Trees of Reverie Readathon: Bookish Challenge #3

Existentialism

The wretched of the Earth are killing — rage — ending — racism
like Greek Tragedies
from a mouthful of forevers, Lucy asks ‘Ain’t I a woman?’

Black women and their
feminism: the bones, the breaking, the balm
scars / stars

she’s crossing the mangrove, seeking the will to change
says ‘men (masculinity) and love are fantasy;
the dragon can’t dance’

says ‘I’m all about love — new visions — the other side,
but where we stand, class matters’

 

photo of a large number of books spread out on a black velveteen cloak
16 books used in the creation of this time’s spine poem — click the photo to check out poems by other participants in the October 2015 Trees of Reverie Readathon.

The books:

  • Existentialism by Robert Solomon
  • The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
  • Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks
  • Greek Tragedies by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore (eds.)
  • Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine von Radics
  • Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
  • Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks
  • The Bones, the Breaking, the Balm by Dominique Christina
  • Scars/Stars by Walidah Imarisha
  • Crossing the Mangrove by Maryse Condé
  • The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks
  • Fantasy by Jacqueline Furby and Claire Hines
  • The Dragon Can’t Dance by Earl Lovelace
  • All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
  • The Other Side by Julia Alvarez
  • Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks

There’s an alternate view of the books on my Instagram, and you can listen to me reading the poem on Soundcloud.

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Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon Day 4: Recommended Read

Day Four, Tuesday, July 14:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

I am participating in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This is the Day 4 Challenge post.

Challenge:

If I could share and recommend only ONE book/series that I’ve read so far in 2015…

Oh, my! Just one? How do I even choose?! This is such a hard question…

Ugh. Okay, If I have to pick just one of the books I’ve read this year, I’m going to have to go with— Wow, this is hard…

Alright, I pick:

Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine Von Radics. I was invited to read my poetry at a reading she was also a part of, and though I got a bit lost and was late, I loved what I heard of hers, and after the event we swapped a copy of our own book for the other’s. I didn’t get to read it until a week later, though, when I devoured this book over the course of a flight from Oregon to Alaska for a debate tournament, and I made my teammates read my favorites, and gesticulated a bunch and was very, very excited.

(Warning for profanity.) Continue reading “Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon Day 4: Recommended Read”

Tarot Cards, Feelings, Prayers, and a Poem

My birthday was on Tuesday of this week, and I spent a lot of time thinking about astrology and symbolism last week. With the sun conjoining Mars in my sign last Sunday, and a new moon on my birthday, this is an auspicious time for setting intentions. I thought about my life and my hopes and dreams and created a list of focus areas on Sunday, and then picked 5 to carry forward into the year to come.

I’ve also been using tarot cards as a tool for focus and intentionality for a couple of months now. On Sunday night, before bed, I meditate for a few minutes to calm myself and then draw 3 tarot cards. I write the cards down in a journal I keep for that purpose, and journal a little about what they mean to me. The next day, I read my horoscope on Chani Nicholas’s site, see where it connects to the cards I drew, and make a note in my planner of where to focus my energy and emotion for the week.

Many people see this kind of thing as incompatible with logic or religion: on one hand, there is little scientific support for horoscopes or tarot (though meditation is beneficial), and on the other, many mainstream religions call this witchcraft or idolatry. I am Jewish and agnostic, but for me the practice is not a wrong one. It is a tool for being intentional — and it also brings me comfort. I’ve been both scared and awed by the idea that there isn’t a guiding power in the universe, but lately that’s been much more scary. How do we reconcile the hardship of life if it means that incidents like Wednesday’s terrorist shooting in South Carolina are truly nothing more than random? Continue reading “Tarot Cards, Feelings, Prayers, and a Poem”

Poem: Happy Birthday

Here’s a bit of silliness I wrote up as part of my National Poetry Writing Month effort:

Happy Birthday

hi
I, uh
I just really wanted
to say hi to you today
and tell you that I
I really like your shirt
I mean, as you know
the Ninja Turtles are my favourite

and I know they’re your favourite
because you told me so
when we first met
and I really wanted to let you know
that I see you wearing that shirt
and even if no one else knows it
I know you really like the Ninja Turtles

and I know it’s your birthday tomorrow
so I brought you a card—
they didn’t have Ninja Turtles cards
at any of the stores I went to
so I drew one myself
I hope it’s okay—
also, I got you a cupcake
it’s got a picture on top
it’s supposed to be Michelangelo
I hope that’s okay
my mom would only let me get one

but what I really wanted to say is
I like you
no, I mean I like you
like, I like-like you
and I was hoping you might
like-like me back
but
I mean
if you don’t
it’s okay
I just wanted to check

 

uh
happy birthday?

 

© Tessara Dudley, 2015

Brief life update

Hello, all!

I’m just popping in to share a round up of my latest pieces published, and a little bit about how life’s going.

By the way, most of my pieces are shared as they come out on my Facebook page, and I also share a lot of stuff on there, like essays by other writers and poems I like. Currently, I have a series going where I’m sharing a poem I love every Friday through the summer. If you have a Facebook and are interested in my work, I recommend liking that page. (Yay, shameless self-promotion!)

My pieces published in the last month:

I’ve been keeping busy with writing and school, and some behind-the-scenes stuff. In fact, I just ordered proof copies for my first book published through Mourning Glory Publishing, and I’m about to send contributor contracts out for another. I’m really excited and ready to get these books out and into the hands of readers!

Have a lovely week, everyone. ❤

Poetry as soul-food, self-care as struggle

I haven’t posted a blog post since the first week of term, three weeks ago. My first instinct was to apologise here, but I’m not doing that. Instead, a brief explanation:

I have high expectations for myself, and I tend towards taking on more than I can handle. When the term started, I thought that I could post regularly on my blog, send a weekly newsletter, write for two sites 1-2 times a month, work 20 hours a week on campus, and get all of my homework done. That’s been much harder than I anticipated, particularly with the heavy amount of reading: some 500+ pages per week.

This week, my Audre Lorde class shifted from her memoir Zami to her poetry. Sunday, as I read, I felt amazing, happy and calm and still, and I realised that I hadn’t felt that way in weeks. When I got home, I shuffled one of my tarot decks and drew three cards: the 4 of Swords, Strength, and the 4 of Cups, which reflected some things that had been on my mind that morning. I set several intentions for my week:

  • I will listen to my body and its needs, instead of pushing for more than I can handle
  • I will set boundaries and protect my need for nurturing space and quiet
  • I will let my friends and loved ones know I value them

I also posted to Facebook my gratitude for the day: being moved by beautiful poetry that speaks to that which is my ancestors in me. I have struggled to act with my intentions in mind, but I will keep them with me. And having set them inspired me to talk to one of my professors about my time crunch, and get some clarity on where I can focus, which frees me from a piece of anxiety that has been building.

Going forward, I hope to keep writing a gratitude in my planner each day. I hope to get caught up on my homework. I hope to spend more time with friends, which I know is a source of energy renewal for me. I hope to reassert my self-imposed boundaries around protecting my sleep time, so that I can be better rested. I may do all of these things, or I may not. But that’s to come; for now, I am simply determined to ease up on myself. My high expectations are holding me back, exhausting me… so I need to let them go.

What this means is that I may post to this blog every week, or I may miss a week or two. I may send a newsletter out each week, or I may miss some. I don’t want this to be a space of anxiety for me—I like sharing this space with the folks who’ve connected with me here and on other platforms, and dashing out posts for the sake of making them is a disservice to you all and myself. I want this to be a community: reflective,  caring. I need to be realistic about my own limits, so that this space is the best it can possibly be.

Thank you for being here and sharing space with me. I hope you know that I appreciate you.

See you next week—maybe.

Emptiness in the Aftermath

I didn’t get a lot done during the second half of last week. I didn’t send my regular Wednesday newsletter. I didn’t post my Thursday blog post. I didn’t do my homework, or make my office hours at work. Mostly, I cried.

Today marks four months since Michael Brown, Jr, was shot in the streets of Ferguson, MO, and left for 4.5 hours in the summer sun. Two weeks past from Monday, a grand jury did not indict the officer who shot Mike Brown. A week past from Wednesday, a grand jury did not indict the officer who choked Eric Garner to death. In these four months, the Black community has lost Rumain Brisbon, Akai Gurley, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Kajieme Powell, and — perhaps most tragically — Tamir Rice.

But we have also lost Deshawnda Sanchez and Tajshon Ashley Sherman and Aniya Parker and Gizzy Fowler. We’ve lost Mary Spears and Tjhisha Ball and Angelia Mangum. A second mistrial came in for the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. A police officer is going to trial in Oklahoma for the sexual assault of at least 8 Black women and girls.

The deaths of Black men and boys at the hands of police are getting more attention than they have in a long time, and that attention is necessary to create change. But we must also recognise that Black women are the victims of state violence as well. Black women disproportionately account for missing persons. Black women are assaulted and killed by police. Their murders are often ignored or covered up. And they are on the forefront of the movement for justice.

Women accounted for 60% of the Black Panther Party. They led many of the actions of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Today, they lead many of the actions on the ground in Ferguson, New York, LA… Black women are expected to never report violence perpetrated on them by Black men. They are expected to wait for their own justice, while fighting tooth and nail for the lives of Black men. It’s exhausting to fight for your own humanity, but even more so to fight for the humanity of a group who should have your back, but doesn’t.

I wrote a poem about this for my upcoming collection, Fallen/Forever Rising, and I’m sharing it here, because I feel like I have little else to give. I’ve felt so wrung out the last few weeks, a kind of exhausted apathy. I’m struggling to find time to take care of myself, and that leaves me feeling as though I’ve gotten nothing done. I need to rest, but I feel guilty when I do. I don’t know how much longer I can go on, and I don’t know what to do.

Empty

Women’s work
we pour from empty pitchers
every last wet drop for
someone not us

We care takers
care given always care giving
none taken no care not us
no one cares

We targets too
double jeopardy for double-dutch girls
endangered Black women dare
in danger we dare

Losing sons and
daughters fathers mothers sisters and
yes brothers each bone deep
pain pushed through

Street struggle
our streets aren’t safe from police
aren’t safe for our brothers
we aren’t safe from

Silent suffering
no don’t tell don’t call don’t no
sister knows no safety
but still she pours

I hate to ask for anything for myself, but if you have the funds to help me out, you can donate something to my Paypal, or buy a zine. I appreciate any help you can give.

Book Review: Here Versus Elsewhere

A while back, I received a review copy of Allison Carter’s 2014 book of poems Here Versus Elsewhere.9780991109289-FrontCover-Sm_1024x1024

This book took a long time to read, because I had to digest every poem individually. I read each one 2 or 3 times, feeling out nuances of meaning and sitting in the feelings evoked.

I found it worked best to read them out loud; many were best experienced when the sound of the words chosen was given space. Rolling them around in my head was certainly interesting, but hearing them aloud really enabled me to connect with each piece. The language used is very deliberate, and reading silently doesn’t do it justice.

The book is broken up into four titled sections—1. Poems for Baby Ghosts; 2. All Bodies Are The Same/And They Have the Same Reactions; 3. Ghost Stories For Ghosts; 4. Advice—and each section has a through-line or theme that was rather exciting to experience unfolding. Sometimes the connections between poems were very obvious, and sometimes they weren’t, but each section worked as a whole in themselves. I often found myself finishing one poem and then going back to a poem earlier in the section to track the appearance of words and concepts, reading both poems again from a more complete, understanding place. Each poem informed my understanding of the ones that came before it.

There are many lines that stilled me, that gave me a little shiver of yes! when I read them, which I immediately re-read over with pleasure. A sampling:

from Sea View Avenue, pg 22:

some on stilts to be eye level
with the soul

from Useless Metals and Time, pg 27:

The kind of day where
you eat the sounds of things:
the sound of peach, not the
peach itself

from Brevity, pg 68:

A party is a buyer’s market in which supply exceeds demand.

from The End of the Hole, pg 78:

At the end of the hole you will encounter a moth made of precious metals and time.

Okay, I can’t quote the whole thing—you’ll have to get the collection for more of this lovely stuff! I absolutely recommend it. The feel of many of the poems was dreamy, a sort of floating feeling I settled into as I went along. The author experiments and plays with words in a way that left me wanting to write. I was even inspired to write a poem review!

Here Versus Elsewhere
At times
Ephemeral beyond belief
With the sound
Of sunset goodbyes
Sandy hellos

A mumbling
Whisper-shout signal
Brings snow in September
And sun in March

Breathless
Long winding
Verbose
Sparkling grandeur
Ermine fur
And puppy kisses
Narrowing
Down
To a
Point

A morsel following
Leaves you
Wanting
And satisfied

I cannot tell why
The telling is futile
Only the turning page can
The necessity of a poem
The ebb and flow of thunder words
Like ocean lightning
Foam white paper
Spilling down
Rushing and crashing until
A sudden withdrawal
That was un-unexpected
In its brilliance

Poem: Movement Mothers

I mentioned in my newsletter that I’ll be at the Oregon State Penitentiary tomorrow for the Uhuru Sa Sa Poetry Slam. Here’s one of the pieces I’ll be sharing.

Movement Mothers
Not so long ago they lit us on fire for who we loved, visibility and invisibility doing damage differently: hateful looks end with murdered teens tied to fence-posts, sweet bois and grrls beaten, children taken from us too soon, the bully’s hand manifest in the making of nooses, the loading of guns. We lose and are lost.

These days when the struggle is too much and holding my head up is too hard I think of Assata and Angela, Marsha and Carlett, Stormé, Audre, Alice, Octavia, and Laverne, sisters in struggle, sisters in strength, sisters looking out for sisters. Our vulnerability is just one more source of beauty—though the world does not see it, speaking our truth is an act of radical self-love in a world that tries to burn us down.

New piece up on Black Girl Dangerous + upcoming events

Yesterday, a piece I wrote went up on Black Girl Dangerous! You can read it here: Black, Woman, Traveler: Safer In Strange Places Than In the City Where I Live

Other exciting news:

On October 23, I’m participating in Intersections: An Evening of Storytelling About Identity, Community, Culture, and Pride. The event is 6:30-8pm, in Room 228, 1825 SW Broadway at Portland State University. It’s free, and open to the public.

October 28, I’m reading in the Tell It Slant Reading Series. We’ll be at the Alberta St Pub (1036 NE Alberta Street) starting at 7:30pm. $2 suggested donation. Venue is 21+ after 8pm.

I’m working on self-publishing a book of poems. It’s called Fallen/Forever Rising. I’ll post here when it’s done!

Poets for Ferguson: a national poetry reading

Tonight, I will be reading poems in a national reading, a fundraiser for organisers in Ferguson. We are poets of colour, poets using our art for change. It runs from 6pm ET on September 27th to 6pm ET on September 28th.

The livestream is up at Poets for Ferguson, and the donation page is here. Please support by watching and giving.

Vogue and Sara Baartman and a Poem

This morning, I woke hours before my alarm. It sometimes takes me a little bit to realise whether I’m awake because of anxiety, adequate rest, or low blood sugar. Often, I struggle to get back to sleep until I figure out which one, and address it (if possible). Sometimes I never get back to sleep.

Rather than lie in the dark waiting, I checked the time on my phone, and noticed I had a notification on Twitter. I checked that, and spotted a tweet from someone I follow about an article posted by Vogue Magazine, titled “We’re Officially in the Era of the Big Booty”:

Vogue tweet 09-10-2014
The original tweet from Vogue Magazine’s Twitter account

The article is as bad, if not worse, as I anticipated. And one of my first thoughts was about Sara Baartman.

For those who don’t know about her, I encourage you to read about her, though I warn that the story is a hard one if you dig deeper into it. Sara was a young African woman in colonial South Africa who was sold into English and then French hands, and displayed as a sideshow attraction under the demeaning name “Hottentot Venus” until she died six years later. After her death, her body was given to a scientist for dissection. He concluded that Sara—and other Africans like her—was subhuman, and her skeleton, brain, and detached genitals were displayed at the Musée del’Homme for the next 150 years. But even once they were removed, it took 20 years of fighting for her body to be returned to South Africa and finally laid to rest.

I could not go back to sleep, because I felt sick with anxiety and sorrow and anger, and so I wrote a poem.

 

Mourning the Living and the Dead

today, I mourn the life and death of Sara Baartman
my rage at the indignities she suffered
rests at the base of my throat
chokes my voice with tears unshed
today, I cannot strangle down my anger for her
Sara, Saartjie, name unknown
forced from family after her fiancé’s murder
she was a slave sold to sideshows
spending six years poked and prodded
examined and talked over and mocked
lied to, looked on, lost
this woman of six and twenty years
dead
it is 200 years since she passed
from alcohol or pneumonia
or a broken heart
and even in death disrespected
dissected
her most intimate parts displayed in jars
as curios for detached Europeans
to view
this history of colonial gaze
of taking and keeping and displaying
the most intimate parts
continues to this day
the roundness of Sara’s body fascinated
and repulsed the gazers
now vogue divorces this largeness from Blackness
makes it safe for mainstream commodification
makes it safe by denying Black women again
taking this aspect of our bodies
claiming our identities for themselves
passing profit over our heads
and leaving us to die like Sara
alone
the world is not safe for my sisters
I know
so I am left to mourn

June Read-a-thon Update: Day 11

First day of class was lovely, and then this morning I had to do more class shuffling, and now I’m registered for a different class, but it means I get to read Sherlock Holmes for school credit.

I’m living the dream, y’all.

Still coming up: a dinner party tonight, classes tomorrow. Friday, I’m workshopping some of my writing to prepare several submissions to journals and online magazines. This weekend I’m pulling those submissions together and querying an agent for one of my novels. And doing classwork.

Feeling better about how much reading I’m doing, and I have a lot to get through for school, so that’ll up my counts, too.

My reading progress up to this point:

  • 4 pages of Partial List of People to Bleach by Gary Lutz. Notes: no update.
  • 90 pages of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke [trans. M.D. Herter Norton]. Notes: finished.
  • 108 pages of The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur. Notes: finished this one up. Overall, I am glad to have read these poems, but most of them were a bit juvenile for my taste—and this is obviously attributable to the fact that they were written by a 19 year old Tupac. There were some great protest poems, and some great tribute pieces, and a whole bunch of love poems. 8/10
  • 173 pages of Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell. Notes: and finished! Woof! This is a heck of a read, and I loved every minute. I had so many ideas sparked by this reading, and I can’t wait to work on them. 10/10, will read again
  • 8 pages of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Notes: no update.

Running page count: 383

June Read-a-thon Update: Day 9

Classes start today, and I’m excited, but also a bit frazzled. I’ve been having trouble getting all of the books for my non-fiction class, and several of them are still in the mail. I hope they come in soon…

Yesterday was the Capitol trip for the New Leadership Oregon 2014 class, and I was invited along, as an alumna. We spent the morning touring the building with Former Governor Barbara Roberts, had lunch with Secretary of State Kate Brown, and the current NLO participants roleplayed testimony in front of legislative committees. When we got back to Portland, there was a mixer and recognition of board members, alums, and the current class. I cried, and it was so inspiring to see people supporting each other there. So much love.

Still coming up: a dinner party tomorrow night. Friday, I’m workshopping some of my writing to prepare several submissions to journals and online magazines.

I think I expected to have more free time that has been the reality. I’m trying not to get down on myself for not reading more, even though I’ve read every day, and made good headway in a couple of books I’ve been meaning to read. I feel a bit discouraged, but I’m hoping I can push through it for the remaining 6-7 days.

My reading progress up to this point:

  • 4 pages of Partial List of People to Bleach by Gary Lutz. Notes: no update.
  • 90 pages of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke [trans. M.D. Herter Norton]. Notes: finished.
  • 70 pages of The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur. Notes: read more poems from this one. There’s some very teenage love poems in here, but there’s also an amazing section that features several poems for racial justice activists like Nelson Mandela and Huey P. Newton.
  • 129 pages of Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell. Notes: I have less than half the book left, and I’m still being inspired to do 3 new projects for every chapter I finish!
  • 8 pages of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Notes: I figured I’d pick a lighter read to let myself digest some of the heavier stuff, and still get pages done. This one I got 114 pages into a re-read of, and then set it down—probably in favour of school books I had to get through. (So much reading last term…) Anyhow, I should finish it, because I do love it.

Running page count: 301

June Read-a-thon Update: Day 5

There’s been a lot of unexpected work the last couple of days, and I have even more to do, but I’m getting the reading in every spare moment I can. I’ve always been a commute reader—I have an hour long commute to campus, which is lots of time—and it looks like I’ll be doing some of that the next few days. I have a board meeting tomorrow (yes, on a Saturday), and then a lunch meeting Monday in Salem, and then classes start on Tuesday, so I’ll be travelling around a bit the next few days.

Here’s my reading tally for the event so far:

  • 4 pages of Partial List of People to Bleach by Gary Lutz. Notes: this one’s in time-out. I can’t quite bring myself to finish it…
  • 90 pages of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke [trans. M.D. Herter Norton]. Notes: all finished! The rest of the letters had some great language, though the translation still bothers me. The second half of the book was a sort of run-down of Rilke’s life before the letters, and where he was and what projects he was working on when each letter was written, and that was in much more plain language, and far more interesting to me. I hate writing prescriptivism, and Rilke does plenty of that. 6/10, might read a different translation
  • 8 pages of The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur. Notes: this one got laid down. I can’t read books of poetry all in one go. I have to read a few, set the book down, digest what I’ve read, and come back later.
  • 56 pages of Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell. Notes: loving this one! I’ve been meaning to read this since a friend recommended it to me a year and a half ago, and I’m so glad I’m finally doing it. While the subject matter is a bit heavy, it’s accessible, and it makes you think. I’ve also been inspired to write a short story, and an essay response—later, after the read-a-thon, when I’ll have more time.

Not too shabby—I tripled my word count in two days! I’m hoping to finish off Faces today, and that’ll boost me quite a bit if I can manage it. If not, I’ll polish it off tomorrow, and pick another book to start in on.

Running page count: 158