gives back what they give through poems like this. How can he have both forces dwell in him and not be enraged? He asks, How can we turn from Africa and live?

The Sea = History

April 17th, 2013

Walcott is very awesome and I disagree that he is sexist for all you ladies out there who perceive his work as sexist.  I just think that he, like most poets transcend the notion of gender and if he loved a women then he loved her but he does consider the veil over people and he will not let a women trick him through lust for her.  On the other side of that a women could, rather than continue to feel trampled on by society, see themselves as having power over men because of the tools they possess-brains, seduction, being oppressed- women are the double edged sword, but please slice for good  and not for evil.  The man is a weak race that feels empowered when they belittle your powers so don’t be discouraged and read literature through the masculine lense that will always be there for you since the Man wrote History his way. Speaking of History I’d like to discuss “The Sea is History” because it brings in colonizing, Religion, and a bit of gender and I’m sure it could link to the long poem “The Schooner Flight” in several ways I just haven’t taken time to make the connections yet.  The Sea is Deep and so is “The Sea is History” but once you jump into the deep end you always wonder what it would feel like to touch the floor of the pool so I didn’t stop swimming until I felt something solid. What I retrieved from this piece has a lot to do with the search for Truth, a lot to do with the beginning of the Earth, a lot to do with The New and Old Testaments, a lot to do with Jesus, a lot to do with bodies of water.  When we think of bodies of water we think of people like Christopher Columbus and other Spanish colonizers who colonized and justified it through the spread of Christianity.  Walcott talks about “Sir’s” in this poem. I believe the “Sir’s” in this poem could possibly be colonizers(white male Dominance, enslavers, capitalists, chasers of gold, chasers of Truth by any means). Consider the questions that the Sir’s are asked: “Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?/ Where is your tribal memory? Sirs” After addressing the Sirs Walcott takes us the notion of heaving oil- drawing oil from underground or even under water which is a capitalist effort nowadays. Walcott takes us through the Old Testament, starting with Genesis when God creates the world and appoints man as his regent, but man proves disobedient and God destroys his world through the Flood but preserves a righteous man, Noah, and his family. The new post-Flood world is equally corrupt, but God does not destroy it, instead calling one man, Abraham, to be the seed of its salvation(Wikipedia). The capitalist ship has set sail in the Third stanza “Caravel(spanish or Portuguese sailing vessel)/ and that was Genesis). However, there is some negativity associated with those caravel’s some packed cries, a little shit, some loud moaning and what not. Exodus, the second book of the bible is next when Moses leads the people out of Egypt.  Bone is addressed twice in this poem, first in the fourth stanza as being soldered by coral to bone but “benediction of the shark’s shadow” is even more interesting because the shark is similar to the whale in its uniqueness in how it is a massive scary creature but the difference is that it does not come up for air and that it is a predator of the water and must continue to swim to survive similar to capitalism in a way. Capitalism and business is ruthless and could care less about poor individuals. The better the fruit is for your health the more expensive it is. If the fruit is healthy and tastes good, double that. The Ark of the Convenant and the Ten Commandments are addressed in the fifth stanza (I would go line for line but I’m hoping you’ve read this far haha) “Then came the plucked wires of sunlight on the sea floor the plangent(loud) harps of the Babylonian bondage, as white cowries(the highly polished, usually brightly colored shell of a marine gastropod of the genus Cypraea,  as that of C. moneta (money cowrie)  used as money in certain parts of Asia and Africa, or that of C. tigris,  used for ornament(Dictionary) clustered like manacles(handcuffs) on the drowned women- so in the sixth stanza we have money and bondage, I’m not fond of math so you do it. The “drowned women”  could be women in general and their preoccupation with shiny things because the first line of the next stanza begins, “and those were the ivory bracelets” or we good escape the surface level interpretation and says it is in fact the Song of Solomon or the  Song of Songs (Old Testament) has often been interpreted as a parable of the relationship of God and Israel, or for Christians, Christ and the Church or Christ and the human soul, as husband and wife(Wikipedia).  In the tenth stanza capitalism is addressed again and so is the Flood: “of the tidal wave swallowing Port Royal(In the late 17th century it came to serve as the base of operations for buccaneers and privateers who raided the Spanish islands and ships. When the notorious Captain Henry Morgan(a Sir) established his headquarters there, the plundered gold poured in, followed by merchants and artisans who eagerly catered to all the appetites of the pirates (dictionary).)/ and that was Jonah(swallowed by the large fish for three days and then lived to tell about it) Question to the Sirs in the last line of the tenth stanza:”Where is your Renaissance-a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth; revival (dictionary).? This questions is answered: “Sir, it is locked in them sea- sands out there past the reef’s moiling shelf, where the men-o-war floated down; strop(nautical word for strap) on these goggles, I’ll guide you there myself(Shabine like). I’ll now just point to major words that speak to my interpretation cause this is getting long:”Colonnades of coral”, “Weighted by its jewels”, “Gomorrah”- wicked place, please look up what the book of Lamentations was about in the bible!

I skipped to the major turn in the poem at the 18th stanza where “the spires lancing the side of God.” A spire is like the steeple at the top of a church or one could interpret this as the crucifixion of Christ on the cross. The next stanza is “as His (God’s) son set, and that was the New Testament. Women are brought back up, “White sisters clapping to the waves progress, and that was emancipation(equality between races, genders, etc.). Still no History, “only faith”-belief that Jesus rose from the dead, “then each rock broke into its own nation(Pangaea), “then came the synod(laws of the church, assembly)”

“with their sea pools, there was the sound like a rumor without any echo// of History, really beginning”- His Story or History.  I think Walcott is suggesting that the enslavers and colonizer’s History or Culture is that they were prophets for God even though they were enslaving people and stealing their land for capitalist reasons. Slaves were taught Christianity and were also abused on the bases of Christianity. Christianity became their only Hope for Freedom.


Paradise in the Lost Empire

April 16th, 2013

I was twitching in my seat in class days ago to say this stuff, so here we go.

(by the way, I know I said “ohh I hate the blogs” when told to “take it to the blog!” but it’s not that I hate looking at what a cool dynamic the blog creates or looking at links and opinions people post- I like that. Posting just feels intimidating for me because it’s not like in class where I can say something and people can forget it later, once it’s on the blog the whole internet can see it until the internet is no more. I feel compelled to make a bigger deal out of it.)

Prof. Scanlon talked about mimicry on Friday  and I wanted to add an analogy that might help (or enhance) how one could perceive mimicry. I  think of mimicry as a shadow with teeth. It’s a reflection of the dominant society but that reflection can be for better or for worse (for example the sexism in some of Walcott’s work) and in that way it becomes a critique. Not only the presented arguement that Prof. Scanlon had (“if we are so savage then how come we can do this just as well or even better than you can?”) but also “Do we need your ‘corrections’ if there are flawed modes of thinking in your own values?” So mimicry shouldn’t just be the monster under the bed, but… the Venom to Spiderman. (I let too much time pass before I posted this. I forgot my original comparison.)

I also wanted to talk a lil’ bit more about the first stanza because some people mentioned Africa being the odd non-specific location on the list. I would agree that it was intentional, but take it a step further from the little boy with his sloppy map. I think that Walcott listed  things like that the underscore the bridge between the past and the present. (How else would he be so specific with the words for transportation from different countries?)

The first stanza is talking to the second one because at the end of the first stanza Walcott alludes to a bunch of resistance battles in colonies. The second stanza puts it in the perspective of the native people, this is the paradise that they shed blood for.

Couldn’t gather all the thoughts I had that day, but I’m content with what I’ve got here.

Def Poetry

April 16th, 2013

I love def poetry and I’m so excited to hear it and learn about it in class. I watched the videos that Dr. Scanlon posted on the blog and my favorite was the one by Gina Loring, Somewhere There is a Poem. It is so cool how she intertwined history and touched on major historic events and people and it all flowed so well when she said it. I’m always amazed by how def poets speak their poems so well and so fluidly. My favorite part, well I have two. The first was when she sang the beginning of Amazing Grace-incorporating different spoken art styles into the reading is one of my favorite things and it really added to the poem, it gave it even more of a musical flare. I also loved how she used repetition to transition from one subject to the next and how it made her sound as if she was rapping. The poem flowed so so well and I loved her voice as she recited, the intonation and changing speed with which she spoke was beautiful. I found the written poem online and pasted the lyrics here because I loved them so much 🙂  This was so great!

Somewhere there is a poem
And I want to write this poem
I want to speak this poem
I want to feel this poem
I want to experience this poem
Cradle it in my arms
Feed it a good meal
And send it on its merry way

I want to sing this poem
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound”
Somewhere there is a poem screaming
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Human beings, human beings
Beings being so
Caught up in the tangible material surface
Or that they never actually feel
Their touch is liquid and grazes right through
But misses the core
This poem whispers to me
And rocks me to sleep
And tells me stories of indigenous people
Diseased and tricked and slaughtered
And made to be extinct
But this ain’t no pterodactyl
Or tyrannosaurus rex blood flowing through my veins

I am a Creek American Indian
I exist
I am an African
I am an old Jewish woman muttering prayers in Yiddish
As my name is replaced with a number on my arm
I am a little Japanese girl
Staring in horror
As my village is bombed and burnt to the ground
I was born in India, but not to the right caste
So regardless of what I accomplish
I will always be a peasant
I died in Mexico three feet from the border
Gunned down by evil troops
Who shoot for a living
Who sacrifice their souls for
The man-made boundaries of these Americas
Somewhere, there is a poem somewhere
Dozing in subway stations
And flying high on a 405
And taking the L to Brooklyn
The 15 to Vegas
And the Marter through Atlanta
And cruising down a dark street in Oakland is a poem

This poem comes from somewhere deep
Somewhere where the angels sleep
Where pixies dance and mermaids weep
Where hymns are hummed
So God will keep us all in mind on Judgment Day
This poem warns, but does not sway
For what you do is up to you
Where you go and who you know
If you close up, or if you grow

Somewhere there is a poem about the insanity
Of war, Hiroshima, Hiroshima
Hero, hero, war hero
Hero-, hero-, heroin is
Crack cocaine is
The systematic genocide of my people
Brown skin behind bars
Locked up behind bars
Trapped behind bars
And slaves behind bars
Kept in lines behind bars
Counted behind bars
Bars, there are more bars
Selling alcohol on a single reservation in Oklahoma
Than in all of Ventura county, county
Counting me in ‘cause I’m down for the revolution
Which may not be televised
And may not get radio play
But it will be told through poetry
‘Cause somewhere there is a poem

This poem speaks to me and draws me in
Like an amusement park to a kid
I want to freak this poem and dream this poem
And share it with y’all
Hold up, shhhhh
I just did

Spoken Word Videos for next week

April 15th, 2013

1.  For Monday:

Go to Def Poetry on channel musikslove (81 videos) and watch the following:

  • Black Ice, “Imagine” #16
  • Gina Loring, “Somewhere There Is a Poem” #19
  • Sunni Patterson, “We Made It” #76
  • Suheir Hammad, “First Writing Since” #77

Go to urbanrenewalprogram (80 videos) and watch the following:

  • Linton Kwesi Johnson, “If I was a top notch poet”
  • Staceyann Chin, “If only out of vanity”
  • Jessica Care Moore, “I’m a hip-hop cheerleader”
  • Erykah Badu, “Friends, fan, and artists”
  • Danny Hoch, “Corner Talk, September”
  • Amiri Baraka, “Why is we Americans”
  • Beau Sia, “Give me a chance”
  • Taylor Mali, “What teachers make”

2. For Wednesday:

Videos are student choice.  In Comments on this post, provide the name of the artist, the name of the poem, and the link (paste it in and it will go live when you post the comment).   RULES:

  • The poem must be recorded in a performance, and should NOT be a video production.
  • Each student may post only one video, so choose wisely!  It is NOT mandatory that you choose a poem.

A Far Cry from Africa

April 14th, 2013

As Julia’s earlier post touched on, Walcott seems to ground us as his audience most specifically in terms of location, often through his titles; however, in his piece “A Far Cry from Africa,” I found the notion of “Africa” to be much more abstracting than stabilizing. Rather than “Africa,” Walcott’s title maybe improved upon by being more specific to the REAL issue at hand: “A Far Cry from Africanness.” If this sounds silly and reductive, that’s because it is, linguistically. But on some level, isn’t this what Walcott is actually addressing in this piece?

In any case, it seemed awfully timely to focus on this piece right after the Multicultural Fair, because that is precisely what strikes me most about it– how poignantly and obviously MULTIcultural it is. The cultural awareness does not necessarily stem from racial differences, although that’s definitely a huge aspect of it– just the sheer number of times Walcott brings “whiteness” into the text stands out in itself. However, it is the idea of betrayal of one’s heritage rather than race that sticks out the most– “Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?” (27) This is reminiscent of some of the language Langston Hughes uses when he writes of his biracial background, and yet he has accepted and exemplified his own blackness in no uncertain terms. I think it is always difficult knowing “where to turn” in situations of multinational understanding of the self. Thoughts, yeses and nos?

Incidentally, did anyone notice that the first stanza of this piece has ten lines, the second has eleven, and the third has twelve? Weird… 🙂

Also, for your viewing/listening pleasure:

“Africa” by Toto, an 80s classic. I still can’t quite figure out what they’re talking about, though…