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Because today is all about unsolicited opinions. - Piano wire. [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
The richest girl in town.

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Because today is all about unsolicited opinions. [Friday, Mar. 19th, 2010|06:25 pm]
The richest girl in town.
It's very second-wave-white-feminist to assume that you will represent all other women; it's no less problematic to assume that all other women will represent you. And for you to be disappointed and to fault them when these women don't represent you with all their bombastic and distinctly black delivery (though it wasn't phrased that way, of course), or with their tedious poems about having been victimized (which is not the same as being a victim, by the way), or with their poems about being lesbians (though to be fair, you didn't say that; someone else did)....

Well, yeah. I'd say privilege might be one of the words of the day. (Not the only word of the day, but one of them.)

What would make me happy? If everyone would quit rushing to your defense. You wrote some things--your opinions--and now people reading what you wrote are forming their own opinions about it--and about you. It happens.

In fact, it happens every time you read poems on stage for points.

Because it's a fucking slam.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: karnythia
2010-03-20 01:48 am (UTC)
I almost want a link. Almost.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2010-03-20 01:56 am (UTC)
No, you don't.
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From: delux_vivens
2010-03-20 03:48 pm (UTC)
ditto.

Edited at 2010-03-20 03:52 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: lowhumcrush
2010-03-20 03:24 am (UTC)

oh, my lovely lovely smart and lovely lady.

I was going to ask you about it, then figured maybe you'd be too...tired. I mean, it IS a lot.

I've read and re-read everyone's thoughts. I've re-evaluated the facts: of the 12 poets on stage that night, only four were white. Of the four she criticized, only one was white.

But the other competitors she did not mention were knocked out after the first round. So, she heard more poems from those she critiqued (with the exception of Sierra.) Knowing the "critic" personally (though I'll admit, it hasn't been that long) I can't help but feel a little alarmed at how quickly this felt like a witch hunt.

A lot of what she posted was lame (I hate when people decide that poems about survival should be left for therapy) but I did not see a direct link between what she didn't like (people yelling poems, cliched poems recited while standing on chairs or announcing women as "having" to be victims) and the fact that she is white. I just thought she was being an asshole in some of her statements, the way all of us old slam codgers can be assholes.

I hold your opinions way above anyone else's in this universe, so if there is something I can present to her to say, "here is where you suck, fix it" I want it.

(and if it is not that black and white, if you see this as more veiled, then the best I can do is tell her to listen more and grow an empathy bone (?))
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[User Picture]From: bucky_sinister
2010-03-20 03:28 am (UTC)

ha! i just name dropped you at the same time.

fuck i love your book.
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[User Picture]From: lowhumcrush
2010-03-20 03:33 am (UTC)

Re: ha! i just name dropped you at the same time.

Bucky Sinister! this is not about you or me! this is about picking Lauren's sexy juicy brain!

signed,

hangs with too many toddlers all day
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[User Picture]From: bucky_sinister
2010-03-20 03:40 am (UTC)

you ain't kiddin.

I love it when I have to look up shit that's in her posts. Aww yeah! Smarts are the new low-rise jeans.
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[User Picture]From: blue_estro
2010-03-20 04:02 am (UTC)

obOffTopic

picking Lauren's sexy juicy brain ... hangs with too many toddlers all day

I now have an image of an army of zombie toddlers
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2010-03-22 11:33 pm (UTC)

Re: obOffTopic

This is funnier than you can imagine, since the poet who started the shitstorm that's currently blowing across every imaginable social network apparently has a poem about zombie babies.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2010-03-20 06:27 am (UTC)

Re: oh, my lovely lovely smart and lovely lady.

Now see, of course I wasn't there. Like Sonya, I can only respond to what I've seen written. When I realized that Stuff was happening, I followed the bread crumbs back to the source and didn't read anymore Stuff until I had because I wanted to interrogate it with as little bias as possible.

But I got a similar feeling from what I then read as Sonya.

1. Right off the bat, the assumption that these women would somehow represent her bothered me. We don't all have the same experience, and I've had to remind other white women of this fact before when they want to use some mythical, essentialist notion of sisterhood to muzzle me from speaking about my experiences because they differ from theirs or because I hold a different perspective than they do.

2. From where I'm sitting, Megan called someone else's parenting into question on the basis of how that woman performed a poem. That strikes me as more than a little presumptuous.

3. I think that there is something being lost in translation because of a cultural difference and that that difference is being judged as bad.

4. While I can sympathize with those tired of the same old cliches in slam, those cliches have less to do with the subject matter and more to do with the facility of poets to deal with that subject matter, their skill.

5. I find it telling that she comments on Eboni's poem having transcended her race and gender--even though she seemed to think that gender is what is supposed to be tying her together with these other poets. It seems like she needs to be colorblind in order to appreciate a woman of color's writing. As Dahled has written, and I paraphrase, "If you claim to colorblind, and I happen to be a person of color, than the only conclusion I can come to is that you don't see me."

More in a bit. I have to get onstage.


Edited at 2010-03-20 08:26 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: lowhumcrush
2010-03-20 02:29 pm (UTC)

Re: oh, my lovely lovely smart and lovely lady.

thank you, for each of these. They help me, tremendously. I'm sorry to count on you for the occasional "check yourself, Rache" but I do. And it is a lot of why I respect and love you as I do.
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[User Picture]From: scottwoods
2010-03-20 03:12 pm (UTC)

Re: oh, my lovely lovely smart and lovely lady.

4. While I can sympathize with those tired of the same old cliches in slam, those cliches have less to do with the subject matter and more to do with the facility of poets to deal with that subject matter, their skill.

Boo-yaa.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2010-03-20 08:35 am (UTC)

Re: oh, my lovely lovely smart and lovely lady.

Okay, home now.

6. I'm currently training to be a women's self-defense instructor. One of the things we've discussed, and that Debbie Leung talks about in her book Self-Defense: The Womanly Art of Self-Care, Intuition, and Choice is that sometimes, for our survival, we do need to submit in ways that look like victimhood. That doesn't make us victims in perpetuity.

7. When Alvin Lau wrote posted his essay on The State of Slam, I didn't notice a bunch of folks running to his defense, saying, "Well, let him respond first. Don't make assumptions about where he's coming from." And maybe that's because people think he's an asshole. Or maybe it's because he's a guy. Or maybe it's because he's not a white woman. It's not like no one has chimed in with their agreement with what Megan posted, and it's not that people have said she can't or shouldn't express her opinion. It's just been made clear that not all people happen to agree with it and that some are offended by it. That's not a witch hunt. You put your writing in public, you deal with the repercussions. Anyone who slams should know that.

And that's all I've got at the moment. It's just some thoughts, based on what I know and what I've seen. I'm sure there's lot of nuance I'm missing.

And honestly? It's not as though I don't have issues with slam. There's a reason why I don't do it anymore.
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[User Picture]From: lowhumcrush
2010-03-20 02:57 pm (UTC)

Re: oh, my lovely lovely smart and lovely lady.

I did not see this as something more than a clueless person talking shit who would undoubtedly get schooled on how every poet on that final stage was necessary to enhance our movement as female poets being recognized for all we bring to the table. I did not see Megan as someone stamping their foot into the pavement, declaring some sort of superiority (although now, I realize that a lot of her critique was just that) so, when I received a half dozen emails and texts, telling me to help them declare this person a racist, I immediately got into a mode that I am trying hard to practice with humans these days - try to pull everyone into a good, safe space and then wait for answers. These backstage happenings, these demands of me are where I felt the words "witch hunt" rise into my throat.

For me, Alvin's post, like Megan's, was clearly an op-ed piece. Something that, like usual, I sort of let roll off my back. And that is why I came to you. I find that I am a lot more lenient these days, and a will tune a poet's offstage behavior out instead of listen to what I perceive as nonsense and quietly dismiss them, which of course, allows the problem to grow more teeth (and is what Megan admitted to doing to some of the poets onstage.)

My biggest concern was/is with a small group of women, Megan included, in the slam scene who have decided that female poets (or any gender for that matter) should be discouraged from writing about their own personal histories/traumas/survival. As if we are here more for entertainment than discovery and teaching and process and empowerment through healing (god I sound corny, but whatevs.)

Slam has tons of issues, yes. But WoWps, despite the current shit going on, is such a different space. For every person who acts disgruntled about outcomes, final stage appearances, etc., there are ten women who are new and trying and experienced and devoted and THAT is why I wish you and Daphne and Ladson and all my favorites/mentors/influences would come and just fucking read (like you all did back then, which was never for points.)

I've met and learned from so many NEW poets at WoW and I feel it is my duty to give back by encouraging my riot hynas to show them the women who laid down each gold brick.

Thank you, L. Always. Always.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2010-03-22 11:30 pm (UTC)

Righteous indignation is my superpower.

See, I think a lot of what she wrote was racist, though thinly veiled. And she may not have intended to, or even realized that she was, putting that out there, but that doesn't make that not the case.

Most of what she wrote, and plenty of the earlier comments she received, are written in a code we've already broken. As in, we've heard it before. We know what people mean when they say these things; we know they're talking about us--even if they won't admit it or don't even realize it. Again, I think her comments on Eboni's poem really give her away and make it pretty obvious what she was not-saying about the other black poets earlier in her "critique."

I do think she was being intentionally mean, and now that she's responded, she seems willing to stand behind that, which is her choice, or her folly, depending on how you look at it.

So much of it just reads like sour grapes--she may say whatever she likes about what the "audience" wants, but she's no longer part of the audience. She's a competitor, and she's dogging out the women the audience liked better than they liked her.

But the bigger issue you mention--regarding poets who eschew women writing about trauma or what-have-you--is not a new argument, either, and I continue to disagree with those in both academia and slam who think confessional poetry is cheap, depends more on emotional appeal than deftness, etc.
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[User Picture]From: lowhumcrush
2010-03-23 08:08 pm (UTC)

Right.

As a [pale] brown person, I was frustrated with myself for not seeing what I thought was "see-able." When she announced that something was shit because it wasn't like her, I felt that was more snobbery and privilege than racist. However, I recognize I have become increasingly lenient about shit since becoming part of the slam community and literally tune out the bad stuff I hear and quietly cross them off my homies list. I don't count how many Mexican women are in the room because there AREN'T any. So, I've kind of just wandered off into my own private bubble.

She's going to stand by her statements as long as she does not acknowledge that her dismissing someone's worth as a poet comes from a place much darker than literary critique. Thanks to all of this, I have been reminded of a LOT of shit I've been suppressing. And that's startling, but relieving as well.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2010-03-23 08:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Right.

I remember when I let everything slide. For self-protection, out of blindness, out of internalized belief in white supremacy... all of it. It destroyed my soul to absorb so much, and then, suddenly, I couldn't harbor it anymore, all the horrible things thought about me, said to me, did to me. And I let it go. And I felt naked and vulnerable and free.
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[User Picture]From: bucky_sinister
2010-03-20 03:26 am (UTC)

does paying attention to slams make you feel better or worse?

At one point, this answer became "worse" for me. Then I quit going. I'll still feature for Starry Plough and Bowery Poetry Club. Hell, they're the only ones who want me there anyway. Starry Plough was the only slam in the Bay Area to feature me. So I support those who supported me back when, but the rest of slam can suck it, IMO. The cream of the slam crop is publishing books, and I'll read those. Rachel M's Pink Elephant? Holy shit. But for the most part, i had to step away.

It came down to bullshit people did on stage for points. If I were more enlightened or well-centered, I could go and ignore those people. But fuck, I can't.

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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2010-03-21 03:35 am (UTC)

Re: does paying attention to slams make you feel better or worse?

Sometimes I hear poems I really want to hear. I will say it's far more tolerable now that I don't have anything invested in it. I don't compete.
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[User Picture]From: bucky_sinister
2010-03-22 04:31 am (UTC)

Good 'nuff

If the diamonds are worth all the lumps of coal, then bless you for being more tolerant and patient than I.
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[User Picture]From: bugsinamber
2010-03-20 03:49 pm (UTC)
Can you remind me why I should go back to slam?
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2010-03-21 03:34 am (UTC)
Who said you should go back to slam? I still don't.
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[User Picture]From: bucky_sinister
2010-03-22 04:30 am (UTC)

because

you like the idea of it. you saw some in the past that were good. you swear that you've seen some good shit at a slam. you are quite fond of people who perform in it.

This is why I sneak back in sometimes. Then I hear someone murder a Gil Scott Heron poem and I remember that I'm a grumpy old man who doesn't want to hear 20 year olds read poems as shitty as the ones I wrote when I was 20 when I murdered Bukowski's poems.

how you doin?
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[User Picture]From: erg
2010-03-21 04:24 am (UTC)
We talked about something akin to this today, at both the needle exchange training, and at the end of the women's history class. There needs to be more listening, and more coming together as allies where we can, and while the discussions of differences are good and meaningful, and calling people out where they err is worthwhile, I do believe we might want to find places or times we call it better than others, not to protect those who err, but to protect the one who's doing the calling out, because otherwise one could spend all their time doing so, and there has to be a more productive method/placement.. something...
Both so real learning can occur, rather than getting reactive responses, and so there's some level of tolerance that shows its face as tolerance, rather than just the end of tolerance.
This is for all manner of people, I'm not laying this out just for women along color lines, as a white male, I'm sure it's not for me to interject myself, as a queer, I'm gonna call it that there's a lot of work yet to be done and one of the big issues is our constant fracturing needs a process of resolving, rather than being just one more instance of ignorance meeting a critique.
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