A Woman’s Voice: The Power of Art

I started missing my art.

Because I’m busy trying to launch a business, while continuing to work my day job, I’ve had precious little time left over for Creative Me. I started feeling depressed, but couldn’t figure out why at first.  I felt an intense void.

It went on for more than a day before I realized why. I hadn’t had time to write! I hadn’t even read any poetry, let alone written any. And I certainly hadn’t had time to paint. I’ve discovered I really don’t do well if I’m separated from Creative Me for too long.

I have had time to read, however.  It’s so easy to sneak in little snatches while waiting for something else: standing in line, waiting for someone to get ready, riding the bus, etc.

I’ve been reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a science fiction story that is centered around a main character who is a kind of monk/philosopher/agnostic/rebel. The story is set on another planet, in another time. It’s fascinating! The book is 932 pages long, and I’m only on page 382, so I have a ways to go. But this book is my little friend for the next several weeks.

However, I’ve still been craving poetry, so I decided to share a poem that I read today. The poem (below) is called Case in Point. It was written by June Jordan and can be found on page 121 of the anthology Poems from the Women’s Movement, edited by Honor Moore, published by American Poets Project, The Library of America, 2009.

The poem is painful, and comes with a ****TRIGGER WARNING**** as it contains graphic references to rape. But this is an important poem. It elucidates the common experience women have of lacking a voice – and, therefore, power – in many aspects of life, particularly when it comes to control over our own bodies.

Men are bigger than us, louder than us, control almost all of society’s institutions, and sometimes use violence – both physical and verbal – to reinforce their dominance. Every woman has experienced the voicelessness that comes from being shouted down and dismissed by an egocentric male. Most women have also had cause to be afraid of a man at some point.

These events can be frustrating on the light end – and terrifying on the heavy end. Sometimes poetry, art, and music are the only ways to have a voice in a world that cannot always hear us. Interestingly, the speaker in the poem is arguing against the point of another woman – a woman who has apparently bought into society’s view of women. This, too, is common among oppressed groups – the desire to side with the oppressor.

 

Case in Point

by June Jordan

 

A friend of mine who raised six daughters and

who never wrote what she regards as serious

until she

was fifty-three

tells me there is no silence peculiar

to the female

I have decided I have something to say

about female silence: so to speak

these are my 2 cents on the subject:

2 weeks ago I was raped for the second

time in my life the first occasion

being a whiteman and the most

recent situation being a blackman actually head of the local NAACP

 

2

Today is 2 weeks after the fact

of that man straddling

his knees either side of my chest

his hairy arm and powerful left hand

forcing my arms and hands over my head

flat to the pillow while he rammed

what he described as his quote big dick

unquote into my mouth

and shouted out “D’ya want to swallow

my big dick, well, do ya?”

 

He was being rhetorical.

My silence was peculiar

to the female.

The Story of My First Bus Ride in Years aka Thug Life

I padded up the block a few steps and looked back, making sure that I had parked my body under the correct bus stop sign. My choice was confirmed when two lumpy elfin women speaking Spanish stood apart from me under the same sign. This was the first time I had taken the bus in years.

The last time I had found myself at the mercy of L.A.’s transit system was eight years ago, when my gigantic blue minivan (R.I.P., Big Blue!) decided to end its life in my very own driveway. Transmissions don’t come cheap. So, Big Blue’s body was sold to a scavenger who gave me $3,000 – about a third of what I’d paid for it only a year before, but enough to pay for a new ride in full. This time it was a motorcycle – and blue again! – a 2009 Honda Rebel, 250 cc engine. Little Blue.

Well, unfortunately, Little Blue’s charms captured someone else’s attention. They carted her away – again from my driveway – in the middle of the night, leaving her money-strapped owner with nothing. Determined not to feel sorry for myself, and after dealing with the logistics and bureaucracy of thievery, I braved the bus. I smiled at the tall female driver with the linebacker’s physique and chirped a good-morning. The driver looked at me and did her best impression of a doorknob. Slightly deflated, I found my seat and tried not to cringe at my grimy surroundings.

Several stops later, a lean, pocket-sized senior citizen wearing several outfits at once stood at the back of the line and waited to board. She had with her a little wheeled shopping basket filled with nonsense. This cart aroused and vexed the Doorknob driver lady, sending her into cop mode.

“I cain’t let you on dis bus til you fowd up that shopping cart!”

Doorknob shouted this several times while the other boarding passengers avoided eye contact, shuffling up the steps like a line of ants on a windowsill. Confused but cheerful, the old lady lifted her rebelliously unfolded cart onto the bus and wobbled to her seat at the front. In response, Doorknob exercised the full extent of her pseudo-powers by refusing to drive the bus until the deviant cart had assumed its proper shape. Several passengers came to the old lady’s aid. First, they emptied all the clutter and miscellaneous objects from the sad little cart, then muscled it into submission. Since that wasn’t good enough for Doorknob, a kind middle-aged woman with reddish-brown store-bought hair and big glasses offered up her seat, so that the newly flattened cart would have a place to ride.

Satisfied that her minions had obeyed, Doorknob continued our joyless ride. Flustered and perplexed, the old woman confided in gibberish to the passenger next to her. The kindly bear of a man nodded at her in sympathy. Feeling no guilt whatsoever, Doorknob smacked at her itchy hair-weave with her right hand and rolled her eyes at no one in particular.

After an eternity, which turned out to be 30 minutes, the old lady and I had the same stop. I sprung to the back door, wanting to claw at it for release. The poor old lady prepared herself for exit with the help of her new temporary bus-friends. Doorknob, in one last demonstration of her satanic powers, tapped at the breaks causing the old lady to stumble.

Finally emerging into the sun, Old Lady went left, and I went right. But right before we separated, I glimpsed her pink knit hat. It said “Thug Life.”

And that is the story of my first bus ride after the theft of my motorcycle.

 

Happy Memorial Day!

Peace and Love,

Raven

Polyamory in Romance Novels

I was listening to Polyamory Weekly last week and the interviewee was Racheline Maltese, co-author of The Art of Three, a new romance novel. The story sounds intriguing, but more intriguing is that the authors themselves are polyamorous.

Polyamory is the practice of having multiple long-term loving relationships with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Having dated polyamorously a couple of times, and having studied it seriously for the better part of a year, I can say that it is not as scandalous or exciting as it sounds. It attracts all kinds of different people, some of whom are highly evolved and have the utmost of beautiful intentions, some of whom are confused or predatory, and some of whom have no business even trying it. But that’s a subject another blog.

In terms of writing a romance novel, what I love about this story (I haven’t read it yet) is that it dispenses with the tired cliché of whom will she pick – the hot young stud who offers her passion and excitement, or the other hot stud who offers her depth and commitment? Or some other such sad and soggy cliché. Instead, the heroine pursues a relationship with both parties and deals with whatever joy and drama ensues from such a choice. What a new and seductive idea!

Writing – and all art – is a tight balance between being innovative and real, but conforming to the conventions readers expect. It is a hard balance to get right. If it’s too cutting edge, readers may be offended and dismiss it out of hand. If it’s too conventional, readers will be bored and pass it over. What I like about Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese, the co-authors of The Art of Three, is that they decided to just write what they wanted to write. The best art, in my opinion, comes from the depths of the artist; it does not come from studying the market. It’s a risk. But it seems to have paid off for these authors. The book has received positive reviews.

So, for all of you who love, compose, or consume art, may you open the boundaries of your spirit and stretch yourselves to consider new and trailblazing ideas.

Have a blessed and beautiful week,

Raven