#MatteredToMe - July 31, 2020: Endings and Beginnings

  1. Nikki Wallschlaeger's poem "Real Snakes" pushes against metaphor, and yet metaphor remains so seductive in it. I've read it over and over again just today, and I'm still caught by it. Amazing.
  2. Alan Pelaez Lopez's poem "On the occasion that i die before i'm thirty" has a joyousness to it, which to me makes it all the more poignant.
  3. Also considering endings, Margaret Wack's poem "Happy Endings" is melancholy, but with a sort of bittersweet hope sprouting through it.
  4. Finally, the late Rep. John Lewis's last op-ed, written shortly before his death, is a testament to the power and beauty of ordinary people taking a stand, and a powerful call to action. I hope that we can live up to his legacy.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I don't know what the future will bring, and there is an anxiety to that. But I know that we will get there together, and I'm grateful for that.

Thank you, and take care.

6 Years

Dear Mary,

This evening as I was drying you off after your shower, you leaned in toward me and said "I can't wait until after dinner!"

"Oh?" I said. "What happens after dinner?"

"Bedtime!" you said, and I laughed. You just wanted to do whatever you could to make your birthday arrive sooner. And, sure enough, you went to bed remarkably easily when it was time.

This is the thing about you—or anyway it is a thing about you: you know what you want, and you go for it. Sometimes that brings you into conflict with the people close to you—and, yes, that is a thing we are working on, how to say what you want without being rude. But it's also something that I'm happy to see in you, and that I hope you hang onto, because I love that you are unafraid to take up space in this world. There will be times when people will tell you to make yourself smaller, but you already know how to stand up for yourself, and I think that will serve you well. I hope so, anyway.

You are an amazing kid. You have so many talents, whether it's reading or writing or singing or drawing or dance. I like just getting to talk with you, and hearing what's on your mind—your mind which is always going. This time of quarantine has not been easy for anyone, and it hasn't been easy for you. But you've adapted and found a new groove, and it's pretty great seeing how you fill your days.

You're six years old now! I hope the day brings you much joy! Happy birthday!

Soundtrack: "Roller Coaster (Instrumental)" by Kid Prism. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

New KTCO: Ross Sutherland

This week on Keep the Channel Open, I'm talking with writer and podcaster Ross Sutherland. Ross’s podcast Imaginary Advice is one of my favorites in any genre. Blending poetry, essay, and audio fiction with a wonderfully experimental approach to sound design, Imaginary Advice sounds like nothing else. In our conversation, Ross and I talked about what it’s like to make a podcast without a format, how starting with form can lead to unexpected discovery, and what collaboration can open up for a project. Then in the second segment, Ross and I talked about the inherent difficulty of connecting language to bodily sensations, something that's come up in his recent (unsuccessful) attempts to learn yoga via YouTube.

Here are some links to where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript on the episode page at the KTCO website.

If you'd like to support Ross's work, you can subscribe to his Patreon campaign.

12 Years

Dear Jason,

Today you are twelve years old. None of us expected to be celebrating your birthday in quarantine—even when all this started, I didn't think it would still be going on by the time your birthday came around—but here we are. I think that times of adversity have a way of showing us who we are, and during this time you have shown that you are a thoughtful and kind person. It hasn't been easy being stuck at home, away from school and away from friends, but you've had a good attitude about it all. I've enjoyed getting to spend more time with you, and I've enjoyed watching you spend time playing with or helping your sisters. I'm proud, too, at how hard you've worked and how perseverant you've been. During distance learning, you pushed through and spent a lot of time every day getting your work done, even when you had to struggle with some of it. And you've stuck with our running training over the past several months, finishing your first 5K in June. It's not the most comfortable thing, running while wearing a mask, but you do it, and you don't even complain. Well, you don't complain much. ;)

I hope that the difficulties of this time mean that something good is coming, and I hope that your next year brings you a lot of joy. I know that you'll do your best, because you always do. I'm glad to get to spend the time with you, and I'm looking forward to seeing you continue to grow and continue to be the wonderful person you already are.

Happy birthday!

Soundtrack: "Hope (With Woahs) (Instrumental)," by The Dimes. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

#MatteredToMe - July 17, 2020: Connection, Compassion, Family, and Radical Listening

  1. Brandon Taylor's story "When Will We Get What We Deserve?" has so many contrasting parts that yet still all fit together. Moments of surprising sublimity, shocking violence, and quiet grace. I loved it. (CW: sexual assault)
  2. In a recent episode of NPR's Code Switch podcast, Leah Donnella investigated her own family history. It's a moving piece, beautifully told, full of mystery and heartache, about the sometimes painful truth that lies beneath our family stories.
  3. Amy Sackville wrote about the scattered, rootless, vacant feeling that comes of not being able to read or write during the pandemic. It's a feeling I relate to quite a bit.
  4. I thought David Naimon's recent conversation on Between the Covers with poet and translator Philip Metres was wonderful in the way it navigates a tense issue with nuance, compassion for all, and a lot of self-reflection. I wish more conversations were like this.
  5. This excerpt from Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman's forthcoming book is about the tension that exists in even close interracial friendships. I imagine a lot of POC will find familiar things here. I did.
  6. Finally, Noah Cho wrote about the sense of community around the grill at a Korean bbq restaurant, about family and history and mourning. As always, I loved it.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. Today I'm trying to focus on what (and who) is close to me, trying to find a measure of peace, and trying to remember that this, too, is life. I hope you get what you need.

Thank you, and take care.

KTCO Re-run: Richard Georges

This week on Keep the Channel Open, I'm revisiting my 2018 conversation with poet Richard Georges. In his second collection of poems, Giant, Richard gave us a portrait of the BVI through landscape, through its history and its present. In our conversation, Richard and I talked about his book, the aftermath of empire in the BVI, and the relationship between poetry and myth. For the second segment, Richard talked about the particular moment that the BVI faced in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Since we recorded this conversation, Richard has published a third collection, Epiphaneia, which won the 2020 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature just a couple of months ago. I highly recommend picking up a copy of one of his books, which you can order from your local independent bookstore. You can also order each directly from the publisher:

Here are some links to where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript on the episode page at the KTCO website.

#MatteredToMe - July 3, 2020: Basic Needs

  1. Vanessa Jimenez Gabb's poem "Basic Needs" feels like the ocean to me. The repetition of the 10th and 11th lines like waves. How it builds quietly and then in the last few lines breaks open. Every time I come back to it, I end up re-reading it 5 or 6 times.
  2. Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote about class and consumption and how these inform whiteness's sense of itself, and how being forced into awareness of itself fuels the meltdowns we are seeing.
  3. Keah Brown wrote about living unapologetically as a Black, disabled woman, and about joy as a revolutionary act.
  4. Finally, Brandon Taylor's latest short story, "Even If All Fall Away, I Will Not," which is by turns melancholy and infuriating and sexy. And how Brandon creates a character whose apparent passivity is not what it seems, it's incredible.

As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. Please be safe. Take care of yourself. Take care of each other.

Thank you.

KTCO Re-run: Alanna Airitam

For today's episode of Keep the Channel Open, I'm re-releasing my 2018 conversation with photographer Alanna Airitam. In her series The Golden Age, Alanna makes portraits of African Americans in the style of the Dutch Realism Golden Age of painting, images full of grace and beauty representing black people in an art history context, a context from which they are all too often excluded. In our conversation we talked about that series, as well as her Being Heard project, which began as a response to seeing how different marginalized women were being excluded from the mainstream activist narrative. Then for the second segment, Alanna and I had a wide-ranging conversation about the roots of social injustice in our society.

I wanted to re-share this episode because, listening back, the things we talked about are just as relevant today as they were two years ago. These conversations turned out to be especially urgent here in the San Diego arts community, when recently a local museum's treatment of Alanna and her work showed that we still have a lot of work to do on racial equity.

Here are some links to where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript on the episode page at the KTCO website.