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

political punch

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.

 

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Healthy juices & smoothies and Gypsy Cuisine– The Daily Meal recipe round-up!

In case you were wondering about juice cleanses, smoothies for energy, making healthy drinks exciting and tasty, and Romani (Gypsy) cuisine, here are The Daily Meal articles I wrote over the summer. I notice that I create a lot more (and better) and I am a whole lot happier when I’m taking good care of myself. I hope these make you feel good!

Recipes and Articles

How to Eat Like a Real ‘Gypsy’” in The Daily Meal

spices

maintea-steeping_flickr-agirlwithtea

“10 Ways to Make Health Drinks Less Boring” in The Daily Meal

“10 Smoothies for All-Day Energy” in The Daily Meal

mulberry

“10 Reasons to Try a Juice Cleanse” in The Daily Meal

“10 Ways to Do a Juice Cleanse Healthily” in The Daily Meal

drinks

If you want more, cruise The Daily Meal or check out my Pinterest board

My love letter to “Political Punch” and Gypsy poems

I don’t know if you read Juan Vidal’s NPR essay “Where Have All The Poets Gone?”— it’s a smart, well-intentioned lament of the lack of American political poetry since the Beat Poets. Many readers, myself included, respectfully and optimistically disagree. Perhaps, since all of the poets he mentioned were white men, Vidal’s scope was too small, because it seems to me that political poetry is thriving on the voices of the systemically oppressed rising-up. But I think Vidal and I both agree where it really counts– we need more political poetry in America and we need more people to read it and care.
In response to Vidal’s essay, Fox Frazier-Foley curated “Political Punch.” It’s a week-long series of diverse American political poets, featured at The The Poetry Blog in The Infoxicated Corner. The poets included thus far are CA Conrad with a poem about LGBT representation, Anne Barngrover with a poem about the rape of Daisy Buchanon, and Christopher Soto (aka Loma) with a poem about the need to revolutionize the prison system. These poets, whom I am honored to be listed among, are a reflection of the many types of poets who write their art and politics, who speak up, shake it up, and rise up. Vidal, by the way, has been very supportive of the endeavor and extremely kind.
Here’s the link to my Opre Roma-style political poems “Murder and Tradition” and “Transfiguration of the Black Madonna” http://www.thethepoetry.com/2014/09/infoxicated-corner-political-punch-poems-by-jessica-reidy/ “Murder and Tradition” is inspired by real events that transpired in Italy— Roma girls Violetta and Cristina really did drown, and that camp really was torched– it’s all too terrible. And I wrote “Transfiguration” at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Yoga and Writing Retreat, so all those craft talks, workshops, and inspiration exercises paid-off! It’s about the Romani Goddess/Saint Sarah (Kali Sara), and the non-Roma’s mythology of the Romani people. Click here for more about the Romani Goddess.
Picture taken by Sarah Sullivan during a Quail Bell Gypsy fashion shoot http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/the-unreal/photo-tale-free-spirits

Picture taken by Sarah Sullivan during a Quail Bell photo tale shoot for “Free Spirits”  http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/the-unreal/photo-tale-free-spirits

“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?

The VIDA Count is out! Some highlights

First, the count itself with an incredible intro by Amy King: http://www.vidaweb.org/the-count-2013/

Then, some extraordinary pieces about race and *Trans issues and what the count is missing by Stephen Burt and Alyss Dixson: 

THIRTY-ONE QUESTIONS AND TWELVE APOLOGIES BY WAY OF A THANK-YOU NOTE FOR THE 2013 VIDA COUNT

This Is Not About Your Understanding

Then a great piece on VIDA and the PEN Prison Writing initiative from Idra Novey: 

Update from Idra Novey, VIDA Liaison to the PEN Prison Writing Committee

A fascinating article from Diane Mehta on what makes a canon:

What Is a Classic?

And some fantastic press from Soraya Chemaly from The Guardian, Julie Bossman from The New York Times, Amanda Hess from Slate, and others as well as NPR, Huff Po, etc, etc!

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/24/vida-count-men-outnumber-women-literary-journals

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/02/24/_vida_count_2013_why_is_it_so_hard_for_literary_magazines_to_publish_women.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/04/vida-2012-count-finds-dep_n_2805928.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

http://jezebel.com/editor-of-prestigious-almost-all-male-review-says-were-1193363088

For more, become a member and join the discussion on our newly launched forums. Your support is what keeps us going and we deeply appreciate it. http://www.vidaweb.org/donate-now/

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