Monthly Archives: February 2013
The Poetry Pilgrim Project is devoted to spurring artists, writers, and performers towards radical re-mythologization efforts in our communities and around the world. Poets, artists, writers, and performers should be responsible for shaping the stories within which our society lives, but they have abdicated that position for participation in the plot-lines that academia, the mass media, and major corporations have set forth. These are plot-lines which lead individuals and communities towards falling into the role of victim and victimizer, oppressor and oppressed, competitor, perpetually exhausted, and always in need. These stories have us believe that if we are not working, we have no value; that if we are not buying, we must be lacking something; that in order to be loved we must not be ourselves; and that simple gratitude and appreciation of beauty and otherness is not a goal in and of itself, but a side effect of something somehow more important.
Our gods keep moving further away, becoming less and less like us, made of dark matter, up-spinning, leaping whole millennia, but driving straight into our chests, shaking our smallest muscles when we notice them, as if to say why are you taking so long? Catch up! And the longer we wait, the more it will hurt when we step up to face the rift. We’ll say my god, my god as we stare into the eyes of someone we’ve spent our whole lives ignoring. And that story will hurt like hell. And it will be hell. And we’ll pass through it. And you’ll both get to write the twists and turns, the battles, the escape–and you’ll both get to decide what cups, keys, armory, weapons, and talismans you bring back with you to help the next one through. And these will be our real myths. We will tear apart and piece together our own borders, values, ranges of possibility, relationships, symbols, and endings that speak to who we are and the places we stand, swim, and fly.
These new myths will only emerge through radical acts of bravery and engagement on an intimate level, unencumbered by thoughts of will this poem get published in a great literary journal, will this sculpture sell, is this performance edgy enough to be shown at MOMA or will this cause too much discomfort. Instead, artists will think, is this piece true? Does this piece reflect contradiction and glorify it? Was there pain in its making? And if the answer is yes, it will explain our times, define ourselves, and serve as a guidepost for coming generations.
I did this write up about Sulfur Water back in May for Hyacinth Girl‘s website. Now that it is officially available (after myriad delays), I thought that I would post it here for anyone interested in learning a little more about it’s composition and collaborative elements:
Sulfur Water‘s composition spans Baja Mexico, Vancouver, Lebanon, a hippie commune on Staten Island, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, and the stripped second growth woods of coal country Pennsylvania where I was raised. I chose to include translations in this book, not only to reflect the disconnect, displacement, fusion, and amalgamation that went into the writing process, but also to present the magic possible when artists take the time to cross boundaries of symbolic patterns. You can grow new roots through it.
Each of the translations involved different levels of interaction between myself and the translator. With Rula, we met twice to ensure that the Arabic translation still contained all of the vital nuances of the words in English and to make sure the sound patterns still reflected the meaning on an aural level. Rula strove for perfection in both. Ghiwa and I sat next to one another in my kitchen smoking, drinking wine, reading and rereading in French and English, allowing for sacrifices and playing with possibility. The last translation, strangely the first, published also in The Poetry Society of New York’s Translation Project, was entirely detached and filtered through a medium. One of Jessica’s poems was among the batch that I translated into English for the project.
The inclusion of Tamara’s artwork happened by happy impulse and was one of the most exciting aspects of putting this collection together with Hyacinth Girl Press. After falling in love with her work through a mutual friend at AUB, I sent Tamara the manuscript. We met and discussed some possibilities for her illustrations. What she produced is exactly the kind of uncomfortable, expressionist re-imagining of story through image and color that Sulfur Water wanted to be when it grew up. The deep connection and evolution of symbol that went into these collaborative processes becomes the primary cries of Sulfur Water.