Absent a Reckoning


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What does it mean if you write about people who are struggling with things?


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For me, the writing is trying to figure out what it means to better yourself in the face of a history that troubles you. And, selfishly, how do I care about myself?

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How do you reckon with that? How do you tell your son that? Prison becomes home; The cell: a catacomb that cages and the metronome Tracking the years that eclipse you. History authors Your death, throws you into that din of lost hours. This right here—I kept coming back to it, this idea of narrative eclipsing you, language, experience, but also this kind of authorship. The revision of the history, how does it happen?

The last poem—some of it is absolutely me and some of it is absolutely not me.

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I remember submitting it, getting it published, and somebody asked me about the last section. Did you mean to say this? And I was like, Yeah, I did. But what they really were asking me is, It sounds like you raped somebody, and were you willing to admit that? The thing is, though, a woman is assaulted every three to five minutes. You can read a hundred poetry books or a thousand, you can read a bunch of op-eds about incarceration, and nobody mentions the word rape at all. What does that mean for the discussion that we wanna have? You gotta be the subject of five protests for people to remember your name.

So I posted about that, right? A friend of mine was like, Well, maybe she is sorry.

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And so, killing is not that bad, though. Rappers talk about killing all the time. But what he was saying was, Well, maybe she fucked up, and maybe she does regret it. We live in a moment where mass incarceration can be the center of our existence and our space, but it is absolutely the last thing we want to talk about when it relates to certain kinds of crimes. I mean, I am who I am. Is that a coincidence? The memoir never has to grapple with that.

But I feel like as a poet, shit, what would the world look like if no man wrote about domestic violence, you know what I mean? Books fundamentally changed my life, and I got books in prison in all kind of ways—some legit, some not legit. I sold people tobacco at exorbitant rates for a couple of years. That shit funded my poetic education, you know? Bastards of the Reagan Era was in some ways more system-centric.

Alevis today are often summoned by political officials to publicly display their religious traditions, but pluralist tolerance extends only so far as these performances will validate rather than disturb historical ideologies of national governance and identity.


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Focused on the inherent ambivalence of this form of political incorporation, Tambar ultimately explores the intimate coupling of modern political belonging and violence, of political inclusion and domination, contained within the practices of pluralism. Stanford University Press Amazon. He has a duty to the child beside him. But also, the prosecutor, who is a man and who is also black, has a duty to this child, too.

This is a world in which two people ostensibly have competing duties. The kid has another interest.

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I did it. They need to find ways to become who they will be in the world and to own who they have been. Then, in that poem, you have a mother who was there but not given real agency. When you represent a juvenile, a parent has to be there.

I was excited when a friend, Alexandra Brodsky, who was editing an anthology about feminist utopias, asked me to contribute something. I wrote that poem while I was a law student. One of the things I was grappling with was thinking about my involvement in movements to reform the criminal justice system. I was thinking about my own writing. I mean, they were present. But I can count on one hand the times that women come up in Bastards of the Reagan Era. The book is contemplating the state against black folks but also the ways in which we harm one another, but really the ways in which black men harm other black men.

This is part of the culture where men, who have been professional athletes, have done things. One of the things I try to do in terms of writing about intimacy is to think about sexual assault, about domestic violence, about what a man has to tell his sons in a world like this. As a writer, I think about the ways in which the voices of women get into the poems in different ways. I get it. People will use the word love as a filler, to disarm or dismiss instead of doing the work to get themselves there. For whatever reason, I had to go into the record and read more about the case.

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He had an attempted assault but it was an attempted sexual assault. He had hit a woman upside the head with a bottle, and then punched her in the face, and then raped her. I was like, How is it that you get this down as assault? And I remember somebody was telling me, Because it was a black woman. In the book, I was trying to say that in the same way, the term mass incarceration can shut down some of these conversations, can make us not talk about what it means. If it is vulnerable at all, it comes from actually reckoning out loud with this kind of fundamental failure.

What does it mean if you write about people who are struggling with things?

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For me, the writing is trying to figure out what it means to better yourself in the face of a history that troubles you. And, selfishly, how do I care about myself? How do you reckon with that? How do you tell your son that?

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