It’s been such a long time, and there’s so much to catch up on. Well, I’m getting ready to leave for my two-week trip to Montgomery, and there’s so much to do that I can’t really pay you as much attention as I’d like, even though there’s a fair bit to tell.
Friday, I went to my first LoDa Art Walk and found it to have the perfect Goldilocks mix of crowd and breathing space. Not that I’m a good judge or anything, but the art was likewise a good mix. I especially enjoyed finding pieces that had a Jesseca-pleasing balance of representation and abstraction. I think I would like me a pleasing balance of representation and abstraction in my own work. It was fun to think from time to time that I might some day get to pick out some artwork for a book cover. (Oh, to still dream that dream!) I didn’t make a note of all that I saw that I liked, but instead had faith that art will continue to exist even if I don’t know its name.
Saturday, for my birthday, I stole Mamma and Ayumi and Mia for a trip to the Orange Beach Art Festival. I was expecting an arts and crafts fair, but it was pretty low on the crafts. There were some beaded purses, but unless you count all manner of gawjus wooden and ceramic bowls or truly stunning hand-fashioned glass jewelery, that was about it for crafts. It was held at the Orange Beach Waterfront Park, which adjoins the Orange Beach Art Center. We skipped the alligator on a stick and instead got gelato and corn roasted in its husk and ate on the beach by the pier. Wish you could have been there, Dear Blog! It sure was fun!
Sunday, I got up at what turned out to be just before dawn, thanks to the time change, and snuck out to go on a guided hike at Blakeley State Park. I felt genuine awe both on the battlefield and nature trails. It had that good feeling of spiritual renewal. I took something like 500 photos, and I’m refraining from falling into a photo editing vortex, or I’d share some with you.
I am slowly learning the names of things. Two-Winged Silverbell. American Holly. Bald Cypress. Pond Cypress. Green Ash. Red Maple. Southern Red Cedar. Hazel Alder. Swamp Maple. Buttonbush. Swamp Tupelo. Bluestem Palmetto. Winterberry. Water Elm. Sweetbay. American Beech. Pignut Hickory.
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Quick note: The rifle pits on the battlefield used by the picket guards still look freshly dug, like so many open graves.
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Another maybe not-so-quick note: I am making tiny, tiny headway into finding out more about Ky’s death (and his life). Much thanks to Google news archives, I now know Ky’s full name and approximate date of death. And I’ve contacted the deputy who was quoted in the 1992 article who still works for the Monroe Sheriff’s Office. I am so grateful, too, for the memories high school friends have shared their memories of Ky. It strikes me that everyone who replied to my status update wanting more information has been a white girl. Of course, that’s practically guaranteed since most of my Facebook friends from high school are white girls.
Along with the Association of Southern [White] Women for the Prevention of Lynching and my own anxieties about being a white woman writing largely about violence against black men, this observation that many of Ky’s friends were white girls put me in the mind to revise Gayatri Spivak’s formulation “white men saving brown women from brown men” to “white women are saving black men from white men.” Which is not what I want to do at all. Or rather, I dread the idea that I might position myself as some kind of “white savior to those poor helpless black folk.” *Shudder.*
No doubt this fear is contributing to my current block. I try to tell myself again and again this is Southern history, and you cannot segregate out the white history from the black history or the black history from the white history, and that to try to write about this history without risking controversy by sticking only to quaint tales about white country folk, my own ethnic heritage that I can claim the genetic authority to write about, would be blind and false. And yet I don’t have the first damn answer.
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The writing is really a struggle. Here’s my problem in a nutshell: my tendency toward closed, linear narrative is not helped by working with historical material that has a narrative thrust to it. I think my main task for the time being is to find my voice, to make a voice that can handle this material. A voice that balances poem and history, art and duty–representation and abstraction. I think I have to learn how to write sentence fragments effectively. So much subject-verb-object clause joined to subject-verb-object clause makes for prosy explanations and not the kind of poem I want to write at all.
The poem is the boss. The poem disapproves. The poem glares. The poem indicates by her disinterest that there is long work to be done to find a way to her. Oh, Poem, let me find you, I humbly plead.