Artivism

Dear Reader,
I came of age in during the counterculture when the appeal of writing was inseparable from the appeal of subversion. It was a solitary and secretive pursuit in an underground echelon where the solitary and secretive hordes were inchoately connected forming a many-headed hydra high on laughing gas and emboldened to bring on the revolution. But shit happens. Flash forward to the 2000’s…..I was holding down several writing-intensive jobs a few years ago when I began a series of poems called “Why I Dance.” Whether I was asking the question or giving the answer to the “why,” one theme was persistent: I dance because words alone are boring drudges, lines of trolls, waves of sticks, eggs of stone. Get the idea? Words alone do not suffice. Not for me and not for history and not for humanity. We want joy, right? We cannot have joy without justice. Justice for all or there is no justice and no joy. In those writing intensive gigs, I was haunted by the dearth of both joy and justice inside of and outside of myself, even as I labored and lost loads and loads of sleep toiling over news stories about the justice served by court cases, the joy cultivated by artists, blah..blah…..blah……….I was always on assignment. Like a cross-country truck driver, I was hauling deliveries of words across nighttime highways to a set destination. Along the way, there were some cool moonlit adventures, quirky folks spouting profound wisdom in the parking lots of pitstops. Yes, indeed, there were romantic glimmerings that one day I would write one story which would win the war, broker the peace, get us back to The Garden. But there was always a deadline where I found myself facing another dawn chewing the cud of the status quo. So I often resisted deadlines, not by writing too little but by writing too much. I’d hand my editors an avalanche of words in hopes that they would agree that the issue at hand was a monstrous mountain on the move which could not be contained in the given word-count and merited more imagination, exploration, declaration, creation, sensation—–you name it, and definitely more time. But the editors were always dogged in their insistence that stories are not living things. Stories lack DNA and RNA and cannot, therefore, be equated with simple forms of life, not even bacteria nor viruses, I was roundly reminded and scolded. I was writing for a living. Writing was my work. Then suddenly it wasn’t. I was laid off, sent packing—like so many others, clutching the memo, which said somebody put Planet Journalism in the dryer and it had shrunk. But I forged ahead not only with unemployment but with those poetic musings: Why I Dance—I asked and answered. No end in sight. I felt the tug and release of call and response. I wasn’t always writing about dancing per se. As someone once said, writing about dancing is about exciting as singing about architecture. I was actually on the ledge, surveying what was beyond the ledge. Writing about what writing cannot be written about. I continue to make this my subject….The ebb and the flow of the mystery. I have never reached a conclusion so I am compelled to keep going, mostly because I keep dancing. Drum dancing, African dancing, Afro-Cuban diaspora deity worship, spirit calling, divinity directing. This is not writing alone. It is rhythm. It is connection with the veins of inhalations and the arteries of exhalations. It is the indivisible body of joy and art. It breathes and moves us all through its sweet storm of the beating heart. This is my new take on writing: I must not be afraid of keeping the silence nor of breaking it. It is all the same. My silence is your call. Your silence is my call. Call and response, call and response, call and response….Do you feel the signs of life in the spaces between us? This is creation. A fusion of art and activism. I have heard it called Artivism. It is a name like any other name. A rose is a rose is a rogue…Enter, enjoy, emote, escape. Artivists arise.

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