Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 2 May 2014

testing testing testify

stay with me here. i got a lot of unresolved threads to talk about, and none to work out.

who gets to witness? who gets to testify? these questions sound the same, or similar, or synonymous, but listen closer. not all witnesses testify. not all testimonials come from the mouths of witnesses.

who gets to interrogate art?

i write poems about where i come from – physically and imaginatively – and things end up in my art. like Junot Diaz, i’ve heard that old workshop saw about writing in Spanish (does anyone criticize French in literature? technical jargon?). unlike Diaz, i don’t get to retreat (even internally) into come mierda. my cultural reality is not a match for my blood reality. in multiple directions. i know i am not alone in this.

so do i get to witness? do i have the right to testify? is authenticity possible or desirable? is it even that even a word? question words.

QuestLove is part-way through a series of essays philosophizing on hip hop. the essays deserve a wide audience, but the comments are truly amazing. the best comments section i have ever read. the thoughtful, provocative sorts of comments that are so hard to find. in this week’s essay, someone going by the handle “chowtimer” writes: “Ice Cube never rhymed about how he studied architectural drafting.” this in the context of marketability and dehumanization of lyrics. i read an accusation of cashing in, of inauthentic art in this statement. is Ice Cube less real because he went to college? can he no longer participate in the imaginative life of where he comes from? can he witness? can he testify? interrogate art. not a bad thing. not a good thing. interrogate.

why does Stephen Colbert refer to Saul Williams as being from the streets? Williams has never backed down from his education, trained in philosophy and acting at prestigious schools. does he get to witness? testify? is he authentic enough?

so i ask myself these kinds of questions incessantly. i can’t breakdance. but does that mean i can’t write about b-boys at my childhood roller rink? yes and no. when my art gets called to the stand, can i defend it? can i draw the line between self and art? me and it? should i?

do you have to be in it to make art about it? is art possible if you are in it?

i don’t even want any verdicts. but i want to listen to every word i can hear before i die.

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