Portrait by Aurora Rose and John

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This photo is part of a series by the photographer Aurora Rose de Crosta. More on this later. She and John took many portraits, and I chose this as my favorite and answered this short interview to go along with it. Check out Aurora’s and John’s work at www.auroraandjohn.com. They are a beautiful and talented pair who I am so honored to have worked with.

1). Why did you choose the outfit you did? What about it represents you the most?
I chose this outfit because it’s one of my favorite dresses to wear when I dance. I like to perform a combination of Romani dance and Bellydance, but actually the dress is a Mexican wedding dress from the 1970’s from my favorite vintage store, The Odd Showroom, which was operated by the artist Amity Joy. I am a writer, perhaps first and foremost, but my grandmother taught me her Romani (“Gypsy”) family trades fortune telling, dance, and healing. The word “Gypsy” is a racial slur and reduces us to stereotypes, a dangerous thing in the midst of the current Romani human rights crisis. We are more than fortune tellers and dancers– I am also an English professor, writer, artist, editor, and activist– but these old trades, born of persecution in the centuries after our ancestors left India in the great diaspora, live on too.

2). Do you in general like being photographed? Why?
Yes and no. I did some very small-time modeling when I was young, and I suppose I got used to it, and now I’m a professional art model and have my image rendered in a number of mediums over and over again. If you believe in astrology, I am on the Cancer/Leo cusp (a touch deeper into Leo), and I suppose my relationship with having my picture taken reflects this. I don’t actually know anything about astrology though. I like being a part of an artist’s work, but sometimes it’s hard to look at my own image.

3). How did you feel during the shoot?
Aurora and John were so kind and creative and gave me loving direction while encouraging my own spontaneity. What a joy to work with! Deniz Ataman did my makeup, and she made me feel so glamorous. I loved that we shot in my bedroom too– the whole thing felt so intimate and sweet, and I felt supported in being myself, in all my odd multitudes.

4). Why did you choose the photo you chose?
I am a writer, and I fancy that in this photo I have a crazy face like Jean of Arc in Jules Bastien-Lepage (1879) painting (my paternal grandfather’s favorite), when the angels are telling her what her calling is. When I was a child, I believed that writing was my purpose, and it gave me a reason to live with a fire that I flattered myself by likening to Jean of Arc’s fire. I still might believe that.

5). Were there any particular images you hated? Why?
Anything remotely unflattering I will always hate because my vanity runs wide and deep.

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Joan of Arc, Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

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Farewell, Mrs. Crumlish

Violet Crumlish, dubbed the ‘Lady Diana of Travelers’, lost her battle with bowel cancer earlier this week. Her remains were flown to Ireland and she will be laid to rest in County Armagh, the place where she was born.

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Dying traveller Violet Crumlish known as Lady Diana. Profile picture taken from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/violet.crumlish.5

About a month earlier, thousands of travelers from around the world had already visited Mrs. Crumlish, when she was confined in a local hospital. Owen, one of her sons, estimated that approximately 9,000 people went to Bristol just to see her before she passed.

Aside from her family, the ‘Gypsy queen’ is considered a mother by many within the traveler community. Jimmy, another son, remarked, “She was a lovely caring woman. She would never see anyone wronged or harmed, her door was always open to everyone no matter who you were. She was completely non-judgmental.”

More people are still expected to pay their final respects. All ferries to Ireland from England and the rest of Europe are booked up in the coming days as travelers want to say goodbye to their ‘Gypsy’ mother.

The wake is held in a funeral home along Falls Road, Belfast, and a royal send off is being prepared. The hearse carrying Mrs. Crumlish will be drawn by a white horse to St. Peter’s Church in Lurgan for the Requiem Mass. The procession will also include 10 black limousines.

For her burial, a red carpet will be rolled out at St. Colman’s cemetery. Furthermore, white doves will be set free at the graveside. It’s a final act that will certainly be fit for a queen.

“Gypsy” is a catch-all word that to refers to Roma, Sinti, and other groups related to the Roma, as well as Travelers who are ethnically distinct from the aforementioned groups. The word ‘Gypsy’ is often used as a slur, however, some Roma, Sinti, and Travelers reclaim the word as an act of empowerment, like Violet Crumlish. There are various “Gypsy” cultures all around the world and their presence is well-known everywhere due to their diasporic roots and rich history. Although heavily linked to the word ‘travel’, a lot of many Travelers are settled, including the late Mrs. Crumlish who was married to her husband for 44-years and had settled in Bristol, which she referred to as their home.

Travellers, Roma, and Sinti have long been associated with all sorts of arts, music, singing,

and dancing. So much so that even in recent years, the “Gypsy” community has reached television shows in many different forms. There have been many who’ve used Mrs. Crumlish’s inspiration to seek worldwide acclaim on talent shows. The X-Factor, the reality talent show. The X-Factor, the reality talent show which also has several associated gaming titles, has been the avenue for gypsy singers like Cher Lloyd and Olivia Ayres. Moreover, we’ve previously talked about the September 2 GAMBAZine wherein Romani and Sinti (Gypsy) dance and literature were showcased.

This goes to show that ‘Gypsies” love for tradition and culture never wanes. There are still many traveling groups who perform regularly for large crowds. However, the community was recently brought to a temporary standstill with the news of the ‘Traveler Queen’s’ journey to her next life.

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Photo by Len Reidy

Upcoming literary & Gypsy dance performance at GAMBAZine 9/2

I’m so happy to share the stage with these artists and writers who I admire so much. During this performance on September 2nd at Hell Phone (starts at 8!), I’ll be performing a different piece from the Summer Writes performance, but this one will also include a cocktail of Romani (“Gypsy”) dance and literature. If you can make it, I can assure you that it will be an evening of diverse artists bringing and baring themselves to the stage. We hope to see you there! And if you would like to perform at these monthly events, you should get in touch with GAMBAZine too! Check out the full lineup and Facebook Invite below.

*Readers will know how much I like reclaiming the word “Gypsy,” so do’t be alarmed by this act of linguistic empowerment.

The Island of GAMBAZini presents monthly night of curated literary and musical performances from diverse and independent artists. This particular event is meant to inspire your inner island. What would you share in your freest moment? What magical creatures exists within you? When you are nude and experiencing the heat of nature what do you think about? Skinny dipping at night under a full moon with an endless amount of ocean surrounding you – what do you reflect on?
Feel free to wear island inspired attire – mermaids, unicorns and plant life welcome.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1229950513703913/

Performers Include
Deniz Ataman
Chris Carr
Clairette Durand-Gasselin
Harriet Halsey
Tatiana Lima
Jessica Reidy
Brian Sheffield
Joseph Alexander Garel
Ms. Reign
Craig Kite
Lisa Marie Basile
B. Perdomo
Ruby Brunton & Deirdre Coyle

*Photo by Eat the Cake NYC*

Hot art and Literature at Summer Writes 7/23

Come, this Saturday, to a magical rite of art and literature, a veritable carnival. I’ll be taking the stage with a performance that’s half-literature, half-dance, and not appropriate for children. So even if you hate my style, my little sliver of the evening will be racy and weird, and that might be worth something to you. Best of all, many artists will be performing, and they are all fantastic and I’m lucky to be among them.To learn more about this incredibly fun night and the artists, see below.

“This Saturday Dallas Athent, Christian Niedan, Melissa Hunter Gurney and Christoph are bringing Nomadic Press, Brooklyn Wildlife and GAMBA Magazine together for a late afternoon and evening of art and celebration. Summer Writes which will start promptly at 5pm and run till 8 in the backyard of The Hollows, an artist residency at 151 Bedford Ave in Williamsburg run by Pırıl & Friends, promotes independence and diversity within the arts with acoustic music, readings and electronic sounds by Jon Eckhaus Directly after this the celebration continues with Danielle and Vanessa at Hell Phone where Brooklyn Wildlife will be hosting a listening party for Crimdella (Mandella Brathwaite of Black God Pantheon’s) new EP Bury Me in Gold Vol. 1 produced by MNDCFT.
What does this mean? It means you get free art by 20+ diverse and independent writers and musicians. It means you get to have free wine and whiskey at happy hour and then come to hell phone for delicious French food to sooth your buzz and carry you into the evening. It means you get a sneak peak at one of New York Cities prolific rappers newest projects. It means you will meet new artists and new friends. It means you will get to see artists like Stanford Reid, Maayan Oppenheim, Brian Sheffield, Craig Kite, Jessica Reidy, Christine Stoddard, Chris Campanioni and Nathaniel Kressen. It means you will have a phenomenal Saturday – so – don’t miss it and bring those inspired by the arts to enjoy it with you.
Can’t wait to see you soon! RSVP on event links below
https://www.facebook.com/events/1333040806713992/
https://www.facebook.com/events/831494326974241/

 

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If you enjoy angry, literary stripping, come see me. Photo Credit: Oscar Fuertes

 

NYU Romani Arts Conference and Concert, 4/23-4/24

 

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Esme Redzepova

If you’re in New York, be sure to head to “Opre Khetanes IV Concert and Conference
on Romani (Gypsy) Musics and Cultures” at NYU. April 23rd and 24th will be packed with presenters on Romani dance, music, art, writing, and culture, and on the evening of the 24th, the legendary Romani singer, Esme Redzepova, will give a concert. The conference is free to the public, and you can buy tickets to the concert here. I’ll be presenting my essay “Esmeralda Declines an Interview”, first published on The Missouri Review blog, and discussing the importance of Romani artists claiming their story and rallying against the ‘Gypsy as Muse’ trope. There are so many wonderful activists, musicians, dancers, scholars, and artists presenting their work and ideas– I’m so excited to hear all of these powerful Roma speak!

If you feel so moved, please spread the word with the Facebook invite. And if you can’t make it, never fear, for it will be live-streamed.

*featured photo first appeared in Quail Bell Magazine,Romanipen: Real Gypsy Looks

Presenting at NYU’s Romani/Gypsy Arts & Letters Conference

I’m so excited to announce that I will be presenting my essay, “Esmeralda Declines an Interview,” published in The Missouri Review blog at The Romani/Gypsy Arts & Letters Conference at New York University, April 23rd-24th. I’m even more excited to hear and meet my fellow presenters.

A little more about the conference– hope to see you there!

Opre Khetanes IV Concert and Conference on Romani (Gypsy) Musics and Cultures represents a major gathering on the East Coast of scholars of Romani culture and Roma who work as academics, activists, and/or performers. Presentations will be made by established scholars and by graduate students with expertise in Romani studies.
 
In the conference portion of Opre Khetanes IV, Romani/Gypsy Arts and Letters, artists, activists, and scholars in the fields of musicology, anthropology, Romani studies and related disciplines will deliver presentations on subjects related to the representation of Romani people by themselves and/or others.Opre Khetanes IV will also feature a film screening and a panel discussion.
 
The conference is free and open to the public.  No pre-registration is required.

Writing & Yoga Retreat in Granada, Spain with The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

Join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop on our summer writing retreat to the cultural oasis of Granada, Spain. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith.  Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes. Or, indulge in delicious Andalucían cuisine and traditional Arab baths.  Work with world-renowned authors on your manuscript, or look to the beauty and warmth of Granada to inspire all-new projects.

Our Andalucían writing retreat will feature twice-daily lessons or workshops with both CWW faculty and famed writers who will focus on strengthening your craft.  Our lodgings in Granada have room for private as well as group writing, allowing you to take advantage of the unique atmosphere to concentrate and convene with your fellow writers.  The exclusive boutique-style accommodations with alluring rooms and expressive architecture offer a calm and relaxing environment.

In addition to workshops and lessons, daily yoga lessons help soothe the mind and body by creating opportunities for personal exploration and inspiration. Taught by CWW’s very talented yoga instructor Elissa Lewis, our yoga classes focus on both the structural and spiritual and can be personalized according to any physical demands you may have.

Our AndalucĂ­an writing retreat will take place from August 3-10, 2015, and cost of the workshop is $2950, which includes lodging, craft of writing seminars and writing workshops, yoga classes, room cleaning, and breakfast.

The retreat location places you within close distance to the best of Granada, including the majestic Alhambra and the historic Moorish quarter the AlbaicĂ­n. Granada is well-connected to the rest of AndalucĂ­a through public transportation, should you wish to explore the Costa del Sol, the Alpujarras mountains, or nearby Sevilla and CĂłrdoba. Or, soak up all that Granada has to offer and enjoy tapas bars, Moroccan tea rooms, or flamenco.

Faculty includes Peter Orner (fiction, nonfiction), Rita Banerjee (poetry, fiction), Diana Norma Szkoloyai (poetry, nonfiction), Jessica Reidy (fiction, poetry) and Elissa Lewis (yoga, meditation).

FAQ

What Happens After I apply?

Once you apply, you can expect to hear from us within 7-10 days and know whether you were accepted into the program. Once you are accepted, you will receive a welcome packet with detailed information regarding the program.

What is the process of paying tuition?

Once you are accepted into the program, you will need to pay a 30% tuition deposit ($885) to hold your seat within 3-5 days of acceptance but not later than April 30, 2015.  The remainder of tuition ($2065) will be due by May 5, 2015.  Our standard and preferred method of payment is PayPal invoice.  You can also mail us a check.  Please note that the deposit is non-refundable after May 5, 2015.

What is included in tuition?

-lodging in central Granada
-daily breakfast
-creative writing workshops
-craft of writing seminars
-one-on-one manuscript consultation
-daily yoga and meditation classes
-room cleaning

Where will the program be held?

The program will be held at Gar Anat Hotel Boutique (http://hotelgaranat.com/?lang=en), Placeta de los Peregrines 1, 18009 Granada, Spain.

What if the deadline has passed?  Can I still apply?

Sometimes, we do have spaces open after our deadlines have passed.  Please apply or just email us directly at directors[at]cambridgewritersworkshop.org to check whether there is still availability.

Application Deadline: May 1, 2015

Also, bonus excitement, I’ll be offering fortune telling and energy healing (Reiki) sessions, and Diana Norma Szokolyai will be offering aromatherapy.