Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weathering Through

"Writing and reading allow one consciousness to find and take shelter in another," asserts author Tom Bissell in a recent article in The Guardian. "When the minds of the reader and writer perfectly and inimitably connect, objects, events and emotions become doubly vivid -- more real, somehow, than real things...Today, however, the pleasures of literary connection seem leftover and familiar."

I think everyone who revels in the pleasure of literary connection also occasionally inhabit moments of freefall -- when the possibility of having such an experience seems absurd on its face. Let us hope, though, in those moments one does not turn, as Bissell did, to copious amounts of cocaine and video games, but simply weathers through.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Poem: A Certain Inhuman Fragrance

by Alex Gallo-Brown

after Thoreau

A breeze wafts through the window,
slowly spelling the afternoon heat.
With it comes the odor of seawater,
preserved in a pair of swimming shorts
hanging on the balcony rail.

Little by little, the room fills
with this fragrance,
a musky, familiar scent,
almost human, almost animal,
certainly wild.
It is a smell not of sex,
although it does conjure it,
the kind which may occur outside
of love, though not necessarily
outside of like.

I sip quietly at this stink
while the breeze exhausts itself
and the heat returns,
listening to the sea
invisible beyond the window
thud against the surf.

Monday, March 8, 2010

An Interview with Vincent Harding

The following conversation took place on March 6, 2010, via telephone. Vincent Harding, 78, is a renowned black historian known for his work with Martin Luther King. Noah Gallo-Brown, 20, is an artist and student at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Noah Gallo-Brown:
 In your article
Black Power and the American Christ, which came out in 1967, you write that “Black power is a religious reality more faithful to our own experience.” Could you expand on that statement?

Vincent Harding: Every since the children of Africa were brought to this country and came in touch with the Christian religion, we had to figure out some way to come to terms with what white Christians were teaching about religion and what they were doing in their social, economic, and political lives. It was clear to many African Americans at the very outset that the Christianity they were being taught could not be accepted on the terms that slave owners were presenting it because slavery itself was a contradiction to Jesus’ call to love each other as we love ourselves. When I spoke of black religion or black theology as being more faithful to our own experience, I was simply referring to the fact that the religion presented by the slave owners could not possibly be accepted by the slaves. 

We were in two very different social, economic, and political places. It was important to see the religious picture from [the perspective of] those who were enslaved, those who were powerless...It would be like asking the Jewish people to receive a religion that was developed by Nazis without making any changes.

NGB: In the same article, there is one passage that stuck me as particularly powerful. You write, “We know your Christ and his attitude toward Africa. We remember how his white missionaries warned against Africa’s darkness and heathenism, against its savagery and naked jungle heart. We are tired of all that. This Africa that you love and hate, but mostly fear—this is our homeland. We saw you exchange your bibles for our land. We watched you pass our tracts and take in gold. We heard you teach hymns to get our diamonds. You control them still. If this is what your Christ taught you, he is sharp, baby, he is shrewd; but he’s no savior of ours.” I was wondering if this is still what you believe or if your opinion has changed since then.

VH: Well, first of all, I was merely using a rhetorical device to articulate the stance of Black Power leaders.

NGB: Did you agree with such Black Power leaders? What was your stance on this issue?

VH: Well, as I mentioned to you at the outset, there was a great deal of logic to [being] critical of the mainstream white Christian position, because the white Christian mainstream did not take seriously its responsibility to speak on behalf of the poor and on behalf of the endangered. So I saw that as a very logical position for many people to develop.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Poker Review

The Brooklyn Rail
has published my review of "Cowboys Full," James McManus' history of poker. You can find it here.