reciprocated acts of kindness

September 7, 2019

In [fairy tales], power is rarely the right tool for survival anyway. Rather the powerless thrive on alliances, often in the form of reciprocated acts of kindness – from beehives that were not raided, birds that were not killed but set free or fed, old women who were saluted with respect. Kindness sown among the meek is harvested in crisis

Rebecca Solnit
The Faraway Nearby.

The first time I was really able to envision femininity as a kind of power was while watching Paris is Burning in college, encountering the world of drag for the first time. The knowledge that my femmeness was something I could put on and take off, something I could play with and shapeshift into, made me feel so in control of it, and made me feel powerful for choosing it. The ability to alter our images and to play with the way that we present our bodies is a fundamental queer and femme superpower[…]we think that we understand ourselves and then use that understanding to write poems about our bodies, but it’s just as common in my experience to have written poems about my body for five years and then be like, Oh, that’s who I am?

[…]

I mean having a body is such a fucking trip, you know? The other day I was talking to Danez Smith, and they were like, Ugh I hate having a body, I wish I could just be a presence — which I totally sometimes relate to. But also, the body — our materiality — is the only way that we know how to exist in the world.

I’m always drawn to the language of the body because that language, which I was born into, has completely determined how I’ve been allowed to imagine myself. The first time I ever made a chapbook of my poems—printed at a FedEx and stapled together — I called it Women Only Write Body Poems, which is a joke that I still find funny. But for better or for worse, it’s a job that women who write have always found themselves doing.

But despite some of the poems in the book, I don’t actually think that the total transcendence of our material forms is what I’m after, because that also seems like a way of checking out of the whole problem. I think that I want to learn how to live in a dynamic and fruitful and sexy relationship with the body.

Franny Choi
Queerness, Cyborgs, and Cephalopods: An Interview with Franny Choi
Paris Review 21st May 2019

In a key sense, regular racism — against blacks and Latinos, for example — is the opposite of anti-Semitism. While both ultimately derive from xenophobia, regular racism comes from white people believing they are superior to people of colour. But the hatred of Jews stems from the belief that Jews are a cabal with supernatural powers; in other words, it stems from the models of thought that produce conspiracy theories. Where the white racist regards blacks as inferior, the anti-Semite imagines that Jews have preternatural power to afflict humankind.

This is also why the left is blind to anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism differs from most forms of racism in that it purports to “punch up” against a secret society of oppressors, which has the side effect of making it easy to disguise as a politics of emancipation. If Jews have power, then punching up at Jews is a form of speaking truth to power — a form of speech of which the left is currently enamoured.

In other words, it is because anti-Semitism pretends to strike at power that the left cannot see it, and is doomed to erase — and even reproduce — its tropes…

The Jew becomes a magical creature: brilliant, cunning, greedy, stealthy, wealthy and powerful beyond measure. Anti-Semitism imagines a diabolic overclass to be exposed and resisted…

…In Article Twenty-Two of its charter, Hamas describes the preternatural power of the worldwide Jewish cabal:

“With their money, [the Jews] took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.”

How Anti-Semitism’s True Origin Makes It Invisible To The Left
John-Paul Pagano

[And I feel sure that this is Jeremy Corbin’s problem. He’s unable to see the wood for the trees]

The shoulders of Elsa began to shake, and her head bent lower and lower. Julius had to cover his mouth with his hand to prevent himself from laughing. He had discovered a new thing, of hurting the people he liked. It gave him an extraordinary sensation to see Elsa cry after she had been smiling, and to know that he had caused her tears. He was aware of power, strange and exciting.

Daphne du Maurier
The Progress of Julius

unseen forces

March 16, 2019

Witchcraft is the art of obtaining power through growth of self and the understanding of where self intersects with unseen forces.

Devin Hunter
The Witch’s Book of Spirits

no diabolical power

February 16, 2019

I need not mention the universally known fact, that no diabolical power can pursue you beyond the middle of a running stream.

Lucky it was for the poor farmer [ he’d witnessed a witches’ dance in the haunted kirk ] that the river Doon was so near, for notwithstanding the speed of his horse, which was a good one, against he reached the middle of the arch of the bridge and consequently the middle of the stream, the pursuing, vengeful hags were so close at his heels, that one of them actually sprung to seize him: but it was too late; nothing was on her side of the stream but the horse’s tail, which immediately gave way to her infernal grip, as if blasted by a stroke of lightning; but the farmer was beyond her reach.

Robert Burns
Letter to Francis Grose, 1790

It is a well-known fact that witches, or any evil spirits, have no power to follow a poor wight any further than the middle of the next running stream. It may be proper likewise to mention to the benighted traveller, that when he falls in with bogles, whatever danger may be in his going forward, there is much more hazard in turning back.

Robert Burns
Footnote to Tam O’Shanter

Domination

January 27, 2019

Domination, I have argued, is a twisting of the bonds of love. Domination does not repress the desire for recognition; rather, it enlists and transforms it. Beginning in the breakdown of the tension between self and other, domination proceeds through the alternate paths of identifying with or submitting to powerful others who personify the fantasy of omnipotence. For the person who takes this route to establishing his own power, there is an absence where the other should be. This void is filled with fantasy material in which the other appears so dangerous or so weak – or both – that he threatens the self and must be controlled. A vicious cycle begins: the more the other is subjugated, the less he is experienced as a human subject and the more distance or violence the self must deploy against him.

Jessica Benjamin
The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, & the Problem of Domination

The poem is a body and the body a poem. This is not something I can prove, nor even something that is necessarily true, but it does have the ring of truth about it. This is a more intuitive relationship but one I think we are all fairly conversant with and one with which most poetry lovers will agree. The one true topography of self we can chart, navigate, and map is the body. The visible self leads to the more ethereal and ineffable parts of self, the parts that poetry tries to give symbolic meaning to, to invoke that presence. And if we look closer, we see that it’s not just that language gives the body presence, shape, resistance, love, affirmation, and intervention. And it is not just that the bodies of particular poets give their language a certain shape and definition, but rather that in the end, our particular idiosyncratic languages are our bodies. We exist only in the space of that language, and we use it to move a craft forward, to draw and redraw the limits of the self, both internal and external. We can argue that this is poetry’s true power, to shape reality — and that is truly what power is: the choice and ability to redraw and recast our personal narratives.

Chris Abani
Introduction to: New Generation of African Poets

Unique Opportunity

December 26, 2018

profound hurt

December 20, 2018

A profound love between two people involves, after all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt.

Ursula K. Le Guin
The Left Hand of Darkness