Essays and Reviews

The Global Acclaim of an Arabic Poet - A Review of Adonis: Selected Poems

The Global Acclaim of an Arabic Poet - A Review of Adonis: Selected Poems

In an interview aired by the Louisiana Channel, Adonis recounts memories from a simple childhood. “There was no school in the village,” he reflects on his first home, a poor Syrian farming town. “There was no electricity either.” He sketches a portrait of an uncluttered life: one without cars, or high-tech gadgets, or formal education. What he had, he testifies with a wistfulness intrinsic to his work, was his culture. “And the essence of the old Arab culture,” he asserts, “is poetry.”

If to Create is to Live Twice James Baldwin has Nine Lives

If to Create is to Live Twice James Baldwin has Nine Lives

Albert Camus said that to create is to live twice and, in the case of James Baldwin, this is especially evident in 2019. Why, do you ask, has Baldwin’s fiction recently been adapted into an Academy Award nominated film by Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk) while his life has inspired the art exhibition God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin curated by Hilton Als at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City (along with accompanying film screenings). The 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro (based on Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House) was a runaway success and it seems that our appetites are barely whetted for more.

Memorializing Melancholy - A Retrospective on the Beginning of Barry Jenkins' Trilogy of Black Masculine Intimacy

Memorializing Melancholy - A Retrospective on the Beginning of Barry Jenkins' Trilogy of Black Masculine Intimacy

Jenkins’ latest feature, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, concludes what can be considered a Trilogy of Black Masculine Intimacies. All three of Jenkins’ features assume a position about intimacy, more specifically a position about the shared romantic, albeit often warped, intimacies of Black men.

Rick Moody and the Role of Writer and Innovation on Upcoming Political Action

Rick Moody and the Role of Writer and Innovation on Upcoming Political Action

Rick Moody—acclaimed novelist, short story writer, essayist and incredibly socially and politically-conscious individual—was kind enough to speak with us regarding the impact of innovative technologies (most specifically social media) and their effects on upcoming political elections. He also discusses literature, the impetus to combine politics and aesthetics in his prose, his 2016 Election Diary and political involvement by those who dwell outside of the “process.”

A Candle for Amos Oz: The Passing of an Artist, Academic, and Activist

A Candle for Amos Oz: The Passing of an Artist, Academic, and Activist

When my mother first received the breaking news of Amos Oz’s passing, gasping as the Haaretz news headline slid across her iPhone screen, I could sense her shock from opposite Starbucks. Glancing back from the barista counter, in line for our drinks and watching her expression absorb grief from the report, I read her lips as she mouthed the headline: “Amos Oz, Author and Peace Advocate, to Be Laid to Rest.”

Review of 'Sly Bang' by Larissa Shmailo

Review of 'Sly Bang' by Larissa Shmailo

What do you do when there is a, “Army of serial killers, mad scientists, and ultra rich sociopaths” after you? 

Why, you summons your alter, “Larissa Ekaterina Anastasia Nikolayevna Romanova, tsaritsa of all the Russias,” and embark upon Larissa Shmailo’s cornucopiac literary odyssey, Sly Bang, of course.

We deserve more than a corny, highly processed past: Ishmael Reed’s “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda”

We deserve more than a corny, highly processed past: Ishmael Reed’s “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda”

During the 2016 election, I worked at a large, well known national nonprofit. The organization was firmly part of the political establishment, and among my colleagues, getting tickets to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s frequently sold-out musical “Hamilton” was a marker of social status on par with visiting Cuba in the wake of the warming of Cuba-US relationships. I personally never really understood the appeal of Hamilton. It was everywhere, so I had of course listened to parts of the soundtrack, but it never appealed to me. Overdone. Corny. Yet it sparked something in others.

A Lesson In Love: Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk

A Lesson In Love: Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk

The first time I saw Kiki Layne perform, I was 17 years old. She was playing Oya in a production of “In The Red and Brown Water,” and I was running props backstage. I remember seeing her in this powerful role and thinking, “Wow. She is going to be famous. She has to be.” When I saw that this year, she was starring in Barry Jenkins’ newest feature film, I knew that “If Beale Street Could Talk” would be a must-see movie. I settled into a plush movie theatre seat last week and was drawn into a delicate, honest, and dynamic romantic drama that James Baldwin would have been proud to witness.

Searching for American Truth

Searching for American Truth

Over the past several years there has been a number of American history books that have taken up the task of providing the reading public with a grand narrative of who and what we are as Americans.

Mysticism contained: af Klint’s Paintings for the Future

Mysticism contained: af Klint’s Paintings for the Future

The af Klint exhibition at the Guggenheim is a sublime encounter, simultaneously entirely familiar yet alien and unexpected. Born in 1862, af Klint was a painter preoccupied with mysticism. One of the first women to receive a higher education at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, she painted commercially for money but pursued mysticism throughout her life. As a teenager, she “participated in spiritistic séances but gave them up due to their lack of seriousness” and in her 30’s she and four other female artists founded a spiritual group that met once a week. The group made contact with spiritual beings which culminated in af Klint channeling the messages she received in a collection of 193 paintings, the majority of which are shown in this exhibition.

Centering the Black Woman

Centering the Black Woman

A common refrain in current activism is “Listen to Black Women”. When the latest traumatic news cycle starts, a chorus of commentators and thinkers invariably chime in, trying to either explain or deny or commodify the moment we find ourselves in. A pervasive response? Listen to black women. This moment is a deep and long overdue reckoning that will take years to unfold - it has of course been building for hundreds of years and is so nuanced so as to require a continual deep engagement etc. But for guidance - what do we listen to? And how?

Hieroglyphics 3rd Eye Vision Review

Hieroglyphics 3rd Eye Vision Review

Hieroglyphics is an Oakland based hip-hop collective that has always thrive to dismantle music by tackling the social consciousness through their scrupulous wordplay. With their extensive knowledge of hip-hop, Hieroglyphics focused more on the lyrical flow rather than the gangster life and always positioned themselves as the alternative to the mainstream and this is best exemplified with their first studio album, 3rd Eye Vision.

Finding Modernism in Venice

Finding Modernism in Venice

Canals filled with turquoise water instead of streets bustling with cars and bicycles come to mind when I think of Venice. Joseph Brodsky’s essay Watermark (1993) resonates deeply with the visitor, as does a watery dream conjured by Robert Altman: I was immediately reminded of his film, 3 Women (1977) upon arrival. Brodsky only visited Venice in December for he longed to celebrate the beginning of a new year with “a wave hitting the shore at midnight.” He explained “that, to me, is time coming out of water.”  Brodsky also described the city as being “part damp oxygen, part coffee and prayers” and he described the canal-side structures as “upright lace.” Brodsky, born in Leningrad, was exiled from his homeland due to his “having a worldview damaging to the state, decadence and modernism, failure to finish school, and social parasitism . . . except for the writing of awful poems” (Brodsky went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987). He thought of Venice as the closest incarnation of Eden and “the greatest masterpiece our species produced.”

Nathaniel Kahn’s “The Price of Everything” speaks all too conventionally about art and money

Nathaniel Kahn’s “The Price of Everything” speaks all too conventionally about art and money

There are many possible ways to make a documentary about art and money. One tack might be to focus on the question of art’s value. Where does this value lie? Is art more valuable than a house? Than liberty? A human life? These are interesting questions, but unfortunately, Nathaniel Kahn’s new documentary, The Price of Everything, barely touches on them. Another approach might be to cast a broader net, and discuss blue chip art as one of many models artists have of making money off their work: regional artists selling to a local market, performance artists living off commission, workaday artists making souvenirs for tourists. These lives are interesting too, but Kahn’s documentary makes no mention of them. One could even make a comparative study of the few activities that receive market attention versus the many that have been practiced and continue to be practiced with no relation to markets at all: hobbies, cave paintings, ritual objects, outsider and underground art, decorative doodles in the margins of notebooks. This would be a fascinating typology, but unfortunately, Kahn’s documentary does not attempt it.

A Woman’s Life: Sally Field’s In Pieces

A Woman’s Life: Sally Field’s In Pieces

Sally Field is a terrific writer, and I can’t say that I’m completely surprised: She’s been giving stunning, emotionally complex performances for nearly fifty years. Released this past September by Grand Central Publishing, In Pieces is a lengthy read — nearly 400 pages — but I could not put it down until I was finished. I loved this book. Field worked on it for seven years and it shows; this is no run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir. It is the story of an emotionally complex woman’s life, warts and all.

10 Women Who Changed Science Fiction

10 Women Who Changed Science Fiction

A well-known maxim that has been said for many generations now says that knowledge is power, and one of the ways to gain knowledge is to spend time reading books. The more books read the more knowledge one acquires. Reading is fantastic. It takes you to different dimensions. Reading builds and shapes the mind. It exposes you to worlds that you can create and to be a better writer, reading is highly necessary. Writing alone is not just an activity, it is an art and a lifestyle. You may start from being just a good essay writer or writing short poems or stories, but the art and passion for it will drive you towards exploring your creativity and imaginations beyond every limitation. These imaginations are known to be the wild and free centre of our brain, and once they are let to explore and break free from every boundary, the unique ideas manifested from within are always true gifts to the world. Writers are known to leave lasting impact and legacies in the world just by their thoughts penned down on paper. With the power of imagination, several women in time pasts have broken the norm and excelled in history as phenomenal science fiction writers.

The Magic is Still Potent: Whitten’s Retrospective

The Magic is Still Potent: Whitten’s Retrospective

When I first entered this exhibit, I knew only bits and pieces of Whitten’s work - namely, his use of a “developer”, a handmade canvas-sized squeegee contraption that allowed him to make a painting in a manner of seconds. His developer paintings were on display, as were his homages, and sculpture from throughout his career.

Theodicy

Theodicy

The only genuine theosophy is one wherein participants contribute toward the upgrading of three creature world so that it more closely approximates   a world where no theodicy is necessary. The only genuine theodicy is one wherein one creates out of our “best of all possibility worlds" an even better world. 

The Perfect Friday Night in New York: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The Perfect Friday Night in New York: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ nearly-packed show at Barclays Center on Friday, October 26th was electric. It was deafeningly loud and Nick was on fire, as per usual. It was more of an experience than anything else: I gritted my teeth and applauded until my hands tingled. Tall and thin with jet black hair and dressed in a fitted black suit, resembling a debonair villain of the Old West, Cave looks like an icon. Barclays is huge: It seats 19,000, and except for the rafter seats, the venue looked mostly full. These kinds of arena shows are new for Nick Cave in North America; at age 61, his fame and his audience keep growing. There are no gimmicky stage antics, just pure heart and emotion, running the gambit from sweetness to terror. The band played mostly hard rock, but Nick also sang some piano ballads like “The Ship Song” and “Into my Arms.” The emotion of the latter was breathtaking; Nick’s striking blue eyes tearing up as he sang. I was engaged on every level, even though I was seated some distance from the stage: There were two huge screens with exquisite black and white clarity so that even those sitting in the rafter seats were connected on an intimate level.