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Be a part of Migritude's journey.
No contribution is too small - or too large. $2 buys coffee for a volunteer. $15 rents a rehearsal studio for an hour. $100 covers 2 hours of lighting / tech / set design. $500 helps fly Shailja to international festivals!!

You can also make a tax-deductible donation by check. Please email for details.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Been groped recently?

The brilliant Claire Light has just begun a Groping Meme on her blog. Reading it triggered a dozen essays in my head, and at least a hundred memories about every time I've been groped, grabbed, harassed, had my private physical and mental space invaded without my consent.

Excerpts from Claire's posting:

Much of the world and I are in a contest, though not an equal one. The contest makes my body a battleground, somehow, but not their [men's] bodies.

If I notice them, they win. If I get angry, they win. If I laugh, they win. If I ignore them and let them say/do what they want, they win.

It doesn't matter what happens to them, how shitty their lives are, they can still take it to the streets and take it out on me by attacking my body.

And I can't turn it back around on them. The power just won't flow that way. Men can be private in public, as long as they're minding their own business, or staying in their part of town, just obeying the rules. Men can have their private thoughts and not be constantly bracing for the next, inevitable onslaught. But no woman can.

I prefer to hit back, to make it a battle, to teach at least one snivelling little puke that it's not worth his while, so I do feel some empowerment. But I don't have the power to just. make it. stop.

Read the rest of the posting, with my comments on it, and post your own thoughts and experiences.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Meanwhile, the Real News

The Gap (proud purveyor of sweatshop clothing) has launched

(drumroll please)

The Skinny Black Pant

More accurately described as:

The Skinny White Waif Model, Sporting Slave Labour Garment At 3000% Markup

I guess that's too much talk for skinny black pant legs to walk.

Gaza is dying

The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.

A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.

Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women.

Read Patrick Coburn's whole article on Counterpunch

Thursday, September 07, 2006

it's official

I will be on the poetry faculty of the Summer Literary Seminars in Kenya this December. A sister program of the Summer Literary Seminars held annually in St. Petersburg, Russia, these workshops take place from December 14th to 28th, in Nairobi and Lamu (tiny magical island off the coast of Kenya).

Faculty include Binyavanga Wainaina, Chimamanda Adichie, Arthur Flowers, M.G. Vassanji.

Find out more, and register, here.

coming up in the Bay Area

in the next two weeks: readings, radio, performances, opportunities to impale me on the skewer of your questions and grill me like a trout.

Check out my calendar.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

bollocks bollocks bollocks

America's new Poet Laureate, Donald Hall, in the latest issue of Poets and Writers Magazine:

Q: Any career advice for aspiring poets?

A: the old boys and revise. Revise endlessly. Never show a poem to anybody else until you have worked on it yourself for a couple of months.

If ever a piece of advice was putrid before it hit the page, this would be it. Here's the advice of Shailja Patel, Poet Laureate of Nowhere.

(1) Before you read a single 'old boy', read Alice Fulton on the poetry of inconvenient knowledge. Ask whose voice is not being heard, whose life is unseen, in each line you read.

To approach otherness, not clinically but heartfully, is difficult; it takes humility. A poetry of inconvenient knowledge asks men to think deeply about women's historical and biological situation, a request that entails some empathy, if not self-effacement.

To write without considering otherness in any of its forms is to write a poetry of narcissism. The most offensive poetics creates White World, Straight World, Man World and calls it Universal World.

(2) Revise a poem for two months?!?! That's a prescription for artistic anorexia. It comes straight out of the Genius Flourishes In Isolation Myth.

I am tired of little tight-fisted poets sitting down to
shape perfect unimportant pieces.
Poems that cough lightly — catch a sneeze.
This is the time for Big Poems
roaring up out of the sleaze,
poems from ice, from vomit, and from tainted blood.

Gwendolyn Brooks

The best best best way to revise a poem is to read it to someone else. To write 3 new poems, and then come back to the first. To share your work with your artistic community. To be alive in the world, generous and largehearted with your own work and the work of others. To listen and speak and keep the wells open and trust your own voice.

just picked up

two books for the sheer attraction of their titles. OK, the authors did exert some pull too. But the titles clinched it:

What Do Women Want? Bread. Roses. Sex. Power.
by Erica Jong

Sister Age, by MFK Fisher.

Migritude on CNN

An article on CNN Traveller, Sail of the Century, talks about Migritude at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in July this year.

If Zanzibar should interpret globalisation as a people-centred phenomenon of migration and exchange, then spoken-word artist Shailja Patel's performance best exemplified that notion. Delivering a resounding rendition from her work, entitled Migritude, the Kenyan-born Patel expressed the conflicts inherent within the definition of identity. Ethnically Indian, Patel's family has lived in East Africa, from Zanzibar to Kenya, for several generations.

'What Migritude says is that there is a culture, a world view that comes out of those histories of migration that is incredibly rich and vital,' says Patel. 'That's really what Ziff - and Zanzibar - is at the centre of. Zanzibar is all about the dhow culture. It is about the constant exchange between these mainlands.'
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