poetry month: Carolyn Forché

I’m a little late to the party (what else is new), but I thought I’d post a few poems over the next couple days.

To start, this one by Carolyn Forché:

Poem For Maya

Dipping our bread in oil tins
we talked of morning peeling
open our rooms to a moment
of almonds, olives and wind
when we did not yet know what we were.
The days in Mallorca were alike:
footprints down goat-paths
from the beds we had left,
at night the stars locked to darkness.
At that time we were learning
to dance, take our clothes
in our fingers and open
ourselves to their hands.
The veranera was with us.
For a month the almond trees bloomed,
their droppings the delicate silks
we removed when each time a touch
took us closer to the window where
we whispered yes, there on the intricate
balconies of breath, overlooking
the rest of our lives.

10 Replies to “poetry month: Carolyn Forché”

  1. I have heard that phrase before,”Magical Negro”, and have been wondering what it was all about, thank you for explainging. I think it is so odd that people focus so much on race and color. And it’s such a messy subject; I wonder if our children’s children will still be preoccupied with racism. I know it’s not something that will go away completely, but I find it tiresome to be around or listen to people/movies that make race and color a focal point. It was interesting reading your entry and switching the actor’s roles in my head, and really not seeing much of a difference, but knowing it was significant for other people.

  2. which looks, on the surface, like a positive portrayal but which really is nothing more than second ranking to the ever present and pervasive white characters.

    Not to mention the backhanded insult generally involved – Magical Negroes are typically not intelligent or articulate, but “simple”, “innocent” or “childlike”, and they’re “magical” (sometimes literally) via being “mystical” or “close to the earth”.

    One step away from “and they have natural rhythm” territory.

  3. I’m with mrs.mj on the race issue; it was never something that was on my radar screen (as I was growing up, skin color was no more significant than hair or eye color to me, and thus far we’ve managed to bring up our children with the same attitude) until the media put it there. I too wonder if we will ever have a culture where race is not an issue one way or another.

    My mangled husband needs surgery for his herniated discs as well; we just found this out on Tuesday. Fun times.

  4. I think a number of people in a recent Livejournal discussion made a very good point, which might be relevant here:

    Being able to find a focus on race “tiresome” or “not notice” race is a luxury that generally white people have and people of color don’t.

    A lot of the people of color in the debate said that for them, growing up on the receiving end of discrimination and a racially-divided society, noticing and thinking about race has never been optional.

    Personally, I think it’s important (to all of us, as readers and writers of any colors) if we notice that many writers are consistently using black characters in particular, limited and limiting roles, and discuss what’s going on there.

    (And lest I mislead anyone, I’m white – despite my username, taken from one of my favourite books).

  5. What’s your view on the role of Jim in “Huckleberry Finn” and Mammy in “Gone With the Wind”? All my best wishes for the Mathematician and his surgery, and the family meanwhile.

  6. I concur that race and ignoring race/colour is a luxury that white people can indulge in easier than people of other races/colours. (I’m a white person living in a city in Canada that now has more of a mult-cultural, multi-racial feel to it than when I first moved here 20 years ago – but for Canadians the aboriginal issue and prejudices is more of an issue.) In any event, I think it is important to notice and try to avoid/get rid of stereotypes in art etc. However, as a woman, women are still stereotyped in movies and the media (less so in books than in TV or movies). So there are gender issues in stereotyping – it’s not just a question of colour. And many a white person has taken a crappy movie role to get their face on celluloid. I assume it would be the same and even worse for coloured actors who have less to choose from – but all change takes time – consider when women, aboriginals and coloured people got the vote if you’re thinking change isn’t fast enough. I too get impatient/irritated with negative female stereotypes and cheer when they are avoided. What I think, however, is that all people who suffer from stereotypes (including women) need to ensure they don’t allow a chip to grow on their shoulder where they only notice and focus on the negative aspects of the issue. (However, on the other hand if we didn’t have some “rabid feminists” as people might term them in history, women wouldn’t have the vote, the right to birth control or the right to abortion at their choice. So in many cases to get any change and/or attention to an issue one has to yell from time to time. So carry on yelling people and dialoging. (and as a small footnote, I definitely think you could not have reversed the roles in Bruce Almighty – coloured people would have been more annoyed (and probably rightly so) if God were portrayed as white – and to the extent Morgan Freeman plays God or Allanis Morrisette plays her (in the movie where Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play angels – can’t think of the name of the movie) that too helps people’s stereotypical view of God get shaken up and they do perhaps think to themselves – “yes why have I assumed God would be a white male?” as a for instance. Plus, call the Magical Negro whatever you like – however he/she is protrayed – people wouldn’t necessarily be any happier if say the coloured person in the film were the villain. I remember the outcry of homsexuals and lesbians over “Basic INstinct” and over “Silence of the Lambs” (not that the villian in Silence was gay) – my response? If you want honest portrayal of your group, gender, culture whatever you have to take the good characterization with the bad b/c reality is that yes women do commit heinous acts and yes so do homosexual/lesbian individuals – so like it or not on occasion a coloured person will be the villain as will a woman/homosexual/oriental person or what have you. (That’s my dime’s worth rather than 2 cents)

  7. If the race issue is tiresome for some them maybe we should get more involved, for the people involved it’s more frustration then tiresome. Though Canada is far from perfect we’ve had a multi-culturism program for decades, in our schools,festivals etc…

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