As an immigrant woman, an academic of diaspora studies, a white "other" in a sea of American whiteness, I navigate layers of difference at times as a deficit, at times as an excess, a surplus.My poetry comes from my practice of "counterpoint": When my divergent, competing personal and cultural truths come into contact with one another, the continuing processes of resistance, adaptation and re-creation shift not only the existing power dynamics in which I exist, but also my creative processes. My poetry is a result of a constant, shifting,
exhausting and yet rewarding process of "counterpoint", an alchemy, a (mis)translation. My poems manifest a quality of translation, which is both my curse and the lens through which I observe and make sense of the world, from a sideway outsider, suspicious insider space.
One of my favorite poets, Monica de la Torres, writes " That’s when I decide to stop fighting the city. Use it in my favor. Speak to strangers. Demolish the construct in the performance". Like hers, my poetry reflects the swinging pendulum that signals the strangeness I experience most days, my resistance to the pain as well as the agency the strangeness can yield to me, and my eventual surrendering to it with curiosity and compassion.
Poetry is both the tree under which I seek refuge and the storm and wildfire that threaten to destroy that tree.
As a poet I must be a trickster of my own limiting beliefs and fears; as a culture broker I must peel off my own fears before they translate into othering beliefs through which I pass judgment to the world. This conversation between the two worlds of the inner and outer is the raw material of my work.
As long as I am able to speak and write in tongues, and keep any felt boundaries porous and growing around my body like plants, I have written myself safe.
Below is a selection of my poetry from 2019 to 2020.
Poetry from 2019 -2020
Accents: A Manifesto + Smagliature di Significato.
Published on Anvil Tongue Books, September 2021
The Art of Hospitable Hosting
An Ekphrastic Poem on walking art.
The edge of a line
Just enough for new life
to trust its light.
In unstable porous soil
This line carves itself a safe,
A shaky hold does not matter
to the glorious whole.
The clouds riot
To glimpse the unfolding.
Even the seagull hops curious
Across the granular trails.
There is humility in this shape
indigenous - not from here but
that grows here now.
Hand pauses to remind
you are hosting.
This labyrinth is all openings.
Hand marks and detours
Unearth layers and forge passages:
An empty beach is not yours.
A border sideways becomes a bridge.
A gentle tool the extension of a body aching
Cultivation stems from care.
Poetry coils spirals of self
Inside and alongside the world.
On walking art -“Walking as art can synthesize ideas, movement, and material in unlimited expressions of the world. I love and am able to walk. I love to draw. I love to facilitate meaningful experiences for others.” Laura Reeder, 2019
A non poem for
the feminine mountain Apu
Valle Sagrado, Peru
The morning fog lifts up slowly
And the glorious profile of the Andean mountains comes to relief.
The feminine mountain - Apu - reaches out to the sky
rooting deeply into centuries of collisions, connections
I am asked to feel
Yet I resolve to ponder on the training
My eyes need
To see beauty properly.
The search for symbolism, the craft of metaphors can take away
From the beauty that just is.
The layers of green, the dotting flowers, the chirping birds
the aliveness of all beings,
None of them exist for my own entertainment or poetry.
If connection is possible
It requires a stretching toward the other,
A slow emptying of one’s self;
This constant doing, feeling, scheming, meaning-making
Clouds the universe like the sheet of this morning fog,
Numbs the imperative of the dance.
A dance in which I never become you
You never reflect me fully
But you and I enliven this space
Keeping each other grounded
Integral to our world,
Making it and unmaking it together.
Sustaining this silence is excruciating,
The quivering moment of just looking
Fleshes out an intuition:
The only ingredient for any change
Is a modicum of softness,
A sea of bright yellow petals
Lending its own language of rebirth for the end of the year.
The yellow paste my burnt skin craves at night
Drying out into a festive ornament
Deep blue waters
From a 30.000 feet view above.
A Collage-poem that uses sentences and captions that have recurred across media during the first weeks of the global pandemic in March 2020
We all feel the tender quality of this quiet.
A rest that feels restless at times
the stubborn want to be loved
As another woman who is not here
While this very woman is overlooked.
Where are you looking?
How small the small things become
Incastonate nei giorni
I can see now the crown in this corona
The spiky uncompromising jewel
The weight on an ungrateful queen
And all of the other questions that feel like frailties
Take downhill slope.
Try easy the teacher says in crow pose
Be Unmessable with!
Shouts the yogi In a live stream that feels like hope.
Yet hope is not site specific
It does not matter either the frequency or the length
the inner reverberation speaks in the bathroom as I floss,
The sound of a question mark punctured by
Blood smelling like silver against my cheek
the tail of this - question - mark recoils toward me.
Perhaps one truly deserves these moments
of rest after work
Of rest before work
Of rest in the work
Touch only those you are committed to for life- the rabbi says.
The problem in this language:
It legitimizes families
As the sole safe shelter
Poetry Before 2019
La Mia Nazione
Awarded 1st Prize at the 2007 Escape in Art Literary Content, London.
La mia nazione
L’ambiguita’ della parola ‘nazione’,
l’opacita’ nella sua onnipotenza,
mi assale con una domanda.
Pensa un secondo alle mille possibili varianti,
dalla retorica curiosa
all’intonazione di speranza
fino ad un quasi invito.
“Sei italiana... come Roma? Come il collega alla Deutche Bank ? – gran brava persona devo dire - Come Marcello Mastroianni?”
“Sei italiana... come il sole, come il mare nei miei ricordi di vacanza?
Come il ragazzo di mia figlia Rose, con quella sua aria spavalda?
“Sei italiana....come me? Allora magari passo davanti a questa fila di gente,
magari sbircio gli appunti durante l’esame,
magari mi traduci questo mondo che non decodifico ancora...”
“Sei italiana? Stai dalla mia, allora,
mi parli di casa? mi cucini qualcosa?
ti ascolto, ma non troppo vicino....”
Ecco la mia nazione fuori casa
luogo volatile in cartine fittizie
dove valori mai immaginati in casa
diventano un passaporto per contatti non-mediati,
il codice d’emergenza dei transnazionali dis-persi.
La mia nazione, geografia d’affetti solo in apparenza casuali,
solo in apparenza apolitici ed a-regionali
“A noi nomadi globali non interessa il ‘comune locale’” - ed il luogo comune, mi chiedo?
“Noi, che attraversiamo i confini rimanendo a galla,
flottiamo su contatti ‘a pelle’” - pelle nazionale, aggiungo -
“Sei italiana?”, domanda attraversata da un’aspettativa
e pericolosamente desiderata,
dalla traiettoia sicura di una guardia costiera,
dalla scia incerta di una zattera affollata.
“Sei italiana?” Sono partita con un bagaglio solo, e solo mio
“Sei italiana?” Porto un bagaglio immenso, e mai lo stesso.
Prendo in prestito i sensi di altri,
sono zattera carica e onda rifratta,
e spesso non ho la risposta cercata
da quegli occhi che vogliono altro in me, oltre me,
ponendosi con una sola domanda:“Sei italiana?”
Awarded 1st Prize at the 2007 Escape in Art Literary Contest, London.
Exile and Refuge
As an immigrant woman, an academic of diaspora studies, a white "other" in a sea of American whiteness, I navigate the layers of difference that are always contextual, never fixed, at times a deficit, at times an abundance, a surplus. These poems manifest this quality of translation, which is both my curse and my lens through which I observe and make sense of the world.
For all the places I have lived in
Is a referent exile
The outline of a straight line from rough to clear unknown to progress
Is the fantasy that gives meaning to my now
For every place that has met me is one
I have packed away from In the cadence of my sadness
Is the pattern of exile and refuge
For every idiom grasped, every face read, every attempt at conquering my visitors status
Is the fierce stubborn wish not to partake
In the life of others In the life like others.
In the cadence of my sadness is the resolute wish not to be- long
Not to be-loved
To observe from the fringes
To be able to choose
To pack away from.
But memory is disingenuous negative space spilling out of the straight outline makes another exile possible.
My life a map of global terrorist attacks,
Reminding you of what and who you left when you left.
The cosmopolitan girl of the thousand adieus
Patches loyalties to places and times of passage,
In the cadence of my sadness is the secret of my life
Like no other.
Published in Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis, 2018.