Winter Has Come #CapricornSeason

Norma Wood. 17mm, f16, 20 ", ISO 200 Image Credit: Akos Kiss

To some, December means the end of the year, the end of the warmth and the return of caramel macchiato and pumpkin spice latte addictions.

For me, December means the end of stress, other people’s labor and the beginning of beautiful snowy landscapes, family gatherings and time I can call my own.  I have time to dive into ideas I dreamed up during the summer months and tackle fall’s loose ends.  I’ve always done my best writing and thinking over winter breaks.  Something about the cool air just clears my brain of all the clutter.

Winter is here.  Capricorn season is upon us.

And so is 2012.  Sooooooo much happened….

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Random Musings on Poetry

I just returned from hearing Rita Dove, poet and professor, read from the published Penguin Anthology of 20th Century Poetry (which she edited).  She is full of fun and laughter and sarcastic good humor.  I would be her best friend if I could.  She signed my journal and left a blessing: “Fill these pages with your songs.”

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On Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies, Part I

Fleshy Professional Avatar spent the weekend in Richmond, Virginia with colleagues and friends at the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History.  I tagged along for the ride, made a minor appearance in time to introduce myself to amazing and dynamic public intellectuals like @NewBlackMan and @DrJamesPeterson.  Then I dove right back in to life and work here in the DMV with the arrival of the Mobile Homecoming Project (@alexispauline and @juliawallace) for their week-long university residency.  This was another event Fleshy Professional Avatar was signed up to do but I hung out in the wings, dipping in when Alexis and Julia referenced their trip to AMC 2011 and the Shawty Got Skillz workshop, taking a breath of peace when I saw @Mdotwrites and as I was introduced to another professor-cum-insurgent.  And when I looked up, I turned around to find we’d formed a circle of womyn of color who do intense intellectual work and activism around saving our own lives in spaces that are almost universally hostile to everything we are and represent.  And yet…there we were.  Queering the space with our very own light energy, turning the room on its side and moving the group as a whole along a new wavelength of ultraviolet visibility.

For a moment, just long enough to breath in and out twice, I was able to be Kismet and Flesh at the same time.  The two bodies overlapped and co-existed in time and space together.

But it was only a moment.

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Maggies and Moments

For weeks months, I’ve been trying to do a Thursday Readin’ post on Nisi Shawl’s short story “Maggies.”

“Maggies,” from speculative fiction author Nisi Shawl’s 2008 Tiptree award-winning short story collection Filter House, will make any self-respecting Sable Fan Gyrl cheer and vomit at the same time.  Set in the future-verse colony of New Bahama, the narrator is a young, gender-neutral protagonist sent to live with their father after their mother falls ill.

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Interlude: The Sable Fan Gyrl Presents….

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“…Butler’s ostensible prescience, as seen through the environment she constructs for Lauren, becomes increasingly evident with each news item I hear while stuck in Chicago traffic. Butler’s foresight goes beyond the evolution of televisions into flatscreens, which Lauren calls “windows.” Consider, for example, that Atlantis’ return to our atmosphere last month marked the end of the space shuttle program—and the jobs of 1500 employees—for N.A.S.A. How can one not recall Lauren’s concern about the government’s desire to end the space program altogether, and the effects such decisions might have on one of her invented religion’s, Earthseed, core tenets: The Destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars?….”

Octavia the Prescient” by Summer Mcdonald at @SpecterMagazine’s Ghost+Blog.  Read the rest….

Why I Got Stuck on 1 Sentence for 3 Hours Yesterday

This should probably be a Confessions post, but I feel good putting it here.  From my research (or now my writing) journal:

I am sitting here at the café, more frustrated than I ever wanted to admit to myself. Frustrated with myself, frustrated with language, frustrated with not owning a big dictionary, and frustrated because even if I did, I don’t think it would matter. I’d still be stuck swirling around in a history that no one understands.  I’d still be stuck with a bunch of words that mean almost nothing when placed in the context of women I am studying. They defy every one.  Sex. Race. Gender. Black. White. African. Afro-European. Eurafrican. Whatever these things even mean, whatever they were meant to mean, these are not women who fit very well into the categories.  Wife. Slave. Free.  Consort.  Libertine.  Mulatress.  Signare.  Mistress.  Rivale.  Harlot.  Slut.  And I’m having the damndest time wrapping my mind around how to even speak of this period much less speak of them and their world in a way that centers their ingenuity, their creativity, their industry, their love of self and family, their petty antagonisms, their jealousies, their bitterness, their violence and their pain.

I’m finding myself turning in circles. I turn to the dictionary, browse through the Ds, find decollage, wonder about the meaning of a word that suggests decoration of the neck, consider images of slave women wearing the iron collar —

Click Image for More Information

— and then fight not to cry.

I turn to my library, look for articles I can use for reference, for support, for a way of speaking about defiant women & nasty wenches.  I find a bibliography worth everything and nothing. Because I’m looking for more than just continental early black women’s history and less than literary ruminations on trips to slave castles. I’m looking for the truth–or a truth that I can use to apply to my work and begin to understand what I’m seeing.

Maybe it doesn’t exist.

I remember what Stephanie Camp wrote about trying to find the words to write about truancy and black women and sometimes feeling so frustrated she’d want to throw a book against the wall. And how she’d come back, again and again, to Deborah Gray White’s book, Arn’t I a Woman?.

And I think of Joan Dayan’s piece on Erzulie, and imagine the difficulty she must have had trying to piece together threads of reminisces on a woman, a lwa, an archetype, and how much garbage she had to fight through to make that body known.

I ended there.  Because after invoking the words of my personal heroes, I picked up my pen and started again….

R. I. P. Leslie Esdaile Banks (b.k.a. L. A. Banks)

In June, we published a call for donations and support and prayers for Leslie Esdaile Banks who was battling cancer.  We are sad to report that on August 2, 2011, Banks passed away.

From the website:

In Loving Memory

Leslie Ann Peterson Esdaile Banks

It is with the most profound sadness that I have to inform everyone that our most beloved sister and friend, Leslie Esdaile,August 2, 2011.

We will all miss her terribly.

The Leslie Ann Peterson Esdaile Banks Memorial Service will be held:

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

11 o’clock a.m.

at the

Holy Apostles and The Mediator Episopal Church

51st and Spruce Streets

Philadelphia, PA 19139

215-472-3000

At Leslie’s request, in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the United Negro College Fund in her memory.

The Peterson family wishes to thank you for the love and kindness you have shared with us during Leslie’s illness and her recent death. Your many messages of support, which we were able to share with Leslie, meant so much to her.

Your expressions of sympathy have brought us all great comfort in this time of grief.

Tina R. Wise

Tinarwise@gmail.com

Visit the website here.  Fanboys and fangyrls from around the web poured libations for her:

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Death and Other Night Terrors

“It is not something you just let happen.  Your body knows how to do it, but you still have to do it.  Nevertheless, as it is when one is good at something, I enjoyed the effort because in many ways the effort was effortless.  I spread my wings and took to the sky.  No one heard from me for an hour.”

I wish I felt as confident as Onyesonwu, the sorceress-heroine of Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death.  She just took flight.  Me?  I need a blog post to mark what I already feel.

Time to take flight.

So many new things were happening, are happening, that I didn’t even have time to do an update.  With the help of the Shawty Got Skillz/INCITE Women of Color crew and YOU, my lovely & loving donors, I finally attended the Allied Media Conference.  I met activists, artists, bloggers, and organizers I’ve admired for years.  Years.  With @MdotWrites there in spirit, we rocked a session on using safe and critical use of Twitter.  I smanged some delicious pasta and radical POC conversation and made friends I hope to have for-ev-er (Dancing on Embers, I’m looking at you).  Care packages, skill share materials and more are on their way so make sure I have your contact information if you donated, purchased the skill share gift package, still WANT to purchase, etc.  (More info on this to come, don’t worry.  You will get reminders!)

And if you want to follow along with what the Shawty Got Skillz sharers are doing now or catch up on the back tweets, follow @ShawtyGtSkillz (no “O” in “got”) on Twitter, head over to the Shawty Got Skillz Tumblr, or search the #SGSZ hashatg.

I also moved back to the District.  I’m still soaking up the spectrum of sights, smells, and tastes I’ve missed for so long.  No, I didn’t romanticize you DMV.  Even when you’re ugly (#streetharassment, #Gentrification), I love you, because when I look into the worst of you I know I’m looking into parts of myself.  And I know that black & brown folk regroup and rebuild.  We will make it through this.  I can’t wait to re-join the fight.

I moved in with Mr… (Moment–

–go on and get that out of your system)

…which has been a lesson in love, patience, sexual stamina, money management and all the rest.  I’ve been officially banned from posting about it (what I wanted to do was make a new Tumblr because you know how I do) but I will be posting informal updates as the adventure unfolds (Hint: #LivingWithMr on Twitter).

And even though I’m back, I’m practicing a little bit of self-love & solitude.  Yes, even with Mr. here, because in a lot of ways I’m letting him take care of me.  According to Little Sis, this is my Year of the Hermit; I’m either going on a journey, sola, or I’m coming back from one.  She’s the numerology guru but I do feel it.  I’m reaching out less.  I’m micro-managing my real life social networks less.  I’m mothering less.  I’m journaling more.  I’m crafting stories and considering submitting them.  I’m making plans for Nuñez Daughter and iwannalive productions and focusing inward on what my dreams for the next two, ten, twenty years will be.  I’m babying myself.  And I’m learning quite a bit about myself and my relationships as I go along.  Good and bad.  Ain’t that always the way?

Maybe most important, and the reason for the title and the image, I’m also in the last stages of writing my dissertation.  There is a kind of death that this process requires, an execution I have been afraid to face–death of childhood, death of adolescence, death of certain radical dreams, death of certain assumptions about myself and life in general–but the time is nigh.  Not because I feel like the research is over–in fact, there is a world of documents I can’t wait to dive into.  But because circumstances demand that I move on to the next stage of my life.  And the more I discuss my state of mind with colleagues and friends, the more I realize most dissertations aren’t written because the writer feels the research is complete–they are written because the writer feels that something has got to give.  It may be financial or emotional, an impending job offer or a big move or a new marriage or a new baby or a death in the family.  Or the death of a mentor.  It may be that the sun shone through the window a different way that morning.  But if the effort required to write a dissertation is quantifiable, I’d guess that only 40% of it is the work of researching.  The other 50% is just mind & drive & courage.  That last ten?  Typing that b*tch out.

When I left the Little Town in New England, Asian Dancer put it just right.  In paraphrase, she said, “You are setting yourself up with the most perfect situation you could ever imagine, the best situation possible to finish this thing.  You’ll be in a city you love, with people you love and a man-piece who loves you for you to lay on.  You are going to write all day.  And then you are going to have sex all night.  You’ll have no excuse not to.  You’ll even want to.”

She’s right.  I do.  After all:

“…something must be written before it can be rewritten.”

This blog is about to be sporadic in updates.  And when I do write, expect to get an eye-full of ranting and raving about bad coffee and loud cafés, obscure requests from committee members and last minute dashes to the archive.  Along with learning more than you ever wanted to know about bondwomen’s reproduction, labor, market work and higglers, sex across the color line, libertines and debauchery, dances, tignons, 18th century birth registers, slave castles and poor soldiers, Afro-Atlantic maroonage, and other permutations direct from the experience of women of African descent during the period of African slavery.  I’ll also be throwing in the usual Sable Fan Gyrl, pop culture, day-in-the-life, political ranting riff-raff that is my escape hatch.  Can’t get too serious, right?

If I haven’t updated recently and you want to know where to find me, chop it up with me on Twitter (@KismetNunez).  It’s public so you can always lurk my timeline but I’d love to e-meet you so please sign up.  Or poke around the Confessions of a Sable Fan Gyrl Tumblr and leave a question in my Ask box (the really juicy, cuss-word filled ranting will be done there).  The WOC Survival Kit & my other friends will be updating on a regular basis.

In other words, I’m around.  I’m married to the E-Game, after all.  I’m just cheating on it with Ms. Diss.  Respect my mistress.

Till next time (& I’m stealing from @MdotWrites on this one but it’s inspired by @Nnedi):

Wings up.

2011 Clarion West Write-a-Thon

via K. Tempest Bradford:

In a little less than two weeks, the Clarion West class of 2011 will begin their 6-week intensive workshop. At the same time, the CW Write-a-Thon will begin. A write-a-thon is a lot like a marathon. Instead of sponsoring someone per mile, you sponsor them per week. If they reach their writing goals for the week, you pledge to send Clarion West a certain amount of money. There are six weeks of write-a-thoning to mirror the six weeks of workshopping at Clarion West.

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