This morning at work, I became real clueless about what to write about Poetry. Whether an objective 'overflow' of words and emotions, which is subjective, can be explained objectively. I foresaw futility. The best way to begin is to speak about MY poetry, the poems I write. And what I need to work towards, against, and teeny-weeny information to include.
There are two types of Poetry:
1). Written and
In Stone age, when nobody could write, Oral poetry is the palm oil to which the yam of words are conveyed. In ceremonies, they incant. At lesser gatherings, poetry is recited. Meanwhile, in those days, they simply did not see it as poetry. It had different names under the invisible umbrella of poetry. In Yoruba Culture, poetry is recited at almost every ceremony. African cultures are deep-rooted in abstract words, and not so abstract ones, which is classified as Poetry. Hunters, after their expedition into the forest, if a deer or wild animal had been killed, they recite the Poetry of Song. When a hunter dies, the concerned embark on the Poetry of Song, simply Elegy, which in Yoruba is called: "Iremoje Ere Isipa Ode." Which loosely translates to: Iremoje, game of a Hunter's transition. Poetry is typically every thing Yoruba, and many African cultures breathe in.
But as everything grew - Soja come, Soja no wan go - written poetry began. Oral poetry then was trans-conversational, a hierarchical passage. However, the belief that it was the Advent of Europeans, or Portuguese missionaries, that established written poetry is not entirely factful. Before modern writing, semiotism and the carving of effigies was used as means of communication. Carvers carved images of the gods they had deitified, or the message of the poem they recite during ceremonies, or even great men who had gone before, these was later to be recognized by colonialists as the Values of Africa: Poetry.
Two things happened with poetry. Because later-generations had been influenced by usurpers, the knowledge of poetry began to wane. African imageries became halved, because of incomplete informations about certain traditions, customs, and principles, and even the philosophy of existence that began with the skulduggery of Obatala and Oduduwa. These incomplete imageries became abstract images, and those who used them became versifiers; "people who depend on nonsensical imageries than actual messages."
In the 1960s, and 70s, some poets what embarked and risked becoming versifiers were challenged by other poets as copycats (Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo, etc), proverbists (Niyi Osundare etc.), Poetrovert (Wole Soyinka, etc). The gap between them widened as we emancipated, or think. Conversational poems were encouraged; th profusion of the creator's emotion rather than the exploration of things schizophrenic to the poet.
However, the above dichotomies are quasi dependent; the conversational can depend on the unintelligible, wherein critics have named the 'unintelligible' in this case as showcasing the poet as the braggadocio. These unintelligibleness provide an avenue for plethora of varying interpretations, and interpellation.
The second is the Unintelligible. The unintelligible are those who care to talk about existence, about myths, about demons of their culture, about the emancipation of practises that modernists did consider as evil and unpracticable. This requires perpetual sacrifice of self to society. However this sacrifice is not compulsory, so some poets at the end of their lines try to find a happenstance where their self is compared to the unintelligible (as in Soyinka's poem, Night).
It is imperative to ask:
1). Now what do you identify with?
2). Or, do you hate being labeled.
1). What do you identify with? With the conversational or the unintelligible? These are objective positions. And none out of the two can be classified in terms of good or bad or even the consequentialistic. It requires patriotism to self or society or quasi-patriotism to both.
I'd give you examples of my poems which I used as specimen of experiment when I had trouble with magazines rejecting my work:
Falling frames.High angels high on.
Grey chuckles tumbling into wood-doors;
Mother, heaven is at war…
Ask that little girl
Eaten by the road;
Falling frames. Closed doors. Falling doors.
Angel on-guard, turn down the boards –
EARTH IS HABITABLE
BUT THE OLD DWARF IS THE ENEMY
A footfall & all the angels have flown
O you dreamer, hearken to whispers of the horizon.
Mid-heaven, priest of tress, carve on me the processions of immortal beasts,
So the moth –er could run,
So the fireflies can switch off their lanterns,
So waning suncrusts could hide in their greens
And listen to the susurration of screams…
The poem above is one of my poems of abstract imageries. I had dreamed and I want the dream to live on its own. An influx of imageries interrupted my art about last two months when I read a Ben Okri and I imagined all of us, our hope of peace in heaven, being a charade. And to be candid, a heaven is a charade. A facade. It's utopic. But, even if I write out the inspiration behind the poem, the reader would be tasked to understand things for themselves. I can't help my reader - I would never. Even though it makes the poems I write somewhat unintelligible, but even I do not even understand my subconscious. I'm still learning how unintelligible my subconscious can be to my conscious self.
& my mother's milk is bitterer
the abyss lulls my feet closer
emerging from a winter & my hair have faded with persimmon...
& my mother's milk in the teeth of my forbears turn sour
my name brings together astray trees,
soles of the road without rain,
an origin of names, sacrament of bodies, making harmony with queer bodies
& the breastfed names have come to fore.
the loveliest names of infants that pleased God -
bodies prayers detest -
where oceans have met,
where waded legs have danced,
where the soil is fertile with lust, our bodies,
names I can't fully remember, with my mother's prayers of breastmilk separating
our longing shadows from
moans that touch God's big nose...
As in the case above, the poem is conversational. I wrote it three days ago when something like queerness began to creep up in me. I indulged it and wrote about it. This gives me the opportunity to question my dual personalities; my queer self and my 'unqueer' self. It is obvious that the poem is about a persona whose roots, represented metaphorically as 'mother's milk' is loosing to the bitterness of tradition by being a queer person. However that assertation is only predominant in the second stanza.
This, being a conversational poet, a poet of audience or of self to audience, has advantages and disadvantages:
A). Conversational poems make it easier the burden of emotion on the poet. Because those who read it easily understands the poet's anxiety or joy, empathy is inevitable, either through admonition and acceptance, or through reviews.
B). Conversational poets easily see the next person as the mirror to which his (the poet's) self should be revealed to enhance communal didactic to Foster growth.
C). Poets who are conversational have greater opportunity of being extroverts. The interesting thing about extroverts is that they want to take action, even though their actions may seem too cliched - they cannot lead a group of introverts.
A). Because they need an audience, however modicum, mostly they may mistake writing out their emotions in a language the audience understands.
B). Their works may most time turn out to be merely an outburst of emotion rather than the aesthetics through the poetics.
C). Being a rebel to society becomes somewhat difficult, because the bulwark against their emotion may counteract the needs for them to become rebels.
2). Or, do you hate being labeled, as a conversational or unintelligible poet? Ah - Yes! The rebels! Avoiding to be labeled in any way whatsoever is an act of rebellion to society, self, and the communal consciousness of other persons. Being labeled, whether as cat-person or dog-person by the elements society, can affect the psychology of the poet to act in a specific way. Such that the poet wouldn't trespass the peripheries of his label - and that is a real poetic prison, an act of cowardice. Every poet must find a voice and establish on that, without minding the concept of right or wrong, since even right and wrong are subjects of public decency and acceptance...
I cannot yet see the disadvantages of refusing to be labeled except the risk of tredding a path never trodden. But what Robert Frost failed to say in his poem, The Path Not Taken, is that some leads to death. I explained this in my discussion recently that to solidify.a.specific belief or practise, death is necessary. Death is an act of concealment. It can also be the highest point of poetry.
Every poet (must) pass through a particular route:
Foreplay ----- Decision of Self ------ Climax ----- Death
"Let the moth -er pray for her child when the road waits, famished" (Amen).
The next section is where we try and create poems that are Unintelligible. I believe that we are all mad. Madness not as mental misappropriation to things or interpretations, or the ability to indulge the wildest of imaginations. In lunacy, I believe, our true self can be found, then we can be labeled by society.
For me, if I want to write a poem, I think about a certain subject I want to write about, then I forget it. I begin to write. I merge varying imageries. After I've constructed nonsensical lines, I iron them out, trim irrelevant ambiguities then I let others read it. What they make of it is what it is. Since poetry is the profusion of the subconscious, then why would my conscious self try and understand things surpassing my abilities? That is rather arduos and futile.
Try and indulge the ability to write nonsensical lines, mixing imageries, letting yourself float. Write nonsense today. I tell you, no poem would ever make sense.
Thanks for your time.
If multiple national disability organisations, thousands of Twitter users and a whole community of disabled people condemn a film as ableist, how can it still notch two Golden Globe nominations? That’s what people are asking about Music by Australian singer-songwriter Sia.
Music is a musical drama film directed and written by Sia, starring Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr and Maddie Ziegler. It tells the story of Zu (Hudson), a newly sober woman who becomes the guardian of her non-speaking autistic half-sister (Ziegler) literally called, well, Music. Said to explore the theme of “family”, the movie has been criticised by countless cinema-goers. How badly? Since its release in February 2021, Music has been given a rating of 3.1 on IMDb and a Rotten Tomatoes critic rating of 8%, even worse than Cats. Among other things, top movie critics from The Financial Times, The Times and The Independent have slammed Music for being a “doomed fiasco”, “baffling inspirational drama” and “completely misguided mess”.
You may be shocked at how enormous the backlash is, but the autistic community has been voicing out its anger for months, ever since last November.
On November 19 2020, Sia released a teaser trailer of MUSIC on Twitter and many users were quick to express their shock. In the trailer, white neurotypical (non-autistic) Ziegler is shown as a girl always wearing headphones and with a silly, exaggerated grin that verges on mockery. She uses an Alternative and Augmented Communication method to express her thoughts with her tablet, but unlike almost all real-life AACs, her tablet can only communicate the simple sentences of “I’m happy” or “I’m sad”. The portrayal of autism in the film is childish and whimsical, far from what many autism rights activists and autistic people experience in their daily lives.
Many Twitter users were distraught and expressed their opinions on social media. Sia, however, was quick to hound everyone with opposing viewpoints by cursing, swearing and illogical reasoning. When one stage professional expressed her displeasure at an autistic actress not being cast, Sia replied that she did try working with an autistic actress but felt that casting someone at the character’s “level of functioning” was “cruel, not kind”. When an autistic actress stated she actually went to one of Sia’s casting calls and that no effort had been made to find an autistic lead, Sia said, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.” And when Sia was tired of talking to the one marginalised community she was trying to represent, she exploded vulgarly:
“Grrrrrrrrrr. F*ckity f*ck why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY.”
(I fully quoted every one of Sia’s responses. Also, “f*ckity” is not an actual word in the dictionary.)
Why is Music so offensive and discriminatory to the autistic and disabled community?
It’s vitally important that any character that is disabled should be played by a disabled actor. Disabled people are the largest minority group in society, but only 2.5% of speaking roles in Hollywood are disabled, and 80% of them are played by non-disabled actors. Disabled actors are in abundance but are disadvantaged when finding roles, only because of their disabilities. Also, people who live with disabilities are much better at giving authentic portrayals of disabled people on screen — simply because they are disabled people themselves! When non-disabled Ziegler prepared for the role of Music, she learned how to “act autistic” by watching YouTube videos of autistic children facing meltdowns recorded and uploaded by their parents without their consent. You can see the quality of her preparation in her stereotypical and insensitive portrayal of Music as a one-dimensional, innocent saint whose only purpose is to move the plot forward.
Autistic children and adults face real dangers in their daily lives. Physical restraint is a harmful and outdated method used in schools, hospitals and many other places to control disabled people when they face meltdowns. Countless disabled people have sustained injuries or even died because of these methods. Imagine the horror of cinemagoers when Music featured at least two scenes showing physical restraint. In one scene, Ebo (Odom) hurls himself on top of Music to calm her down. “I’m going to crush you now and make you feel safe,” he says. “You’re not hurting her?” says Zu. “No, I am crushing her with my love!” The fact that global superstars (and many others behind the scenes) find this event acceptable is unsettling. Not only that, the inclusion of restraint will undoubtedly bring trauma to previous victims. The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, CommunicationFIRST and the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint released a joint press statement condemning the film.
Of course, Sia tried to explain that she did include the autistic community while making the movie… except that the one group of people that she turned for help was none other than Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is a hostile organisation that claims to look out for autistic people’s welfare but has been slammed as a “hate” group by activists and the community at large. Even its first autistic board member left after being frustrated by its ignorance of autistic voices. Sia did seek feedback from CommunicationFIRST, a disability-led nonprofit that aims to empower non-speaking people, but after its team of non-speaking autistic people gave negative feedback on the film in January 2021, they were not contacted again. That speaks volumes about Sia’s actual commitment to accurate disability representation in her work.
Considering that it’s a film focusing on an autistic girl, Music is vastly inaccessible to the autistic community. The various peppy beats that are littered throughout the film feature strobing lights, colours, loud sounds and quick camera movements. These are often harmful to hypersensitive people. One in four autistic people also have epilepsy, so the movie may trigger seizures. Even if you don’t have epilepsy, the sensations may be overwhelming.
Discrimination isn’t just found in the form of ableism. Racism is also apparent. For example, Ebo is portrayed as a Black supporting character who helps the white main characters while spouting “African wisdom”. There was also the stereotyping of Asians with scenes featuring rickshaws and characters making facial expressions to squint their eyes.
Last but not least, Sia’s conduct was far from honourable throughout the controversy. While it was understandable that she felt defensive of her debut, her personal attacks of many in the very community she was trying to represent showed that her commitment to diversity was only lip service.
How can you lend your support as an ally of the autistic community? Even though the Golden Globes may be over, it is important to send a strong message that ableism in the entertainment industry should never be tolerated:
After all the insensitivity and discrimination, it’s time for Sia to face the music.