VERBAL GRAFFITI 2
by Emanuel Xavier
It’s JOYCE JONES ON PERCUSSION. It’s passing the blunt and deep conversations on the stoop. It’s having other poets walk around quoting, ‘YO, MIRIAM, THROW DOWN THE BABY.’ It’s understanding religion. IT’S SOMEONE WHISPERING ‘FAGGOT.’ IT’S POETS DEGRADING PERFORMANCE POETS AS ‘NOT REALLY’ POETS. It’s not reading anything but REAL POETRY all summer. It’s poetic ‘prose.’ It’s reading between the lines. It’s making a decision for yourself. It’s rhythms and syllables and words. IT’S WORDS UNSAID. Traditions, culture, spirituality, time. IT’S DRAMA! IT’S THE PAST MANIFESTING ITSELF IN MY PRESENT AS I WORK TOWARDS THE FUTURE. It’s MIGUEL PIÑERO at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. It’s feeling inspired and inspiring others. REVOLUTION-EVOLUTION- PEACE-FREEDOM. It’s PRINCESS WALKING RUNWAY. IT’S WILLI NINJA VOGUING. IT’S BETTE DAVIS AND JOAN CRAWFORD FILMS IN BLACK AND WHITE. It’s the BRONX ZOO. It’s reading FITZFERALD’S THE GREAT GATSBY IN A SOUTH AMERICAN BEACH AND IN BROOKLYN LIVING OFF ARROZ CON HABICHUELAS Y GHETTO JUICE. IT’S PEDRO ALMODOVAR FILMS.
It’s cruising pieces at the piers. IT’S CONVERSATIONS OVER THE INTERNET WITH JUSTIN CHIN, WHO’S ‘NOT BITTER JUST DESCRIPTIVE.’ IT’S BEING ON THE CAFE CON LECHE FLOAT FOR GAY PRIDE. IT’S ‘THE PHILLY, THE PHILLY, THE PHILLY, THE BLUNT.’ It’s wearing all black once a year to protest police brutality. IT’S PAMELA SNEED asking me to read at NEW NEUTRAL ZONE. It’s touching the lives of gay and lesbian youth. IT’S PERFORMING ‘CHELSEA QUEEN’ AT DUMBA WITH BILLY AND CARLOS DOLLS AT GAY SHAME. It’s everything that goes around comes around. IT’S PICKING UP THE POETRY CALENDAR TO FIND OUT WHEN THE HELL I’M READING. IT’S THE INSANITY OF MY LIFE. IT’S POETRY IN MOTION. IT’S A BOOK CALLED PIER QUEEN. It’s acknowledging my strengths and weaknesses yet having the audacity to self-publish the book anyways. It’s a vicious review in THE NEW YORK BLADE. It’s watching other poets get too big for their own britches and keeping a distance. It’s running into the drug dealers you used to work for and giving them an autographed copy of your book. IT’S HARLEM IN THE SUMMER. It’s BASKETBALL DIARIES. IT’S THE BOYS AT KINKO’S. IT’S JULEE CRUISE’S ‘INTO THE NIGHT.’ IT’S PASSIONATE SEX WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE. IT’S FALLING IN LOVE. IT’S EXPRESSING ANGER AND PAIN AND LETTING IT GO. IT’S MOVING ON. IT’S SPIRITUAL GROWTH. IT’S BEAUTY IN DARKNESS. IT’S WORDS THAT DON’T RHYME. IT’S ART. IT’S POETRY. IT’S KEEPING IT REAL. IT’S SPRAY-PAINTED IMAGES TAGGED FOREVER IN MY SOUL.
“We artists get on a tightrope when we tackle subjects that are beyond the merely personal. But far from ever trying to dissuade anyone from writing about these subjects, I urge them to head straight into those subjects. The risks that come with any writing project are in fact the opportunities of that project: they are what make the project worth doing in the first place. In poetry, there is no such thing as hands-off material. A poem never fails because of its subject matter—it fails because the poet has inadequately given depth and shape to that subject matter. Dramatic historical periods, natural disasters, grand personal wounds—writing about these subjects raises the stakes tremendously high when you have to write about them inventively, feelingly, thoughtfully. You have to be ingenious to avoid failure—or, at the least, ingenuity will allow you to fail well.
To my mind, when a poet deals with a subject that is apt to be simplified by polemic or sentiment, it’s contingent on form to prevent those reductions. By form I don’t necessarily mean traditional forms like sonnets and sestinas, though those forms are as viably powerful today as they ever were. I mean a shapeliness—whether it is the rapturous listing of Garrett Hongo’s “Nostalgic Catalogue” or the symphonic multiple sections of Adrienne Rich’s “The Burning of Paper Instead of Children”—that asks the reader’s understanding to work at multiple levels.” -Rick Barot
A Date with a Cherry Farmer
by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Of course I regret it. I mean there I was under umbrellas of fruit
so red they had to be borne of Summer, and no other season.
Flip-flops and fishhooks. Ice cubes made of lemonade and sprigs
of mint to slip in blue glasses of tea. I was dusty, my ponytail
all askew and the tips of my fingers ran, of course, red
from the fruitwounds of cherries I plunked into my bucket
and still–he must have seen some small bit of loveliness
in walking his orchard with me. He pointed out which trees
were sweetest, which ones bore double seeds–puffing out
the flesh and oh the surprise on your tongue with two tiny stones
(a twin spit), making a small gun of your mouth. Did I mention
my favorite color is red? His jeans were worn and twisty
around the tops of his boot; his hands thick but careful,
nimble enough to pull fruit from his trees without tearing
the thin skin; the cherry dust and fingerprints on his eyeglasses.
I just know when he stuffed his hands in his pockets, said
Okay. Couldn’t hurt to try? and shuffled back to his roadside stand
to arrange his jelly jars and stacks of buckets, I had made
a terrible mistake. I just know my summer would’ve been
full of pies, tartlets, turnovers–so much jubilee.
damn! i’ve never read a poem like this before. it’s perfect!