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January | 2015 | The Birdsell Project

Art? Poetry? What are you going to do with that?

“Art? Poetry? What are you going to do with that?”

Guest blog post by Sade Murphy

I have been forced to ask myself this question as I watch black people gunned down by a militarized police force and while intersectional feminists I know are sent rape and death threats on twitter. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about what’s going on in the rest of the world. Everywhere, violence. From environmental to economic, racialized, gendered and oppressively ubiquitous. In the face of the desolate present, what do I think I will accomplish in doing what most people consider to be interesting but unproductive?

My overwhelming response: “Burn this bitch down.”

I want my poetry to be an act of intellectual arson. I want to alchemize the words on the page into power raw enough to torch the internal structures to which we are shackled and made soulsick. I want to live in such a way that poet becomes an unquestionable political identity located in my body. And this seems to be my only viable recourse, the only way I can safely interfere with the dominant culture.

In Dream Machine, my first full length manuscript, I used prose poetry to explore violence and violation manifested against bodies real and unreal. I see my writing as wrestling with issues of selfhood, dreamscapes, encounters of trauma and violence. The concept of bothness. The coexistence of dichotomies and the interwoven nature of what is personal and what is historical. Dream Machine is poetry that is transparently and authentically embodied. These are black dreams, fat dreams, queer dreams, feminist dreams, depressed dreams, poor dreams.

I don’t really like to talk about my process because I think it’s boring. I slept, I dreamt, I woke, I wrote. I made many tedious neurotic revisions. I also feel like I didn’t know what I was making until I’d finished making it. The process is akin to when I’m silk painting in the studio at St. Margaret’s House. I work close to the silk while I paint and my perception of the piece as a whole is distorted. It’s not until the silk is held up for me to view from a distance that I can see and appreciate what I’ve done.

This is what reading Dream Machine to an audience does for me. I lose myself in the reading of these poems. I scry these words from the page, I ignite you. I keep writing to propel myself into the future, becoming a combustion engine against the despair and injustice that suppresses all light, all reason. I want to write poetry that does not shy away from reality. I want to create an aesthetic that keeps people alive and their bodies moving forward. My poetry is rooted in discomfort, and the endgame is not only survival, but justice.