M. NourbeSe Philip

Fuck poems

In extremis

Poems are bullshit unless they are / Teeth or trees or lemons piled / on a step.

… Fuck poems / And they are useful, would they shoot / come at you, love what you are …— Amiri Baraka

Poems are bullshit unless they are / Teeth or trees or lemons piled / on a step.

… Fuck poems / And they are useful, would they shoot / come at you, love what you are …— Amiri Baraka

 handwritten portion of a note from M. NourbeSe Philip to Claire Harris, incl. the phrase "I cannot write"

Death's great black wing

'Mi say mi cyant believe it'

Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death’s great black wing scraped the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?  
— Anna Akhmatova 

 

Shaman/poet/shaman

How many days is it? I’ve lost track — feel stuck and unmoored at the same time. This day, May 3, 2020, feels like day one of the lockdown — it could as well be day one hundred, or day thirty, despite the recent advisories that certain businesses will be allowed to reopen. This balmy Spring day of 20 degrees Celsius actually marks the seventh week and the fifty-second day of the lockdown here in Toronto. 

Sometimes I feel my soul harrowed by this experience …

Language under pressure

Language under pressure; risk-taking of highest order, otherwise known as working on the edge; a way of life — these three qualities constitute my personal definition of poetry, even as I’m aware that the sum of these small parts is so much less than the more-than of poetry.

Language under pressure; risk-taking of highest order, otherwise known as working on the edge; a way of life — these three qualities constitute my personal definition of poetry, even as I’m aware that the sum of these small parts is so much less than the more-than of poetry. A. E.

Sycorax, spirit, and 'Zong!'

An interview with M. NourbeSe Philip

Editorial note: This exchange between Jordan Scott and NourbeSe Philip, undertaken in 2016 and just now published in Jacket2, centers on the role of spirituality in Philip’s book Zong!, which Evie Shockley has said “enacts a critique, but also effects a catharsis or, more accurately, works through a problem that lies at the intersection of the emotions, the psyche, and the soul, if such a thing can be spoken of in the twenty-first century’s secular spaces.” 

Editorial note: This exchange between Jordan Scott and NourbeSe Philip, undertaken in 2016 and just now published in Jacket2, centers on the role of spirituality in Philip’s book Zong!, which Evie Shockley has said “enacts a critique, but also effects a catharsis or, more accurately, works through a problem that lies at the intersection of the emotions, the psyche, and the soul, if such a thing can be spoken of i

Ruminations

If Trump were a poem what form would he take? For instance, when I think

of Obama, I think of the sonnet — controlled, passionate and, like all good poetry,

revelatory. The limerick comes to mind re Trump but that’s probably too easy and obvious.

If a form doesn’t exist, perhaps he calls for a new form. What would it look like? What

would we call it?

Alterity, Misogyny & the Agonistic Feminine

Hieronymus Bosch, 'Garden of Earthly Delights' (detail).
Above: Hieronymus Bosch, 'Garden of Earthly Delights' (detail), via Wikimedia Commons.

This essay is conjectural and conversational. Conversational with other texts, other minds; but also among the importantly divergent logics of poetry and discourse, discourse and exploratory essay. Decades ago, skeptical about the force of a strictly woman-centered feminist theory whose reactive stance seemed to corroborate the secondary status of the feminine in the age-old M/F binary, I was struck by the realization of a gender and genre transgressive experimental feminine rooted in embodied female experience but integral to all struggles with the cultural coercions of an ubermasculine hegemony.

 

Antigone: I stand convicted of impiety,
the evidence, my pious duty done …
Chorus: The same tempest of mind
as ever, controls the girl.[1]

Despite the fact that gender identities are in increasingly complex conversation with biology and cultural construction the reductive force of patriarchy, with its sidekick misogyny, remains the catastrophic constant. — S. M. Quant[2]

Question therefore the age (PoemTalk #118)

M. NourbeSe Philip, 'Zong!'

From left: Amber Rose Johnson, Alexandria Johnson, and Tracie Morris.

Joined by Alexandria Johnson, Tracie Morris, and Amber Rose Johnson, Al Filreis hosts this discussion of six short poems or sections from the long poem Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip. The sections discussed are numbered 2, 3, 6, 11, 21, and 26. They can be found, respectively, on pages 5, 6, 14, 20, 37, and 45 of the Wesleyan edition of the book, published in 2008. NourbeSe Philip’s PennSound author page includes several compelling performances of Zong! given over the years. For this PoemTalk episode we listened to a Segue Series reading at the Bowery Poetry Club, given on February 17, 2007.

Unraveling tongues

A review of 'She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks'

I first encountered M. NourbeSe Philip’s poetical interruptions three years ago, in a course taught by Tisa Bryant called Unnamable Texts. We spent time with “Discourse on the Logic of Language,” which is a sequence from her 1988 collection She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks. My memory of this poem is bodily. Part of this is due to how we read this piece; not only silently to ourselves, but also following along to a recording of Philip performing the poem. Throughout her delivery, she subtly elongates the word language until it becomes a cry, a tender wound, throbbing.

If she does not ravel and unravel his universe, she will then remain silent, looking at him looking at her. — Trinh T. Minh-ha[1]

Monster on the 'L'oose

On Ron Silliman's monsters

I’ve been asked to comment on Ron Silliman’s excellent talk “Your Monsters Are Our Monsters: The Problem of Borders and the Nearness of the American Avant-Garde.” In Silliman’s “L-shaped talk,” the shape itself merits consideration.

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