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AUGUST 2019 | our distorted sense of proportion


fiction | sequoia hack | lemon steam

Grandma had a Meyer lemon tree in the front yard of her house. The tree produced lemons that resembled limes for ten months out of the year, only switching to a juicy yellow during the eleventh month. One hot, rainy Monday, Mama had picked me up from school and drove us to my Grandma’s house to help her juice lemons and sift sugar. I came to know this day to be the last time that I walked through Grandma’s hibiscus and plumeria garden and through her door where there was no rain. I remember entering her kitchen where we were immediately stopped by a cloud of lemon. Grandma emerged from the fragrant haze and lift me off the ground with her tart, sticky hands.


Tennessee Morning, Tennessee Night | Thread in Which Poetry Twitter is Something Other than a Dumpster Fire and is Instead | The 53% | Cento for Rachel Carson: The Obligation to Endure | Crossing the Line

Writing is never an apolitical act. When I see writers, often white, often male, often straight, often cisgender, complain about the politicization of writing and of how they are attacked by “the mobs” for their views, I think about my grandfather who shared all of the identity categories I have mentioned in this sentence. I think of him, a farmer without a high school education, writing articles in the local newspaper in Vila do Conde, Portugal, criticizing Salazar’s dictatorship. I think of PIDE, Salazar’s police force, showing up at his door to arrest him for what he wrote and of the actual danger he faced for using what privilege he had to speak out against power.

That’s the thing: I do not find anything even mildly interesting or edgy about speaking in support of power and certainly, there is nothing dangerous about it. Writers have been killed for speaking out against tyranny. To equate getting called out for being nostalgic for fascism with the real dangers writers face when they write to hold unjust systems of oppression accountable is to confuse one’s discomfort with lack of safety. I am for writing that makes people uncomfortable and I am for writing that speaks out on behalf of people’s intrinsic right to safety: I believe we can and should be doing both.

I believe white writers like myself should be listening to and amplifying the voices of writers of color, and I believe that whenever we hear someone cry, “Poetry is in a rotten state,” or some other such thinly veiled variation of “There goes the neighborhood,” we should be loud in calling it for what it is: tired and racist. Because poetry, for something that has been declared dead so often, is so much more alive and vital and vibrant today than it ever has been because writers of color are getting more, though definitely not enough, of the recognition they have long deserved and been systematically denied. So, with the Sealey Challenge at our door, I want to end my artist’s statement with what I most firmly believe is my personal responsibility as a white writer: to make space for and to amplify writers of color.

If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and read these books: Cruel Fiction by Wendy Trevino / Invocation to Daughters by Barbara Jane Reyes / Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez / Starshine & Clay by Kamilah Aisha Moon / Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora / When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A List Of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen / A Cruelty Special To Our Species by Emily Jungmin Yoon / Queer Black Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Kapri / Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo & more & more & more. And the future of poetry is bright because of these poets of color who don’t have a full-length out (yet!) . . . read their work, be dazzled, and support them: Khalypso the Poet & Janel Pineda & Jihyun Yun (full-length coming soon!) & Kim Sousa & Lauren Licona & more & more & more.

And if I can ask you one more thing, reader: give more than you take.

poetry | matthew mitchell | ode to football

this disease you speak of made a skeleton out of junior seau’s
shoulder pads to teach boys to not hit so damn hard; this
facebook post should assure you we’ll look into it.

ESSAYS | marni berger | the sats can go fuck themselves

Most of the parents meant well and did not ask me to cheat. These good people, who employed me between 2011 and 2014 in New York City, just wanted to know their kids didn’t have to hurt themselves to be successful, but they were wrong. Their kids did have to hurt themselves, for a certain kind of success: one defined by the implication that Ivy League school parents—and of course kids too—should cheat or pay to get in if they don’t or can’t fit the mold required by their admittance. So, I say to the SAT’s, the great emblematic gatekeeper to success in the eyes of an adolescent American human being: Go fuck yourself. Kids who do not cheat to get into these exclusive schools have to actually get in, which makes the cheaters both eviler and more validated for their cheating.

film | jeanne obbard | 10 reasons why cats is the best movie of 2019

It’s a movie. Where grown people. Pretend to be cats. When was the last time you pretended to be a cat? I’m betting it was more than a week ago. And that’s just not right. I mean, I looked in the mirror and pretended to scratch my ear with my paw just this morning while I was getting ready for work, but not everyone can be me. The rest of you also need an absurd fantasy life featuring unforgiving bodysuits and super-large furniture.


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