weekend links: a new democratic I, Ferrante TV, transgressive narratives
Layli Longsoldier, Solmaz Sharif, Chen Chen, and Aziza Barnes are only a few in a new wave of successful young poets that represent the diversity of American identity. These are poets of color, these are queer poets, these are poets whose poems speak of their particular identities, exploring the nuanced ways in which they experience the world, rather than serving as spokespeople for larger groups. “Having come of age in the heyday of identity politics, the diverse poets now in the spotlight are reclaiming ‘the democratic ‘I.’’ At its best, the last thing this ‘I’ aspires to deliver is tidy epiphanies.” [The Atlantic]
To supplement the established poets referenced in that article, here are some new poems by talented indigenous women.
And here, an exploration of the 8th-century Islamic Arab poet, Abū Nuwās: unrepentant attractor of men and women, blasphemous alcoholic, and purported farter in the face of poetic greatness. “Nuwās isn’t the great gay poet of Islamic antiquity; he’s a reminder that for hundreds of years, sexuality was oriented around a different axis.” [Poetry Foundation]
Trinidadian-British writer, V.S. Naipaul, died this past week, leaving behind a current of eulogistic confliction. Notoriously misogynist, homophobic, racist, and in turns dismissive and defensive of his own colonialized and colonialist identity, Naipaul was a figure of contradiction. “He was at once a towering talent and a brown man who sequaciously prostrated himself before his former colonial masters, quipping that those of us who had darker skin and those of us who were women—heaven forfend we be both!—were inferior. Yet he was also, unquestionably, a great writer.” [Lithub]
What to do when you are part of a party that turns out to be racist? For starters, leave.
Following an op-ed published last week, artist Jamie Isenstein pulled her work from The Party, a new exhibition at the Anton Kern Gallery, saying, “I realised that if I expect the show to address racism, I also have to address it. I should have thought longer about my assumption that other artists would do it for me.” The show’s title was drawn from the 1968 film of the same name, which stars Peter Sellers in brownface. Ajay Kurian and Vijay Masharani, authors of the op-ed, crashed The Party in preparation for their article; Masharani, “undercover” as an “everyday Indian,” was kicked out. [The Art Newspaper]
Ferrante lovers worldwide, rejoice! My Brilliant Friend is coming to HBO, from an Italian production team. The series promises to transcend the nation’s borders, bellwether of a rising tide of Italian television, ripe with nuanced, strong, and engaging female characters. It also comes at a crucial moment for a populist and nationalist-leaning Italy. The director, Saverio Constanzo, has decided to subtitle the series, employing amateur actors speaking in a Neapolitan dialect. “A globalized world puts greater value on the distinctions and sense of identity that are so strong in Ferrante’s Naples. If there are forces that want to stop it, to exploit fear, that is only more reason now to push ahead.” [Vogue]
Jos Charles’s feeld and Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox change direction when writing transness. Less concerned with futurity, they mine the past for a trans archive, for a transgressive language pulled right from language’s roots. “At a moment in which academic trans writing fancies our bodies as sites of dizzying transgressive potential, and popular journalism remains obsessed with litigating which bathrooms our genitals do or don’t belong in, trans fiction writers and poets are offering a new cartography of the trans body—one that looks to the past rather than the future.” [Paris Review]
When you think of Baroque painters, who comes to mind? Rubens, van Dyck, Caravaggio, perhaps? What about Michaelina Wautier? Despite the persistently impressive quality of work Wautier put forth, it may not come as a huge surprise to hear that this woman artist of the 17th century has been ignored, dismissed, or had her work attributed to men. “Wautier’s gender, combined with elevated social status, wealth, and, somewhat ironically, her superlative talent, have all contributed to her obscurity.” [Hyperallergic]
Mitski is no ordinary pop star. She rarely speaks of her private life, though her songs lay bare a world of emotional depth. In her 2015 Tiny Desk concert, she screamed, makeupless, into a guitar, offering her audience a tight lipped smile between songs. Her new music seems to signify a tonal shift, as the elusive artist continues to consider exactly how she wants to present herself, who she wants to be. Right now, she wants to “Be The Cowboy.” [Frieze]
Finally, we pay respect to "The Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin, who died on Thursday at the age of 76. Franklin was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and over a musical career of more than fifty years, she paved the way for countless other singers. Franklin's power is most telling in her rendition of Otis Redding's "Respect," a plea-turned-song of empowerment. Says Wesley Morris, "The next time you hear ["Respect"], notice what you do with your hands. They’re going to point — at a person, a car or a carrot. They’ll rest on your hips. Your neck might roll. Your waist will do a thing. You’ll snarl. Odds are high that you’ll feel better than great. You’re guaranteed to feel indestructible." [New York Times]