Earlier this year, I organized an event with blackout poetry as an exhibit, that included the crowd trying their hand at doing blackout poetry and leaving it for each other to read. I told them that it was a way to use up old media, old books we have from dead white men that we bought for a class and couldn’t resell, and books that were water damaged and just plain books that sucked. Folks seem to think that gutting a book is like gutting a bible, and my growing up in the church self knows that its not the same thing. It was mostly an idea that was born out of a desire to do poetry events again but knowing that I have anxiety and thinking is there a way to work with it? What can I do so I won’t be the same nervous poet fumbling on stage?
But it was also about January when I found out my friend Mateo died, someone I came to know through zines and we’d eventually visit each other, him here in South Texas and me over in Durham, North Carolina. I even went to live in Durham for a few months, renting the apartment next to his. and the kids played in the snow and saw squirrels and it was different and not the valley and it was nice
And when I heard of his passing and that of his husband passing, I felt that life had played a cruel joke on us. Life had told me that you can find love and be in love and have this shining couple but be it because of sickness or poverty or the way life is not fair, things like this happen. And I couldn’t write or read the usual way in which I healed, reading Audre Lorde or Anzaldua or the stack of books next to me because the words didn’t make sense.
(I didn’t get shots of the other acts: Farias, Secrets Told in Silence, Jesika and the Pajama Blues and Starla)
And I couldn’t eat. And I didn’t want to either. I didn’t want to do anything but cry and stare out a window and not understand life. Good people in good relationships do not die and do not die together. I came across blackout poetry online and I thought, mmm. Now there’s a thing.
And I went to bed with a few books that were just god awful and ended up spending five hours trying to come up with poems. The next day I dug around my garage and found books that had been water damaged after my washing machine overflowed. It passed the time and took my mind off that hurt in your heart for a bit. It activated this mental block that had formed in my head, this idea that I had formed against poetry, that I was out of poetry (can one be out of poems?)–
Then I started thinking about rape the way assault comes up in every day life. Music, a tv show. Someone on facebook will mention someone and that someone will happen to be the person who casually didn’t know what no meant or didn’t understand agreed upon things. And said sexual assaulter will keep on popping up on your dashboard as if the world was there’s to spoil and take.
And for years I struggled with the idea of what is a violation? what is the definition of assault? Because of this person who by the gods I had figured had been killed off by the universe already or poisoned by his own hand via drugs or alcohol. But no.
There is the universe making fools of us all. So then everything I picked up was about violation and rape and revenge and that’s what would come out. The above
set tells a loosely fragmented story of assault/rape.
I told one photography person who showed up that it’s a way to show how poetry can be done with just about anything and how it doesn’t take a creative type person to do it, it’s not a stuffy professor type thing or a drinking tea with your pinkie raised sort of thing (I type this as I sip on tea, but you get my point). But take the controlled thought of what poetry is out of classrooms and how poetry can be created, and let it unfold, rather organically, in rooms and corners and on the floor-where folks listened to no one talk about what is and what isn’t poetry, or how poetry should not or should be constructed, and see how they thrive. And me, this nontraditional teacher, just nodding my head and saying, this is pretty bad ass how this came to be.