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

“The Handmaid’s Tale is more relevant today, we’re further down the track.”

Margaret Atwood sat down for a great interview with Literary Hub’s Grant Munroe. They talked about the Hulu series based on The Handmaid’s Tale, Donald Trump, Salem witch trials, paper books and vinyl coming back, birds and housecats, and her numerous projects, including an upcoming novel based on Shakespear’s The Tempest. 

Here is just one of many great quotes from the conversation, commenting on Trump’s view of women and the direction of US society: 

He’s all for a certain kind of women, but not women in general, I would say. But no, he’s not much of a puritan. Whereas Cruz certainly is. And Rubio is similar. The Tea Party is of that root from American society, which never really went away. It might have looked in the 17th century as if we were having a bad experience with Salem witches, and were quite embarrassed about it afterwards, but it’s never really left.

“I don’t believe in men. I’ve never met a man in my life.”


Today, Guernica Magazine published a great, insightful and inciting interview with South Asian trans performance duo DarkMatter. For instance, this is how they expand upon the above statement that Alok never met a man:

Janani Balasubramanian: I think what Alok was saying with the idea of how we’ve never met a man in our lives, is that manhood is not just an ideal of gender; it also becomes a set of ideals around race, class, respectability, purchasing power, whatever. I’ve never met a single person in their lives who’s rich, has no feelings, goes to the gym every hour, drinks protein shakes all day. This person doesn’t exist.

Alok Vaid-Menon: They’re a fairy tale. What’s difficult is that gender has become only the domain of trans people and women. But we all have gender, and we all have a stake in ending gender.

In a conversation led by Guernica’s Kevin St. James, they discuss gender, performance, colonialism, capitalism, disappointing your parents and the importance of cracking jokes. It really is a must-read, whether you agree with their stances or not.

Elizabeth Alexander and Hilton Als on Dreams and Obsession

The New York Public Library podcast is a treasure trove of great recorded conversations. This week, the institution released a particularly fascinating talk between poet Elizabeth Alexander – who read her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at President Obama’s inauguration – and writer Hilton Als. They discuss Alexander’s work in poetry and academia and her life and memoir, The Light of the World. These two Black intellectuals make too many beautiful observations and pointed comments to sum up here, I highly recommend listening to the podcast. (I just spring cleaned our bedroom just to have an excuse to keep listening.)

Elizabeth Alexander and Hilton Als on Dreams and Obsession

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/246114074/stream?client_id=N2eHz8D7GtXSl6fTtcGHdSJiS74xqOUI?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

Mavis Staples: Action

What a terrifying time to rise our voices / But see I’m not left with minimal choices / I gotta put it into action / Doing it A too Z / Until I set myself free

Mavis Staples is one of the greatest gospel, soul and R’n’B singers. With her family’s group. the Staple Singers, she moved from a Christian gospel group to politically active members of the civil rights movement. This perspective is still noticeable in her music today, like this call to Action, The song is written by 

tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus. Marvis Staples’ voice is timeless, the message of her music is still so relevant. Her new album Livin On A High Note is  out on Anti- records Febuary 19th.

(I was introduced to Marvis Staples and the history of the Staple Singers by this great interview with Jesse Thorn of NPR’s Bullseye)
 

(antirecords)