Belief in iterative growth, a breath work

"A bolt in response to a call. It gathered and branched and struck. Like lightning answers thunder, which is to say, simultaneously." Photo by YVSREDDY, via Wikimedia Commons.

Like these texts, the Women’s March seemed instantaneously precipitated out of a loose host. A bolt in response to a call. It gathered and branched and struck. Like lightning answers thunder, which is to say, simultaneously. We were asking and answering in the streets and through our screens, the question


Two people marched in Salem, WI.[2]

Bound up, the cause and release of one another, born of an electrified moment, illuminating brief contact, a showing, perhaps partial, hurried, urgent, fearful, but a crack in the weather system where fronts of air become something else. A small breaking point, separation along the fiery seam of thought. Perhaps somewhat shut down with the shock of the urgency, but at least sharing as

a new weather gripped the horizon — Oana Avasilichioaei

            One person marched in Show Low, AZ.

A multifarious igniting of a series of affinities, connections which lit up like the neural pathways of a brain to deliver a PDF. A pathway that had traced itself in pieces before, in smaller rehearsals of this particular pulse. A chemical reaction. Having loved and trusted Laynie’s work, I wanted to trust the call. I wrote what seemed urgent, and read the work that reached me briefly after, a PDF in my email, grasping through it for threads. The forms with which Radiant Re-sisters: Solidarity Texts responded were as varied as the responses themselves. They used collage, erasure, word and image, a combination of poems hung together to make a new poem. The forms were indicative of a broad engagement on the part of the participants in a variety of avant-gardes of the past. This is the new garde though, combining everything using everything, scrappy and nonmonolithic. These are coming up out of Language, lyric, and asemic writing, out of the traditions of the New York School, New Narrative, OBERIU, Flarf, and Imagism, they are post writers of no school, C. D. Wright, Nathaniel Mackey, Audre Lorde, Italo Calvino, Raymond Roussel. They use everything and together are nonmonolithic, preach no aesthetic orthodoxy except the permissibility of taking up whatever is at hand.

Gillian Connelly fences in a handwritten text with a red x, and then maps in marks that break it, labeling them “way in”and “way out.”

            One marcher in Breen, CO.

If the mimeograph made possible the little magazine scene of the Lower West Side in New York, the PDF is what makes possible the incredible flowering of heterodox form, the speed and spread of accumulation and distribution of Solidarity Texts and numerous other online journals hosted on websites and circulated by PDF. No longer tied by location, printing, or shipping costs, affinity starts to form a collectivity that can twine through social barriers, institutional access. Not that it always does, but that it could, if one were to consciously resist the pull of “natural” affinity patterns formed by race, class, gender, sexual orientation as they intersectionally stratify privilege. After the shattering of the myth of the coherent, sincere, authentic “I,” the boundaries of self are formed collectively, socially, our identities leaky and interpenetrating each other. Social conditions are imposed upon the appearance of a coherent self formed by skin. And this is the way that language is violent. The way that sociality under the logic of the state is violent. Thus returns the necessity of speaking of experience of all kinds, in many ways, not only but especially outside of what is seen to be whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, cisness. This must happen if there is to be a truly collective ability to identify with one another’s struggles, and understand shared goals, if we are to imagine the possibility of a collective and permeable “I.” Thus, these missives suspended in the context of:

hope of a dream & hope of a I — Camara Brown

Or, in other words:

Your body / is a / battleground — Kyoo Lee

Three people marched in Sausalito, CA.

The Women’s March was the largest single day protest in American history, centering around DC, New York, San Francisco, etc. Radiant Re-sisters: Solidarity Texts contained work from sixty-seven contributors. The circulation of these texts is silent, untraceable. As a poet I’m always interested in the smallest detail, how things begin.

The forest food cycle begins with leaves — Laynie Browne

            Eight marchers in Skykomish, WA.

In fact, for both Solidarity Texts and the Women’s March, there was much planning. Many relationships built incrementally. So much reading. So much life accumulating, up to the moment of the march and the simultaneous release of the texts, when we took out the things in our pockets to show each other, and it wasn’t a mistake what was there.

Your way is the right way. — Sharon Mesmer

            Seven people marched in Tuscarora, NV.

In the Women’s March and in the private and semipublic relationship and contact and texts, there were multiple reorientations, responses to critique. It was built of preexisting groups, affinity, call and response. The lightning speed of reaction drew from the strength of those relationships, coalitions, and groups within which people had history. It iterated that history, tracing more deeply habits of communication, of responsiveness. Between the white fields on the screen I know mean “pages,” between the bodies in the crowd, we are able, incrementally, to reach towards

the non-state of being in common — Julie Carr

Two people marched in Bethlehem, CT.

The aliveness and deadness of a moment are subjective. January 20 was a day when I felt alive in a strange way, and dead in a strange way. On this day I open my email and bite each word, dull and real as a nickel. Dull because I am dulled. One need not to have been assaulted to object to a rapist as our nation’s leader, but I think that if this is the case it is possible you feel it in your body more. One who has experienced racism might feel more viscerally the elevation of a white supremacist as direct affront.

as if that wasn’t enough to make some idiot pause and pausing resist and if resisting insist on being heard — Anne Waldman

            Seven marched in Westwood, CA.

“Begin again begin again begin again begin again begin again begin again begin again begin again begin again.” I say it over to myself, that day, trying to believe M. NourbeSe Philip in the enacted piece of faith on the cover. I try to trace in my head the line of that hand, durationally. The handwriting performing an ease that seems far away. I find something like calm in the loops there, that they keep going; weave an image out of small things.

How in the wander: a held note. — Sarah Riggs

Gila, NM, one marcher.

In the smallest sense: what one does. When nothing is possible, everything is possible. Something building. Increments. Pennies in a wishing well add up. The Met collects about $4,000 a year from their fountain in the Greek and Roman exhibit. So I’m putting my pen down, and beginning again here. To put a spin on the old poetry adage “No ideas but in things”:

No escape but in understanding. — Cynthia Hogue

Evanston, WY, one marcher.

The Stonewall Inn was a gathering place long before Marsha P. Johnson threw the first brick, kicking off an uprising that lasted a week. On June 28, 1969, there were hundreds outside the bar. Stonewall’s uprising lasted six days in the streets, but birthed a myriad of groups who would form, faction, organize, and fight using a variety of tactics, commitments, and methods.

Remember the world that makes you. / I will remember the world that makes me. / I will not be chosen. I will choose. — Kate Schapira

Several years before Stonewall, in 1966, Compton’s Cafeteria was a kind of home for all the folks that would now fall under the umbrella of queer, including people of color, drag queens, before transgender was a word people knew, before it (Stonewall) was the site of active resistance.

Your body is a knife — Levi Bentley

Two marchers in Roswell, NM.

It would take ten years after the Stonewall uprising for the first national gay and lesbian march to occur.

Can you say / to the flower: / bloom harder? / Bloom different. — Elizabeth Willis

West Lima, Wisconsin, one marcher.

When Laynie Browne asked me to contribute, I was hesitant; I was not a “sister” and I did not want to respond to that term. But I needed a gathering, however imperfectly tuned to me, and I undertook a turning of myself. I needed to talk to Ban who keeps dying but never finishes dying. I wanted to say you don’t die, that’s not how this story goes. Get up. I was talking to this book, Ban en Banlieue, it had gotten under my skin, I was mad at it. I didn’t like it when I first read it, and I kept rereading it and not liking it and going back to it. I was terminally unsatisfied. There on a page in Incubation: A Space for Monsters was an address to write to, and a request for “the remaining rules for people who keep going.”[3] I knew that years earlier, I could not have stopped dying if I had wanted to, that I was calling back to myself. That I needed to.

Its very / familiarity disguises its horror — Megan Fernandes

            Ten marchers in Yuma, AZ.

I wanted to call her my sister, I wanted to be sibling. As I want to be sibling to all of those who tell me their stories. They can’t leave home, their rapist is walking past the house. They move to another state. And I, enraged, feel that they have been torn from me. There is nothing I can do for her in Colorado, I hope she feels safer there. Tonight I watch light play over the skin of the city. The sky a bruised blue and I love this city with a bodily ache like I love every injured and fucked-up thing. I feel the crying stopped up within me from wanting it to get up and fight. I’m writing this, the mind at full stretch, at full retch, I’m sorry.

the body a chamber of social knowing — Rachel Blau DuPlessis

            Seven marchers in Tuscarora, NV.

Poetry is where we speak ourselves to each other, a place which forms a basis, respite, serious playground, where we work out toward and through how we do meaning as travelers. It can be many things, it can serve almost any purpose. When we make a ruckus in language, when we reorder it, we make ourselves up, we are making a home, we are becoming ready. 

2. figure out how to move the sludge / 3. redeem the sludge — Edie Meidav

            Six marchers in Troy, PA.

DC leaves me cold, the museum walls like the walls of Oz a failed spell about importance that no one believes
faintly ridiculous
like men sweating in Congress
while the heart of this world beats elsewhere
everywhere elsewhere and, I have to believe, building

You aren’t violent, but you might have to become violent. — Moyna Pam Dick

            Five marchers in Springfield, OH.

At the Women’s March there are a million pussy hats, there are so many signs identifying reproductive organs with gender. But there is also a turning, a shift, a reorientation. The speakers include Janet Mock, Janelle Monae, Angela Davis, Raquel Willis, Melanie Campbell. The mothers of young black men killed. If the turn is not complete, it is an action, a beginning towards honoring trans women and women of color, as central, rather than peripheral, to women’s struggles. They have of course always been the center of that struggle, but it is only now that we are able to see the beginnings of the public recognition of this. 

Just to be clear: Flesh is my interim theoryAbigail Child

            Five marchers in Tupper Lake, NY.

I see several stunning queens among the quotidian throng. Although I have qualms, critiques, I catch the wave, I show up. I wait several hours with my roommate and small, spontaneously gathered, loose group to get onto the train into DC. We stand in lines at the Porta Potties together, share food, climb up a wall outside the Hirshhorn. There is no march because the march route is filled, beginning to end.

then with them there I somehow got out of that awful binary and felt something else besides the power or the powerlessness. — Melissa Buzzeo

            Three in Appleton, WI.

That night we talk with folks who came out for the inaugural protests. They are beat, have slept on the ground in churches, their eyes are burning, they quote Marcuse. There at the march, and after, a million small conversations are starting or continuing. People who would not formerly have identified as feminists or activists are turning to each other, they intend to sign up for things locally, to get involved. They intend to talk to their friends. Those of us who have been political, who are itching for more, will find ways too.

rustling about in the dawn of one civilization after / another uncanny in the near-visibility sche shares — Joan Retallack

East Millinocket, ME, four marchers.

beings who we are / like grit in the eye of the galaxy — Elizabeth Robinson

Eight in Alameda, CA.

make me / wanna holla — Giovanni Singleton

Ten marched in Adak, AK.

gonna wear my love like combat boots & berets … / see, them doctors can’t save you, but your grandma may. — Yolanda Wisher

Thirty-five marchers in Zebulon, Georgia. 


1. Quotes at the end of each paragraph are from Radiant Re-Sisters: Solidarity Texts.

2. Crowd estimate collection by Jeremy Pressman (@djpressman, University of Connecticut) and Erica Chenoweth (@EricaChenoweth, University of Denver).

3. Bhanu Kapil, Incubation: A Space for Monsters (2006; repr. Providence, RI: Leon Works, 2011), 81.