Thanks for subscribing to my newsletter. I’m back after a few weeks off. Here is some of what’s in store below.
But first, some life from the backyard in Nassau:
One day I’d like to teach a class on erasure as creative production. It will be about erasure in sound, art, poetry, epistemology, and more. Maybe even dance. There will be reading, but there will be more making than reading. It will be making by erasing.
I’ll have to include work by Robert Rauschenberg and this write up about his work from SFMOMA. It talks about how Rauschenberg first tried erasing his own drawings but then figured he needed to begin not with his own artwork but with work by other artists he held in deep regard. So Rauschenberg asked Willem de Kooning to make a drawing that he could erase, and he agreed.
The first edition of the BreakBeat Poets anthology has two erasure poems by Aziza Barnes. She perform erasure to Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” and Biggie’s “Juicy.” She does a reading of the former in this video on Youtube. The anthology has some artists statements at the end, and Barnes gets into the theory and praxis of erasure in hers titled “Locus of Control and The Erasure.” First, she notes that the “Juicy” erasure took three weeks to make and that erasure is incredibly hard to do. I appreciate that detail about time + process. This isn’t “found poetry” made by just crossing things out. She also says this:
The erasure is about demanding a truth where there isn’t one or uncovering that which doesn’t want to be found. Writing one is a deliberate act of happening to something, a reorientation of one’s locus of control.
Barnes doesn’t say what Rauschenberg does – about the need to begin with work by other artists one holds in deep regard. But it seems this might also be happening in her erasures.
I’ve spent the past few weeks in my Young Adult Lit + Antiracist Teaching course having students eavesdrop into the polemics of the #DisruptTexts movement. DT is a crowdsourced, antiracist, teacher-driven curricular intervention in English language arts classrooms. Here are it’s principles:
- Continuously interrogate our own biases and how they inform our thinking.
- Center Black, Indigenous, and voices of color in literature.
- Apply a critical literacy lens to our teaching practices.
- Work in community with other antiracist educators, especially Black, Indigenous, and other educators of color.
The eavesdropping is on Twitter since it’s an affinity space where teacher communities share and connect. But as DT has become visible outside of critical teaching communities, some writers have accused the teachers of trying to ban so-called classics. Of course, that’s not true.
What’s sad to me how bewildered students are at the bad faith arguments around DT. Actually, that’s not the right way to say it. I’m not sad that students are bewildered. I’m sad that some teacher adults are behaving badly in visible, public ways – and that the behaviors make students nervous about entering into the conversation as newcomers.
Algorithms play into this visibility as well. Bad behavior gets platformed on Twitter and can drown out more measured conversations. I thought twice before the semester started about asking students to eavesdrop on Twitter for this very reason. I decided the benefits outweighed the potential costs. I think that’s still true, for the moment. But it’s only a matter of time before that won’t be true anymore.
I laughed out loud about what this NYT humor piece said about the entire Windings alphabet:
Some fonts aren’t motivated by anything logical. Some fonts just want to watch the world burn.
Finally getting around to finishing Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, A Girl in Pieces – which is good because I’m teaching it next week. The novel is written in first person journal entries – pieces – so, in form, the novel is a girl in pieces (get it?). I think this is where we’ll go next week in class.
Writing, from Microblog
I gave in this year. Instead of asking students to read an assignment sheet before class, I started rolling it out as an editable google doc in class. I have them read and annotate it together with comments in the margins. I then respond to their comments in the doc real time, and we talk through issues I hadn’t anticipated. Sometimes I’ll leave blanks in the sheet and ask “what do you think should go here?” Or, “I went back and forth about this part, what do you think?” The comments and my responses then stay in the margins of the assignment sheet for when students are later working on the assignment, or – even better – for students who couldn’t be there in class that day. It’s messy, but what I ask students to do is usually messy anyway. Call me professor messy. The practice has me thinking about other ways to unfix assignments and assignment sheets, letting students speak into what I’m asking them to do.
One thing I’ve learned this semester: as much as students need their professors, they need each other more. And that’s beautiful.
Inamorata by Methods of Defiance. Jazzy, chaotic drum and bass.
Fondue Party by Polyrhythmics. Five songs, 23 minutes — just follow the flute.
A longer story: There was a certain window of time I would stop by Dave Adam’s house on 48th street in West Philly at 8:15pm every last Thursday of the month to borrow one of his turntables on my way to DJ the monthly Philly Gathering. The RCA cords on the turntable worked – mind didn’t – but it was also missing a leg. So with the turntable came a stack of old BodyRock flyers rubber banded together to work as a leg.
A few weeks ago Dave tweeted about Teena Marie’s two albums released on Cash Money Records in the early 2000s. Dave’s point was that there is a whole body of music in the early 2000s by 80s R&B stars, made at the tail end of their careers, that many of us failed to listen to. His point: It might not be what it was, but there are some gems in there. I think Dave was right. So I dug up the albums this week and listened. You can hear on the intro to her first CMR album, La Doña, a pretty corny attempt to fit her into some kind of crime syndicate family narrative. I picture Teena sitting on her own Cash Money Records album cover throne. But there are some gems on the album. And by the second album two years later, she’s really in the groove for most of the album. Dave was right.
From the archives
Last year at this time I sent out issue #012, Boxes Full of Soul. Click here to read.