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


This teen girl’s response to the DFTBA sexual abuse scandal is out of this world and needs to be watched and thought about and discussed.

This is a 16-year-old girl. Her video gave me CHILLS. 

It’s a great video. Some might find it tough but it’s a must-see. She – Ann/The Geeky Blonde – connects the abuse by adult men in the YouTube community to the decreasing space the women in youtube panel gets at vidcon. She also outlines a number of steps the DFTBA/YouTube/VidCon community needs to take. She is an impressive example of what young girls can do, and why their voices need to be valued more. She explains how Brave New Voices values creative teenage girls more than vidcon..

I’m not really into the DFTBA universe besides the occasional crash course video or tumblr post, so I don’t know a lot about the accused men and the cases. The video has a bunch of links/articles in the description. Anyway, the evident abuse by 5+ content producers is terrible, alarming, and vile. What she has to say is also valuable beyond this specific case(s).

Just one last thought: As the DFTBA/vlogger/nerd community continues to grow, it needs to take active steps to just not mirror the fucked up-ness of society at large. Otherwise, a lot of amazing, revolutionary potential will be wasted.

(Content note: the video is a general discussion of (surviving) sexual abuse.)

Social Media Offers Hope and Harm

There is so much harm the Internet and its new communication methods can do. For example, social media allows schoolyard bullies to anonymously follow teenagers into what could/should be a safe haven, their home. As long as you’re connected you’re also connected to your bullies. Sadly, teenagers then often see no other way out than ending their lives (CN: suicide)

However, the Internet also allows teens that are struggling and/or are isolated at school and at home to find a community they can connect to. Communities they might not otherwise have access to, based on location or ability. 

In her powerful memoir Redefining Realness, Janet Mock mentions this aspect of social media as a very positive thing for trans youth: 

“When support and education for trans youth are absent, feelings of isolation and hopelessness can worsen. Coupled with families who might be intolerant and ill equipped to support a child, young trans people must deal with identity and body issues alone and in secret. The rise of social media and online resources has lessened the deafening isolation for trans people. If they have online access, trans people can find support and resources on YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, and various other plattforms where trans folks of all ages are broadcasting their lives, journeys, and even social and medical transitions. Still, the fact remains that local trans-inclusive support and positive media reflections of trans people are rare outside of major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Portland, and Seattle.” p. 118

What this quote also shows is that we can’t rely on the Internet to satisfy our need for information and community.  The Internet does not make your physical location, your physical sphere meaningless. Otherwise young people wouldn’t still move to major cities/areas like Berlin or Silicon Valley in large numbers.

The Internet does add options, and that can be a very, very good thing.

This isn’t just about individuals, either. Everyone who says “I don’t want to be a victim-blamer, but girls should know frat parties aren’t safe places” is treating rape culture like a missing stair. Everyone who says “it’s an ugly fact, but only women who don’t make trouble make it in this business” is treating sexual harassment like a missing stair. Everyone who says “I don’t like it either, but that’s the way things are,” and makes no move to question the way things are, is jumping over a missing stair somewhere

With adults, it’s a fight for laws like marriage equality. It is not so much laws with the kids; it is economics. It’s a fight for resources. That’s what our community hasn’t quite gotten yet; we have to fight for resources to protect our kids. How dare we say ‘it gets better’ to the kids if we are not willing to fight to make sure they have what they need.

 – Carl Sciciliano

Good point. Plus, fighting for laws that affect adults right now is (marginally) easier because they are graspable. People can understand the effect of laws like marriage equality laws. Many people, especially opponents, still do not understand the reality of civil rights like that, but they are by and large more  tangible. 

Things are different when we talk about securing resources for our children. That reality is not concrete. It is not easy (if not nearly impossible) to visualize the immediate and long-term pros and cons.  I think that is the case for gay rights communities like Sciciliano’s, progressive movements and conservative groups alike. 

In addition, I think it gets even more complicated (and important) when we talk about LBGT youth. The Othering by the mainstream hetero/cissexist that affects LGBT adults also affects the young. People need to be taught and need to understand that LGBT kids (by extension also other marginalized youth) are the same as white middle-class heterosexual well-protected children, equally deserving of love, respect and the tools to grow. At the same time the problems of LGBT (and other minority) children are unique and not identical with the (also valid) problems of other children. Due to the societal position of gay/lesbian/bi and trans* people, gay bullying is not the same as “regular” bullying, for example.

I was a white, cis, middle-class boy who was bullied, and it was brutal. How worse must it be, if you’re not only the victim of schoolyard bullying but also have to experience that your sexuality and/or gender expression is negated in society?