I got my contributor copy of Mandorla 15 in the mail this weekend, and it looks absolutely fantastic. I was pleased to see within the issue’s pages two different pieces that I was lucky enough to hear in performance and it was a pleasure to re-encounter those poems on the page and to remember their “audio-texts.”
The first piece is LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs’ “Who You Callin’ a Jynx?”–a boisterous poem that addresses Mr. Popo, a blackface-style character from the popular anime show Dragon Ball Z. I had invited LaTasha to read for a poetry event in December and had the pleasure to introduce her. This is what I said:
In the study Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation (2004), the literary critic Aldon Nielsen suggests that we understand the term “interdiction” as both “a prohibition” as well as—through a kind of creative etymology—a strategy of inter-dictional code-switching. He says, “To interdict racism would appear to require a polyglot tongue-lashing, an interruption and eruption, a critical insertion of oneself into a dangerous space between people speaking in tongues.” In her linguistically exuberant poems, LaTasha Diggs inserts herself into inter-dictional interstices that are dangerous as they are delicious. Drawing on such languages as English, Spanish, Japanese, Yoruba, and Hawaiian, she creates glossolalic whirlwinds that, with a vernacular verve, revamp and renovate rigidified understandings of racial constructions. Her work delights and instructs both in performance and on the page. The release of LaTasha’s new book TwERK from Belladonna Books this spring will surely be a significant event. In the meantime, please help me welcome LaTasha Diggs.
The second piece in Mandorla that I happily re-encountered is Evie Shockley’s “A Mexican Woman and a Negro Woman Work the Elysian Fields,” a prose poem that brilliantly appropriates and honors characters who fulfill bit roles in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Streetcar, of course, takes place on the street called Elysian Fields in New Orleans, “a cosmopolitan city where there is a relatively warm and easy intermingling of races in the old part of town.” I had read with Evie last spring and when I heard the piece back then I was delighted by the clever pun on “Elysian”/”elision” and the way in which the pun reminds us of how the complexity of the negro woman’s and Mexican woman’s lives are elided from the play.
My own modest contribution to the issue is a set of translations from Estela Lamat‘s forthcoming (and electrifying) volume Pulverized Canine. To see more like them, check out this back issue of Action, Yes.