Luna Luna Resists: Protest, Lit, Community

If you need resistance literature and community organizing in your life, join me for LUNA LUNA RESISTS: Protest, Lit, Community. Some of my favorite writers are performing, as well as a number of writers I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing. It’s important to use our work for resistance, to support those affected by Trump’s despotic regime, and to create a safe community for dissent, activism, and mobilization. Here’s the run-down from the organizers:

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Lita Cabellut, Romani artist, from her series “The Secret Behind the Veil” 

This Sunday, 2/5, from 5-8 PM, Luna Luna Magazine presents a night of poetry, prose and dialogue in the spirit of resistance & community support. Partnering with GAMBAzine at the Gamba Forest space in Brooklyn, NY, Luna Luna will host short readings and a space for informal discussion and conversation around support, organizing and personal stories. Each reader will present 1-2 short pieces. Drinks will be available for purchase. There will be a few intermissions and time for talking.

We encourage people to bring friends and family. We especially welcome women, people of color, immigrants and other marginalized groups that are at risk under the Trump administration.

IF YOU OR YOUR FAMILY ARE DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY TRUMP, PLEASE LET US KNOW. WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR WORK.

*** READER LINEUP ***

SET 1:
Lisa Marie Basile
Monica Lewis
Rowana Abbensetts
Jessica Reidy
Shafina Ahmed
Dianca London
Trish Grisafi

SET 2:
Melissa Hunter Gurney
Tala Abu Rahmeh
Stephanie Valente
Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari
Joanna Valente
Karina Vahitova
Chris Carr

SET 3:
Christine Stoddard
Ronna Lebo
Olivia Kate Cerrone
Deniz Ataman
Yi Wu
Nicola Maye Goldberg
Jasmine Dreame Wagner

 

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Lita Cabellut, from the series “The Secret Behind the Veil”

Honored to have my Romani (Gypsy) political poetry in the Political Punch anthology!

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Pre-order your copy here!

I am so honored to appear on the list of glittering contributors to this anthology
Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity, released by Sundress Publications. My two poems dealing with Romani (Gypsy) subjugation and spirituality, “Murder and Tradition” and “Transfiguration of the Black Madonna” were part of the “Political Punch” series that the book was born of, originally curated by Fox Frazier-Foley and published in The Infoxicated Corner of The The Poetry Blog. Both the original series and the anthology of the same namesake, Political Punch, feature a number of political poems addressing various aspects of identity, including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, socio-economic class, and beyond by a diverse array of poets.  The need for this series was in direct response to critic Juan Vidal, and Frazier-Foley explains why in her preface.

 

On September 5, 2014, NPR ran an essay by critic Juan Vidal titled, “Where Have All the Poets Gone?” which suggested that American poets no longer write political work. Because I find this assessment of contemporary American letters to be very incomplete, I wanted to take the opportunity to create a dialogue on the subject by curating a series of compelling political poems from contemporary American poets. I christened this series “Political Punch” as an affectionate reflection on the cocktail of poets who decided to honor me with their participation in my little Infoxicated Corner; it was intended to celebrate the glorious mix of poetics, voices, and life experiences all being shaken and stirred into a sense of community and conversation, being distilled into burning gulps of experience for the reader. Leaving aside all the boozed-up metaphors, it was also intended to celebrate my experience of American letters, in all their willingness and ability to pack a political punch.

And now you can pre-order the anthology here and steep yourself in pages of contemporary political poetry!

I want to give a big, heart-soaked thank you to the anthology’s editors, Fox Frazier-Foley and Erin Elizabeth Smith, who worked so hard to collect and feature all of these poets, and to my fellow contributors who have written such marvelous and important work. I feel very lucky to be among them.

Contributors include Kenzie Allen, Jasmine An, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Ahi Baraka, Anne Barngrover, Jennifer Bartlett, Scott Bear Don’t Walk, Erin Belieu, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Jennifer Jackson Berry, Callista Buchen, Cortney Larmar Charleston, Sarah A. Chavez, Chen Chen, Alicia Cole, CA Conrad, Oliver De La Paz, Emile DeWeaver, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Amber Flame, Lisa A. Flowers, Yolanda J. Franklin, Jennie Frost, Carmen Gimenez-Smith, Arielle Greenberg , M. Ayodele Heath, Sara Henning, Jeb Herrin, Elizabeth Hoover, Mark Irwin, Allison Joseph, Bhanu Kapil, Vandana Khanna, Ayisha Knight-Shaw, EJ Koh, Kristin LaTour, Kenji C. Liu, Timothy Liu, M. Mack, Shahé Mankerian, Shane McCrae, Freesia McKee, Lynn Melnick, Philip Metres, Hoa Nguyen, Jennifer Perrine, Saba Syed Razvi, Jessica Reidy, Lois Roma-Deeley, Danny A. Romero, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Danielle Sellers, Glenn Shaheen, Raena Shirali, Karen Skolfield, Christopher Soto, aka Loma, Anna B. Sutton, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Emma Trelles, Donna Vorreyer, Jim Warner, Ginny Wiedhardt, Hanif Willis-Abdurraquib, and Emily Jungmin Yoon.

HOT DAMN!

Here are my poems from the Political Punch series/anthology:

“Transfiguration of the Black Madonna: Gypsy Goddess; Gypsy Saint”

(Excerpted from the novel-in-progress, Zenith)
Black Madonna, full of snakes, let your crescent down. Wield the sickle, rush the milk, and salt the serpents’ mouths. Golden bangles, black milk snakes—these adorn your arms. Blue sky cloth cut for (you) Sarah, Sarah Black, Madonna Shadow, cut for goddess saint of wanderers, cut predestined, cut of chaos, cut the star palm bowls. Slip the feathers under scales and reform the body whole. You were a slave who sailed the chasm, sailed the sea and sun. Persecution sprang a river from the monster: milk, and spit, and blood. In the monster lived a woman and the woman’s soul—you wore her face and wore her tresses spun from black snake gold—golden teeth and golden brow, golden tail and root. The milk snakes split their nests and fled and now your mouth is ruined. There is no birth, there is no death, there’s only mutant growth, and milk snakes dyeing Sarah’s skin with heaps and heaps of gold. There is no sickle, there is no moon, there is no blood or salt. There’s only Sarah sailing through the dream in which she’s caught.

***

“Murder and Tradition”

Violetta and Cristina, Gypsy girls
selling jewelry on the strand
were led into the sea, and screamed
until they drowned. Waves rolled the bodies in;
lifeguards laid them on bright towels
in the sand. 70 indifferent bathers ate sandwiches,
unwrapped their sweets, chatted, sipped
soft drinks beside the sopping corpses
on Torregaveta beach, near the “Gypsy camps”
in Naples, torched the previous week.

Those Gypsy girls would not have swum
where modesty forbade, but Italian authorities
waved off the darker plots, blamed the Gypsies
instead, the way they often do—
for centuries it’s been the light
by which gadjé strike their match,
soak handkerchiefs in kerosene, lob the bottles at grieving families
and thus disperse their need.

 

May 16th: Romani Resistance Day

“The Forgotten History of Romani Resistance,” Open Society Foundations, by Pierre Chopinaud

“On the evening of May 16, 1944, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, SS guards armed with machine guns surrounded the area of the camp designated for Roma and Sinti prisoners. Their intent was to round up the nearly 6,000 prisoners there and send them to the gas chambers. But when the guards approached the area, they were met with armed resistance from the inmates.

The prisoners had learned of the planned ‘liquidation’ and fashioned weapons from sheet metal, wood, pipes, rocks, and any other scraps of material they could get their hands on. According to the memories of survivors and witnesses to the incident, the inmates forced the guards into retreat, and though some prisoners were shot that night, the act of resistance allowed the Roma and Sinti prisoners to put off execution for several more months.

How can such an epic episode have been lost to history? Who knows about the Sonderkommandos revolt of August 1944? Who knows about Witold Pilecki, who infiltrated Auschwitz to organize its resistance network? Keeping alive the memories of these events could help prevent such crimes from happening again in the future.”

Read the rest of this fascinating article here. If you want to help spread awareness on social media, use these hashtags #RomaniResistanceDay #RomaniResistance #may16. I like to throw in #Gypsy too because that hashtag is (mis)used so much to perpetuate absurd Gypsy stereotypes that it’s helpful when something real comes up under that umbrella.

Image courtesy of ternYpe, the International Roma Youth Network

Image courtesy of ternYpe, the International Roma Youth Network

“Writers Of Color Flock To Social Media For A New Way To Use Language” NPR

This NPR article by Kima Jones, “Writers Of Color Flock To Social Media For A New Way To Use Language” struck a chord with me.

“The poem can’t find its audience until the poet has turned on the little hallway light of empathy and mercy and meaning. Those are the building blocks of understanding and reconciliation. That is the foundation.

For too long, writers of color have been told there is no audience for our work. That unless we write towards the universal human—which, of course, is code for white person—our work would not be understood, or read or taught. We are told that regardless of the work the poem is doing, we should codify it in a way that it is accessible and understood and praised by the universal human.”

This is why I use social media to raise awareness of Romani (“Gypsy”) culture and Romani rights. One of the most important things, I think, is spotlighting Romani writers, activists, and artists– Roma are “real” in a world where they are cast as romantic or villainous fantasies, and much of Romani arts and culture touches on the human rights crisis. It’s an issue that seems to have practically no audience, but once I started writing and publishing through social media, I found an audience. I was offered a position as a staff writer at an Quail Bell Magazine, and encouraged to write poetry, fiction, and non-fiction about Romani issues. The response has encouraged me to write a novel about a half-Romani woman who seeks retribution for her people after the Holocaust, and people seem to give some fucks about it.

That’s really what the whole #RealGypsyWarrior thing is about– I want to shine light on powerful Roma and Romani allies who are doing good work, and hopefully that kind of awareness will change the face of “Gypsies” in the media. People will think before appropriating the word “gypsy” or using it to define what have become harmful stereotypes about Roma. For instance, people often use the word “gypsy”  to describe whimsical or irresponsible nomadism, but Romani nomadism was born out of persecution, and using the word in a romantic or pejorative way erases the persecution that Roma have suffered for centuries and continue to suffer today. Also, “gypsy” with a lowercase “g” is an ethnic slur, so that’s not great either.

Social media has also made it easier for me to connect with other Romani writers, artists, and activists in what is a very scattered and (understandably) secretive community, so I’m not only finding an audience, I’m finding my own community. Social media as been great for the Romani Rights movement (Opre Roma) in general because of this beautiful combination of visibility, accessibility, and connectivity.

How do other WOC use social media to create an audience for their work and passions?