POVERTY + PRIVILEGE + BIKES = ExquisiteKnowing CHALLENGE 2017

Interdisciplinary artist and ExquisiteKnowing founder, Ashley David (Calif.), teams up with Momentum Bike Clubs (South Carolina) to bring underserved high school students and their mentors to Silicon Valley from Greenville County, August 5-10, to collaborate with Bay Area youth in an immersive and cycling-based 6-day examination and living experiment in community, working homelessness, and innovation.

ExquisiteKnowing Challenge 2017 is a Bay Area summit to explore poverty and privilege and create possibility through experience and exchange. Participants will visit Facebook, YouTubeand a San Jose incubator space, volunteer in East Palo Alto/Redwood City/San Jose, cycle for sport and transportation, shelter at a church, shower at a gym, and process their experiences through ExquisiteKnowing workshops to create text, audio, and video artifacts to share online and with their local community.

This social practice art project is designed to catalyze empowerment, empathy, and compassion, and to build bridges between communities holistically. It challenges participants to take “building resilience” to the next level, and it expands the scope of Momentum Bikes Clubs to include national focus and exposure. In its pilot year, the project will match Greenville youth with Bay Area youth. It plans to flip the geography in subsequent years, bringing Bay Area youth to South Carolina to continue the dialog, redefine perspectives, expand the spheres of influence, and continue cultivating the experience.

4 Poems & Images in Black Sun Lit

Black Sun Lit previewed four poems on their site today along with four images, which are related to the series as object-translations of the poems. The poems are from a project begun in Havana and traversing ethnography, poetry, visual arts, and performance.

The poems will also appear in Black Sun Lit’s next issue of Vestiges, due out next month. The issue is chock-full of diverse and interesting work, and I hope you’ll check it out.

Difficult to locate, my heart bleeds
while they feed at my breasts. Slice
my tongue twice with a sword. Horses
are hungry, the serpent and moon waning,
volcanic sun socks a line to bread and iron.
Water virgin and a cow with one arm feel
a heart that does not fell. I have faith to be
blind, a selfish fish. Hubris leaps over yellow
akin to the monkey hands. Sprouts sores
with tree wire. Barbed blue eyes, not fleur de lis,
but doves.

—from “In this Atmosphere,” forthcoming in Vestiges_02: Ennui

Other poems and object-translations from the series can be found in The Offending Adam 162.1, Web Conjunctions 5.6.2014, and The South Dakota Review Vol 41 Nos 3&4.

THE WritingProcessBlog TOUR 2014

This may be as close as a word-art-sound thing gets to being a rock star, and I want to make a t-shirt with all the tour dates for 2014. Decades from now, hipsters will covet the thrift store find. “Check this out, man. The WPB Tour 2014. Whoa…stops in China, Warsaw, Austin, NOLA, Ojibwe Nation, etc. This thing’s a f*<!ing book!”

From decades ago. If you find it in a Thrift Shop, please send me a pic of you sporting it proudly.
Ashley’s Shirt from decades ago. If you find it in a thrift store, please send me a pic of you sporting it proudly. “No frills. No Debate.”

Thanks to Elizabeth Fields in China for tossing the gig my way. It’s not the first time, and if I’m lucky, it won’t be the last time that she reminds me of community and ties me to it via invitation and warm welcome. These are special gifts to an outlier among outliers.

 …an outlier is an observation point that is distant from other observations. An outlier may be due to variability in the measurement or it may indicate experimental error; the latter are sometimes excluded from the data set.

It’s lovely to be included in this data set, among this company. For the uninitiated, to be included, I’m charged with answering four questions and then securing and introducing the next stops on the tour.

The Questions

What are you working on?

Since 2010, I’ve been working on a project called American (post). It began with a performance of elegy/theory/text, was invigorated by ethnographic research in Havana, Cuba, and then developed into a book-length manuscript of poems, which I translated into 2D and 3D visual art objects. I installed it all as a set for a community performance and theory of text. Next stop Warsaw, where I moved last August to test the underlying hypothesis and some of its conclusions in a different socio-historial-linguistic context. Here, I’ve been translating the poems into seasonal video performances like the following winter installment called Exile:

(Exile from Ashley David on Vimeo & appears with its poems in Web Conjunctions5.6.2014)

I’m now trying to work up the courage to finish spring and start on summer. (Fall appeared as “American (post): Multiple Dimensions” in The Offending Adam 162.1). Additionally, and as a way of continuing to work through a project I began in 2004 and developed into a book-length manuscript of poems called Who are your people, Sugar?: a ritual history,  I’ve been playing around with a photo-text series called Imaginary Friends & Family: Portraits and an installation concept that includes the photo-text series and some poems from Who are your people, Sugar.

My Sugar Daddy Says Love Is a Drive Not an Emotion (from Imaginary Friends & Family: Portraits)
My Sugar Daddy Says Love Is a Drive Not an Emotion
(from Imaginary Friends & Family: Portraits)

This project circles back on American (post) like a Möbius strip by relying on, and departing from, the theoretical underpinnings of American (post). Finally, I’m working really really hard, but often unsuccessfully, to avoid the immobilizing stress that accompanies the under-employment and/or financial insecurity, which tends to characterize the glorious, glamorous outlier life.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

poem
poem

For starters, this is a poem from American (post) translated into ceramic and metal and hanging in the middle of a room from the ceiling.

book
book

And, this is the collection of American (post) poems translated into ceramic and found objects, which is to say, this is a book.

I’m not wedded to genre, or even to medium, but to question and creative impulse. I tend to begin with language and observation, then I pour and sift them through poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, and sometimes I translate them across media into 2D, 3D, and 4D objects and/or performances. Generally, everything I make is intended as catalyst for the “reader’s” own journey from work to text. I’m fundamentally interested in catalyzing democratic participation with my work. Once it’s made, I consider it yours, not mine, and I hope you will experience the pleasure and power that come from making it your own consciously.

Why do you write what you do?

Because I hear it. P1050059_2Once I hear it, it flips a switch that activates all 7 of my senses (the usual five plus kinesthetic and 7th/intuition), which in turn activate my brain, which generally operates like a runaway train. Being governed, at least initially, by sound requires me to move about a lot. Some sounds and repeated sounds can be, or become, unbearable, whereas fresh soundscapes create space, context, and capacity for me to tolerate and make good use of the 7 Senses + Brain journey.

How does your writing process work?

I often start with ethnographic research or by sitting somewhere, anywhere, and I wait for something, usually language, to prick my ear. Then I walk around, identify useful tools, teach myself skills that might be helpful (or identify teachers willing to share), eat, cook stuff, play with my critters, watch more videos that I used to think possible, read, research, quell whatever stresses and demons crop up unproductively, work to cover expenses, and generally muck about in any and every genre and medium that seems to make sense until something happens. Then, I embody everything out-loud and repeat.

 

Up Next on the WPB Tour 2014

I booked Heid E. Erdrich, Nik de Dominic, and Paula Mendoza for the next stops on your tour. For Heid’s gig, loop back to April 16. And don’t miss, Nik and Paula’s upcoming gigs on June 23.

Heid and I met at a 2012 reading I curated for Franconia Sculture Park in Minnesota. We read poems, along with Dobby Gibson and Wang Ping, on Bridget Beck’s sculpture, “Poetry Studio,” to celebrate its installation. A great reading at/in/on what is, hands down, the best venue ever. Moreover, I’ve really appreciated Heid’s regular contributions to my life since, mostly via her FB posts, of a dynamic and diverse sense of contemporary and historical Native American presence, influence, and experience.IMG_1765

Heid E. Erdrich writes, teaches, and collaborates with other artists across genres.  She is author of four poetry collections, most recently Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems. A recipient of awards from The Loft Literary Center, the Archibald Bush Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, First People’s Fund, among other honors, Heid won a Minnesota Book Award for  National Monuments in 2009.  She is a 2013 Artist of the Year honoree from City Pages Minneapolis. Heid’s newest book Original Local: Indigenous Foods Stories and Recipes from the UpperMidwest is selling like Grandma Gourneau’s Corn Cakes!

“Hey, Michael. Looks like we found the freaks,” was how Nik “discovered” me along with Hungarian-modernism scholar and indie rock violinist, Fiona Stewart,  at a conference in the Bayou in 2010. Since then, Nik has generously and deftly shepherded my experiments in text, poetry, theory, and video to publication in The Offending Adam, which he co-founded and edits; he’s contributed wonderful pieces to the blog I edit for the Michigan Quarterly Review; and he’s written achingly beautiful poems, one of which poet/editor Laurence Goldstein made a point of raving about to me as he tagged it for inclusion in Poetry Los Angeles. Someone publish Nik’s books, please. I want to feel a weight of objects to match the weight of words.LafayetteNikMichale

Nik De Dominic is a co-founder and editor of The Offending Adam, as well as the poetry editor of New Orleans Review. His work has appeared in Los Angeles Review, Guernica, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and literature inside Orleans Parish Prison.

Paula and I have never met in person. Instead, I’ve gotten to know her through her contributions to the MQR Blog; she joined the crew in 2013. Her range of preoccupations and concerns coupled with the way she processes and presents them for public consumption and her “weirdo poems“–which I concur, are the best kind of poems–have me holding out for a literal paths-crossing. Someone please publish her books, too. I want to read them.acc-reading

Paula Mendoza is an MQR Blogger, an Assistant Poetry Editor at Newfound and Coconut Magazine. Her work has been published in DIAGRAM, PANK, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. She lives & writes in Austin, Texas.

Post Script

To check out more gigs, Google any variation of “My Writing Process International Blog Tour,” or search same on FB, and enjoy!

New Work Online: Photo-Text & Warsaw Dispatch

A few pieces have hit the web in the past month or so.

My Sugar Daddy Says Love Is a Drive Not an Emotion
My Sugar Daddy Says Love Is a Drive Not an Emotion
(from “Imaginary Friends & Family: Portraits”)

Hot off the presses–what’s the new metaphor for this post-press medium?!?–is the photo-text series “Imaginary Friends & Family: Portraits,” which Hyperallergic featured today in their “I, Selfie” series by Alicia Eler. “Imaginary Friends & Family: Portraits” will continue to grow as I wander about Warsaw.

Also, up now on the Michigan Quarterly Review Blog are two more Warsaw Dispatches: “Nie Rozumiem. Rozumiem” and “Success: A Report.”

I hope you enjoy!

Bernal Yoga Literary Series Turns 10!

When studio owner, Savonn Wyland, and I first started tossing around the idea of a literary series at Bernal Yoga in 2003, we had no idea that ten years later, the series would still be gathering a dynamic audience excited about taking off their shoes and sitting on the floor to participate in a literary event. But, indeed it is! On Sunday October 20 at 7:30 pm, the Bernal Yoga Literary Series will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a reading featuring several of the series’ curators and special guests. Current curator, Jeff von Ward, has wrangled a line-up that includes the series’ first curator–yours truly, via avatar–the third curator, Keith Ekiss, subsequent curators, Elizabeth Costello and Matthew Iribarne, plus Maria Hummel, Glori Simmons, and musician, Jean Baudin.

The original formula for the series was two nationally known writers reading along with four writers from the local community followed by food and wine and hanging out. Ten years later, the Bernal Yoga Literary Series maintains that original spirit. As a literary happening that both includes the lit scene and embraces the community scene, it cultivates a diverse roster of readers and an even more diverse audience. Please join me in raising a glass to Bernal Yoga–and particularly to studio owners Savonn Wyland and Bill Wyland–for fostering and hosting such a vibrant and on-going literary event.

As the series founder, I couldn’t be happier, and I’m very grateful to all who have participated over the past ten years and to all who will in the years to come. Happy 10th Anniversary Bernal Yoga Literary Series!

If you’re in the Bay Area, be sure to catch the celebration!

Transplanted to Warsaw

I have packed up the house in Athens, Georgia, USA, and the critters and I have transplanted ourselves to Warsaw, Poland.

At the Atlanta airport with Janie the dog and Zac and Sacha the cats, about to embark for Warsaw on August 1, 2013.
At the Atlanta airport with Janie the dog and Zac and Sacha the cats, about to embark for Warsaw on August 1, 2013.

I’ll be blogging about my experiences in the coming weeks both here and on the Michigan Quarterly Review blog.

The first installment, “Where Benches Play Chopin,” appeared on the MQR blog on August 7th, and the next installment, “Warsaw Playlist” appears here later today.

Favorable Review of Scholarship on Toni Cade Bambara’s novel, The Salt Eaters

Many thanks to UNC-Wilmington’s Christopher Dennis for his favorable review of my essay on Toni Cade Bambara’s novel, The Salt Eaters. About the essay, he writes:

Finally, the book’s eighth chapter, “The Challenge of Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters: (Re)Claiming Wholeness,” offers a new perspective on a relatively contemporary novel. In this essay, Ashley David argues that Bambara’s book has been marred by claims of inaccessibility, which has displaced the text’s underlying theme of everything/and wholeness. She asserts that dominant interpretation has failed to recognize “Bambara’s overarching project, which defines wholeness as broadly inclusive and which makes a case for humanity’s ongoing evolution of consciousness” (163). The novel is contextualized within the 1980s and the emergence of identity politics, which partly explains the prevalence of piecemeal interpretations along racial or gender lines, for example. According to David, while Bambara acknowledged the importance of racial matters, she most likely hoped that critics would eventually move beyond piecemeal understandings in order to arrive at the concept of everything/and wholeness. Her conjecture about what the author expected from her readership largely comes from her analysis of Barbara’s essays, “What It Is that I Think I’m Doing Anyhow” and “Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions.” Although neither David nor Bambara would suggest the need to disregard race completely, this essay suggests an interesting way of trying to imagine a better, more harmonious, world for all of humanity: “…although many scholars, critics, and readers, have defined “us” in terms of the African American community, a community which Bambara clearly embraced and championed with and through her work, much of the evidence seems to suggest…that “us” ultimately includes the species and the planet” (170). Although the essays in this volume overwhelmingly focus on diversity and difference, David’s reading of Bambara’s novel is unique in that the underlying message is the need also to recognize and embrace human interconnectedness.

For Dennis’ complete review of the volume in which my essay appears, The Future is Now: A New Look at African Diaspora Studies, Vanessa Valdés, ed., check out Black Diaspora Review 3(2) Winter 2012/13. And, to order the book, check out Cambridge Scholars Press, Amazon, etc.

“A Ritual History” on MQR Blog

Virginia’s Konchan’s wonderful assemblage of texts, poems, and videos, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Geneology, Ancestry, and the (Re)making of Selves” appears on the Michigan Quarterly Review Blog and includes my lyric meditation and poems, “A Ritual History.”

It also includes pieces by Kathleen Rooney, Elisa Gabbert, Tyler Mills, Rebecca Hazelton, Liz Countryman, Kara Candito, Liz Hildreth and Zara Hildreth, Mary Biddinger, Brittany Cavallaro, Virginia Konchan, Jill Magi, and Nancy Reddy.

Now Available! Let Spirit Speak!: Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora

Let Spirit Speak!: Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora, edited by Vanessa K. Valdés, is now available for purchase at SUNY Press and Amazon.  The collection is an interdisciplinary celebration of cultural contributions of the African diaspora in the Western hemisphere, and it includes work by writers, critics, historians and poets. My essay, “A Prescription for Wholeness: Resisting the Discourse of Difficulty to Embrace Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters” is among the assembled company. It’s the third and final of my three essays on this amazing novel to appear this year, and I hope that you’ll be inspired to (re)read The Salt Eaters.

The book jacket of Valdés’ multi-lingual, multi-genre collection reads: “Beginning with the cries and prayers of Gina Athena Ulysse to the Haitian loa Erzulie in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, each writer in the collection engages in the recovering of the past, highlighting that which has been buried in the history of time. The contributors look at a wide range of artistic productions, from poetry and fiction, to art, music, and film, and martial arts produced in Cuba, Columbia, Brazil, Haiti, and the United States. Haitian Creole, Spanish, and English are brought together, giving the reader a vivid sense of the multiplicity of voices in the African diaspora. Rather than concentrate on the dispersion of peoples of African descent, this collection focuses instead on the multiple sites of origins in the Americas, as diasporic legacies are found throughout the continent.”


Let Spirit Speak! just arrived

Let Spirit Speak: Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora (Vanessa K. Valdés, ed.)

My contributor copy of Let Spirit Speak!: Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora just arrived and is beautiful. Congratulations to Vanessa K. Valdés for her visionary editorial work and to fellow poets, critics, historians, and writers for their wonderful contributions to this multi-genre, multi-lingual collection exploring the multiple sites of African diasporic origins in the Americas.