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On Community

By Barbara Jane Reyes

Image: "I Will Not," by Niki Escobar (2012).

In line with Rigoberto Gonzalez’s last blog post, “Letras Latinas and Building Community,” I have been thinking about community, and my own work with/in community.

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself exhausted by gossip (chisme/tsismis), labeling, claiming, status seeking. Networking. Tantruming. Backstabbing. Name dropping. Name calling. Political and aesthetic segregation, social avoidance, bullying, belittling, erasing, and rendering invisible. Lines drawn, loyalties to declare, all kinds of jealousies, hurt feelings and bruised egos. Pity partying. Mean girling. It’s all bullshit.

You may argue that poetry “communities,” have operated that way for years, people sniping at one another for sport, or alternately, publicizing their self-pity and forcing people’s sympathy. Or talking a lot of talk but not producing results. Screw that.

But I wish to end my time here on a positive note.

I believe community has everything to do with work ethic, practice, mutual respect and generosity, actual concrete work. My community is not ethnic specific. The folks that make up my community are plugging away, hustling for that next book contract, teaching, mentoring, reading. We engage in dialogue—”shop talk,” sure, about works in progress, about prospective publishers. But also about the issues that inform our work (see above image by Niki Escobar, if you’re still unsure what kinds of issues inform my work). We share resources. We inspire one another. We don’t hoard, and we don’t use one another as strategic objects. The folks in my community are doing the best they can, and then they’re doing more.

As for me, I think of myself as also plugging away at the work. One manuscript at a time. One or two teaching gigs at a time. One commissioned writing gig at a time. One curated event at a time. One reading or performance or classroom visit at a time. With room to breathe, and to express gratitude.

Onward.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, April 30th, 2012 by Barbara Jane Reyes.