2016-favorites

One of my students—she gave permission to share her style but not her name—writes with both hands at once. She makes two-column poems that fold into and out of each other like wings flapping. Textually, both columns move towards the center, so the right is in mirror-language and as she writes she smears ink on the sides of both hands. Sometimes the columns are in dialogue, and sometimes they are completely separate. When she shares the finished poem with our room she describes it like a painting. I am not making her work into a metaphor for anything. I’m talking about her because she uses her whole to make. She is a writer I admire.

Admire is a word rooted in wonder. In 2016 I stayed in wonder, not only because I believe in beginner’s mind, but because true wonder isn’t numb and so it is also an antidote to whatever shitstorm. Wonder is work, it is confusing and shimmered. Sometimes it is beautiful, and sometimes it is terrifying. I wondered if Trump would win, I wondered when an angry man would leave my hallway, I wondered how I could finish one sentence and then another. And another, and another. I wondered at my body. At how gold-light beautiful my friends are. At the moon. I love hard. I fight hard too.

Wonder is hard. Staying in it means continuing to look, which means refusing to sleep and allowing bodies and desires to change. It means refusing to accept trauma as normal. I hate the phrase “new normal.” Wonder isn’t chill—I read Breitbart. I look at the photographs from Aleppo five years ago and now. I say awful things at dinner tables. I write Bresha Meadows’s name. Every Friday I walk into a maximum security facility and talk about poetry. I believe all the horror and gorgeousness I see, which is exhausting, and so in 2016 I finally kept my studio stocked with postage stamps, rose incense, slow cooker supplies, and clean sheets. After the election I ran miles a day for weeks, fueled on pure rage, and wondered at the pain. I bought a little crystal, hung it in the window for five o’clock rainbows. I became ready again and again.

Staying in wonder leads to readiness, which leads to engagement—I believe (and teach) this as a precursor to empathy, because empathy without looking up close and messy is gross. And a huge part of that engagement, particularly now, in this our wartime, is waiting. Active waiting. Be ready. One part of Jeff Nichols’s film Loving I especially admired was how clearly it showed this: the long, sloshed dread of caring, of waiting inside and out for medicine and money, for word and freedom. For pleasure, for love (which I had gold-lots of this year: thank you). Here is some art that helped me in wonder this year. I hope you find good in it too:

 

SONGS

“Selah” by Emeli Sandé (Virgin)

“Alaska” by Maggie Rogers (Capitol)

“Blk Girl Soldier” by Jamila Woods (Closed Sessions)

Anohni, Hopelessness (Rough Trade)

s/t, Beta Librae (Lillerne Tapes)

Lumpen Radio (WLPN)

Don McGreevy’s Temporal Nature of Stability by the Sulphuric Symphony

Mx. Justin V. Bond at Joe’s Pub on Valentine’s Day

 

WORDS

IRL by Tommy Pico (Birds, LLC)

Prosopopoeia by Farid Tali, trans. Aditi Machado (Action)

Careful Mountain by Sara June Woods (hi, Moss Witchmonstr) (CCM)

The Story of a Brief Marriage: a novel by Anuk Arudpragasam (Flatiron)

The Consequences of My Body by Maged Zaher (Nightboat)

Potted Meat by Steven Dunn (Tarpaulin Sky)

The Yesterday Project by Ben and Sandra Doller (Sidebrow)

DIY Doula: Self-Care for Your Abortion (zine, ed. Mick Moran)

Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam by Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics)

The Wine-Dark Sea by Mathias Svalina (Sidebrow)

Panther by Brecht Evens (D&Q)

Black Wave by Michelle Tea (Feminist Press)

Double Teenage by Joni Murphy (BookThug)

The Creative Independent (ed. Brandon Stosuy)

 

&&&

MKNZ at Valentine Tattoo Seattle

Kristy Luck’s paintings

The Love Witch, dir. Anna Biller

Moonlight, dir. Barry Jenkins

Teresa Mercado’s Scream Screen series at SIE Denver

Meow Wolf, House of Eternal Return

The Twisted Monk

blue-gray lipstick (M.A.C. Liptensity, ColourPop)

Victory Wolf by Olo Fragrance

The pacific walrus coastal haulout database

The mysteriously synchronized corpse flower bloom

 

Mairead Case is a working writer in Denver, CO.

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