Tag Archive for voice

The Art of Silencing

by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” – Blaise Pascal, 1656

For poetry month in 2015, I decided to do a series of redaction poems. My writing practice felt dry and uninspired, and my time was limited by a full-time college teaching position, academic leadership responsibilities, and the usual tasks of a wife and mom of two teens. I lacked the discipline I thought would be required to find and craft words into readable poems on a daily basis. As a teacher of composition, however, I already had my editor’s skills in the forefront. It seemed natural to take existing prose pieces and redact words to create poems.

The plan was simple: find a random passage from a book plucked from a shelf wherever I found myself. At home, cookbooks and gardening manuals were likely targets. At my college office, style manuals and books on culture were the norm. At the tutoring center, books on science and math dominated the shelves. Every book was fair game and the only criterion for choosing a passage was whether a word on the page caught my attention. Passages had to be at least five lines long and readable.

originalmuskeg

Once I found a passage, I copied the page, enlarging the text for readability. Then I took out my favorite Sharpie pen and went to work. I allowed myself to redact as many words as I wanted but required myself to leave at least one word per line. As the month went on, I found myself particularly attracted to active verbs and vibrant nouns. The practice became a game for me to find and keep the best, most interesting words. In the end, I would review the poem by reading it out loud and redact those few remaining words I thought unnecessary. More than once, I regretted the haste of my Sharpie that obliterated a word I would have rather kept. I resisted the urge to start over. The poems were trulyexercises of creativity, experimentation, and surrender.

redactedmuskeg

I posted pictures of the poems on my FB page and didn’t think I would do much with them after the end of Poetry Month. In early summer, though, a call for poetry submissions crossed my email and I wanted to participate. The familiar dread of not having the time or creativity to write new work came over me – then I remembered my redaction poems. I reviewed several, chose a few, combined a couple, and edited them further.

redactedreasoningtogether

To my delight, one poem titled ‘muskeg’, a combination of two redactions, was accepted to the anthology Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington.

muskeg

exposed and scrubby,

proceed north along the wide

coastal landscape covered

with peatlands.

Travel to Prince Rupert,

thread your way, stunted and gnarled,

to large pools of yellow pondweeds snaking

between thick forest of bog laurel and

common juniper in the humid,

subdued slopes of considerable steepness.

Seek muskeg to the west like the Queen, or

Hecate, or Alexander. Find the continuous

Tangle, diverse and mixing with Indian

Hellebore and partridgefoot.

 

Misapprehension of place, sense of proportion

Lost. A way of seeing predicated on balance.

Move from sight to insight. Create a vision,

an understanding of place.

Creation began a story older than this place,

these steps, that bramble tangle water churn.

Interpretation alone is fitting,

looking away from the light

that is God.

Redaction poems are similar to found poems in that they reflect the idea that art can be found in the most mundane, unexpected places. Redactions, however, seek to show that a silencing has occurred; if you look closely enough, the missing can be found again. Although my poems began as redactions, they became found poems in the final edits because the redactions are not visible. Ultimately, the poems I wrote in 2015 reflect my own continuing conversation about silences, something of deep concern in this post-2016 election time. People like me are in fear of being silenced in subtle and violent ways. We fear our histories will be blotted out with black marks of denial and revision. This is one way to look at the future.

The possibility redactions represent culturally, though, is the sense of what was hidden has been revealed. Things overlooked and unseen are voiced because the noise of the expected is silenced. Ideas can find new connections, much like we allies and advocates can find each other to work for a better world despite the shadow that rises before us.

Author’s Bio:

rebeccamabanglo-mayor_garywadeRebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction have appeared in print and online in several journals and anthologies including Kuwento: Small Things, and Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington. Her poetry chapbook Pause Mid-Flight was released in 2010 and her memoir of identity and motherhood titled Long Way ‘Round is in development.

I’m Writing a Book

by Anneliese Kamola

I am writing a book. Well, trying.

Should I admit to this?

For context, I am a 29-year old, college-educated, white, bisexual, privileged woman from an upper-middle-class background. I only paid for my education through lack of sleep and stress—my parents paid the dollars. In the six years since graduating, I have worked steadily in order to live paycheck-to-paycheck. I want kids, a dog, and a home, so why spend my time writing?

I have tried living my ideals, but am losing my idealism. I am incensed that my vote is eradicated by a handful of rich people. I am disgusted to recognize that, yes, I have been indoctrinated by fear-based racism and sexism and that I have a lot of work to do. I am bitter that I cannot receive preventative health care at a reasonable price. And I am mad as hell that my food is poisoned without my consent.

As my voice is silenced every where I turn, and I obviously do not matter to the system, then why even attempt writing a book?

Ironically, the Divine Powers At Be gifted me with the calling of Artist. I tried denying it but only got depressed and physical ill. Voice is my jam; I don’t have a choice.

Of course I’m writing a book, because that’s how I’m programmed.

Recently, I had ‘That Moment’ artists describe, when family members spew, “Stop being stupid. You’re wasting time. You’re young, delusional, and shortsighted. Go back to school, get a job, get safe, and write in retirement.”

Let me tell you, it sucks being stabbed by other peoples’s judgments and fears. I’m a strong person, but I slumped big time. Imploded, really. Are these Voices right? Am I stupid? I watched myself deflate, crawl into my suit of self-doubt, and walk around like that for weeks.

Book? What book?

And then I attended the Washington State Democratic Caucus. (I know, it’s a non-sequitur. Hang with me.) Still wearing my self-doubt suit, I sat quietly on a gray folding chair amidst 50 precinct neighbors. We waited for our votes to be counted. When the precinct volunteers announced that Hillary needed one more vote to earn a single delegate, the group became democracy-in-action. A 50-something woman advocated pro-Hillary, mentioning decency. A 40-something man declared pro-Bernie, fist-pumping for brotherly love. A 60-something gentleman generally thanked us for attending.

It fell silent. We waited.

And then a gangly teenage girl walked quickly forward. Nervously—gripping her waist and raising her shoulders to her ears—she told us her story:

This was her first caucus. Only seventeen, she would be eighteen by November. “In my heart, I want Bernie, but I voted for Hillary because she can beat the Republicans.” She looked directly at us and asked someone to switch their vote.

The pro-Bernie crowd exploded into applause. We didn’t cheer for her idea—we cheered for her. We cheered for her bravery. For stepping into her budding power. For being young, giving a damn, and saying so.

My heart soared. “This,” I thought. “If she can do it, then I sure as hell can, too.”

In a mere 45 seconds, this young woman pulled me from my funk. Who the hell am I to stay silent? Why am I moping around? Sure, those Voices suck. And, yes, they’re going to stick around and will probably take every opportunity to disembowel my courage. My family may never affirm my writing. I’ll likely mess up, and I may not change a single heart or mind. But I won’t be slaughtered or raped for speaking out, like so many other women around the world.

Get over it. It’s time to grow up.

Younger generations deserve role models for creative living; humanity cannot afford anyone’s apathy. I might wobble, but this is a spiritual contract that cannot be broken. It is time to pull out every single root of internalized, silencing patriarchy. It is time to stand and give Voice—my voice—to what actually matters.

Yes. I am writing a book. And a damn good one at that.

RWB AnnalieseAnneliese Kamola is a multi-media storyteller from Bellingham, WA. She began performing with the Bellingham Storyteller’s Guild since 2008, and began training in Viewpoints Theater Technique with director Drue Robinson in 2010. Kamola wrote, produced, and performed two solo storytelling-theater shows exploring connections between womanhood, patriarchy, and eating disorders. And yes, she is currently writing a book titled, The Handweavers of Dachau: One Woman’s Choice in WWII Germany.