Reading Motion of Light on Water

Just finished Samuel R. Delaney’s The Motion of Light on Water: Sex and Science Fiction. Writing in the East Village, 1957-1965.

Will take me a long time to find words… I can’t remember a book that touched me, took hold of me like  this… wrenched me, wrung me out.

I was born in 1941, Delaney in ’42. I was a child and came of age in the Midwest: Chicago, Kansas City, summers in east central Michigan. Delaney, in NYC. So very different–but so much of the external social climate of a childhood in post war America, the 40’s and 50’s–so much, the same. What we shared, was the bloody sword that slices the body from desire–that creates what he called “the split subject”…

” … the space between the two columns (one resplendent and lucid with writings of legitimacy the other dark and hollow with the voices of the illegitimate)–that constitutes the subject, it is only after the Romantic inflation of the private into the subjective that such a split can even be located.”

Like Delaney, I was looking to art and writing to negotiate the chasm, but shaking off the dressing of ‘legitimacy’ was so much harder, took so much longer–the weight of the Midwest was suffocating, and sex was at the center of it, the poisoning of desire that makes the body itself an empty vessel, spiritually empty, trying to belong to something utterly alien to me, and failing and failing and failing…an impoverishment of that spirit–which is the life of the body.

It can’t be a coincidence, that I returned to making art after 40 years, at the same time that I was able to embrace sexual desires that had been latent, but buried …. for at least  that long. It’s no good being coy! Name them. You have to name them, Delaney says. If fucking is good — so is sucking cocks! Or wherever else you body wants to take you!

Forty years — that should have been a wilderness — not a desert, but a rain forest paved over. Like weeds in the cracks of concrete, something kept pushing through, pushing out into the light. Forty years…
… so many lost lives, so much damage, so many scars.

As I clicked to post this…  it came to me, that I have a whole  series of paintings and drawings of broken concrete… how the psyche seeks to find bodily expression. You do these things, and don’t know why.


A response to CA Conrad’s Harriet Essay on Whitman

CA Conrad wrote an important essay on Harriet. One that no one should ignore, or dismiss, or shy away from because it offends. It has pushed my own thinking on art, poetry, revolution, and I would ask that anyone reading this… take a deep breath, step back, and let it work on you—in the context of our received notions of where we have come from.

I have always thought that the strongest works of the imagination were more and other than the intentions of their makers, or of the interpretative constraints of their times. I haven’t changed those beliefs. But Conrad’s challenge is not about that. Defenses of Whitman—that he was a man of his times, that he wrote equally strong passages sympathetic to slaves (if not of native peoples)—are beside the point. What I heard in his essay was an echo of something that has been on my mind for some time.

We want to ignore, or explain away, the complicity of our cultural heritage—I mean, white, Euro-American art, poetry, music, theater, how it has served, directly and indirectly, the Masters of our history. And their wars, their slave holding, their misogyny—kings and empire, and after, the economic empires of colonizing capitalism.

It isn’t enough … or maybe, it’s not yet time, to save what has been passed down, what we (as artists… of all forms), are meant to follow, to renew, to challenge even as we stand on the shoulders of those who we must acknowledge—that we are their heirs. But what, and how much, of what they have left us?

The analogy that comes to mind… the German children and grandchildren of the Nazis. We are the children and grandchildren—and more than that, the brothers and sisters of genocide, of this whole monstrous empire of money and death, and what we have been given—our aesthetic heritage– to build on—is infected beyond our… if not, of future generations… ability to purge and cleanse.

We cannot cannot cannot build a new world, and nothing less will do if we as a species—if life on this planet is to survive– than to build a new world, and we cannot do that but on the ashes and ruins of the old.

This is Conrad’s hard truth.

There may come a time when we will be able to look back, read Whitman for what even he had no inkling of what was there, to find and celebrate again that lightning of imaginative truth, the light of which illuminates the truth neither person nor historical time were able to see. I do not despair of the power of imagination—that whatever come forth from that sublime flash, will endure, and be worthy of our appreciation generation to generation. Whitman, too.

But we are not in that place where we can rescue what flashed through him—not before we are ready to confront the truth of the contamination of Empire and the myth of race and the destiny of State.

I stand with you, Conrad. For your courage, and your truth.

And hope for the day, when we have remade this world—when we will again be able to recite Whitman… and all our failed poets, artists… as we may be remembered… for all our failings.

Tell us, Chris Hedges, What will be the course of this Revolution?

Chris Hedges on Salon

Question is… can we do the revolution, like digging under the foundation, and as the Empire collapses, a little here, a little there, replace it with what we’ve been working to build together, like the ship of Theseus, piece by piece, plank by plank–and at last, transformed into something unimaginable until it emerges, whole and free of the empire of money and death that had engendered it? Or must it come from a bloodbath, where force will replace force, and the boot of Authority emerge, unchanged, but with new names, and new victims, and our new masters?

Which will it be? And do we even have a choice?

from Art Threat: Performing Oloha in Queer Times.

In 2001, filmmakers Kathryn Xian and Brent Anbe broke new ground with their documentary Ke Kulana He Mahu: Remembering a Sense of Place. The film, which documents the lives, struggles, and aspirations of several queer and trans Kanaka Maoli (Indigenous Hawaiians), also made an important and, at the time, novel effort to explore how the ongoing exercise of settler-colonial rule in Hawai’i shapes gender and sexual identities. An evocative and important project, Kulana He Mahu was released to much critical acclaim, and has since screened at festivals and community events throughout Hawai’i and around the globe.

For rest of piece Go to the Original

possibility, deracination, sentimentality


By the time I had spent ten years in the U.S., I had stopped going to gay clubs. It wasn’t simply that I had grown older, though I had. It wasn’t that I no longer loved dancing. And it wasn’t that I had moved from more cosmopolitan cities—Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon—to a small, semi-rural college town. It was that I could no longer unsee the ways I was unseen.

After many years of dancing alone, I had opted to stop dancing.

Within gay history and mythology, urban spaces liberate those who move there from smaller, rural towns. Away from the scrutiny of family and friends, gay men can experiment, find themselves, be themselves. This narrative has been mapped neatly—too neatly—onto a world divided into homophilic and homophobic. Unsurprisingly, these terms follow older distinctions between civilized and primitive, advanced and regressive, global north and global south.
I understand, appreciate…

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