Happy 100th Birthday Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, painter, activist, and co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers turned 100 years old today.

Ferlinghetti is maybe best known for “A Coney Island of the Mind” and as publisher of the beat poets, which included being arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the ensuing First Ammendment trial.

My favorite work of his is the little book Poetry As Insurgent Art which a good friend gifted me a few years ago.
A few of my favorite quotes:

  • “The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.”
  • “Haunt bookstores.”
  • “Think long thoughts in short sentences.”
  • “Don’t ever believe poetry is irrelevant in dark times.”

Image: Christopher Michel, CC BY 2.0

Wole Soyinka in Conversation With Henry Louis Gates

The New York Review of Books published a long, wide-ranging interview of Wole Soyinka, Nigerian Nobel Laureate in Literature, by Henry Louis Gates. The conversation touches on Trump and why Soyinka cut up his green card, the African diaspora, desegregating motel swimming pools, Obama and burdening a leader with a Peace Prize, federalism in Nigeria, classism in South Africa, women’s rights and fundamentalism, and Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize. I can only recommend reading it in full:

There’s One Humanity or There Isn’t’

Image: Frankie Fouganthin (CC BY-SA 4.0)

“Trust Love All the Way”: Go See If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk, the Barry Jenkins movie based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, is a fantastic, beautiful, political, loving movie. Trish Rivers and Fonny Hunt are a young Black couple in love and expecting a baby when Fonny is arrested for a rape he didn’t commit.

Barry Jenkins and James Baldwin have one thing in common. An image/prose language that is both realistic and, at the same time, incredibly poetic. Compared to Moonlight, the outstanding 2017 Academy Award winner, Beale Street is comparatively conventional in parts, but similarly terrific. The beauty of the love between Trish and Fonny, the support of Trish’s family is in contrast to the ugliness of the racist system.

The acting of the entire cast is exceptional, Regina King as Sharon Rivers deserves winning all the awards this season, including the Oscar for best actress in a suporting role. The two young lead roles, Kiki Layne as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny are great, particularly their close ups were tremendously heavy or heavenly light, depending on the scene. The breathtaking dialogues at the window in prison reminded me of the intensity of the prison dialogues in Steven McQueen’s Hunger.

Once again, Glenn Weldon of NPR’s Popculture Happy Hour podcast also sums up this movie together perfectly: “If Beale Street Could Talk has a gorgeous urgency.” 

I saw it as a Valentine’s Day preview at Zebra Kino Konstanz. The movie will be released more widely in Germany on March 7th, 2019. Go see it if you have a chance.

The Oscars Love Racial Reconciliation Movies.

Wesley Morris sums up the problem with Oscar-winning movies like The Green Book for the New York Times:

The money is ostensibly for legitimate assistance, but it also seems to paper over all that’s potentially fraught about race. The relationship is entirely conscripted as service and bound by capitalism and the fantastically presumptive leap is, The money doesn’t matter because I like working for you. And if you’re the racist in the relationship: I can’t be horrible because we’re friends now. That’s why the hug Sandra Bullock gives Yomi Perry, the actor playing her maid, Maria, at the end of “Crash,” remains the single most disturbing gesture of its kind. It’s not friendship. Friendship is mutual. That hug is cannibalism.

Toni Morrison on Embracing Failure as Information

It’s as though you’re in a laboratory and you’re working on an experiment with chemicals or with rats, and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t mix. You don’t throw up your hands and run out of the lab. What you do is you identify the procedure and what went wrong and then correct it. If you think of [writing] simply as information, you can get closer to success.

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison turns 88 on Monday.

Her new essay collection, The Source of Self-Regard, was released last week in Germany and I can’t wait to delve in.

Image: Angela Radulescu, cc-by-sa 2.0

Kaveh Akbar on Poetry

We have to say it in a way that will delight the ear or the tongue or the mind of a reader who will never know us. It’s the only way in. And to do that, we have to be capable of imagining that reader, imagining them wholly, gassy and distracted by their phone and worried about the news and late to pick up their son from ballet.

Kaveh Akbar in conversation with Danez Smith for Granta. Both poets are shortlisted for the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2018.

Photo: Birbiglebug/CC BY-SA 4.0

“Was Holly Golightly Bisexual?”

For the Paris Review, Rebecca Renner compares Truman Capote’s novella and the Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie script, particularly concerning Holly Golightly’s sexuality:

“In other words, Holly’s sexuality doesn’t matter quite as much as how the world perceives and polices it. For Holly, sexuality is part of the persona she has woven around herself. She is a Gatsby for a new era, one where women can only be themselves when they run away from men and society’s expectations.”

Post-Everything: My Favorite Songs of 2018

I’ve stopped attempting to make a top 5 list of my favorite songs of the year quite some time ago. Instead, I have a running list of songs I’ve loved every year on Spotify. Here is the 2018 list.

I don’t think I’ve listened to this much punk and angry pop music in years. Must be the enraging times we’re living in.

(Featured image: Naked Lunch at Obstwiesenfestival 2018. My favorite show of the year.)

“Do You Favor the Country Becoming More Politically Correct?” Is Not a Neutral Question

A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll and the connected article results in what they call a “warning for Democrats: Americans are largely against the country becoming more politically correct.” The question in the poll, like the framing of the article, is.. odd.The full question is:

“In general, are you in favor of the United States becoming more politically correct and like when people are being more sensitive in their comments about others, or are you against the country becoming more politically correct and upset that there are too many things people can’t say anymore?”

Asma Khalid called this a good definition of politcal correctness in the most recent episode of the NPR Politics podcast. I don’t think so. The question is neitehr a fitting definition of politcal correctness nor a neutral one, but rather a definition that at the very least leans towards the use of the term “political correctness” as a right-wing fighting word. It connects “politcal correctness” to censorship.

Not using certain words and supporting certain concepts isn’t about censorship, it’s about not continuing to hurt people.