Harmony Holiday Reads “Sex tape or Future and Audre Lorde fall in love”
Don Share: This is The Poetry Magazine Podcast for the week of October 16th, 2017. I’m Don Share, editor of Poetry Magazine.
Christina Pugh: I’m Christina Pugh, consulting editor for the magazine.
Lindsay Garbutt: And I’m Lindsay Garbutt, associate editor for the magazine. On The Poetry Magazine Podcast, we listen to a poem or two in the current issue.
Don Share: Harmony Holiday’s latest book is Hollywood Forever, which combines words and images in a multimedia meditation on famous African American musicians. Holiday’s work never seems to stray far from music.
Lindsay Garbutt: That’s Future, the hip hop artist from Atlanta, whose style is sometimes called mumble music or trap music.
Audre Lorde: Love is a word, another kind of open.
Don Share: And that’s Audre Lorde, who liked to describe herself as black, lesbian, mother, poet. She died in 1992 when Future was just a boy, but Harmony Holiday brings them together in a prose poem called “Sex tape or Future and Audre Lorde fall in love”.
Harmony Holiday: Yeah, I was thinking about Future, trap music, mumble rap, and his justification of talking about drugs all the time and saying that it’s actually so the music gets you high, and you sort of don’t have to necessarily do drugs. That juxtaposed with Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Uses of the Erotic: Erotic as Power”, how she talks about the female body reclaiming it’s erotic in the context of this society. It somehow felt like it related to what Future was saying.
Lindsay Garbutt: The poem is part of a new series she’s working on about reparations and the body. Here’s the poem.
Harmony Holiday: Sex tape or Future and Audre Lorde fall in love
Despite all their fervor they were headed somewhere limp in the intellect nursery rhyme dialect headed somewhere all circumference hunnid something for Sumerian tablet happy meals where you get to munch the code-cold sun upfront the rest when you’ve eaten a bit of rat flesh in the shape of yesterday perishing
youth addiction : Future dreams of codeine nibbles the white nipple wedged between him and his soul stice staaay sis what is this? passes out on the battlefield, improviser / wisest man I ever mumbled alongside Power with all the wars in it ain’t shit in a flawed system besides self-destruction may all our enemies become powerful and empty in the west while we sell our bodies these mumbled prayers codeine ain’t got nothin to do with my love, child either
labor in the holds was painless
bled ’til the chains lost their grip
and there are tapes to prove it
Don Share: I think we’re all pretty much familiar with mix tapes and playlists and mashups, but you don’t often see that reflected in poems, particularly poems that are written primarily for the page. This is something that she’s been doing now for quite some time. That intense focus I think for our listeners that kind of at least for me explains what you’re hearing, the rush of words and the rhythms juxtaposed with each other in each piece, and then the pieces are sort of juxtaposed with each other as the series unfolds. For me that’s very striking, to match up the music, the poetry, the diction and sounds, of course such figures as Future and Audre Lorde.
Lindsay Garbutt: I also thought of a mix tape, and it’s interesting that instead, the title says sex tape. I think what’s also interesting is that it’s not only mixing up in the way that it’s broken up, there are a lot of gaps within the poem where you could see it as a sort of cutting and mixing up, but also sort of mixed up in the way that it looks on the page because the first two parts look like prose paragraphs and the last part looks more conventionally like a poem in that it’s lineated into three short lines.
Harmony Holiday: … labor in the holds was painless / bled ’til the chains lost their grip / and there are tapes to prove it
Lindsay Garbutt: — So the poem is almost like a High Bun, which is a form of poetry which mixes the prose and normally a haiku, which this is not at the end of the poem. But the fact that she’s combining prose and poetry, and sort of summarizing the prose part in that little poetry form at the end is such an unusual way of presenting this topic she’s writing about.
Don Share: So many things are contrasted and mashed up here that what you realize is that the cumulative effect of this writing is the way that history kind of edges into the present, and that artifacts of the present, albeit sort of recondite as the things that you would find in a museum. “Hunnid something for Sumerian tablet happy meals where you get to munch the code-cold sun upfront”. It’s sort of like everything under the sun in a way. It’s very intense and the voice is very sort of individual and distinctive, yet at the same time it’s like what endures over these expanses of history and admits all these cultures interacting is a separate thing which is the voice and it’s movement.
Christina Pugh: Yeah, I enjoyed some of the really gustatory moments in here, one of which I guess you just quoted —
Harmony Holiday: hunnid something for Sumerian tablet happy meals where you get to munch the code-cold sun upfront the rest when you’ve eaten a bit of rat flesh in the shape of yesterday perishing
youth addiction : Future dreams of codeine nibbles the white nipple wedged between him and his soul stice staaay sis what is this?
Christina Pugh: It was interesting for me to listen to her reading it, because there are a lot of syntactical things going on here that we might talk about as something like syntactic doubling, where you can’t quite figure out where one sentence ends and another begins. That seems to be part of the strategy. That nibbling moment can be the codeine and it can also be the white nipple, having the sound similarity between “nibble” and “nipple”. What’s kind of interesting and cool about it is it’s really grammatically undecidable which way it goes, it kind of goes both ways. I think it’s part of the velocity of the poem that you can really hear at certain moments in her voice, which I enjoyed.
Don Share: You can read six prose poems by Harmony Holiday October 2017 issue of Poetry Magazine, or online at poetrymagazine.org
Lindsay Garbutt: We’ll have another episode for you next week, or you can get all four October episodes at once on the full length episode on Soundcloud.
Christina Pugh: Let us know what you thought of this program. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, write a review in the iTunes store, and link to the podcast on social media.
Don Share: The Poetry Magazine Podcast is recorded by Ed Herman and produced by Curtis Fox and Catherine Fenelosa.
Lindsay Garbutt: The theme music for this poem comes from the Claudia Quintet. I’m Lindsay Garbutt.
Christina Pugh: I’m Christina Pugh.
Don Share: And I’m Don Share. Thanks for listening.