Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pleasure, Reason and Vulnerability

So I was thinking about Freud and the pleasure principle (and subsequently the reality principle), all creatures will naturally gravitate toward things that cause them pleasure and avoid things that cause them pain. The reality principle says that once people begin to learn about life or reality, they still seek pleasure but in the manner that experiencing the initial pain might lead to a more happiness in the future.

Its kind of been a starting point for a lot of ideas I've had over the past week about my life in regards to the different stages of maturity and how certain things in my life fall on either side of these principles. I was trying to write a post about vulnerability, but its obviously not happening, using this principle to dissect my attitudes toward openness. So I have decided to post about the post that I never wrote...even though there isn't much direction to it, just because I think its worth thinking about.

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Dig It

I've been reading the Happiness Project a lot, Gretchen Rueben's blog which corresponds to a books she's writing about a year spent trying every tip, trick and idea to become happier. I know, I know I did tease this trend last year, but I like the idea of someone being proactive about their happiness or about the whether or not achieving happiness as a sustainable thing is ever really possible. Its worth checking out, even if only because its interesting to watch her journey.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I win books

Thanks to Mark Thwaite at the Book Depository. On friday's book give away I signed up and won a book: Typhon by Qaisra Shahraz.


The Mystery, The Darkness, The Song and Me.

Last night I fell asleep listening to Langston Hughes "Weary Blues" and woke up and played it again this morning. It was a gift that I received years back when I was younger played it, got it but didn't get it, listened again a few years on and was finally able to connect. There is something to be said about the complexity of the music and the way it lyrically matches the complexity of the poetry.

Langston Hughes voice, so languid and smooth, it reminds me of a storm in full force where the rain falls so steadily and hard that it becomes a peaceful relaxing sound. A voice to dream to.

There is something quite positively refreshing especially given the current climate of spoken word about the lack of theatrics in his reading. Its simple, its direct and it speaks volumes about the political climate of the era.

It’s the type of album that everyone should hear at least once: for the poetry, for the music, for the history.

The Weary Blues- Langston Hughes (1923)

1 Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
2 Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
3 I heard a Negro play.
4 Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
5 By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
6 He did a lazy sway ....
7 He did a lazy sway ....
8 To the tune o' those Weary Blues.
9 With his ebony hands on each ivory key
10 He made that poor piano moan with melody.
11 O Blues!
12 Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
13 He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
14 Sweet Blues!
15 Coming from a black man's soul.
16 O Blues!
17 In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
18 I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan--
19 "Ain't got nobody in all this world,
20 Ain't got nobody but ma self.
21 I's gwine to quit ma frownin'
22 And put ma troubles on the shelf."
23 Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
24 He played a few chords then he sang some more--
25 "I got the Weary Blues
26 And I can't be satisfied.
27 Got the Weary Blues
28 And can't be satisfied--
29 I ain't happy no mo'
30 And I wish that I had died."
31 And far into the night he crooned that tune.
32 The stars went out and so did the moon.
33 The singer stopped playing and went to bed
34 While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
35 He slept like a rock or a man that's dead.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Love and Madness. on Booklust

I've made more of an effort, since I've started off again, not to use this blog as a way to simply channel other blogs. But today as I perused through the two hundred posts that were sitting unread in my google reader, I came across a bit from Patricia Storms of Book Lust regarding a book by Elizabeth Smart called By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.

It was just simply a beautiful post. It caught my eye. I thought then that I should put it up but decided against it. It wasn't until now after having went to bed and that I finally decided to get up again to repost an excerpt:
Just a little too rich for my tastes, I'm afraid. Though perhaps it is not just Smart's writing ability that is entirely to blame. I truly do believe that when one is in love, in that heightened passionate state of love that we know does not last, I think one is a little insane. I only have to read some of my own poetry during my own wretched romance to know that I was suffering from some strange sickness. Everything he touched I adored. I loved the way he walked, the way he held a pencil, even the way the smelled. One night, early on in our relationship when we were just friends and I desperately ached for the return of his love, he forgot his grey pullover at my house. All night I held it close to me, drinking in the smell of him. He, on the other hand, wanted to change everything about me – the way I dressed, the friends I chose, how I presented myself as a woman in front of others. And sadly, for many years I acquiesced to all his demands, because I was convinced I was nothing without him. Most people thankfully recover from this illness, and are thus resistant to any future insanity, not unlike catching measles in one's youth, and thus being free of the disease for the rest of their lives. Of course if we're lucky we fall in love again, but we've built up scars and scabs that hopefully protect us from making stupid decisions and letting our emotions completely overtake our lives. To love, rather than to be in love, is I think, the preferred condition.
Finish reading back at booklust.


One of My Absolute Favorite Poems.

If you’ve never heard of June Jordan and you’re either a writer, a woman or a person of color, then you should be slapped. Hard. In the face.

No, wait. I don’t mean that, its just my passion talking.

In all seriousness, when I first read “A Poem About My Rights” by June Jordan, it was only an excerpt in one of my identity politics classes but it inspired me to dig, dig, dig till I found it. Here is the excerpt that I first read and I hope you feel so inspired to hunt down the rest:

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem
about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body
posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being
that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the
city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the
world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and
I could not think and I could not
stay there
as I need to
alone because I can't do what I want to do with my own
body and
in the hell set things up
like this
and in France they say if the guy
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after
stabbing him after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies
fuck me after that
then I consented and there was
no rape because finally
you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am

Okay don’t hunt, find it here.

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I forgot to give Jill a chance

A few years ago, I went to check out Jill Scott reading from her poetry book “The Moments, The Minutes, The Hours,” and got a signed copy of the book. When you see Jill Scott in an intimate setting she’s so warm that you nearly want to give her a hug, she commands your attention in such a way that you can barely look away and she’s exactly the same person she appears to be in her song. A lot of times when I’ve met celebrities, I realize they aren’t their persona and its always a little shocking…not that there is anything seriously wrong with having a public face and a private face. Its just that its not easy I think for most people, including myself at times, to tell the difference.

Anyway, listening to her read the poems had such an impact. The inflections of her voice moved me, the way her presence fills each line. It was completely amazing. When I went up to get the book signed, I quite literally went weak in the knees, smiled like a retard and could barely form a word. Though I’m not above being star struck it was quite the extreme reaction.

On the ride home that evening I opened the book and started reading the poems. Didn’t feel them at all, even a little bit. I waited a week or two, tried again. Nothing. Unimpressed.

Now I’ve given someone the signed copy of the book (it was an intended grad-school graduation present in 2005 that I forgot to take to the actual ceremony) and they’ve been aggressively trying to get me to admit that it is a dynamic work of poetry.

I wasn’t really having it. But today she sent me a few poems by IM. I read them. They were pretty great.

Looking back on my first analysis of the book I think that her presence was so domineering that it overshadowed the words. I use the word domineering, despite its negative connotation because I believe that it distracted from the quality of the words. Jill could read a recipe, the national enquirer, a grocery list and people would probably still listen in amazement. Reading them a second time they lost what seemed to be their most dynamic quality the Jill-ness. But I think seeing them again; they do have a right on their own terms. Separated from Jill, the words can stand alone and still be recognized as good.

One poem, then go buy the book:

he says
he says that i'm beautiful
but it's deeper than brothers
honkin horns
blowin kisses
buyin drinks
he says my beauty can be
seen even better with his eyes closed
every now and then
swears he can touch my beauty but he says
he's not worthy and he's glad i
can't see that
he says he likes my style
feminine with a little rugged
just enough lady mixed with ghetto chic and urban funk
he says i'm
powerful with poetry
they way i use ordinary words and make them sing
hums my songs
he says he knows me
favorite number -4
favorite color
- black
favorite juice - peach
favorite style - free
he says he
loves the way i make love
with my whole self
imploring, no, demanding he
do the same
he says that i constantly make myself new and better
loves that quality
and do i think that maybe one day possibly
i could
spend my life with him
he says he loves me
i say i'm just lucky and and
i'm glad
he can't see that

-jill scott

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Understanding "Love Jones"**

Last night a group of my friends, who were slightly older than I, began to talk about the movie "Love Jones" staring Nia Long and Larenz Tate. What struck me as interesting about the conversation was not their love for the movie, which I also love, but the ways in which it shaped their ideas about life when they first viewed it. It made me want to examine briefly in writing why, in their words as well as my own, it had the effect on them that it did.

I think large part of what made "Love Jones" so popular for that age group was that it not only portrayed a love story but that it portrayed a life style that hadn't been depicted in films prior to that time. It was a movie about two young "upwardly mobile" black folks, one a photographer the other a poet, who were part of a bohemian movement that included jazz, spoken word, art, and the renewal of wearing natural hair. One friend referred to as an artistic renaissance, which once he said it struck me as the perfect description of the young artistic movement taking place today. It affected them because it said "something else is possible" especially in their young age. They didn't have to be hard or straight out of Compton. They didn't have to be violent. They didn't have to be older to fall in love. They didn't have to be the clowns. It was also the reason that so many of the movies that followed were made including Soul Food, Brown Sugar, The Wood, Inkwell, Best Man and Love and Basketball.

Everyone I know, older than 27 and younger than 35 feels exactly the same way in regards to "Love Jones."

When I saw it finally, I was in college the black bohemian lifestyle that was popularized by the film was already a reality and not just as a small niche of culture. It affected me but not as something that gave me that same feeling of possibility but films influence over black cinema and popular culture at the time might have been responsible the culture that allowed me to experience art and entertainment the way I did and still continue to do. It was revolutionary for its time period.

So I'm excited for our Love Jones movie night, because I think that seeing it again from that perspective will be like seeing it anew.
**links and editing to follow

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Short Note for a Rainy Tuesday:

There is something to be said for the sound of the phrase "Rainy Tuesday". Like "Lazy Sunday" it has a nice resonance. The rain is perfect as well, steady and light here in Brooklyn, the sky is a perfect shade of grey. I left my ipod at home forcing me back to Billie, which couldn't be a better soundtrack for the day if it was titled "Music For a Rainy Morning."

I hope wherever you are, you're cozy, its raining and you've got Billie's voice to keep you warm.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Fail Better

I decided to check up on Zadie Smith today, as I attempt to often with writers and musicians that I love, to see if there might be any new work coming out or any work that I might have missed. Of course with someone who is as well known as Zadie smith people usually know WAY in advance when a book is being published, but there are still many short stories and essays that go under the radar.

This led me to Fail Better Part one of an essay that was published in the Guardian, which quickly disappeared from the interweb. It took a lot of digging around and I finally came across the entire article on two different websites. Its Smith's definition of our jobs as writers, readers and critics.. I love writers writing about writing.

What unites those very different critics is the confidence with which they made the connection between personality and prose. To be clear: theirs was neither strictly biographical criticism nor prescriptively moral criticism, and nothing they wrote was reducible to the childish formulations "only good men write good books" or "one must know a man's life to understand his work". But neither did they think of a writer's personality as an irrelevance. They understood style precisely as an expression of personality, in its widest sense. A writer's personality is his manner of being in the world: his writing style is the unavoidable trace of that manner. When you understand style in these terms, you don't think of it as merely a matter of fanciful syntax, or as the flamboyant icing atop a plain literary cake, nor as the uncontrollable result of some mysterious velocity coiled within language itself. Rather, you see style as a personal necessity, as the only possible expression of a particular human consciousness. Style is a writer's way of telling the truth. Literary success or failure, by this measure, depends not only on the refinement of words on a page, but in the refinement of a consciousness, what Aristotle called the education of the emotions.
I've uploaded the whole article for
download for the next seven days or so.


RIP: Madeline L'Engle

Madeline L'Engle has passed away at 88. A Wrinkle in Time is one of those books that shaped our youth and has survived generations. Below is an excerpt from her acceptance speech for the Newbery award:

Do I mean, then, that an author should sit around like a phony Zen Buddhist
in his pad, drinking endless cups of espresso coffee and waiting for inspiration
to descend upon him? That isn’t the way the writer works, either. I heard a
famous author say once that the hardest part of writing a book was making
yourself sit down at the typewriter. I know what he meant. Unless a writer works
constantly to improve and refine the tools of his trade they will be useless
instruments if and when the moment of inspiration, of revelation, does come.
This is the moment when a writer is spoken through, the moment that a writer
must accept with gratitude and humility, and then attempt, as best he can, to
communicate to others.


Celebrating Ginsberg

"The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That's what poetry does." --Allen Ginsberg

Though I missed the annual
Howl Festival (which was abruptly cancelled before the fiftieth anniversary last year) due to a weekend filled with too debauchery keeping in with the spirit of the poem. I did however get a chance to have a reading with a friend, who'd never heard the poem before. There are certain things that are great on their own but better ingested with someone who has never experienced them, such as the New York skyline from the bridge or Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." It was a great to not only read it but also to hear it again, while making me nostalgic for my younger years filled with late night poetry readings.

To hear some of Ginsberg reading his work go
here (they have a recording of Sunflower Sutra that I have loved for a long time).
Link is broken, go here instead.

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