The citizen investigator as poet.
When I arrive in the lobby of Kalimpong’s famed Himalayan Hotel, I move around clumsily and with caution. I’m wary of touching objects left behind by long-gone visitors, and the pop-up ghosts of soldiers, businessmen, and mountaineers startle me.
I first encountered Sesshu Foster through his cotranslation of Juan Felipe Herrera’s masterpiece Akrilica and an anthology he coedited, Invocation L.A.: Urban Multicultural Poetry. It was 1990: I’d just returned from six years of intense political and cultural involvement outside the US. The Gulf War was right on the horizon, and in the hyper-stratified world of US poetry, where class and cosmos had taken backseats to an almost purely theoretical politics and poetics, I was in search of allies and kindred spirits. With Foster’s work, I felt I’d struck pay dirt.
Let’s begin with death. “Let’s say that in the course of all human experience, death is pure conjecture: it is, as such, not an experience. And all that which is not an experience is useless to mankind.” The speaker here is Ledesma, one of a cadre of lovelorn, thoroughly chauvinistic doctors up to no good at a sanatorium just outside Buenos Aires.
Peru is an experiment—from colony to slavery to independence to diasporic migration; from military to revolutionary to criollo dictatorship; and then from corruption to neoliberalism to democracy to, finally, more corruption. (Can someone rewind the tape and get us back to side A please?) In the 1970s, out of this motley salad of historical tensions came musicians Arturo Ruiz del Pozo and Miguel Flores, who questioned the nature of Peru’s cultural production and identity with sound.
Huddled in front of a suite of bulletin boards filled with military charts, folding his fingers over papers as if they were slices of pizza, licking his lips, jowls quivering—this is Senator Joseph McCarthy as he appeared live on ABC in 1954 as part of the 36-day, 188-hour televised extravaganza that would come to be known as the Army-McCarthy Hearings. He’s berating a colonel, insinuating that “phony charts” have been submitted to the floor of the Senate. “The television audience,” he yells, “they are the jury in this case.”
It’s possible that like John the Divine—aka John of Patmos, author of the Book of Revelation—Shiv Kotecha has been plunged into boiling oil and suffered nothing from it, his audience converted into sweet lambs upon witnessing the miracle, and the prophet-poet cast forever unto the brightness of exile.
In the molten golden hour, a row of Santhal tribeswomen dance in an open field. Arms interlocked, they bounce as one centipedal body to the beat of a dhol, cymbals, and a purring bamboo flute. The musicians wear flowers in their turbans, while the dancers don expressionless metallic masks that impart an otherworldly timbre to the pastoral scene.
Ever the reductionist, three decades deep into a sprawling, marrowy discography, Japanese noise legend Tori Kudo has produced what he’s called a “life work” that, unsurprisingly, defies simple classification.
Capaurisces (pronounced “kuh-pour-i-ces”)—a combination of a far-flung galaxy made of “99.99 percent dark matter” and an artist colony in New Hampshire—is the unlikely setting for Daaimah Mubashshir’s The Immeasurable Want of Light, a collection of short plays recently published in book form as part of the playwright’s ongoing project Everyday Afroplay. Beginning in 2016, Mubashshir developed a daily writing practice in response to Chris Ofili’s Afro Muses painting series, offering a sustained meditation on Blackness and the Black body.
In the aftermath of Eric Garner’s murder, a Black protester shouts at a group of cops, “Black officers, Puerto Rican officers, nobody likes you! Nobody. You are hated. You’re hated in New York and throughout the United States. This isn’t ignorance. This is anger, officer!” This scene from Stephen Maing’s character-driven documentary Crime + Punishment is another testimony to the rampant racial inequity in the United States.
At the risk of using a common critical canard: Leigh Ledare’s The Task is “a movie for anyone who” has ever been paralyzed with resentment when told they need to check their privilege—but then, maybe it’s for those whose disabusement has yet to begin.
The second issue of Canadian cartoonist Julie Doucet’s Dirty Plotte begins with a four-panel strip called “Month of December.” We see the author standing on the edge of a highway overpass, looking down. She remarks “Christmas is coming… / Snif, it’s cold.…” She hurls herself off the ramp, yelling “And I’m gonna die!!!?”
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The directors’ latest work will be shown alongside the sweltering, grimy films that inspired it.
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