So where do I begin? Particularly when rage makes direction difficult. Particularly when grief dislocates, is about extended dislocations. I was invited to participate as a Harriet blogger some time ago, and found it remarkably difficult to decide on the “voice” to cultivate. Even the title of this entry is already days old (the moon’s now crescent) (UPDATE: now half) and from an earlier attempt to begin/enter conversation. So given all that, where do I begin? Particularly when so much time has passed that when is as accurate an indication of north as satellites and magnetized needles. Today is August 24, 2009. (A newscaster voice that imagines an August 25th?) (UPDATE: Today is August 28, 2009) This is one of the last three days of classes for students in Bard’s Language and Thinking Workshop where for the last almost three weeks I’ve been teaching a class of thirteen. (Yesterday, the students matriculated.)
In my initial attempts to begin this blog thing, I focused on a calling up a rather pleasant pseudo-confessional persona:
I’ve been resistant to writing/submitting this blog. Nothing political or ethical in my opposition. Just resistant. I think here of something akin to flame-retardance. Are blogs like flames? The old body-bound ones? Now, I’m certainly no ingénue, and won’t play one on Harriet. So I understand that much like old flames, blogs can inflame and be flamed. Could I just be blog-retardant? I mean I don’t regularly read blogs. There are some I look at, scroll/page through, glance over. But none to which I’m committed like my morning cup of water. (Of course I’ve tried but have been unable to get addicted to coffee either so why worry about my failed attachment to blogs? Because I’m writing one?)
This blog is the first time I’ve ever even typed the word blog. Word still underlines blog with the red of the misspelled. Is expressing-my-thoughts-on-poetry-to-a-range-of-readers-retardant a more accurate description of where I am? Though aside from police reports, ingredient measurements for pound cake, electrical circuitry, directions to a meeting place, et.al, I’m not sure that accuracy is a necessary or useful measurement. So much (for) procrastination. And what’s accuracy and measurement got to do with poetry?
So much has happened since I was first invited to this party. Michael Jackson, (Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett, Walter Cronkite, Frank McCourt, et al have died. North Korea tested another nuclear missile, and another. Grabbed its crotch and said, “Yeah, what of it!” Secretary of State Clinton, in an interesting and surprising use of her cred as mother, had the ovaries to chide a nation’s government for acting like children. And spokesmen for Korea responded by calling Clinton alternately matronly and school-girlish—the old woman and the simple girl are called in to remind her of the place. State to state exchanges.
(ASIDE: Poetry in/as a state to state operation? Should that be my angle?)
Imagined reading (and began writing about) current events and our (media and mediated) rhetoric around and about those events as a lens through which to think about varied (re)mediations that various works of art (and by art I mean poetry and/or other forms of language-use but I’m somewhat hesitant about sometimes restrictive (and wholesale) categorizing) attempt to enact. Was staging a pleasing and rather inoffensive voice/tone of reflection (V/TOR).
Between Michael’s death by Propofol or Diprivan and Neda Agha Soltan‘s death by state execution or protest-cessation, fifteen-year-old Tyrone Corbett was shot and killed one evening while he was hanging out with friends. He was the unintentional target of an errant bullet shot (rumor has it) by another young man who was claiming his girl (young woman), and thereby (re)claiming his place. The fifteen-year old was collateral damage. The young woman was collateral. Guaranteeing what? Securing what, exactly? There was that next morning a young girl sitting and crying on a bench in front of the park. The next day: a neighborhood call to order; a preacher with a bullhorn; and then a prayer. To come: a daily cop car at the corner. (How long?)
The day after Tyrone's death, I posted on facebook,
a cop just knocked. they're canvassing the buildings. silence buries some deaths—some mother/father's son. early, there was a girl in green weeping on one of those park benches. later, cameras and bullhorns, shouts, and blind spectacle.
Sandra Bookman reports
Two days later: another post:
didn't understand that yesterday morning's raucous noise was about taking out the park benches. No more sitting under the shade of that unknown tree. They ground the wood from those benches to sawdust, as if a shooting was an inappropriate lynching and sitting in the shade was provocation. So sawdust over blood, and cop cars and uniformed men as memorial.
A friend commented under that post:
i did a little edit of your words & made your poem:
WHAT I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND
Yesterday morning's raucous noise.
They took the wooden benches from
the park across the way & ground them
into sawdust. As if a shooting was an
inappropriate lynching & sitting in
the shade of an unknown tree was
provocation. Sawdust over blood, cop
cars & uniformed men as memorial.
June 17 at 10:54am · Delete
At which point, a measure of shame—rather than trying to make sense (or make narrative) some of us are trying to make ways out of, well, you know (if you know)—
that what I’d meant as description was read as poetry (or as poetry-potential).
Then I edited his edits.
What to say about poetry (and poetry-making) in the middle of things as they are? What poetry is good in the face of this? What good is poetry?
George Oppen stopped writing for twenty-five years.
On my desk—George Oppen’s New Collected Poems, M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong, Rob Halpern’s Disaster Suites, and Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother.
Tonya M. Foster was born in Bloomington, Illinois, and raised in New Orleans. She earned a BA from Newcomb College, Tulane University, and an MFA from the University of Houston. Foster is the author of the poetry collection A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015) and coedited the book Third Mind:...