It’s a bit of legal language between the covers: “Clockhouse is a national literary journal published in partnership with Goddard College by the Clockhouse Writers’ Conference, the alumni association of Goddard’s MFA in Creative Writing Program.” This partnership is more than a formality, though: it’s one graced by the advice, care, and hands-on-work of Clockhouse’s faculty advisor, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (thank you, Reiko!), and the curation of each issue’s Folio by a member of the MFAW faculty. This year’s Folio was curated by Bhanu Kapil. You can read her Folio note here and find excerpts of her chosen authors’ work at Clockhouse. Once there, you can also find information about purchasing current and past volumes and submitting to Clockhouse’s next volume.
With thanks to Bhanu and the wonderful writers she’s brought to Clockhouse:
Folio Note, en route
By Bhanu Kapil
“what we want is impossible
unrealistic and non-negotiable”
a pink sticker she affixed to a plain brown notebook, a gift.
“Refusal=Intervention is angry, naturally.
(We reject the caricature that anger is violent—US imperialism and drones are violent, ANGER as articulated by Audre Lorde, will continue to be our tool in decolonization.)
We are angry—do not rewrite our genealogy, do not position yourself as masters of our origin stories.
The genealogy of Asian American literature begins not with whiteness, or its relation to whiteness or white gatekeeping. We reject any rewriting.”
Eunsong Kim and Don Mee Choi,
for the Asian American Writer’s Workshop (Refusal=Intervention)
“In this workshop we will interactively employ an alchemy of poetry making that allows us to exchange experience, insight, and approach first collaboratively then individually toward the making of poems that remove the base metal of violent aggression and resolve it into something golden, something which offers light, recognition, direction, sustenance.”
extracted from a description for a workshop called Restorative Poetics.
“Possessive whiteness is all too happy to enlist me in neoliberal mandates, in multicultural and homonational shields, unless I dismantle it within myself. Unless I demand, in myself and those around me, divestment from its reach.
Until whiteness is no longer the pivot of my world, my floating nest will never be real.
From a perch below airborne birds, my imaginative response lies in the process of decolonizing myself above all. As a chicken, I dream of flight from industrial farming and modern catastrophe.
In this dream I rip the ancestral sky.
In this dream I betray my landlocked species.
In this dream I refuse to be stuck inside empire’s dreamlessness.”
Lucas de Lima,
blogging at the Poetry Foundation for Daniel Borzutzky’s curation at the Harriet blog.
I want to make my note correspond with the feeling in my body when invited: to curate. A folio. I have been thinking a lot, this year, and perhaps the years before it, about selection. To select, to choose, to desire, to disturb. Nothing is being disturbed in this case. To celebrate, then. To choose. To select. Yes, I must celebrate [select] [desire] these three writers – who, all over the place, when I have encountered them – or their work – are doing something to make contact or make visible: material: that typically – we might look away: from. I feel like my English is deteriorating as I write my folio note! The words are taking my time to leave my mouth. Why?
What arises, as I try to make my folio note, is the following image: a woman, in Kashmir, glimpsed – so many years ago – when the area – was still accessible –in ways it is not now — slipping – a red straw – made from a glossy silk – or plastic – through or between the lily pads – of Dal Lake in Srinagar – into – the murk. She was fishing. She was testing the water. She blew into the straw or put her mouth to it. No, my brain makes that so; in fact, it was her ear.
I like writers who put their ear to the murk, or perhaps their lips – to blow a bubble.
To listen or attend. To the shit that produces biological or pretty flowers.
That the shit or the murk is somehow nutritive is something I learned from goddess culture: Padma, the dung-lotus goddess, for example…
You can’t have the lotus without the waste that rises up through its basal compartment.
What I am not saying directly, having used up such a large part of my folio note on the image of a red straw being slid – into a lake – in another era – and also by placing a goddess at the threshold – of speech – is this: I selected [celebrate] these three writers – Samiya, Eunsong, Lucas – because they were the first three writers who came to mind when I thought, who is doing this?
Who is alchemizing the shit-shite-dung-pre-lotus of community? Of poetry itself?
Alchemizing is the wrong word.
Is there another word for writers who grieve and dream* at the same time, in the work, or near the work, or in the corollary spaces of what we are thinking of as work?
Sayra Pinto, a graduate of the Goddard MFA in Creative Writing, said this, when we were walking on the Boston shore, a year ago: “The ancestors need us to grieve for them, but they need us to dream for them to. One or the other is not enough. We need to grieve and dream at the same time.” Her casually made statement functioned as voltage and I tracked it, the pink electricity, the yellow electricity, electricity like a hinge, as the shitty year unfolded.
Why was it shitty?
What I can’t bring myself to say, exactly, except that the goddess is right there, and when she smiles, dark green stinking weeds drip from her teeth where they’ve snagged, is that questions of race – racism itself, in its various form – have reached the progressive, experimental writing communities where, for so many years, I have made my home.
And part of me shut down and pressed delete: delete, delete, click.
At the end of my own book!
But also, now that the shock of the last year – has abated – or perhaps recirculated – in another form – I want to consider also what it might be to dream.
I am writing this folio note because, in the smallest way possible, which is not good, I have lost my confidence.
Ahmed, a British-based theorist with a research interest in groups (institutions) and aggression, writes: “When your being is supported, when you go with the flow, you might not even notice the support system. I am rethinking here a support system as that which enables some to proceed with confidence. A flow is an effect of bodies going the same way. To go is to gather. A flow can be an effect of gatherings of all kinds: gatherings of tables, for instance, as kinship objects that support human gatherings. How many times have you been left waiting at a table whilst others are attended to right away?”
To go is to gather.
I like that curation might be an exit strategy.
That the folio is a “kinship object.”
But truly, these were the three writers I think of as braver, more integrated – and less likely to stabilize what should not be – stabilized – than myself.
I am not going to ask in advance what the content is, or match my folio note to their content.
I am not going to require the writers I love to do the labor, also, of making their writing: figural.
Figural to the question of what writing is, a writing that brings life but also takes life away.
When it has both those things in it.
At the same time.
Like the lotus!
Which brings me so much pleasure.*
Because I know what makes it beautiful.
*Just as I feel pleasure when I encounter these three writers, their politics, their notes, their books or works.
A fish breaking the surface for the moment then slapping back in.
An iridescent foam on the lip of the bright green leaf.
Bits of poo that dissolve back at the very beginning of a war, the struggle for Independence, that will extend to the present time.
I am describing a childhood lake.
I am describing a holiday scene.
I am describing a part of the world, and in doing so:
I am attenuating.
In my own way.
To what it is.
I am about to read.
I am writing this note before reading the writing of the three writers you are about to read: also.
Poetries of displacement, longing, particular thought, brilliance, the other worlds, need.
Thank you, Lucas, Eunsong, and Samiya, for your physical courage as writers.
For your: submissions.
Thank you, also, for your direct address (in other venues) to the communities of writers and artists and theorists – poets – that you move and do not move through.
Perhaps you don’t think of what you write and say as direct address, but whenever I hear you speak at conferences, or read your writing online, or meet you by chance in a Russian teahouse in the white-dominant community I live and work in, I feel something piercing my great broken heart.
In a good way!!!!
The red straw!!!!
Thank you, dear ones, for everything you are doing as activists, as intellectuals, as beloveds, as poets, as writers in other modes and to different ends.
I am not sure who will read this.
I wanted to attend to your work: “right away.”
This is me with four glasses of hot water with a slice of lemon balanced on the saucer, receiving your work as it comes in.
I am at your service.
Please let me know if I can ever do anything for you in the real world with its throbbing caul, its blobby lightning, its snarled net, its gifts that sometimes arrive without our noticing them – hovering at our ankles like elevated, luminous kittens with…wings!
Folio as kitten.
Folio as ankle bracelet.
Folio as entity.
I should stop writing now.
This folio note.
To open the space of the lotus.
Its shit and broken-open blossom.