Responsibility - by Grace Paley
It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet
It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman
It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners
giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets
also leaflets you can hardly bear to look at
because of the screaming rhetoric
It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy
to hang out and prophesy
It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes
It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory
towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C
and buckwheat fields and army camps
It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman
It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman
It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power as the
It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the
It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no
freedom without justice and this means economic
justice and love justice
It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original
and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems
It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it
on in the way storytellers decant the story of life
There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no
earth and air and water continue and children
It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on
this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be
listened to this time.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how I want to force everyone I love to make me a mix-tape (sic/ mp3 playlist) of their all time favorite songs. So that I can have on handy supply a collection of albums for when I miss a particular person or another, or want to be inspired by the energy and vibe of one or another loved one.
I’ve yet to act on that. But, just now, while pausing in the middle of a particularly long writing session, I somehow had the thought that I’d really love a Georgia O’Keeffe album to put on. You know, either songs that she listened to, or songs that would make me feel like I was standing out in the middle of nowhere under the New Mexico sky with a canvas in front of me as the light shifts around the mountains.
These things should totally exist. Both in my personal life, but also for public figures of a particular energy or creative force. Does something like this already exist? Can someone send me a Georgia O’Keeffe playlist, pretty pls?
(Update: Oh, wow, thank you to all of those who sent me links to O’Keeffe feeling tunes upon reading this. I’m amazed and appreciative of how many of you had suggestions! This is definitely a project that demands further exploration!)
OWS, Hindu goddesses, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, disruptive innovation, etc! -
Recently I was asked to give a lecture on my career and the role feminism has played in it. Somehow that turned into a talk entitled “Feminism and the Powers of Destruction and Creation” and I worked in shout outs to several of my favorite things/people and built it all around a story of Hindu goddesses. After enough insistence from those who were not in the room, I wrote this article to give the lecture some online form. Such a fun topic to think about! You can check out the HuffPo piece over here.
Mind blowing of the day #3
Once upon a time, on this site, long ago, before I took down the old archives, I posted my favorite chapter from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Here it is:
Trading Cities 4 .
In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationdhip of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.
From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.
They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.
Thus, when traveling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.
I was thinking, again, of this chapter today. The little secret something something I’m working on these days is truly made possible only through the amazing web of brilliant and wonderful people I know all over the place. And we have spent years building threads and circling back and supporting each other’s visions - tied together in some shared grand endeavor, connected throughout open space.
One of the most precious people in my life has often not lived in the same city as I. One night, long ago, as I sat sweltering on a late summer rooftop on St. Marks Place, she drove along the darkened highways of Northern California and offered up an analysis of the tread that connects her heart to mine, and the lack of difference distance and time makes to the strength of that fabric. Is sustains, regardless of those other logistics. It is always there.
Those threads are all over and in so many forms, and are a beautiful vision that daily haunts me as to how the world created with so many people I love takes form. And how we sustain and grow through the connections, breathing life into each other’s places and endeavors.
And so I searched the internet to see if I could find the text of the chapter to reread. And, I did. But then I also found a series of images including the above, where artists used the concept of the chapter in recreations throughout Berlin! Just gorgeous! And so so wonderful! Here is the link to more pictures.
Mind successfully blown once again.
Still life with purple car, hanging in New Orleans edition
In which my neglected blog slowly turns into a place where I just post random pictures of my car in various locations. Here she is found imagining herself a part of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, outside the landscape surrounding O’Keeffe’s former home at Ghost Ranch.
(In addition to driving about in the car incarnation of Prince’s spirit, I’m actually at work on lots of exciting new things being born in a manner that I can’t yet quite publish about. But, we’ll see, perhaps this old blog will have new life once all that gets up and publicly running. In the meantime: car trip pics!)
This hot number and I are starting our relationship out with several thousand miles on the open road, visiting all the major music cities in America. Here she is in front of one of Dolly Parton’s homes in Nashville, next to Dolly’s massive pink recording complex. After posing for this shoot, the blasted music turned from Dolly to Cash, while driving out towards that lake house he shared with June, which burnt down a few years ago. The night ended in some tiny hidden honky tonk where f’ing Adele (stop it!!) was hanging out, doing research for her next album, which she wants to have more twang in.
Purple car + open road + endless music history + present everything wonderfulness = heaven. (Thanks universe, love you back!) Onward!