Following is an interview conducted by Superstition Review‘s Poetry Editor, Erin Peters.
Usha Kishore is an Indian born British poet, and translator, resident on the Isle of Man, UK. Usha is currently a Research Scholar in Postcolonial Poetry at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. She has been anthologised by Macmillan, Hodder Wayland, Oxford University Press and Harper Collins among others. Her work has appeared in international journals like Asia Literary Review, Index on Censorship, Indian Literature, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry Salzburg Review, South Asian Ensemble, South Asian Review, The Stinging Fly and The Warwick Review.
Usha’s poetry has won prizes in UK competitions, is part of international projects and features in the British Primary and Secondary syllabi and Indian Middle School and Undergraduate syllabi. Winner of an Isle of Man Arts Council Award and two Culture Vannin Awards, she is the author of three poetry collections and a book of translation from the Sanskrit. Her latest collection, ‘Immigrant’ was published in 2018 by Eyewear Publishing London.
“Drug Mule” by Usha Kishore:
She embroiders time under an alien sky:
chikankari on handkerchiefs, kutchi work
on cushion covers, kashmiri couching
on bedspreads. Draping a pristine white sari
over her wasted life, she clicks crochet needles
in the hollowed air of betrayal. Her seventy-five
years, spanning the length and breadth of India,
now cocooned in an English prison.
Here, she is everybody’s Ma – mother,
the word means the same in any culture.
She does not want to learn the sahib’s tongue;
she is content to live in the silence
of another language that mutters apologies
for her predicament. She has no visitors.
she is a drug mule, carrying a toxic crime;
a contraband for an air-ticket to see
her beloved grandchild. She shows me
smudged photographs of her great grandchildren
she has never seen, chanting their names
as if in a litany. Her frail voice wraps me
in dialect Hindi, as she searches my face
with faded kajal eyes. It is all His will,
she points to some sovereign of the skies,
summoned in reluctant cloud that peers
through the watery eye of the ceiling.
She does not dream of redemption, she does
not envisage freedom. She has nowhere to go.
Every morning, she mumbles a wounded prayer
to the miniature Ganesh, poised on a makeshift altar
in the corner of her cell. She measures her days
with skeins of crewel threads, snipping them
at pre-destined length, with tiny sewing scissors.
She sieves afternoon light in grams of flour,
translating it into her recipe of onion bhajis.
Counting the stars trapped in a weathered rosary
of tulsi beads, she falls back into her reverie:
cross stitch, chain stitch, smyrna, herringbone;
each stitch knotting an unheaved sigh.
Interview With Usha:
In a previous exchange, you had mentioned that this piece is particularly close to your heart. Could you speak more to that statement?
‘Drug Mule’ is based on drug trafficking and the use of women as drug carriers. The poem is close to my heart as I am committed to gender equality and I feel that the vulnerability of women is being exploited. According to BBC statistics (2005), 18% of the UK’s female prison population are foreigners and are imprisoned for drug related offences. It is also a painful fact that older South Asian women are being used as drug mules. It makes you wonder if these women are criminals or victims.
How do you incorporate social justice in your poetry?
Many of my poems are themed on social justice, especially on race and gender equality. As a member of an ethnic minority community in the UK, I am very much aware of differences and my poems highlight the need for more integration. My third collection, Immigrant (Eyewear Publishing, London, 2018) highlights the politics of being an immigrant professional interacting with discrimination and reflects on the binary perspectives of assimilation and marginalisation.
My second collection, Night Sky Between the Stars (Cyberwit India, 2015) reflects my pre-occupation with Indian womanhood and articulates concerns of a marginalised gendered identity. The poems in this collection draw heavily from Indian myth, rendering voices to female mythical characters and projects Indian womanhood in a different light.
You have written three books of poetry as well as a book of translation from Sanskrit. How has your work in translation influenced your more personal writing projects?
My translations from the Sanskrit certainly influence my poetry in the form of thematic concerns and uniquely Sanskrit literary devices such as vyatireka (comparative excellence), dṛṣṭānta (a figurative device that can be described as ‘simile-like’ or parallel) and vakrokti (creative twist).
How has the global pandemic affected your writing process?
I am an English teacher in a secondary school on the Isle of Man, where thankfully, the effect of the pandemic has not been that severe. So, the schools are open and functioning (we were only briefly shut in Spring. We re-opened in Summer). I usually have to find time to write, amidst a busy schedule. I am currently a PhD scholar in Postcolonial Poetry with Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. So, in the last two years, my writing has been put on the back burner.
The global pandemic has brought a creative surge, especially in poetry, signifying that the human spirit rises above global challenges. At this difficult time, a considerable number of poetry anthologies, themed issues of journals and discussions on poetry have all come to the forefront. Poetry is a healer!
Some editor friends have been keeping my work alive by soliciting submissions and giving me opportunities to participate in poetry webinars. Coincidentally, a friend of mine alerted me to your call for submissions on Social Justice. My writing has certainly picked up again.
What is the most important piece of advice you have received as a writer?
It’s not over yet!
It was a real struggle to get my first collection into print, despite being published internationally. I was about to quit. The above advice, ‘it’s not over yet,’ was given to me by the founder-member of the Isle of Man Poetry Society, the late Jeff Garland. Soon after this conversation with Jeff, I received Arts Council and Culture Vannin grants and my first collection, On Manannan’s Isle was published on island in 2014. I have not looked back hence.
What are your upcoming projects?
As mentioned earlier, currently my research takes priority.
However – Translation wise, I have completed the translation of the Sanskrit epyllion, Ṛtusaṃhāram by the legendary Kalidasa. I am seeking a publisher for this project.
I am also translating Jaisankar Prasad’s Hindi epic, Kamayani (1936) that falls under the Chhayavaadi school of Hindi Poetry. Chhayavaad has been interpreted as Neo-Romanticism, I would call it Romantic mysticism. Kamayani addresses human emotions in pathetic fallacy, personification, and mythological metaphors. This has been a slow process as I would like to do justice to this epic, amidst time constraints. I have found this translation extremely challenging, but highly inspiring and enlightening.
The poetry goes on! I don’t think I am ready for another collection yet. But recently, I have started submitting to journals like Superstition Review! Thank you very much for accepting my work for your blog on social justice.
High tide rushes out upon the sour smell of sulfur and methane gas released from the drying peat beneath our feet. Ribbed mussels exposed along the creek bed seal their twin valves tightly and go to sleep under the drying sun as gulls and terns plunge into the shallowing water searching for killifish and flashing silversides in the receding flow. The water is brown and silt-laden under skies blue and wispy with tattered clouds. Walking out onto the marsh we look like hobbits carting heavy equipment into the misty mountains, each slumped under the weight of canisters of dry concrete, steel rods and a jackhammer. We’d come to drive steel rods into the salt marsh until we met refusal against a subterranean gravel bed, possibly deposited a thousand years ago by a hurricane. Some of the rods go down seventy feet, pushing the limits of the jackhammer to anchor our devices, delicate things called “surface elevation tables” or SETs. These devices will let us measure the marsh surface elevation, which over time will let us know if the land is sinking or rising.
The dreadful mathematics behind these measurements are inexorable, the SET like nature’s chronometer tuned to silt accretion on the marsh’s surface or its erosion and loss due to sea level rise and global warming. This fearful symmetry is a balance we must measure and maintain if life along the coast is to be sustained. For by all measures the coastal lands in New Jersey are expected to lose this long-term war with the sea because climate change is no longer a hypothesis but a fact that must be understood, measured, and adapted to. As seawater heats up it expands like steam whistling from a kettle, the shoreline sinking under this expansion, water permeating rivers and coastal bays like a child’s bathtub filling with bubbles. The air above these waterways fill with moisture, as well, which moves inland on the sea breezes until cooling heights bring it down again in rainstorms and floods. Unseen and distant, yet no less important to this rise in sea surface, are the shrinking glaciers in the mountains and calving icebergs at the planet’s poles. Until at last, their melting tonnage is added to the mass of the seas, which move they must, inland and up over the millions of homes that line the earth’s waterways.
Adaptation is the key to what we need to do now. For to survive in our flimsy houses along the beach, our skyscrapers in New York City, or even the quiet village a hundred miles upstream of the coast but whose tidal intrusion brings salt water and killing infiltration of drinking water wells along the estuaries, we must adapt to what the world will become. For scientists these facts, based on field-collected data from ice cores and SET tables, are an abacus we cannot ignore. A multitude of empirical facts like those we collect from our SETs alarm us as to their long-term implications. Yet the populace seems asleep, wary of the predictions from natural scientists whose job is to watch and measure.
In his famous 1959 book “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution,” C. P. Snow the scientist and popular novelist posited that there are two modes of knowledge, the humanistic and the scientific. He postulated that because of these differing educational approaches, which are mutually exclusive, they generate two opposing worldviews. His famous challenge to the “literary intellectuals” after hearing them harangue about the illiteracy of scientists was to challenge them to describe Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics. He noted, “The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of, “Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?”
This dichotomy, Snow felt, impeded any meaningful communication between the two camps without serious translation. Subsequently there emerged a furious debate on whether the phenomena really existed at all, and if it did, whether a means existed to bridge the two cultures. Snow felt it might which he described in a subsequent book entitled “The Third Culture,” which called for an infusion of both science and humanities into higher education. I have been fortunate in my own education to have lived in both worlds, first by studying Classical Languages and then Marine Biology. So, I can see both sides and understand this dichotomy in practice. In fact, even among practicing scientists there can be a communications breakdown due to the forced early specialization required in universities. Listening to an engineer’s explanation of an event sometimes makes me feel a “stranger in a strange land.”
For science uses not only a technical vocabulary but also a different way of processing information. In fact, we now know from neurological studies that humans use different parts of the brain to process information. This phenomenon called the “right brain – left brain” dichotomy where research showed that the two different hemispheres of the brain are responsible for different manners of thinking. The left-brain is logical, sequential and rational, analytic and objective, and tends to look at the parts of a problem. In contrast, the right brain functions more randomly, is intuitive, holistic and synthesizing, and subjectively looks at the totality of a problem.
Most individuals are born with a distinct preference for one of these styles of thinking although some are more whole-brained and integrated. Left-brain people are naturally adept at logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy, with linear reasoning and language functions such as grammar and vocabulary lateralized to the left hemisphere of the brain. In contrast, right-brained individuals focus more on aesthetics, feelings, and creativity with an enhanced sense for processing visual and musical stimuli. They are also good at spatial manipulation, understanding facial perceptions and possess what we call artistic ability.
This “right brain – left brain dichotomy” found useful application by speech pathologists when dealing with left hemisphere brain injuries. For example, in cases of aphasia, or speech loss, due to left hemisphere head traumas they will use music therapy to reintroduce language since this involves the right side of the brain, which reaffirms the grammatical rules lost to the damaged left hemisphere. Thus, when I turned to studying science after years of Latin and Greek poetry my brain fizzled a bit at first under this new paradigm. But with perseverance, I mastered the fundamentals and gained proficiency in both worlds forcibly creating the third culture envisioned by C.P Snow within my own cerebellum.
Yet the discontinuities of the two cultures paradigm I found persisted when I moved out of Academia and took my first job, especially due to the unique characteristics of an applied scientist working for a government agency where my endeavors required both practicality as well as accuracy. I was also fortunate in as much as my position as a “research scientist.” Now many layman and people un-attuned to the process of science may not see the significance of this statement. To elaborate, a scientist or a technician may use science but not study science or understand the underlying principles that drive its conclusions.
For example, a mathematics teacher may understand the elements of algebra and calculus, which he dutifully teaches to his wards in a junior high school. Similarly, a structural engineer will use these same mathematical equations to devise a stress diagram for building a bridge based on the know load capacity of commercially available steel plate. However, in selecting his steel he may have access to a dozen metallurgical mixtures using various combinations of chrome or titanium to augment the mineral composition of the steel. These are both applications of science. Yet the materials scientist who painstakingly devised experiment after experiment to test hypothesis on which mixture would make the best steel superstructure for the bridge, he engaged in research using the time-tested methods that have come down to us from antiquity on how best to pose and answer scientific questions.
The scientific method of research has four steps including the observation and description of some interesting phenomenon; the formulation of a hypothesis to explain this phenomenon; the use of the hypothesis in an experiment to predict your phenomena and quantify the results of your observation; and the lastly performance of experiments testing your predictions by other independent researchers. In my own field of marine biology and environmental science, this hypothesis might be as open as “How many fish are in the sea?” to more pragmatically “How many bluefish can fishermen catch before the population crashes?”
Research by the National Marine Fisheries Service addresses this latter question, which entailed catching and tagging bluefish off the Atlantic coast. The released fish were subsequently captured by fisherman from Florida to Maine with a promise of monetary reward if the tags were mailed back to the Service. After careful deliberation and years of capture, the Service concluded that the bluefish population off the east coast had a complex, size-specific migratory behavior. They self-sorted into similar size and age schools that started inshore then moved progressively offshore to seek larger prey as they grew. Moreover, these schools moved seasonally in echelon up the coast to feed on the billons of tiny animals called zooplankton that grew in response to the annual explosion of microscopic one-celled plants called plankton, which thrived in the cold yet nutrient-rich northern waters. Because of these studies and others like it, the United States government sets both commercial and recreational fishing quotas based on science as validated by research. The policy of the limits on certain types of seafood is typically protested by fishermen, but buoyed by the scientifically defensible research, thus policy-makers can assure them that their actions are not indiscriminate but based on a sampling and what each fishery can endure.
It is unfortunate that many of today’s politicians and policymakers confronted with the same kind of empirical facts about “climate change” and its more insidious symptoms such as sea level rise and the increase in extreme weather events, fail to see the facts and trust the scientists hired to inform them. Adaptation is the human genius. From the first hominid making a stone axe that saw flints spark and the savannah grass around him flame up to the eighteenth-century alchemist who invented chemistry by mixing chemicals in pursuit of gold, the analytical mind of man has lead the way to the modern world and all it technological wonders. But scientists are trained to be skeptical and to only weigh evidence despite the shaman in the corner of the hut screaming at his loss of prestige.
Climate change and sea level rise are the latest challenges to our long-term survivability on the coasts of the world. If given unfettered resources and allowed to work closely with planners and policymakers, the 21st century and its unusual hazards might be managed more effectively. If not, what we will see are a series of short-term fixes after each extreme weather event, or a hap-dash collection of sinking impoundments as each mile of coastline falls beneath the waters.
As I note in my book, “Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State” (2010) data from deep sediment cores suggested that stable barrier islands with shallow lagoons and salt marshes behind them evolved in New Jersey only 4,000 years before the present. Prior to that the ocean swept in unhindered to crash against the continental margin. Native Americans arriving on the eastern coast of North America around 10,000 years ago may have witnessed the slow rise of these shoals into islands, their greening by windblown seeds and eventual colonization by diverse animal species during winter freezing of the bays. Eventually this gave rise to the unique forested ecosystem that Europeans found in the sixteenth century and which persist in protected areas today.
The tragedy is that in this current era our children may have the reciprocal experience of watching helplessly as the islands are reclaimed by the sea due to human negligence. The waves pushed ashore will be aided by the unseen hand of man, the greenhouse gases of our industrial revolution undoing in a century what it took a millennium for storm surge and wind to create. So, from my perspective sea level rise research projects are more critical and convey a greater sense of urgency than any that have gone before. Because of the greater risk at stake it is important that we study, plan, and act now before it’s too late.
The coastal landscape in New Jersey will most likely be different to my grandchildren’s eyes, as it was to mine and my father in his day. And seeing this change they may wonder what we did, or did not do, to protect that most valuable natural resource. And I’d like to think I could answer that I helped to preserve a beach or a forest. Even a headwater swamp reclaimed to forest along a mountain ridge along the Appalachian trail. And when they saw it, they might say, “Yes, that’s beautiful.”
One fine day Aristotle proclaimed man is a political animal which is still echoing at the very moment of our time, however, this omnipresent idea of politics pushes the lives of “us” and “others” into troubles, into a split nut but not equal halves, always in discomfort; and one bad not-fine night the same Aristotle preached woman is a mutilated male lacking of principle of soul which is still resounding from “over the road” to “over the water”, nevertheless, that ubiquitous logic of womanhood pull all of them back to the blind alleys of losses and sorrows, always in silence. Politics in knife-edge times and womanhood in tight-knot communities are the two prime themes have been dissected under the spotlight of Anna Burns’ exquisite narratives in ‘Milkman,” which won Man Booker Prize (2018), National Book Critics Circle Award (2018), and The Orwell Prize (2019) respectively and most recently won for the 2020 International DUBLIN Literary Award. It is one of most award hunter-gatherer novel in this century.
Back in early October in 2017, the whole world was suffering from the Harvey fever infected by the sexual exploitations by the men sitting at the centre of respective power structures. I was doing an assignment on Rebecca Walker’s seminal personal essay “Becoming the Third Wave”, a reaction to the hearing of Anita Hill’s harassment allegation, where she opined so intensely asking “how many men not used their protected male privilege to thwart in some way the influence or ideas of a woman colleague, friend, or relative” and “assault of the human spirit”. In addition, I was swaying in indecisiveness to choose a thesis statement of my research paper for the course titled Research Methodology in Literature and Cultural Studies during October, 2018, at the first anniversary of #metoo movement, Milkman earned the acclaimed 50th Man Booker title and I had immediately decided to write up on it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I had to travel inevitably to Singapore at the eleventh hour of my writing the first draft of the paper. And I had to keep on the writing while I was waiting at the departure terminal, on the flight, in the immigration queue at Changi Airport, in the hotel room at Outram Park, on the Bank of Singapore River at Boat Quay and at the café and restaurants in Little India. It was an overwhelmingly tenacious and forceful experience I had gone through. Now I find a resemblance between my writing-while-flying or writing -while- travelling and middle sister’s, the protagonist of Milkman, “reading-while-walking”.
The author has invented a unique narrative technique, apparently almost-stream-of-consciousness but in author’s testimony it is not, and applied it so adroitly to tell us the story of an unnamed girl, a middle sister, standing at the last dot of her teenage year deviant from status quo, opted for living in Victorian mise-en-scene and tagged as over-the-pale by her communities, and then milkman, an associate of obsessively nationalistic paramilitary, appeared in a shape-shifting white-van on the scene without any hint out of nowhere and approached her and she could not deny him only because he was not rude and then she turned into an epicenter of gossips and rumors that unlocked the Pandora box of state-sponsored-violence, civilian terrorism, community policing, almost panoptic surveillance on every citizen, that locked the main gate of reality- as if what is not happening is seen but what is going on is hidden- above all, the narrative is a marathon race between state and individual, especially women experience in it.
Politics emerged in Milkman with negation to exercise its power like thunder creates a crack in the sky; they drew a map of “religious geography” and created a nationalistic weather, and swayed between in unitary territory (totalitarianism) and in sectarian territory (nationalism) of power in “troubles”, an unspecific time in seventies in Northern Ireland, they administered a dichotomy of “groupdom”, of renouncer-of-the-state and defender-of-state, of over the road and over the water, on top of that between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The first negation they imposed on freedom by conducting never-ending recordings of everything in the territories as “They even photograph shadows. People here can be deciphered and likeness discerned from silhouettes and shadows”, on the basis of “audible clicks”, they decoupled the right butter and wrong butter, they compressed the room of information as ‘Every resident was supposed to know what is permitted based on what was not permitted”, by that the reality is distorted in many folds and James-Bond-like-lies and Walter Mitty-like-hope occupied the civilians’ mind.
The protagonist, the middle sister, acts as an archetype of every woman at anytime, anywhere in the world. The experience she went through, at first with the “lewd remarks” and “manipulative nosey questions” by her first-brother-in-laws; with an imbalance characters of her third-brother-in-laws because only he regarded woman as an “essential element” or “higher aspect” contrary to Aristotle’s half-formed-creature; with aggressive stalking and talking of Somebody McSomebody, her wannabe husband; with compulsive contacts in rendezvous with her maybe-boyfriend who wanted to live together in red light street; and finally, the antagonist, milkman, tracked and trailed her without her knowledge backing up by paramilitary references and fell her into an “emotional numbness” that pushed her to find his invisible existence everywhere in her room. In response to anomalous approaches, she took refuge in “silence” in her defence. As in Milkman, Anna Burns questions the relationships between female experiences and male domination, in other words, does women‘s silence generate men’s privilege or vice versa? They also show how both silence as a resistance and power as an aggression can naturalize an individual’s sexual harassment in society.
Like silence, “marriage,” is another weapon “after territorial boundaries, is the foundation of the state” to consume privileges and to exercise domination over women. Like nineteenth-century, the traditional women take the position of in-charge of patriarchy, her mother so adamantly pursues her to lead “an ordinary life” by marrying McSomebody, and her longest-friend convinces her to “stop her stubbornness”. They are pleased to tell her the purpose of woman body that “they called menstruation stopped inside you because you were excessively sporty” and they also teach her physical violence is undefined until “your blouse ripped off” and sexual charges is denied until they have evidence of “one-quarter rape”. “I, too, came to find me inaccessible. My inner world, it seemed, had gone away” is one of the most heart-twisting sentences in the entire narrative which scratches the mental aberration a woman can go through, that claims an existential answer also.
“Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking”, comments Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the judges for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, “and form in surprising and immersive prose.” The form of the words, syntax, and narrative technique is as interesting and important in parallel as the contents of the book. They are influenced by Russian formalism like not calling the characters and places by their proper names and German phenomenalism like looking at the reality at different angles, like in French class the chorus get suspicious about fixed idea of le ciel est bleu, like the Russian literature middle sister was reading-while-walking obsessively.
In an interview with Aubrey Moraif in New School Writing, Anna Burns says, “My own history and experience of growing up in Ardoyne in Belfast at this time of huge pressure undeniably informs my interest in these issues. This is based on my need to understand and explore how these pressures built up and worked out in that specific time and place, as well as of what this might mean for similar places throughout the world in all different time frames.” This alluring and brilliant novel forces us to ask about the nature of reality and its validation, to see the experiences of women in the time of turmoil and to hear the universal voice of violence.
C. Christine Fair is a professor within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008). Her forthcoming book is Lines of Control: Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s Militant Piety, with Saifina Ustad (Oxford University Press, 2020). She has published creative pieces in The Bark, The Dime Show Review, Clementine Unbound, Awakenings, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Sonder Midwest, Black Horse Magazine, Furious Gazelle, Hyptertext, Barzakh Magazine and Bluntly Magazine among others. Her visual poetry has appeared in Awakenings, pulpMAG and several forthcoming pieces in Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, The Indianapolis Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine and PCC Inscape Magazine. She causes trouble in multiple languages.
In this interview, Fair explores her experiences with art in the world of science, and she explains her process of developing her work centered around Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s State Counsellor.
You can find C. Christine Fair here on Twitter, here on Facebook, at at her website here.
Brenna Fisher is an artist and early childhood educator interested in how artistic expression can be used to foster empathy, connection, and community. While teaching 3 and 4-year-olds in New York City, she collaborated to create a “compassionate curriculum” with the arts at its core such that students’ voices were heard and expressed through artistic expression. At Hunter College, her graduate research in Early Childhood Education delved into the ways drawing in particular could facilitate social justice work in early childhood settings. She is now continuing this research and her goal of supporting authentic and imaginative art practices by leading workshops with teachers in early childhood settings. Her introduction to teaching developed out of my experience as art director of Kingsley Pines Camp and then as a teaching artist at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in NYC.
Drawing and painting defined her time at the College of Wooster where she graduated with a B.A. in Studio Art and a minor in English. During this time Brenna’s artwork focused on the relationship between landscape and personal narrative. While at Wooster, she also participated in the New York Arts Program as an intern for Bruce Pearson, Nancy Bowen, and Daniel Zeller. Her experience with NYAP, and particularly with her mentor Emilie Clark, taught her how to sustain her art through any transition.
Superstition Review: How do you come up with ideas for your work?
Brenna Fisher: When I experience a strong feeling – either physical or mental – I need to draw or write in order to understand it, process it, and move through it. When I think about my mind and body I see it in colors, shapes, and lines. When you look at my art you are looking at me. Ideas for my art emerge while nursing my now five month old, during the deep breathing in a stretch, after a dream that lingers into the afternoon awake time, or during a conversation with a friend when I get the tingle of, “Oh, you feel that too.” One of the many mantras is Louise Bourgeois’ famous quote, “Art is a guarantee of sanity.” Another comes from Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette,” “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
After college, I lost that artistic community, and during this time, journaling sustained my art practice as I learned how to create the structures I would need to nurture my art career. Once I found a fulfilling day job in teaching, my art started to grow in scale and concept. Working with young students re-engaged me and allowed me to let go enough to really flourish independently.
SR:In your most recent collection, “Sisterhood, Motherhood, “Krasnerhood” what was your process for creating each piece?
BF: Each piece in this ongoing collection is a window into a moment in my life that carried weight along my journey into motherhood. Right now, as the new mother to daughter born in the June of the pandemic, I am grappling with the way dichotic emotions can exist simultaneously: tension and release, love and grief, hope and fear, pain and joy. In each piece, these emotions battle each other for attention, find resolution, turn to mud, and marry each other as I visit my paintings during long evening or brief daytime sessions.
For a deeper look into my process I reflect on creating, “Sisterhood, Motherhood, Krasnernood,” the painting that this series is named for. I made this piece over the course of three months after my first pregnancy ended after 14 very hard weeks with the loss of a little girl. Shortly after this, my husband and I adopted a cat that we named Krasner after one of my favorite artists, Lee Krasner. That cat (whom the painting is partially named for) and this painting healed me. This painting, which is quite large, started on my desk, then moved to my wall, and then spent a long time on my floor where I worked on it while laying flat on the ground. As a result, Krasner the cat (at that time a kitten) ate portions of the paper, meandered through the green paint and dragged burnt sienna chalk pastel to places I might not have put it. She knew best however, as cats often do. While I painted I thought of the place where I put the rock I picked out for the girl I grew for 14 weeks and then grieved for (also depicted in “Where Jane’s Rock Lives”), I thought of the space in my body where another child might grow into, and I thought of all the women in my life – my sisterhood – who supported me and helped me feel strong and powerful even when I didn’t. This painting now lives with one of those women.
The more recent paintings in Sisterhood, Motherhood, Krasnerhood carry grief from that loss but also the fresh hope and fullness that comes from new motherhood. I made “You Smell Like Toasted Marshmallows,” while my daughter slept on my chest. This work feels like a triptych with the digital drawing, a poem, and a larger drawing currently in progress. I resisted the urge to use digital drawing for a long time because the choices available to me felt overwhelming. Now, after some experimentation I find it feels like a friendly blend of many of my favorite mediums including the between the urgency of drawing, the loss of control I find in watercolors, and the layering possibilities in oil paint.
SR: What does your physical workspace look like? What is one thing you have to have with you as you work?
BF: Ha! The top of my stoop in the sunlight, in my tub with my work taped to the shower wall, all over the dining room table, running the length of my bedroom….I make work when and where I can and as often as I can muster what I need to render myself in colors and lines. All of the digital drawings and writing I have made have been made in motion or with one hand wrapped around my child. But, then I also carve out time to return to these ideas and manifest them into larger works, which you can see in the digital drawing, “Tiny Seahorses” and its companion painting, “Tiny Seahorses that Live Inside my Left Breast.”
For a long time I had a studio in my home. Now, I carve out my workspace with the limitations of the pandemic, my husband working from home, and the enormity of space a baby takes up. I draw and write as much as I can and I have done everything I can to let go of any rules or definitive needs I had for making art. Virginia Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own, “There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” I had my own version of this when I was put in time out as a child: “You can’t put me in time out because I am having fun in my imagination.” It still feels true. When I sat with answering this question I pulled Virginia Woolf off the shelf and pieced through and felt tremendous solidarity with everyone in exactly my situation at home without a workspace right now but still resolutely making art because they know art matters deeply.
SR: How has the pandemic affected your art and process?
BF: During this time when my own sense of agency has shifted, I still feel whole and have the space I need to grapple and grow because I am determined to make and share my art. I am a more empathic and compassionate person because I am an artist. I feel empowered because I am an artist. Without art I know I would feel incredibly alone, afraid, and disconnected during this time.
When the pandemic hit, my career shifted. I am now at home full time making art and caring for my 5 month old daughter. Originally, my vision for this year looked very different. I had planned to continue teaching and to move into a new role as a studio teacher that would support the arts curriculum and work with individual students to use art as a problem solving tool. While it felt disappointing to let go of that position, one I had helped design myself and felt like a huge leap for my career, I have not let go of my art practice or my desire to connect with a broader community through art. Since the pandemic, I have opened myself up to others through social media and other digital platforms.
I am leaning into sharing the mucky, disgusting, or downright challenging parts of this experience and also hope to show how those parts exist in equal parts to the ecstatic moments, the wonder, and the bliss of a little face looking up at you. I have often described the process of making as a “thin space”; a space where the artist feels connected to herself and her world deeply.
SR: How is your work touched by social justice?
BF: I see myself as an artist-educator. I both seek to use art to understand myself as a form of auto-ethnographic research and also to make art more accessible to others.
Now, more than ever, art matters. The act of making and sharing art is an act of radical vulnerability and empathy. Through art, we can still see each other when half of our faces have to be covered in order to protect each other. There are a lot of causes and stories that matter, but the only one I can tell is my own.
I truly believe that art changes lives. I believe that art is the best form of self-reflection and self-discovery that we have available to us. But in the same way that authentic play is often missing more and more from early childhood classrooms, I’ve noticed how often children’s art looks the same when made in school. These experiences often drive people away from making something because we’re only taught to replicate an artist’s style rather than how to trust our vision, practice a skill in order to manifest what we imagine, process our feelings of discomfort inherent in creation, and finally to take the brave step to share our work, receive criticism, and return to ourselves again. I think everyone has a desire to create something that is truly unique to themselves and have that part of themselves be heard, but we either tell ourselves no one needs our story or that we aren’t talented enough to tell it ourselves. I’m eager to change the conversation around art from what something looks like towards why someone made it, how they made it, and most importantly to center it around their story. All I have is the story that belongs to me and a willingness to listen to the stories of others.
SR: Do you have any upcoming projects or work you would like to discuss?
BF: Over this year I am continuing to build this series and hope to show the work from this first year of motherhood either in person or digitally depending on the way the world manifests. I’m continuing to explore digital art making as a medium and playing with the relationship between my drawing, writing, and painting. I am compiling my writing and art into a show or installation that takes my process and invites others into it to share their stories. In this time when the scale of my work has shrunk, the aspirations for my work have grown and I am looking for opportunities to paint on a bigger scale, create sculpture, and invest time into the work of sharing and revisiting my work as it expands.
Over the next few weeks, SR staff is running a contest on Twitter, and each prize will be a book from one of our interview authors for Issue 26.
The first contest will be Social Justice Book Recs, taking place on November 12-15. Tweet us a pic of your favorite social justice book and tell us why you love it. Two winners will be selected to receive a copy of The New American by Micheline Aharonian Marcom or The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans.
The second contest will be a Social Justice Book Spine Poetry Contest, taking place on November 19-22. Tweet us a poem made out of book spines that has to do with Social Justice and tell us why you are a social justice advocate. We will pick two winners to receive a copy of This Is All I Got by Lauren Sandler or Disability Visibility by Alice Wong.
Looking for things to revise in my folder of old, unpublished poems, I came across this poem I wrote in early 2017. After all that has happened in 2020, it is eerily prescient. Yes, I remember writing the poem, but reading it with current eyes startles me—it is like reading someone else’s words. It has moved from the safe realm of hypothetical to a place that reads as diary—personal, confessional, present. It is unreal to me how it is no longer just me but someone else’s truth—a true microcosm. Here is the poem:
Thanks to the Children
Thanks to the children, I have another
cold today. Hacking a yellow smell
like clogged drains, my head swimming
like summer asphalt. Another cold, this
constant parade. Spring and it returns
with the tulips—was never truly dead
but just lingering. Hand sanitizer empty
and of course I never touch my face,
even to check for sadness. Never hide
coquettish, never blow kisses, never mock
mustache. People don’t trust men
with facial hair, I tell the President,
who knows this, but somehow not
schoolyard physics. Let’s form a line,
he says instead. Like a recess game,
clasping hands and daring the other side
to send Johnny right over—let’s hold
hands across America. So close, pore to pore,
our sweat with nowhere to go, permeating
each grasp. Forget the states on the flag
are in constellation only—ionic bonds. Forget
that the country air is so sweet in effect
because it’s free—a space between
the fingers. How easily a wire fence slips
or is circumvented here where we live
and let live. In the red, where roads
aren’t paved. Just a suggestion—
but forget immanent influenzas, stealthy
infections. A wall cannot keep out the birds,
cousins of air, I press. No, he says, ignore
Avian Flu, Smallpox outbreaks. It isn’t
part of our America. Not part of my agenda.
Says the man without looking at his planner.
Great! Only it’s hard to ignore this growing tickle
at the back of my throat. The way fear becomes
an interminable barking—to no effect. President
already turning, the air between constituents
growing. Gaps between atoms expanding in heat—
the space between us a molecule’s width
instead of half. You’re covered. Go back
to the gameof Red Rover. But…I cough in alarm.
Cough. I cannot stop. I cannot stop it. But…
I steel myself, know that children pick up
on panic. That for every breath I take of theirs,
they are inhaling mine—this air we share. Coughing,
the heavy heart in my throat’s cavern throbbing
to ear. Don’t listen, I whisper. To myself,
my daughter, my son. A cold now and then
makes us stronger. We need air to survive. But
through muffled stink ear a voiceless fear
floats. Neighbor standing with neighbor—isn’t it
Great? Don’t worry. We’ve got it covered.
Refill the hand sanitizer and just forget
the children about your knees—how quickly
ignorance can piggyback an innocent touch.
These were my notes when submitting this poem to a current event poetry feature in April 2017:
Why am I sharing this now? As a way to say “I told you so?” Ha. Maybe a little bit—especially with the “no touching your eyes, nose and face” bit. That has always been my rule—one that my family would just not take seriously. Is it because I am becoming more overtly political in our country’s current state of crisis? Yes, I think this is maybe my personal “coming out” celebration. But much more importantly, I think this poem holds a crucial lesson for the future (mine, yours, ours, theirs): this poem was rejected and that was that.
This poem was rejected and I only submitted it to a few places before it fell out of my rotation and I never felt it good enough to even try to revise further. (Honestly, I’m embarrassed sharing it). Of course, it isn’t the strongest poem I’ve ever written, but in retrospect I wish I had believed in it more. I am taking this as a reminder, both as a writer and an editor, to look for poetry that matters. Even if it isn’t the best writing, there is something admirable in a force of conviction, something imperative in an idea. I should have worked on this poem.
Another lesson—important poetry is timely. This poem is now out of date. I used to think that a good poem had to be timeless. Because of this I would spend years refining each poem. But some of my best poems missed their moment. I have always believed that poetry is firmly rooted in time and even “classic” poetry reflects the era in which it was created. But what I didn’t realize is that this feeling of time is compressed for current poetry—it is often easy to tell if a poem is a year or two out of date. This is a lesson to write timely poetry intensely, quickly, and go with it. Work hard, not long. I will still let things set for a month to read with a fresh eye, but I will no longer let doubt rule my voice.
I feel, now more than ever, that poetry has a duty to be more than beautiful or entertaining. Responsive poetry has the ability and job to invoke standards of social justice. I wonder how many poems have made a reader stop to think. I wonder if a poem would have given emotional credence to the Washington Post’s journalism article—made it stick, made people recognize the importance of such words and work harder for change. And I wonder how many unpublished poems could have made a difference.
Reading my old poem’s ending, I am ashamed. I chose to ignore revising and submitting this poem. Took an easy way out due to fear. Spent time with my kids instead. How ironic. I wasn’t very political, especially in vocally pressing issues with which I privately disagreed. Especially in not realizing how an issue holding personal significance can quickly affect us all—how public policy isn’t just a wall somewhere, but here. And now. And coming for you.
So I am making this public promise to be better—to fight for social justice of all kinds and not just write, or think, pretty nature poems. Poetry is a medium of communication and all writing is political. We can and must speak up, and, to do that, we must stick with things that we know will matter—now and in all hypothetical futures.
Join us in congratulating past Superstition Review contributor Dorianne Laux on being nominated a 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist! Her sixth collection, Only As the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems was named a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Dorianne is also celebrating her forthcoming chapbook Salt edited by Vaughan Fielder. Since being featured in Superstition Review, Dorianne’s piece “Lapse” was listed in the 2017 Best American Poetry edited by Natasha Tretheway. The poem was originally published in the online literary magazine Plume and can be read here.
Hear what Richard Blanco, fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history, has to say about Dorianne here. Be sure to also check out Dorianne’s website here and her Twitter here. Take a look at her poetry featured in Issue 8 here.
This interview about Ryan Greene’s translation and collages was conducted via email by Art Editor Anna Campbell.
Ryan Greene likes text + image. He has exhibited visual poetry rooted in infectious disease biology, coordinated installations of multimedia work by artist-scientists, and published handmade books of poetry/collage by local artist-writers. He is the instigator behind F*%K IF I KNOW//BOOKS and he dreams of bilingual, immersive public poetry projects. Like Collier, the ground he stands on is not his ground.
Superstition Review: You work as a translator of poems from Spanish to English as well as with creating collages. How would you define the relationship between these forms of art?
Ryan Greene: Both collage and literary translation involve a type of friction. A rubbing up of edges. A joy in the sound of that scrape. A question of when one thing ends and another begins. Put differently, both translation and collage are rooted in a convergence that results from [and in!] a kaleidoscopic, and often cacophonous, conversation between context, authorship, and collaborative creativity.
All that sounds kind of floofy though…
To be more concrete, I am drawn to collage and translation because of the “layered-ness” of their many moving parts. In collage, I like that I can take scraps and snippets from many sources and ask them to share the same space. Torn advertisements and ripped photographs and scrawled text all mingling, fighting, love-making, whatever. A COMMUNITY COHABITATING THE PAGE! There’s a charge that becomes possible when these different components live together.
When translating poems, there’s a similar tangling. The original text/author and all of its/their context comes into conversation with the translated text/me and all of its/my context. In other words, translation becomes the work of re-mapping one composite object [the original poem and its interplay of rhythm, sound, repetition, breath, space on the page, idiom, register, personal/political/historical context, etc.] into another composite object [my translation written in my english]. Navigating this poetic web of relations can be sticky, AND it’s part of what keeps me coming back to translation over and over again.
SR: Can you explain your process for translation?
RG: I think about my translation process at two primary scales:
At the level of my body, I often feel like I’m in an airplane cockpit with an overstimulating array of buttons and lights flashing in front of me. I typically translate on a computer, and I tend to get set up in nearly the same way every time. On the left half of my screen, I have the original text displayed. On the right hand of my screen I have the document where I am translating and an internet browser window with several tabs [typically Wordreference, DeepL translator/Linguee, an English thesaurus, an English dictionary, Google images, and a Google web search page]. As I work on my translation, I toggle back and forth between the various resources that I need, stopping to do research when necessary. Depending on the poem, I may end up using additional references to supplement the ones listed above. For instance, when I was first translating the collection Tránsito [Transit] by Claudina Domingo, I spent a lot of time using Google Maps street view to explore the various street corners and neighborhoods that she mentions in the poems. Having this extra visual context was a huge help when working on the early drafts of the book.
At the level of the project, my translation process often looks like this…
I read a poem and I get an itch to translate it.
If the author’s alive, I do my best to get in contact. This can be straightforward, or it can involve various grapevine gymnastics.
Eventually [to my eternal amazement and delight!], I’m typically able to get in touch and begin an email correspondence letting them know that I’m interested in translating their poem[s].
I’ll start working on my translations, highlighting questions/options/alternatives along the way. This can involve several drafts.
Next I’ll get in touch with a trusted friend [or friends] to read over the translations, and we’ll discuss possible edits and brainstorm solutions to various snaggles.
After this first round of edits, I’ll do another bit of smoothing/tightening and then spend time talking with the poet to clarify questions, discuss possibilities, and get additional context.
At this point, I’ll go back to my drafts, make adjustments based on our conversation[s] and let the poems marinate.
After this percolation stage [anywhere from a few days to a few weeks] I’ll revisit the poems to make some final adjustments and to clarify any remaining questions with the author.
Then, finally, I feel ready to start finding ways to share the poems more publicly.
It’s important that I emphasize, the list above is a generalization. My process is sometimes far more condensed, and other times far more convoluted. Also, I must say in all caps that I DO NOT BELIEVE IN DEFINITIVE TRANSLATIONS. This means that I often will revisit translations even after they are published to make changes, return to earlier versions, or try out new approaches. Each translation I make is just that, a translation.
Also, I want to highlight that my translation process relies heavily on collaboration. Collaboration is built into my conversations with the author, my editing/brainstorming with friends, and ultimately with all the translators whose work has shaped me and my own approach. Also, in the past year, I have been more intentionally experimenting with collaborative translation involving multiple translators in the entirety of the translation process. Here is an interactive portal that documents a collaborative translation experiment I completed with my friend Janice Gan using a poem by Elena Salamanca. It is a multimedia attempt to visibilize the often invisible parts of the translation process.
SR: Can you discuss your collage making process, both hand-cut and digital?
RG: For hand-cut collage, I tend to take that pretty literally. In the past, I used scissors and sometimes an X-acto, but these days I almost exclusively use my fingers to make the “cuts.” In 2019 I met Jocelyn Samayoa at the Tijuana Zine Festival and I was moved by her commitment to hand ripping each scrap of her collages. The added time and effort this takes adds something to the process. An intimacy? A tangibility? A concision? Whatever it is, I like it, and I think it’s good for me not just to accept, but to CELEBRATE, rough edges!
When I’m making digital collages, I find that I’m much less decisive. I tend to work in bursts. Trying out ideas. Piling on images and snippets from different sources. Then trashing and rehashing. Sifting and shifting. Flipping it all upside down and seeing what sticks. What this means is that my digital collages often include multiple versions of the same images with different sizes, crops, transformations, opacities, etc. This repetition and overlay is where I find my favorite textures emerging!
One thing I’ll add is that I rarely, if ever, make collages that do not include at least some text. On the flip side, I rarely, if ever, make poems that do not include at least some visual elements. So I guess image + text serves as a gravitational center for me. A good example might be this goofy clickbait sonnet I made earlier this year as a part of a fleeting pandemic writing group with co-workers.
SR: What does your physical workspace or studio look like? What is one thing you must have with you as you work?
RG: My primary creative endeavors are translation, collage, bookmaking, and poetry. I am currently subletting a friend’s apartment, and due to the pandemic, most of my “making” happens right here! This means that under my [friend’s] bed there are two paper cutters [borrowed from the Cardboard House Press Cartonera Collective], several reams of paper, stacks of salvaged magazines for collaging, and partially completed books. The space under my [friend’s] nightstand is the home of my trusty saddle stitch stapler. On my [friend’s] desk, there is a computer where I do my writing and digital collage work. Next to the desk is a scanner that I recently inherited from another friend. This is where I have been digitizing my own hand-made work as well as the work of friends. In the closet, I have stacked some additional bookmaking supplies above and below my clothes. In the kitchen/living room, there are two small tables where I set up the paper cutters when I’m working on making books. Under one of these tables I’ve stashed a box with finished books and the guts and limbs of books in process. So I guess you could call it a live/work studio…Ha!
SR: How has the pandemic affected your art and process?
RG: Most of my art is done at home now. I used to facilitate bookmaking workshops for the Cardboard House Press Cartonera Collective at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore every week. This was a central part of my community and my support network. Finding new ways to not just maintain, but build, creative community has been difficult, but not impossible. For instance, in September [National Translation Month], I co-coordinated a translation celebration called BOCALLAGE//COLLAGEMOUTH with two other local translators [Mary Hope Whitehead Lee and Claudia Nuñez de Ibieta]. The reading featured poetry by seven womxn writing in Spanish from the Americas, the Caribbean, and Central Africa and was a wonderful reminder that even in a pandemic, we can [and must!] continue to work intergenerationally, interlingually, and interculturally.
One interesting shift for me in this time is that I’ve had more opportunities to read publicly with the poets whose work I translate. Given that most of the poets I collaborate with live in different countries, it’s rare that we are able to be together in person for an event. Since most readings are taking place online these days, the opportunities for reading together have multiplied. No travel necessary! Being able to share the poems bilingually has been a true treat, and something that I hope to continue going forward.
SR: How is your work touched by social justice?
RG: My translation practice has been greatly informed by the “language justice and language experimentation collaborative” Antena Aire, co-founded by Jen Hofer and JD Pluecker. Their collective (and individual!) work has provided me with both theoretical and practical frameworks to approach my own translations. I return again and again to this section from their Manifesto for Ultratranslation:
We recognize how translation has been used, is used and might still be used as a tool of conquest, assimilation, or domestication…Ultratranslation is a process of working against languages that seek to dominate. At the most basic level, the message of translation: there is something being said elsewhere that is of crucial importance for us here (in this language) to hear. It is worth great effort to listen to that “something elsewhere.” Ultratranslation would not bring something elsewhere into a dominant language (English, for instance) in a smooth, seductive, unproblematized way, as if to suggest that now “we” “understand” “you.” Ultratranslation nudges dominant languages away from dominance, toward the space between original and translation. Into the space of the ultra.
Here, there is a recognition of translation’s non-neutrality. And so the question becomes, how do I choose to use translation? For me, I think a lot about voice and leverage. Because I am a white, cis-het, well-off, English-speaking, male, U.S. citizen, my voice is undeniably [and undeservedly] privileged. As a translator, I’m always looking for ways to leverage that undeserved power in order to amplify the voices of the undersung poets with whom I collaborate [most of whom are womxn, none of whom are widely known in English, and several of whom identify as queer]. As a publisher and cultural worker, I’m also always looking for ways to celebrate [and learn from] the voices of undersung translators in my community who do not have the same privileges I do and whose work is undercelebrated within the undercelebrated world of translation.
At the level of the text, I return again to Jen and JD’s demand to “[nudge] dominant languages away from dominance….” Ringing in my ears is always the voice of Mónica de la Torre, who argues that “voice necessarily ventriloquizes, necessarily voices.” In other words, all voice [and therefore all writing] is chorus…is collage. For me, that means that the original text I’m translating is not in capital “S” Spanish, but in the particular composite spanish that belongs to the poet with whom I’m collaborating. In turn, as a translator I am bringing the poem into my particular compositeenglish. My question, then, when translating is how to use my own english to push and prod capital “E” English outside its comfort zone while also doing honor to the original poem [and poet]. I’m a translator in progress and this is a direction in which I’m hoping to grow.
In my collage work, I’ve been thinking a lot about how collage as a medium can enact the type of world that I’m dreaming toward. I remember working on a poetry/collage/sculpture thing back in 2016 just before and after the election. In that project, I was specifically exploring the connections between the xenophobic language of the trump machine and the types of language used in the world of immunology. In both, there is assumption of a body [think nation] that is at constant threat of infection [think immigration] and that seeks to protect itself through maintenance of barriers [think borders] and vigilant surveillance [think border patrol, think police]. Four years later, in the lead-up to a mid-pandemic election with nationalist, law-and-order rhetoric at full volume, I’ve been reflecting on that project. I’m convinced there’s something to learn from collage, whose primary charge [and potential] stems from the juxtaposition of difference.
SR: What are your upcoming projects?
RG: On the translation front, I recently finished working on a series of political performance poems by Elena Salamanca called Landsmoder, and I am now in the process of trying to publish the full manuscript. Some individual poems are available here and here. I also finished working with Claudina Domingo on her sprawling collection of poems centered on Mexico City called Tránsito [Transit]. I am similarly in the process of submitting the full manuscript to publishers. A selection of the poems are available here, here, and here. In terms of translation projects in progress, I’m working on a book of poems called El Nuevo Mundo I [The New World I] by Yaxkin Melchy, which is the first of five full-length collections that comprise his decade-in-the-making poetic project EL NUEVO MUNDO [THE NEW WORLD]. The first translations from The New World I will be coming out in the next issue of ANMLY. I am also working on translating a book of poems called GAME[R] OVER by Giancarlo Huapaya which explores the nexus of late capitalism, digitality, and USA-brand racism, xenophobia, and exoticization. The first set of translations will be coming out in issue 17 of Tripwire.
On the collage front, I’m working on a digitally-mediated poetic project called SPACE ROCK. Broadly speaking, it’s an exploration of “faithstuff” that includes contributions from nearly 30 friends and loved ones. Several portions of the text will be a mixing and mashing of the various things people have sent me. In this way, the project is rooted in a spirit of textual collage. Additionally, I am going to be creating several digital collages [visual] that will be incorporated into the online interface for the project. SPACE ROCK is a bit of a slow-burner, so I’m sure to be working on it for a while ☺
Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of bookmaking. I’m currently working on several projects with friends around the Valley. I’m working on a small comic with a 8-year-old friend named Keenan. I’m working on helping to publish my friend Sean Avery’s forthcoming audio/textual poetry/essay collection called 808s & Otherworlds. I’m collaborating with my friend Raji Ganesan to make a book object for a series of rituals/meditations she’s getting ready to share. I am working with my friend Shaunté Glover to publish a collection of Instagram collage poems called A Series of Journal Entries Disguised as Poetry: Written by a Lesbian. I have also been collaborating with my friend June Powers to publish her first three chapbooks of poetry. We are getting ready to launch all three very soon! Lastly, I’m finishing up a print run of a project called 4M Books: Vol. 1 that is a bilingual, bidirectional, four-in-one book featuring four local authors writing in English and Spanish.
Andi Boyd is an educator and writer living in Waco, Texas. She holds an MFA from Texas State University and a BA in English from Northwestern State University. She has taught literature and writing to students from kindergarten through university. Her poetry and fiction has been published in anthologies and journals such as Nasty Women Poets, If You Can Hear This: Poems of Protest, Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast Magazine, Narrative Magazine, ANMLY, Fiction Southeast, Juked, etc. and was named for a top 50 flash fiction piece by Wigleaf.
Graciela García is a graphic designer, artist, and writer from Madrid. She studied Fine Arts and holds a Ph.D. from the Complutense University of Madrid. Passionate about psychology, her research on the creative processes in outsider artists are collected in her book Art Brut. La pulsión creativa al desnudo. Her blog El hombre jazmín is an international benchmark in the field of Art Brut. She is currently working in the graphic design studio Se ha ido ya mamá, of which she is a founding partner, combining this activity with research, criticism, and creative curatorial work.