Monday, April 30, 2007

Filmmaker Jocelyn Taylor in Los Angeles

A filmmaker colleague from back in the day, the multi-talented media artist Jocelyn Taylor, who was active in ACT-UP, appeared in Cheryl Dunye's celebrated final and feature-length Dunyementary, The Watermelon Woman (1996), and made a number of indie black lesbian, sex-positive themed shorts, as well as gallery exhibited single-channel installations in the early and mid-90s in NYC. She went into documentary filmmaking and education, while continuing her installation work, including The Story of Color (2000). Most recently Taylor went back to school to get her MFA at CalArts. She's gotten her degree and is premiering a new 30 minute film, I Am the Kingdom which was selected for the CalArts Video Showcase this May. Here's the description for the film and details about the screening which is at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) in Los Angeles.

I AM THE KINGDOM is an experimental narrative about the
cycle of birth and death. The film combines mundane life activities,
metaphysical terminology, and the story of my father's death from
cancer to explore life's ongoing events and our connection to the

CalArts Program in Film and Video Showcase
Saturday, May 5th 7pm
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)
2nd and Hope Streets, Downtown Los Angeles
Call 661-253-7825 for more information.
Admission is free.

Congratulations Jocelyn!!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Poems to journey by....

So much for just opening up poetry collections and finding work. I don't have all my books with me, so I exhausted those options quickly. Also, I found myself looking for women of color voices that might speak to me in the midst of some challenging creative work. I looked at Ai, and Lucille Clifton, and Lorna Dee Cervantes, and Elizabeth Alexander. I looked for something resonant in the work of men of color as well, Sherman Alexie, Countee Cullen, Michael S. Harper, and was looking for Li-Young Lee, but couldn't find the poems of his that slay me. But then I found this poem by Audre Lorde which I must have read before, but I can't remember having done so. I suppose we hear what a poem has to offer when we need to, in the poem's own time, and ours as well.

by Audre Lorde

Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame
How a sound comes into a word, coloured
By who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open
Like a diamond on glass windows
Singing out within the crash of passing sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
And come whatever wills all chances
The stub remains
An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
Breeding like adders. Others know sun
Seeking like gypsies over my tongue
To explode through my lips
Like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
Bedevil me.

Love is a word another kind of open—
As a diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am black because I come from the earth's inside
Take my word for jewel in your open light.

From The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).

Friday, April 27, 2007

National Poetry Month & my slight return #2

I find myself enjoying this random opening up of a book of poetry and finding a treasure. Actually this time I was looking for a poem by Lorna Dee Cervantes (OK, this is Cervantes Univ. of Colorado page, but I so enjoy her multimedia homepage), but I found this poem by the late Stanley Kunitz (1905 - 2006) instead...

Although I don't yet see "the milestones dwindlingtoward the horizon," the poem spoke to me with its embrace of a full life already lived and a joyful openess to what is yet to come, so here 'tis:

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

reprinted in Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft by Bill Moyers (New York: Perennial/HarperCollins, 1999)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

National Poetry Month & my slight return

I haven't been blogging lately, but recent posts @ jstheater and Noctuary made me think about the necessity of poetry. Yesterday I came across this poem by Buddhist monk, peace activist, and poet Thich Nhat Hanh, which someone had bookmarked...

Structure of Suchness

Do not scold the little birds.
We need their songs
Do not hate your own body.
It is the altar for humanity's spirit.

Your eyes contain the trichiliocosm,
and your ears have sovereignty over the birds,
the springs, the rising tide,
Beethoven, Bach, Chopin,
the cries if the baby,
amd the song that lulls her to sleep.
Your hands are flowers of love
that need not be picked by anyone,
and your forehead
is the most beautiful morning of all mornings.
Do not destroy the structure of suchness within you.

The corn, the grass, and the fragrance of the night
have all spoken out for peace.
I know a bullet may strike
the heart of the little bird this morning,
the bird that is celebrating life with all its might.
The corn, the grass, the fragrance of the night,
together with the stars and the moon--
all of us are doing our best.
We are doing everything we can
to keep you alive.

From Call Me By My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 1993)