Category Archives: Poetry

Revisiting Pat Parker (1944–1989)

June 2020: 50th anniversary of LGBTQ+ Pride Month and Traditions. 

June 2020: America again fought racism and police brutality. 

In these turbulent times, being non-racist is not enough. The words of Angela Davis are being immortalized—whether it be on placards or on social media posts—with voices rallying and urging for global awareness on anti-racism. By turning to literary sources, people are educating themselves about the systemic racism and the white privilege and supremacy that continue to reign today. 

In the wake of this enlightenment, it is only befitting to shine a light on Pat Parker, one of America’s most prolific activists and poets, who was not only black but also a lesbian. 

Parker published a total of five works, Jonestown & other madness (1985), Movement in Black (1978), Woman Slaughter (1978), Pit Stop (1975), and Child of Myself (1972). In 2016, Sapphic Classics published The Complete Works of Pat Parker which was edited by Julie Enszer with an introduction by Judy Grahn. The poem, “My Lover is a Woman”, from Pit Stop explores the dynamics of being in an interracial relationship with sharp commentary on the ostracization of queer, black women in society. 

The opening lines of the poem: “my lover is a woman/& when I hold her/feel her warmth/I feel good/feel safe” gives the underlying tone of warmth and tender love. This tone especially stands out when juxtaposed against the lines “never think of the policemen/who kicked my body & said crawl/never think of Black bodies/hanging in trees or filled/with bullet holes/never hear my sisters say/white folks hair stinks/” (Parker). It is notable how in just these few lines, Parker packs the complex themes and events of oppression, discrimination, and prejudices that caused immense anguish in her life. 

There is also the extensive use of refrain in the poem which lends almost a musical quality, and one can very well imagine this being sung by a church choir. For instance, there is the repetition of the words “I feel good/feel safe” which reflect the solace sought by Parker while also encompassing the depth and understanding of their love. In contrast, the melancholic refrain of “never hear my mother cry/Lord, what kind of child is this?” (Parker) brings out the lack of acceptance from her family of her identity as a lesbian in a time when even being black was a struggle. 

Despite all this trouble and turmoil, Parker still accepts and chooses to be with her lover. It matters not whether her lover’s eyes are blue and hair is blonde, for love itself trumps all. And isn’t love and acceptance what we all crave and deserve in the end?

Pat Parker was born in Houston, Texas, and after high school, she moved to Los Angeles, California where she earned her bachelor’s from Los Angeles City College in 1962. In the late 1960s, after two divorces, she identified herself as a lesbian and was soon actively involved in civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights movements. At these events, she performed pieces of her poetry and soon, she joined the ranks of great poets like Judy Grahn, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and more. 

Bibliography 

Parker, Pat. n.d. “My Lover Is a Woman by Pat Parker – Poems | Academy of American Poets.” Poets.org. Accessed June 19, 2020. https://poets.org/poem/my-lover-woman

 

Amala Reddie

 

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The Guttural Poems of Billy Childish

With the world trapped at home, Americans have had their lives and communities forced into micro focus. Poetry is one expression of day to day life under adversity. Concentrated prose is a natural fit for moments that are small, honest, but also potentially ugly. An artist who expresses this reality like no other is the English writer Billy Childish, whose work examines the grit and grime of the domestic and the industrialized community.

billychildish-696x522-1Childish is well known for his poetry collections and longer form memoir. However, he has also had a successful career as a punk rock musician and studio artist. His accentuated British style with tweed, suspenders, and a waxed mustache makes him out to be a living deconstruction of working-class England. As an art school dropout and someone who lived on the dole for over a decade before making a living as an artist, Childish certainly walks the walk.

His poetry books are interspliced with original paintings and prints which create a modern Neolithic style, depicting sex, naked bodies, and misery. These drawings, which feel like neolithic cave paintings, make Childish out to be the artistic intersection between a back-alley addict and a Celtic shaman before the arrival of the Romans. Childish’s poetry is written like a primeval record of a cockney England in its most degenerated form. His writing forgoes the principles of the King’s English in favor of phonetic spellings in lowercase type with minimal or no punctuation. Stanza breaks and enjambment are the reader’s only guide to what feels like the ravings of a drunk outside an English pub. If Bukowski is modern masculinity unveiled in its ugliest and most honest face, then Childish walks that same path back much further to literary tradition of a decrepit England spanning back to the settlement of the British Isles.

His writing contains raw expressions of sexuality and violence. He writes in a poem titled, when the spunk hits yur in the face, “then this bloke says/ ‘ya nans dead’ n its the same man/ who raped you/ then it starts raining/ then someboidy makes yu nob sore/ then all this spunk starts flying atcha// then the bus comers/ but it dont go your way/ it aint half fare…” Childish not only fully displays the raw violence in life, but also a mundane ache and pain that comes with the grime of day to day living. This juxtaposition, combined with strange phonetical spelling and the fearlessness of his subject, makes for fascinating reading. 

The poetry of Billy Childish looks at the world with an apocalyptic glee. His focus and introspection is critical at a time when we are all confined to looking at the world through unwashed windows and bad news on the radio. I return to Childish for a connection with an ancient neolithic dread made new by industrialization. Though not uplifting, the poetry of Childish is certainly liberating in its unflinching gaze into the dark night of the city. 

 

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Seeking Advice from the Great Search Engine in the Sky

the-great-search-engine-in-the-sky

I was sitting in front of my computer, feeling stressed about a lot of things – how to balance midterms, work, internship and Halloweekend without losing my footing on one (or all) of those fronts. I wish I could say that I figured it out, some how striking a balance between these conflicting aspects of my overly complex life – but alas,  that remains a task for another day.

On that dreary afternoon my stressed, poorly dressed, rain-drenched self had no choice but to seek some other means of placating the problem without actually solving it. My first instinct? Ask the internet. A wise friend once told me, “if google can’t solve your problems, you’re in too deep.” And so I approached that all knowing portal, humble in my ruby slippers as if requesting the aid of the Wizard himself. “O Great and Wise Google,” I whispered, “is there any way to make light of these mid-semester blues?” The Great Search Engine in the Sky did not forsake me.

“Write,” our modern God commanded. “Read, be inspired, and produce an echo of the original creation – you have all you need inside you. Simply search, scroll, and the answer will reveal itself.” And so I did.

In my dutiful scrolling, I came across PoetryFoundation.org. Behold yesterday’s the poem of the day:

Dividend of the Social Opt Out

By Jennifer Moxley

How lovely it is not to go. To suddenly take ill.

Not seriously ill, just a little under the weather.

To feel slightly peaked, indisposed. Plagued by

a vague ache, or a slight inexplicable chill.

Perhaps such pleasures are denied

to those who never feel obliged. If there are such.

How pleasant to convey your regrets. To feel sincerely

sorry, but secretly pleased to send them on their way

without you. To entrust your good wishes to others.

To spare the equivocal its inevitable rise.

How nice not to hope that something will happen,

but to lie on the couch with a book, hoping that

nothing will. To hear the wood creak and to think.

It is lovely to stay without wanting to leave.

How delicious not to care how you look,

clean and uncombed in the sheets. To sip

brisk mineral water, to take small bites

off crisp Saltines. To leave some on the plate.

To fear no repercussions. Nor dodge

the unkind person you bug.

Even the caretaker has gone to the party.

If you want something you will have to

get it yourself. The blue of the room seduces.

The cars of the occupied sound the wet road.

You indulge in a moment of sadness, make

a frown at the notion you won’t be missed.

This is what it is. You have opted to be

forgotten so that your thoughts might live.

Jennifer Moxley, “Dividend of the Social Opt Out” from The Open Secret.

Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Moxley.  Found at PoetryFoundation.org

I was floored. Sparked. Inspired. This poem said everything I had been thinking–not only was I stressed about schoolwork and my job at Starbucks, but I was also harboring a bit of nasty social anxiety (college parties will do that to you). And lo and behold, the answer that Google had promised me appeared.

And so began my little poet’s journey back into the world I used to know. In my grade school days, I would burn the midnight oil into the wee hours of the morning, a poem tugging at my sleeve. These days, sleep is so coveted that there is little time to waste it. With my upcoming writing assignments always in the back of my mind, my own personal poetry has fallen by wayside. That explains why I often feel bottled up inside. But then comes the problem of inspiration. Passing thoughts offer meek suggestions to write them down…but then it’s too late, and I’m on my way across town with no time for stopping.

If only I could sit back and breathe once in awhile, I could zoom out and focus the big picture instead of always rushing blindly from place to place. Still, I must remember that I am a work in progress. I am always pursuing self-betterment: with that in mind, the poetry will follow.

Margeaux, Intern

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