Li Sao: A Ghost Story (a chapter of a work in progress, entitled Ge Meng)

It was not a secret that Professor Bai Hua favored our gang of four students over others in the class. On the night of the Lantern Festival, as arranged, Bai Hua waited for us near the bike racks. A dark gloom had overtaken the chilly winter air. “Shall we go to Fuzimiao? I want to show you a flavor of the local Nanjing culture,” he said.

In the southwestern part of the city, Bai Hua bought us each a paper lantern strung on a stick. I lit my lantern, and it glowed a brilliant red. Anya and Bai Hua each had pink ones. When she smiled gleefully, Bai Hua looked at her. My heart twinged, as if I’d developed a small crush.

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Review: Conjugating Hindi

Conjugating Hindi, Ishmael Reed’s latest novel, is an unapologetically bold satire that tells the story of Boa, a teacher at Woodrow Wilson College in California. In the 2017 of the novel the politics are such that Blacks have been driven out of Oakland and Berkley except for those who “belonged to a class of Black professionals”. It is a setup that leads us to the narrative foundation of the novel: a series of debates that asks “Was Slavery All That Bad?” organised by the Columbia Speakers Bureau.

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How I Came to Bodysex

The woman to my left could not stop coming. She exclaimed something like Oh, God! in Spanish under heavy breath: her Ruby-Woo-painted lips pursed and perfect and quivering with pleasure. This is typical of one of Betty Dodson’s Bodysex workshops. I was in attendance one weekend in mid-July of this year for my first workshop. Betty is a sexologist, visual artist, author of books such as Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving and Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partnersex and the mother of Bodysex. The meeting is a group of women, all nude, in a circle, who are willing to share their thoughts about their bodies and their orgasms. Over the course of two afternoons we participated in three important Bodysex rituals: Genital Show and Tell, Erotic Recess and Group Massage. The main goals of the workshop are to overcome body shame and pleasure anxiety. I found out about Bodysex through Dodson and Ross’s online video series on YouTube. All of the videos are informative and hilarious. Whenever I watch them I feel like I am in a room chatting with my girlfriends. I wanted to attend the workshop because I was scared as well as completely fascinated by it at the same time. I knew that I would be taking an emotional risk and I couldn’t wait.

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London Review of Books: Writing Absurdity

On 21 April 1930, a fire broke out in the state penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio, a wretched, segregated prison where more than 4000 men were packed into a facility built to hold 1500. By the time it was extinguished, 322 prisoners lay dead, and the National Guard was called in to suppress rioting. Among the survivors was Chester Himes, a twenty-year-old black man serving a twenty-year sentence for armed robbery. Himes had already seen his share of troubles but, as Lawrence Jackson writes in his impressive biography, they ‘did not inspire him’ the way that ‘stumbling through the gore of two cell block tiers’ worth of burned-alive men’ did. After the fire, Himes began to write fiction on a typewriter he had bought with his gambling winnings, and four years later he published a story about the fire in Esquire. As the prison was engulfed in flames, Himes had seen its clandestine eroticism come into the open, in a carnival of the damned. A convict called Broadway Rose put on a sex show, and the prison’s ‘boy-girls’ offered their services in cells covered by red curtains. In Himes’s ‘To What Red Hell’, it’s the fire that enables this liberation of desire, before extinguishing it: ‘Oh, Lawd, ma man’s dead,’ a black prisoner called Beautiful Slim says, mourning his lover. Yet death also has a levelling effect: Blackie, the white protagonist, observes that all the dead, white and black, have the same ‘smoke-blackened flesh’.

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Beyoncé in Her Own Words: Her Life, Her Body, Her Heritage

Pregnancy & Body Acceptance

After the birth of my first child, I believed in the things society said about how my body should look. I put pressure on myself to lose all the baby weight in three months, and scheduled a small tour to assure I would do it. Looking back, that was crazy. I was still breastfeeding when I performed the Revel shows in Atlantic City in 2012. After the twins, I approached things very differently.

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LEMONADE

When I was about 12 years old, there was this other black girl selling freshly squeezed lemonade in my neighborhood. She was selling each cup for $1. My dad gave me some money and told me to buy 2 cups of lemonade from her. So I did (even though I wasn’t thirsty, wasn’t particularly fond of any drink aside from water, and it was also rare to see my dad drink lemonade). But I did it. I went up to her stand and bought 2 cups.

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Painting Beyond Black and White: Vincent Valdez’s The City (Review and Q&A)

Vincent Valdez’s recently debuted painting The City I is tucked away on the second floor of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, perhaps to shield certain visitors from its controversial nature, but also to make a metaphoric point: racism doesn’t need to be front and center for it to be alive and well. In the case of Valdez’s artwork, a large format four-panel painting depicting 14 fully garbed Klansmen—including a baby cradled in the arms of its hooded mother—his piece dominates the space in a semi-hidden room, away from the main art exhibit taking place on the ground floor. If you’re willing to turn a few corners, you will be met with the defiant stares of larger-than-life hatred glaring back at you, which could also be said for our country’s ever-present racial tension and discord. On the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally, how far have we come as a democracy, a nation of immigrants, a post-slavery society, and where exactly are we going, especially if we choose not to admit that there is an enemy among us, and possibly within us? 

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Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry by Dorothy Wang

Every now and then, an Asian-American student asks me, “Should I write about race? It’s important to me and I want to, but I’m afraid I’ll be pigeonholed.”

I always think it through on the spot, to make sure I still agree with myself. Among my answers: “Poetry is such an obscure genre, it’s not worth doing anything but what means the most to you.” Or: “Robert Frost said a poem begins as a lump in the throat. Without that, your poems will lack urgency, so write about what’s eating at you.” Or: “Look at what’s happening politically, all over the Western world. Open racism is back. Your story needs to be told.”

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Read Between the Lines

My name is Marty Denton and I am a singer/ songwriter/poet from McGehee, Arkansas. I am 67 years old. I am CEO of Trip Jct Records LLC. I have songs on Pandora, Spotify, Google Play, ITunes, Amazon, ITunes radio and many more. Many artists have recorded my songs. I also write poetry and have over 700 songs and poems in the Library of Congress. I have published poems on many retail sites. This collection is presently at:

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On Some of my Favorite Photographers

Since having written this in graduate school several years ago, I have been lucky enough to see some quite extraordinary photography exhibitions in my new home, New York City. I went to see the Speed of Life retrospective honoring Peter Hujar’s work at the Morgan Library and Museum recently along with William Eggleston’s Los Alamos series at the Met. Before that I was amazed by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs of India at the Rubin Museum. I have also been incredibly impressed by Emma Elizabeth Tillman’s work and, most notably, her recently published collection of photographs entitled Disco Ball Soul. All of these photographers have inspired me to take a look back at this piece I wrote where I discuss some of the artists who made an impact on me as a college student.

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Long-awaited Nas album, Nasir, falters under great expectations.

After a six-year hiatus, the much-anticipated release of Nas’s album, Nasir, left fans and critics with mixed reactions. The album arrived as part of the “Wyoming Sessions,” a series of albums executively produced by Kanye West as part of a grand experiment of rapid-fire studio production. The other albums include Pusha T’s Daytona, West’s collaboration with Kid Cudi eponymously entitled Kids See Ghosts, Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. (Keep That Same Energy), and West’s own album, Ye. Each album is limited to seven tracks, and West has hinted at a loose thematic relationship to the seven deadly sins.

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“David Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into A Bar: a Stand-Up Transcription of Humanity”

Most of us have experienced that nauseating awkwardness - the physically agonizing discomfort - of sitting through a comedy show that’s just not going right. That shifting in the seat when a joke falls flat. That cacophonous cough when a pun doesn’t receive the laughing track that was anticipated. Nobody characterizes that experience better than David Grossman in his most recent novel, A Horse Walks Into A Bar. Translated from Hebrew, this novel recounts the sometimes-magical-sometimes-excruciatingly-unsuccessful final standup of Dov Greenstein, an Israeli comic at a dive bar in Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. Over the course of his two-hour act, sprinkled with Holocaust jokes and ‘humorous’ stabs at the audience, Dov relates the battered tale of his life — what’s led him to his disturbed state, as a comedian today.

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30-Foot Painting of the K.K.K. Puts a Museum to the Test

AUSTIN, Tex. — The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin knew it had a painting on its hands that required sensitivity: a 30-foot-wide panorama by the Houston-based artist Vincent Valdez that imagined a modern-day Ku Klux Klan gathering. And a string of recent art-world controversies had emphasized the need for such curatorial caution.

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ARTFORUM: Joe Overstreet

Joe Overstreet’s experimental paintings from the early 1970s were made to be suspended from ceilings and tied to floors using a system of ropes and grommets. As a result, they occupy a good deal of three-dimensional space, and by design their shapes change every time they are installed, depending on how they are stretched out, draped, or crumpled. In some works, such as St. Expedite II and Untitled, both 1971, and Untitled, 1972, Overstreet has painted squares of canvas in solid colors—red, green, navy blue, deep purple—edged in contrasting stripes.

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