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

Natural (‘Gypsy’) Cures Backed by Science

In honor of International Romani Day (April 8th), I wrote this piece on Romani folk medicine that’s really backed by science for Thrillist

Folk medicine — touted by grandmas all over the world — sometimes offers good advice, just like your grandma. My grandma, a sweet and salty Romani woman, says things like, “Girl, get it while you’re young,” and, “You only get one body, so keep it healthy and fine.”

I listen because she has serious survivor cred. This woman, born in Germany, lived through the Holocaust as a persecuted minority, and came to the States alone at 19. In honor of grandmas everywhere, here are a few traditional medicine practices that are backed by science. As always, check with a doctor if you’re having serious problems, and keep your body fine. Grandma says.

Read  about the cures here: https://www.thrillist.com/health/nation/natural-cures-that-are-backed-by-science

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Image Source: soikkoratamo

International Romani Day and the Necessary Integration of Romani Feminism, RomArchive

RomArchive, one of my favorite orgs, asked me to write a post for International Romani Day, April 8th. So here is my piece– International Romani Day and the Necessary Integration of Romani Feminism! Very inspired by Carmen Gheorghe and her work with E-Romnja, supporting survivors of domestic violence. So here it is! International Romani Day and the Necessary Integration of Romani Feminism. Many thanks to everyone!

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GAMBAZine Reading & International Romani Day, 4/8!

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I am so jazzed to be reading with GAMBAZine at Hell Phone speakeasy! There will be music, art, writing, food, and refreshments, and who doesn’t love all that? GAMBAZine is all about art and writing that’s edgy and raw, and I’m honored to be part of this event. If you’re in or around Brooklyn, join us. It will also be International Romani Day, so I’ll be getting my Gypsy Pride on, y’all.

Here’s the Facebook event— please share if you’re so inclined. Thanks!

Join me for Nomadic Press’ Difficult Poetry Reading 3/23

Nomadic Press is hosting a very cool “Difficult Poetry” Reading at the Christopher Stout Gallery in NYC, and I’m honored to be among these difficult poets. I’ll be reading some work on the subject of Romani women’s experiences. Come join us, talk tough, and then kick back in a beautiful place!

Here’s the event invite, and our event description:

Four kick-ass poets will explore difficult topics through the power of words surrounded by subversive art at Christopher Stout Gallery, New York. We invite you to come, listen, think and discuss. Wine will be served.

Nomadic Press supports and provides venues for artwork across all media and disciplines by both emerging and established artists. Nomadic Press’s goal is to guide writers and artists through a supportive and connective process and to offer each artist the opportunity to have his or her work(s) presented in carefully edited and curated publications and events. We strive to juxtapose myriad voices and visions in ways that are surprising and complementary.

Christopher Stout Gallery, New York is a contemporary art gallery in East Williamsburg showing subversive and difficult work by New York City artists. We delight in serving as a platform for discourse on work that is challenging to authority paradigms, feminist, queer, anti-establishment, hyper-aggressive, mystic, and/or joyously sexual.

STEPHANIE VALENTE

Stephanie Valente lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is a Young Adult novelist, short fiction writer, poet, editor, content & social media strategist. In short, she wears many hats. Especially if they have feathers. She is the Founder & Chief Editor of Alt Bride, Fashion Editor at Greenpointers, Associate Editor at Yes, Poetry, and Social Media Manager & Columnist at Luna Luna Magazine.

Some of her writing has appeared in Bust Magazine, Electric Cereal, Prick of the Spindle, The 22 Magazine, Danse Macabre, Uphook Press, Literary Orphans, Nano Fiction, and more.

She has provided content strategy, copy, blogging, editing, & social media for per’fekt cosmetics, Anna Sui, Agent Provocateur, Patricia Field, Hue, Montagne Jeunesse, Bust Magazine, Kensie, Web100, Oasap, Quiz, Popsugar, among others.

In her spare time, Stephanie volunteers with rescue dogs and animal shelters.

BRIAN SHEFFIELD

Brian Sheffield is a poet from California currently living in Brooklyn. Brian’s life is one of constant movement and his poetry attempts to capture, confront, and gain a better understanding of the personal and political implications of said movement. He is always attempting to grow into a better and loving global citizen and, in order to do so, finds that he must question and combat his own privilege along with the prescribed roles of everybody he meets. He studied poetry, literature, and radical philosophy in California while teaching Creative Writing, Critical Thinking, and marginal writing in various public and private schools and universities. He is the author of several self-produced chapbooks, including [UNTITLED], S I N ( G ) , and Songs From Heaven’s Crooked Teeth. He has been published or featured in many local, national, and international magazines and journals — most recently, the Outcryer, Before Passing by Great Weather for MEDIA, Palabras Luminosas, and two issues by NYSAI Press.

QUINTON COUNTS

Quinton is originally from North Carolina and raised in Harlem. He’s a poet, rapper, performer and artist of various types. He often goes by the name of Que Cee or by my company name, WolfSet Productions. His influence comes from many people and things, including rappers like Jay-Z, Eminem, Peedi Crakk, Pre-record deal 50 Cent, Mos Def, Kanye West, Graph, Cam’Ron, and many of my friends whom are artists.

JESSICA REIDY

Jessica Reidy worked on her MFA in Fiction at Florida State University and holds a B.A. from Hollins University. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and has appeared in Narrative Magazine as Short Story of the Week, The Los Angeles Review, The Missouri Review, and other journals. She’s the Acquisitions Editor for VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, Art Editor for The Southeast Review, Visiting Professor for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop retreats, Outreach Editor for Quail Bell Magazine, and works as an adjunct professor and a freelance editor and writer. She also teaches yoga and works her Romani (Gypsy) family trades, fortune telling, energy healing, and dancing. Jessica is currently writing her first novel set in post-WWII Paris about Coco Charbonneau, the half-Romani burlesque dancer and fortune teller of Zenith Circus, who becomes a Nazi hunter. Visit her online at www.jessicareidy.com.

Miguel Ángel Vargas translates my VIDA list of “20 ‘Gypsy’ Women You Should Be Reading” to Spanish for Bitácora Gitana!

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My great-great grandmother, Mathilde Von Thiele

I’m so excited to introduce you to Miguel Ángel Vargas, Romani theatre producer, politician, translator, and all-around power house. He started this blog, Bitácora Gitana http://www.gitanos.org/bitacoragitana/, featuring Romani authors, artists, professionals, and community organizers, and I’m so honored that he decided to translate my essay “Twenty ‘Gypsy’ Women You Should Be Reading” into Spanish for the site, and just in time for International Women’s Day. The essay first appeared in VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, in English, and details Romani literacy and authorship, my own journey through story telling, and the work and accomplishments of twenty outstanding Romani women writers. So here’s another way to celebrate international women today– read a gitana!

My Political Punch poems are in Haunting Poetry

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Image by B.S. Wise

This is so cool to say– Haunting Poetry featured my two poems coming out the anthology Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity, “Transfiguration of the Black Madonna” and “Murder and Tradition,” in their haunting poetry round-up. Thank you so much for the support! I’m very touched that the good people of HP feel like I’m haunting their souls. That’s all a creepy writer wants to hear.

You can pre-order Political Punch, released by Sundress Publications, here!

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.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Luna Luna Magazine Re-launch, and my poetry

vintageHappy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of the holiday, here’s a straight-talking fish smoking a cigarette and expressing her emotional needs. I hope you, dear reader, are having a few beautiful moments with yourself, the true beloved. Luna Luna Magazine has this great collection of Victorian Valentine’s Day cards and vintage postcard erotica. Got to love that.

I’m a little late to the party, but Luna Luna Magazine‘s new address is http://www.lunalunamagazine.com and it is even more marvelous than before, as above, so below, and the eternal dance of dark and light, many blessings to you. And I’m so excited that a few moons ago Luna Luna re-released my poems “In the Oven,” “Night and Night,” and “Gulls Calling Over Corcaigh” on their new site, too, so now you can read them here. Quail Bell Magazine also reprinted them when they were first released. Thank you to both awesome magazines for the support! Head’s up/trigger warning, all three deal heavily with sexual trauma and child abuse. Why am I posting them on Valentine’s Day, particularly when the re-launch happened ages ago and today is supposed to be happy and dedicated to love? No idea! It’s just happening. The cosmos is chaos.

I will say this, of the holiday. I’m thinking a lot about my little tattoo– a bird that’s standing on the Rromanes verb “VOLI” meaning “to love.” I got this tattoo, on this day years ago, because I wanted to remember that love is an action. What we do is love, and to love, we must act lovingly. Thank you to my friends and readers who have treated me with love and kindness through messages and actions this year. I hope you all are treated with the utmost care and respect because you deserve the best.

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My little bird VOLI tattoo wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day

Art, memory, and expression: International Holocaust Remembrance Day 1/27/2016

holocaustremembranceJanuary 27th, 2016 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We spread red flowers to honor those who lived and died in what Roma call, The Hungry Smoke. The Holocaust was an ugly genocide of those from the Jewish faith as well as those who were ethnically “Gypsies,” the racial slur used to describe Romani and Sinti people. The Sinti are a clan (or tribe, as some prefer that word while others argue that ours is not a tribal society) within the Roma, and the word Roma refers to the many different cultures and subcultures that exist within Romani society, all of which are distinct with their own dialects, customs, and beliefs. Many Sinti prefer to be called Sinti and not to be included under the Romani umbrella, but I am comfortable being referred to as Romani, both because my heritage is very ethnically mixed anyway and because I like the inclusiveness that the word “Roma” suggests. My grandmother and many of her family members survived O Porrajmos, or the Great Devouring, by hiding their ethnicity, something that many were not able to do, and others among her friends and family were not so fortunate. The Roma and Sinti are often forgotten alongside the other groups targeted, such as LGBTQ* people, people living with disabilities, Catholics, Communists, and many others. Even though half of the Romani population was obliterated during WWII, because of systemic racism, few organizations or countries recognize our loss for what it was: genocide. This is slowly changing, however. This year the UN is hosting Sinto survivor, Mr. Zoni Weisz, to speak at their event for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, so if you are in NYC or can make the trip, I hope you attend. It’s important for all of us to band together for everyone touched the the dark maw.

I’m re-sharing Drunken Boat‘s Romani Folio, an issue completely dedicated to Romani writing and art, in honor of this day. Much of Romani

Romani Folio Cover

Drunken Boat, Romani Folio cover

literature and art is shaped by The Hungry Smoke, as well as the antigypsyist legislation, sentiment, and violence that still dogs the Roma all over the world. My short story, “Why the Pyres are Unlit,” though fictional, was heavily inspired by my grandmother’s survival, the stories she’s shared, and the mark that violence has left on my family.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about inherited and perpetuated trauma (by lately, I mean since I was a child), and I believe that the only way to change cycles of violence and fear internalized passed down through generations is to acknowledge, feel, discuss, and then release them. Silence, forced or self-imposed, is what breeds violence. Art, writing, expression, discourse, and remembrance– all of this frees us. I will spread flowers, but I will also imbibe Romani and Sinti literature and art, such as the paintings of Ceija Stojka and the words of Rajko Djuric. Pick up a good anthology (I love this one, Roads of the Roma) or browse the web for new discoveries. You can start with Romani writer Qristina Zavačková Cummings and her list of Romani authors, or my list of “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading” for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. May we remember, may we create, and may we journey toward healing and liberation together.