Banned portrait in the MAGA era: writing about a new series

When I came to the SV Community of Writers for a series of workshops with Francisco Aragón, Forrest Gander, Bob Hass, Brenda Hillman, Sharon Olds, and Gregory Pardlo, I was planning to return to the larger project I’ve been working on for quite a while:  12 characters, most of them of African descent and immortals trying to make sense of this anti-black world while supporting the mortal woman among them who inherited all of the memories of her mother, the “god” of her people, the origin of a race, if you will, of black immortals.  It’s dense with narrative and plot.  I had wanted to work on sculpting more of the individual character back stories in poetry.  My intent was to work at the intersection of poetry, visual arts, and dramatic arts with this work … eventually.  I’ll have to do more of that another day.

From the first day that I arrived at The Village, I’ve been focused on writing these “banned portraits”, the explorations of the political within our burgeoning fascist government.

  • Banned Portrait in the MAGA era:  Afro-Latina texts her brother
  • Banned Portrait in the MAGA era:  I never wrote their names, and you never read them
  • Banned Portrait in the MAGA era:  The word “women” never appears in the US Senate’s Health Care Bill 
  • Banned Portrait in the MAGA era:  All white women should be handmaids, ready to birth a world.  WOC=infertile, barren, sterilized
  • Banned Portrait in the MAGA era:  Hermit with telescope on the mountain
  • Banned Portrait in the MAGA era:  Study says black girls are “less innocent”
The only unifying features are the titles and the unapologetically political edge within the poems, the balance between the personal and the political.  It’s a tension that I’ve been maintaining in my work since I could call it my work, since my honors thesis, Amerikka, at Penn State as an undergraduate with an English minor, doing my honors work in that department with Dr. William J. Harris (before he went to University of Kansas) and then Dr. Aldon Nielsen as my mentors.   
I have been thinking of sending political poems to senators through ResistBot as a resistance stance with more direct actions included.  Something less cheeky than “do work for the good of all people or I assure you I will curse your house with apparitions” … 
I think that the beginning series has also come from a desire to agitate wherever I am.  I am not comfortable; I don’t want anyone to sit comfortable.  It is wrong that we have pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord; wrong that the ice is melting, seas are rising, weather patterns are changing, etc; wrong that there is sugar in everything; wrote that we don’t talk about HIV/AIDS as often as in the past and yet how one company was able to raise the price of treatment medication from something like $15 a pill to over $750; wrong to have to beg for your own medical records; wrong to worry about having healthcare at all (when you have problems with healthcare, but at least have it); wrong to be made to feel responsible as a woman, the only one responsible, when you haven’t had a child but want one; wrong for black girls to be seen as lacking innocence as young as 5; and wrong, a thousand things wrong, that seem to be exploding in their wrongness in these times.  
So writers, we write, and teachers, we teach.  That’s what I’m doing here in the valley.  
Today, when folx went out to play softball, or squish sand between their toes, or take a dip, or break bread together, I stayed back, to live in my mind and write and plan.   I thought I would take a nap and dream a while.  There was a threatening white page in front of me and the threat of what dreams might come, so I waited for a poem and two came.  Another day I will connect with folx beyond the workshop hours or lecture space – there are 3 left – but today, I needed to read the turmoil of my worlds and write it from the silence, the quietness of my mind.  

#twt, #24of52, #52essays2017

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