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Showing posts from April, 2015

Book Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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To read a novel and identify so easily and relate so often is for me a rare experience. This made it somewhat agonizing to put down Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah even for food and rest. It was an affirmation of observations and feelings that I thought alien to everyone but me. Ifemsco was for that matter very relevant. Where she is coming from is familiar. Her experiences in Nigeria prior to the United States, in the States, and as a returnee resonated with me.  For instance, I found the ceremony of nicknaming most precious. So it made me chuckle, quite loudly, and in public, too, when Ginika meets Ifemelu for the first time after years apart and calls her Ifemsco! Yes. Finally a book that appreciates that initiation of students into their new family of school mates. I was beginning to think it was an exclusive Ghanaian school tradition. In junior school, for example, I was "With a Gun." Due to an answer I gave in my English class. Till this day, when I encounte…

Poetry: Valéry as Dictator by Amiri Baraka

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Valéry as Dictator
by Amiri Baraka

Sad. And it comes
tomorrow. Again, gray, the streaks
of work
shredding the stone
of the pavement, dissolving 
with the idea
of singular endeavor.  Herds, the
herds
of suffering intelligences
bunched,
and out of 
hearing. Though the day
come to us
                    in waves,

                                       sun, air, the beat
of the clock.
                       Though I stare at the radical 
world,
              wishing it would stand still.
                                                                 Tell me,
and I gain at the telling.
Of the lie, and the waking
against the heavy breathing
of new light, dawn, shattering
the naive cluck
of feeling.
                   What is tomorrow  
that it cannot come 
                                    today?


---
Listen to my reading of "Valéry as Dictator" below:


Photography: Selfie

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It was raining. -- Jane

Opinion: The End

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I am noticing endings, like when the day gives into night and when the night gives into day. Like when the food disappears on my plate and when the taste disappears from my mouth. Like when my eyes are too tired to keep open.  And that it was only yesterday, now gone, and I had been on the phone for hours with my best friend. Like when I finished that book and then this book, and I am beginning now another book. Like spring is here and it feels like it is ending. It has become less important what I imagine the others are saying and what I imagine they are thinking. The time above me is ticking and soon I will be in bed and maybe tomorrow will be here or not. It is ended: somethings that I felt, I no longer remember, and somethings that I felt, I remember but I no longer feel. I laughed a few hours ago, I am sure, but I must think to remember exactly when I did and what it was about. Mostly I feel this feeling, a nonchalant sadness that pricks into that imaginary heart but not with re…

Book Review: Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

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First things first, I am not of the "I love writing book reviews" camp. But since life is short, and this sort of writing is favorable to my better understanding of a good book, a little self-torture is just the thing. Initially I was shying away from James Baldwin's Go Tell it on the Mountain because the title alludes to the biblical––Moses-ish. For reasons that are not clear, but which I am trying to understand, I do not like to be preached to. I know very few who do. Simply put, who are you to tell me how to live my life? Right? But that has not stopped me from, almost on daily basis, suggesting to others how to think or live! So it is an interesting scenario I find myself in Tell it on the Mountain. Upon reading Baldwin's novel I was surprised to learn that I was right and wrong. Right in that it was biblical, wrong in that it would suck. It read very beautifully.

There are several themes in the book. Religion is one of the most obvious. But what I found most ex…

Poetry: Duende by Tracy K. Smith

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Duende
by Tracy K. Smith

1.

The earth is dry and they live wanting.
Each with a small reservoir
Of furious music heavy in the throat.
They drag it out and with nails in their feet
Coax the night into being. Brief believing.
A skirt shimmering with sequins and lies.
And in this night that is not night,
Each word is a wish, each phrase
A shape their bodies ache to fill—


I’m going to braid my hair
       Braid many colors into my hair
            I’ll put a long braid in my hair
       And write your name there

They defy gravity to feel tugged back.
The clatter, the mad slap of landing.


                                    2.

And not just them. Not just
The ramshackle family, the tíos,
Primitos, not just the bailaor
Whose heels have notched
And hammered time
So the hours flow in place
Like a tin river, marking
Only what once was.
Not just the voices of scraping
Against the river, nor the hands
Nudging them farther, fingers
Like blind birds, palms empty,
Echoing. Not just the women
With sober…

Photography: Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks

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Basquiat: The Unkown Notebooks is now exhibiting at the  Brooklyn Museum until August 23rd. Took myself to see it on their First Saturday for April (finally made it). It was a sensual experience. Did not know anything about Basquiat prior. Heard the name and a little on a controversial exhibition of his nudity but not much else. I was curious to learn more. I have a fascination for language, especially how people use it. One can learn something about a person based on their choice of words. The saying is that actions speak louder, but often in the selection and arrangement of words is action that speaks as loud. Basquiat is present in his words and it is revealingly scary and beautiful. I found his shortest phrases the most interesting for they contained more questions and undiluted observations. It is most interesting how he uses imagery and abstraction in language in painting  in colors in shapes in humor in frustration in wit to confuse the heck out of white space, in fantastic sen…

Observation: Nana

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days now and daze then
from where days come to days where go
all years a dais
long ribbon varying colors
upon once an embryo is was
baby toddler infant child
little girl big girl
headstrong

young woman grown woman
young mother experienced mother
of one of two of three of two of three of two of three of four of three
old mother older woman
grandmother of one of none of one of two of three of four
she crawls now not on four on two
teeth fell remain some
headache
body ache
voice same
wit dimmer
laughter same
mother's mother
memory weak sensitivity piqued
she cannot hurry

cannot run with the breeze
songs sweeter
skin forgivingly softer loose freeing
I am going                                                             she says
pause pores sad laugh pours




from where do life come
to where life goes
from where did you come
to where you go



I you with two-gather


-
Jane A. Odartey



Book Review: Ten Lessons from The Alchemist

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There! I, too, have read Paulo Coelho's Alchemist. I had been meaning to do so since I read Ben Johnson's, and also after hearing Will Smith recommended it once on some late night show. However, I kept forgetting. In a recent shoot of my bookshelves, I saw my copy of Ben Johnson's and though I was in the middle of To the Lighthouse, I stopped reading to look up Coelho's version. Luckily I found a copy online. As it is really short, only 94 pages, I put Woolf aside and finished Coelho in a few hours. It is a fast, easy read.

So here is the top ten lessons I gleaned from my first reading:

1. One needs an idea of what it is one wishes to do with one's life in order to have a meaningful life. Santiago dreams to travel. Though his poor parents gave him a good education, with the intension that he would become a priest, his parents' dreams were not his own.

2. One must find courage to do that which one wishes to use one's time for. When Santiago realized what hi…

Poetry: For My People by Margaret Walker

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For My People
Margaret Walker

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
     unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
    gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
    dragging along never gaining never reaping never
    knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
    Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
    people who and the places where and the days wh…

Photography: Gazing Globes

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Gazing Globes by Paula Hayes is an exhibition at Madison Sq. Garden, closing on April 19th. They look like something from The Jetsons and feel like a representation of alien worlds. The glass globes sit on pedestals and are illuminated from below. If you have ever wanted to read  a crystal ball, this is a fun one to stare into because they contain stories; a different one in each globe. I saw the exhibition in daylight but I may go back to see it at night before it closes. -- Jane




Opinion: The Black Bitters

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A friend jokingly called me an angry black woman. And by so doing became the scapegoat I had been waiting for.  Have you noticed how in conversation with someone of say African descent, you being maybe a caucasian by the name of Victoria, would pull out the angry black person card? This usually happens when your friend, Asantewa, is trying to talk about such things as racism and how it is psychologically damaging and such. You, dear Victoria, have learned to use this magic phrase the moment you start feeling uncomfortable, because it brings the disagreeable emotions to an end. All this forever talk on race in the 21st century of 'color blindness' is really annoying and has been going on for way too long. People really need to chillax! It makes you feel as though you are being accused of something that is no fault of yours. Why should you have to keep taking this backlash? Cannot they see that it makes you feel awful? I mean it is not even your fault that one or two of your an…

Poetry: Women by Louise Bogan

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Women
by Louise Bogan

Women have no wilderness in them,
They are provident instead,
Content in the tight hot cell of their hearts
To eat dusty bread.

They do not see cattle cropping red winter grass,
They do not hear
Snow water going down under culverts
Shallow and clear.

They wait, when they should turn to journeys,
They stiffen, when they should bend.
They use against themselves that benevolence
To which no man is friend.

They cannot think of so many crops to a field
Or of clean wood cleft by an axe.
Their love is an eager meaninglessness
Too tense, or too lax.

They hear in every whisper that speaks to them
A shout and a cry.
As like as not, when they take life over their door-sills
They should let it go by.

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Listen to my reading of "Women" below: