Indigenous Voices

by Joanna Cleary and Maria Prudente

Having celebrated Canada Day and the 4th of July earlier this month, many people in North America may be feeling more patriotic than usual. However, it is of utmost importance during these days of national celebration to acknowledge and pay respect to the voices of those who rightfully claim first ownership of these lands. Here are some provocative, humourous, heartbreaking, and, above all, relevant works by Indigenous writers that you should definitely put on your summer reading list!


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 
Novel, Sherman Alexie 

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“I draw because words are too unpredictable.

I draw because words are too limited.

If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get your meaning.

But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it.

If I draw a cartoon of a flower, then every man, woman, and child in the world can look at it and say, “That’s a flower.”

So I draw because I want to talk to the world. And I want the world to pay attention to me. I feel important with a pen in my hand. I feel like I might grow up to be somebody important. An artist. Maybe a famous artist. Maybe a rich artist.

That’s the only way I can become rich and famous.” 

 

Junior, an aspiring cartoonist, has mixed feelings about growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. As he decides to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school, one where the only other Indigenous presence is the school mascot.


Talking to the Diaspora 
Poetry, Lee Maracle

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“Some sons are trees

 

Quiet mist magic memory oddly named sequoia

General somebody or other who killed us

killed his own

killed worlds

then came to rest a crest on this man-tree”

                                          -from ‘Archer’s Body’ 

 

The second collection of poetry by one of Canada’s most prominent contemporary authors features a look at diaspora and identity that is both intimate and larger than the individual experience.


They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School 
Memoir, Janet Rogers

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“I read somewhere that everyone is born with the potential for success, and it is only through life’s experiences that we develop or destroy that potential. For many Aboriginal people, our most vulnerable and impressionable years, our childhood years, were spent at residential schools. Our mental, emotional and spiritual growth was extremely stunted because of the way we were treated there. You have to tell our story like it is, don’t hold back or make it seem like it wasn’t as bad as it actually was. People have to know and believe what happened to us.”

A defining part of Xatsu’ll chief Bev Sellars’ childhood was spent as a student in a church-run residential school. This honest and evocative memoir details her time at St. Joseph’s Mission, as well as how it has affected her and her family over generations. As Sellars discusses trauma, diapora, and healing, she makes it apparent that it is only through knowing the truth about these past injustices can we, as a society, can begin to properly address them.


Islands of Decolonial Love 
Short Stories, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 

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“bringing up trauma from my life made therapy-lady cry, especially if it was “aboriginal” themed. she said “aboriginal” a lot, and i knew she was trying to be respectful so i planned on letting it slide until the breaking point and then i was going to let her have it in one spiralling long manifesto. therapy-lady liked to compare my life to refugees from war-torn countries who hid their kids in closets when airplanes flew over their houses. this was her limit of understanding on colonized intimacy. she wasn’t completely wrong, and while she tried to convince me none of us had to hide our kids anymore, we both knew that wasn’t exactly true. i knew what every ndn knows: that vulnerability, forgiveness and acceptance were privileges. she made the assumption of a white person: they were readily available to all like the fresh produce at the grocery store.”

Simpson’s debut collection of short stories explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation.

Heartbreaking, absurd, and real, these stories aim to capture all aspects of what it means to be Indigenous in a world that has been taken from Indigenous people.


Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization and the Politics of Intervention
Ethnography, Jaskiran Dhillon

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“The persistent sensation of being hunted, of monitored movement, of freedom being truncated through institutional caging is central to the daily reality of being an Indigenous youth in Saskatoon. It is not an anomaly. It is not the fictitious creation of a youthful imagination on overdrive. Through their existence as Indigenous youth, these young people constitute a direct threat to an already existing settler social order.” 

Dhillon’s ethnography sharply examines the indigenous-state government of Saskatoon, Canada’s strategy of dispossession and the state’s failure to uphold human and political rights of the indigenous community. We learn that indigenous alliances meant to help indigenous women, lack representation for whom they are advocating: indigenous women. Dhillon, who grew up on Treaty Six Cree Territory in Saskatchewan, details the state’s refusal to look for missing indigenous women and its failure to include indigenous participation in what they deem to be a community in need of reform. Are Canada’s state advocacy organizations merely visible tokens for what they consider invisible problems in their own country?


To read staff bios, please visit our Masthead page here.

Interview with Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

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Joanna Cleary: Thanks so much for your willingness to have a conversation about your writing with us and congratulations on the publication of your most recent collection of poems: The Sea that Beckoned. According to the book’s description, these poems are “an exploration of all those places we’ve sought to call home.” Could you elaborate on that? 

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan: I’ve always yearned for a home. My childhood spent in the Philippines did not feel like home because my mom and dad were always abroad; my mom came home every six months, stayed for six months, then left for six months. Even now, I live in Manila, while my mom lives in Olongapo City, Zambales, which are two different places in the Philippines. I travel for 3-4 hours every weekend to see her. 

Place is very different from home. There are many places I mentioned in The Sea That Beckoned, and yet, I feel I am always searching for home, which is why it is an exploration. My home is a place, but not just a place, it is a place of comfort, where my loved ones are. Home is difficult to articulate, for me. So I thought this search for home might lead somewhere, and it did, to The Sea That Beckoned. Each place I’ve been in is ridden with memory and emotion, and I thought it might be interesting for me and for others, if I were to write it down. 

Maria Prudente: At the end of your poem, “Midway,” you land on this beautiful line: “I am the mango heart left beating in your hands.” How do you approach imagery in your work? Where do you find your inspiration?

AGBF: I am a bit of a mystic when it comes to poems. I believe that the poem itself will lead me to where it wants to go. Once I have the first line, or the first image, or the first rhyme, it will take me on a journey. I have been schooled in the technical aspects of poetry, and can tell what form or meter I should use, but I wouldn’t want to manipulate the poem into what I want. I want what it wants. So the deeper into my schooling about poetry that I get, it seems the more faith I have in the mysticism of poetry. There are times, however, in revision, where I have to tweak, and I suppose that’s where my formal training comes in. But for a poem such as “Midway,” it came fairly easily, without much manipulation. The images of the foreigner is interwoven within, as are my longing to come “home” to the Philippines. I was in New York then, in 2017, and I was torn between a love and a place. I loved New York, but I had already built what I call a home in the Philippines, with my loved ones. And I thought there might be a poem there.

That image of the mango heart seems like generic Philippine imagery, and indeed the mango has been used many times in folklore or even in contemporary literature. But there’s a bit of background with that—my mom owns a mango farm in Balasiw, Zambales, and that’s where I often visited and ate delicious mangoes. I recently sold some mangoes to friends in Manila this past harvest, and they couldn’t help quoting that quote that you mentioned while I was giving them their mangoes.

I think the most artful images are those that have a back story that you don’t necessarily have to mention. I didn’t mention that my mom had a mango farm in the poem, but the remnants of the emotion I feel when it comes to my mango heart is felt because of that background. So I guess write images of what inspires you, even if it’s something as mundane as mangoes on your kitchen table.  

JC: My favourite stanza from “migration story,” a poem in this collection and also published in Eastlit is: 

laying down my back to the bamboo

i would count the leaves 

above my head, dreaming 

of snow, and my dad was bright and alive 

then, there in the hot, humid december,

decades ago before he would die

in a frigid hospital while the snow fell.

In this poem, as in your other poems, you mix such intimate details of individual life with universal images of searching, longing, and home. Can you speak to the parts of The Sea that Beckoned that you found the most personally difficult, and/or personally rewarding, to write about?  

AGBF: I believe that poems crafted from the heart are those most difficult to write, because it comes from a synergy of the heart and the mind, of the intricate connections between emotions and intellect. You sort of have to find a way to be able to mix the two gently. The silly love poems in the latter half of the book were, personally, because the trauma of love for me is still ongoing. The love poems such as “Murasaki,” and “To the Man Who Claimed Me” and “Visit” did not come to me as effortlessly as did the poems of place, such as “Midway” and “Abò,” perhaps because I am always thinking of place, of home, and of my tender regard for these places. 

The poem you mentioned, “migration story” is an ode to my dad, and although he’s been gone for more than 10 years, every time I revisit the story of his life, it’s both difficult and rewarding. It’s the epitome of the synergy I was talking about earlier and of plumbing through loss. 

MP: What advice do you have for writers interested in publishing their collection of work? What was your process for The Sea That Beckoned?

AGBF: My advice for young writers is just to read, read, read and write, write, write. One of my poetry professors always told me never to rush the poem. I always take it to wherever it leads me, and some poems take minutes and some poems take years. The poem always has a mind of its own (a muse, maybe?) and thus it can tell you if it needs to be a sonnet and a pantoum, if it needs to be in rhyme or meter, if it needs to be published now or later. 

As for publishing, I have the same advice: submit submit submit. Never be afraid of rejection, because it will give you the strength to work harder to be accepted. I submitted through the regular submission cycles at Platypus Press, and the editors Michelle Tudor and Peter Barnfather were kind enough to choose my work amongst many others. If I had been afraid of submitting then, The Sea That Beckoned would never have been published. 

MP: We cannot wait to read more from you! Can you tell us what you are currently working on? 


AGBF: I’m working on a second manuscript, for the moment called As Memento, As Imagen, As Woman. It’s a work inspired by mythology and feminism alike, and inspired by the works of Carol Ann Duffy and Louise Glück. In these poems, I give voice to women of myth, from Greco-Roman to Philippine mythology, such as Medusa and Bakunawa, bending these myths along the way to reflect the context of the modern-day Filipina. It still needs a lot of work, but it’s getting there. Thank you for your questions and this interview! 🙂


To buy Angela Gabrielle Fabunan’s book, The Sea That Beckoned, click on the link here.


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Art by Rayji de Guia 

ANGELA GABRIELLE FABUNAN was born in the Philippines and raised in New York City. She graduated from Bowdoin College and attends the University of the Philippines MA Creative Writing Program. In 2016, she was awarded the Carlos Palanca Memorial Foundation Awards for Poetry. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Cordite Poetry Review, Asymptote Journal, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Eastlit Magazine, and New Asian Writing, among others. She is one of the current poetry editors at Inklette Magazine. Her first book of poetry, The Sea That Beckoned, is available from Platypus Press.

 

Pride: A Reading Collection

Although the spirit of queer pride should last 365 days a year, today marks the last Friday of Pride month 2019. Here are the top picks of LGBTQ+ literature or works of literature written by LGBTQ+ writers to last you all until June 2020.

Links to buy books mentioned below through Amazon can be accessed by clicking on the titles.


Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden

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I found this book at a time when I was just beginning to come to terms with my queerness and it helped normalize being gay for me. While this love story between two girls takes place in the 1980s, the nuanced character development and intricacies of the love explored helped me realize that being all forms of love deserve to exist not solely defined by their political status.

– Joanna Cleary, Blog Editor

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

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I read Tin Man on the recommendation of a friend, unaware of the storyline or the synopsis. The story I encountered was perhaps one of the most emotionally poignant ones I had read. Tin Man depicts love and sexuality beyond the cardboard boxes we put them in and touches upon art, friendship, and desire by freeing these from their socially gendered labels. It’s a warm, gradual narrative on sadness and nostalgia, and the transformative potential of love.

-Smriti Verma, Poetry Editor

Interpretive Work by Elizabeth Bradfield

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While the poems in this collection often deal with the conflicts of history, politics, culture, and family, hope and beauty win out for the view of the future. Her poems cross boundaries into the vulnerable to reveal how loving someone can help you love the world.It’s published by Artoi Books, which is an imprint of Red Hen Press (Arktoi Books publishes literary poetry by lesbian writers).

-Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor

Sea-Witch: Vol. 1 (May She Lay Us Waste) by Never Angeline Nørth (formerly Moss Angel (formerly Sara June Woods))

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I think Sea-Witch was revolutionary for me: a work centered around transsexuality, a genre-fluid/genre-defying and literature-altering book, Never Angeline Nørth’s book is about a girl monster, a witch-god, about their origin stories and journeys and narratives. I don’t know how to summarize this book but I do know that this book will change the way you look at and critique texts, and I believe it is a great introduction, both in terms of form and content (as much as I despise considering those as the two components of a text), to what the category of LGBTQ+ literature is and can be. Sea-Witch helped me come to terms with my still-developing notion of what my own sexuality is and what it means to me. The book sounds tumultuous but that is the beauty, that is its defiance, and that is what motivates me to make peace with my tumultuous sexuality.

-Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

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Christopher Isherwood was one of the first queer authors I came across during my English studies, and his stories opened up new perspectives to regard the world I’d grown up in. In my private Isherwood collection, A Single Man still stands out most remarkably. An artistically crafted story about seclusion and otherness, it tells the tragic end of a curtained love in a homophobic society that grants no (public) closure for the bereaved. But more powerfully, Isherwood’s insight into a single day of a grieving man revealed to me the beauty of two men in love – physically and emotionally. Reading A Single Man, you’ll certainly be touched by the despair that travels from the first to the last page. But I also hope that you’ll be ignited – to make reality better.

– Stela Dujakovic, Prose Editor

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

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Look Garth Greenwell up on Youtube and listen to him read aloud from his work before you read this novel. He was trained as poet before turning to prose, and his history shows in his work: every sentence has a rhythm that demands to be read aloud. That isn’t to say that the ideas of his work don’t matter, but auditory beauty is a nice way to ease yourself into the story that is ultimately devastating. The story follows an American professor teaching in Bulgaria, who pays a young man named Mitko for sex and comes back to him again and again. The driving question of the novel is whether Mitko really has a connection with the narrator, or if it’s all just loneliness making infatuation feel like love. I’m not gay, I’ve never been to Bulgaria, and the world of illicit sexuality described in the book is something I’ve never experienced. Which might have been part of why I liked it so much: much of the power of fiction is to show you what you’ve never known or seen. But even more powerful is the universality of the book. Wondering if your love is real or not is something that every romantically-inclined person has felt, no matter who you are or who you love.

– John S. Osler III, Prose Editor

To view staff bios and learn more about our staff, check out our Masthead page here.

Literary Playlist

The world of music and language, literature, poetry, books share intimate connections. In the process of reading and writing, we can often be reminded of music and songs. Exploring these connections, we have compiled for you a literary playlist consisting of a few songs that remind us of writers, of their works, and add to our own experiences as readers and writers. Take a look and give these a listen!


Shalott by Emilie Autumn

I love how the song retells Tennyson’s famous poem from the point-of-view of the Lady of the tower herself, and how it gives back some semblance of agency to her– as though she’s talking back to the poet, the poem and the Victorian tradition and her reply is her only form of rebellion.

– ARCHITA MITTRA, Prose EDITOR

Queen of Peace by Florence + The Machine

Although this song is about a king who goes mad with suffering after his only son is lost in a battle, it has always reminded me of King Lear. The tale of grief making a king realize that he’s just a man paints a vivid picture of Lear reuniting with Cordelia, only to be parted from her once again.

– JOANNA CLEARY, BLOG EDITOR

AAJ JANE KI ZID NA KARO by Farida Khanum 

The song was originally a nazm written by Fayyaz Hashmi, a Pakistani poet. And in Farida Khanum’s voice, of course, there is a different texture, a different poetics I find at work. For some reason, I think that this song to be has always expressed the journey or passage of time, age, history in romantic, personal, political, philosophical ways with a remarkable simplicity. I love this version by Coke Studio Pakistan the most, and it always reminds me not just of this link between music and language and the changing, different bodies of the two, but also the beautiful poem by Akhil Katyal that we published in Inklette too, where he writes about Farida Khanum: “she does not hide the age / in her voice.” This makes me tear up, and I think his poem is a perfect afterword for the song itself. 

– DEVANSHI KHETARPAL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

The Latin One by 10,000 Maniacs 

This is directly inspired by Wilfred Owen’s Dolce et Decorum Est. It changes some of the words, but still captures the horrific and more complicated aspects of war.

Lucy by the The Divine Comedy

Lucy by The Divine Comedy is an awesome musical version of William Wordsworth’s poem of the same name.

Meet Me at the Cemetery by The Smiths

And to go along with my moody theme, I have always loved Meet Me at the Cemetery Gates by the Smiths. I love the literary references, and I think Oscar Wilde would approve of it.

– LISA STICE, POETRY EDITOR

RIVERMAN by Nick Drake 

It’s pure poetry strummed over the guitar in an odd 5/4 time signature. It has been suggested by Drake’s friends from Cambridge University that William Wordsworth’s lyrical poem, Idiot Boy served as his source of inspiration. For me, the song underscores an existential dread: “Betty said she prayed today / For the sky to blow away / Or maybe stay / She wasn’t sure.” It transports me to a grassy meadow somewhere in Virginia, sitting under a tree and reading poetry by A. E. Housman, John Keats and, of course, Wordsworth. I think the words of Nick Drake should be read and listened to under trees, too.

– Maria Prudente, BLOG EDITOR

To read staff bios, check out our Masthead page here.

Favorite Reading Food and Drinks

Summer’s almost here, and hopefully, that means having some time to relax, read, and munch on your favourite snacks. We asked the Inklette team what they like to eat and/or drink while reading, and their answers do not disappoint. Read some delicious bits below:



Hot Chocolate + Cheese  

Hot chocolate requires no explanation, as it’s so delicious it can be consumed under any circumstances. Cheese is tasty, filling, and, unlike chips, it doesn’t run the risk of making my fingers greasy as I turn the pages of my book.  

Joanna Cleary, Blog Editor


Tea (usually Earl Grey with milk and sugar) + dark chocolate

Both have floral scents and flavors that wake up my brain and send me into a dreamy state.

Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor


Black Coffee

I like my coffee like I like my reading life– dark and bitter. When I’m reading, I like to drink black coffee, no matter how stereotypically “writerly” it is. Coffee helps keep me focused as I read long poetry collections, stopping for a sip between each poem. The roughness of the bitter black coffee stirs the imagination, keeps the body and mind robust, and brings whatever I’m reading to back to life.

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan, Poetry Editor


Iced Tea

I recently learned how to make iced tea because of the heat wave going on in Delhi and after many tries (too many than I wish to admit), I’m happy to have perfected it. Nothing goes so well with a good book as a glass literally full of sugar and lemon juice and tea.

Smriti Verma, Poetry Editor


San Pellegrino Mineral Water + prosciutto-wrapped melon

Summer reading is a smack of something sweet and salty and dancing bubbles inside a glass with ice and the bottle nearby. Sticky fingers on pages? That’s what the Pellegrino is for!

Maria Prudente, Blog Editor


Cappuccino + Chicken Empanada or Black and Red Cherry Danish

I was never really fond of cappuccinos before going to Italy. But after having lived in Florence for five months, where I had some of the best cappuccinos at the Oblate and at Le Murate, my views have changed. Back at home, in New York, I love sitting down with a cappuccino and some chicken empanadas or danishes in my neighborhood coffee shop. A cappuccino is rich, and so are chicken empanadas and danishes. They are all warm and much like literature, they enrich my mind, my soul, my mind and, certainly, my stomach.

Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief


Milk Tea + Chocolate Croissant

I’ve swapped out my coffee addiction for milk tea, and I’m currently trying out a dozen or so different instant brands. My favorites have a slight earthiness with the hints of black tea, but the milk and sugar make it a perfect light drink for reading. If I want something to munch on, I’ll go for chocolate croissants. Buttery, flaky, and best of all, the chocolate is left neatly within its folds.

Sarah Lao, Social Media Manager


Cold Coffee with Ice Cream

I’m sort of addicted to coffee and milkshakes, and having a nice cold drink while I read a page-turning epic fantasy is absolutely glorious- be it a homemade delicacy or a fancy drink at a cafe, with dollops of whipped cream. I might add some chocolate truffles or cookies, from time to time. I’m also mildly lactose intolerant, but when has that stopped anyone?

Archita Mittra, Prose Editor


To learn more about our staff and read staff bios, visit our Masthead page here.

The Met Gala & Our Notes on Camp


Notes by Maria Prudente

How do we apply language and meaning to an aesthetic? Can we be precise? Susan Sontag attempts precision in 58 paragraphs by listing in detail the sensibility of “camp” for those who are unaware. “The essence of camp” she begins, “is the love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”

I’d read Sontag’s essay last summer and by the end of it felt I’d need to remember all of it. Highlight number 5 and number 6 oh and number 7, too. Read up on Henry James and Oscar Wilde for good measure. What does Greta Garbo look like again? Oh, I love this word epicene- so precise! Sontag grasped an idea I understood very well but couldn’t explain myself. Camp is better seen and felt. How did Sontag manage to describe taste, style, and convention while simultaneously debunking all three and making it clear and knowable? My answer is research! If you’re thinking this a quick read on some idle Tuesday night, behold, open your google browser and cancel your morning workout.

The 2019 Met Gala gave people who’d never read Sontag’s work or given thought to taste as a sensibility: good and downright awful, nothing in between. On Monday night I feverishly hashtagged metgala and received minute-to-minute updates (yes, this was during finals) of the looks from the evening. On the red carpet, most celebrities shrugged and gritted their teeth when asked of their thoughts on the night’s theme. For me, Kim Kardashian was the complete embodiment of camp as an aesthetic. Kardashian represents a feeling in our country- she doesn’t have any extraordinary talents in the entertainment industry, but she has a famous lineage which has made her popular. Popularity is an aesthetic in the United States. Her choice to work with Thierry Mugler of House of Mugler was a smart choice- Kardashian clearly understood the aesthetic because she is aesthetic. Inspired by Sophia Loren drenched in water in the film Boy On A Dolphin, Kardashian arrived dripped in wet in diamond with a tan that matched her dress. She was a walking photograph- a walking sensibility- Kim Kardashian wearing Mugler was “camp.”

The exhibition takes you from 17th-century fashion to modern day. If only Sontag were alive today I wonder if she would add or cross-off anything to her precise list of “camp” and it’s imprecision. One line I keep with me because it’s easy to remember: “the ultimate camp statement: it’s good because it’s awful…Of course, one can’t always say that.”



Notes by Devanshi Khetarpal

It was my last day in New York before I went home for the summer. I wondered if I had the time, in between packing or resting and going to my favorite diner, to go to the Met and visit the exhibit on “Camp,” the theme for this year’s Met Gala. I wasn’t sure if fashion, or couture, specifically, is something I understand, something I “get.” Thankfully, “Notes on Camp” by Susan Sontag was #trending, and inevitably came to my attention the day after the Met Gala. I read it thoroughly, and enjoyed every bit of it just as I have always enjoyed Sontag’s writing, and thought that maybe this time, after I visit an exhibit on Islamic and Pahari art that interested me, I might as well go to the gallery and have a look at dresses, jewelry, whatever they may have there. I had no idea what to expect, what the displays would be like. Should I be using “Camp” as an adjective at all? Is it one? These are just some of the questions that passed my mind.

I finally made the decision to go to the exhibit and thought I’d just skim through everything I needed to see in order to understand. I didn’t have too many questions, I didn’t want too many answers. But as soon as I saw the pink wall (…“is this millennial pink?” I asked myself) with “CAMP” written on it, I was taken aback by surprise because the first thing I noticed was the abundance of text. Old books and manuscripts were kept open behind the glass, sometimes next to shoes or dresses or miniature sculptures that looked like paperweights, the kind no one uses now. As I kept making my way through the exhibit, I saw familiar names: William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Christopher Isherwood, Susan Sontag, among others. I saw brand names, too, of course: Gucci, Louis Vutton, fashion houses I have not heard of and whose names I cannot pronounce but whose clothes, I am certain, are beyond what I can ever imagine affording. I realise that fashion is everything I love and loathe, perhaps like writing in some ways.

But the textuality of the exhibit was unexpected. I didn’t expect to see the world of fashion, the fashion industry, take such an initiative to reflect on its language, the history of its language and to use it as a method to innovate, create, critique, expand. I have been obsessed with the sartorial choices of my favorite writers. I think of Tishani Doshi in Georgia Hardinge’s “sculptural dresses,” I often think of Arundhati Roy draping a saree with her deliciously curly, short hair. I have always wanted to steal their wardrobes; when I was growing up, I wanted to dress up as a writer, like the people I have seen at literary festivals across the country: unapologetically Indian, apparently comfortable, truly colorful and invariably and individually stylish. I had no clue how they did it and through the years, I have been trying to develop my own “sensibility” rather than style. I put myself together deliberately, slowly, cautiously before any poetry reading or public lecture. And even though I am not too well acquainted with the artifice, extravagance and how they must be effectively constructed, or amalgamated into one’s identity, donned as one’s outfit, I do know that camp is a different kind of textuality and intertextuality, one that’s atmospheric too.

I realized this as I walked through the exhibit: the text was pasted onto the glass and the specimens were behind the text. The text became the foreground and retained its textuality, while the specimens became not just evidence of the text but also became the subtext, the background, even in the event of the text merely describing the specimen. This three-dimensional presentation is something intriguing. Was I supposed to treat the text as something that brings out the real of the specimen? Am I supposed to treat the text rather than the specimen as the interface of the textual and the embodied, the real, the exhibited? Or am I supposed to treat the text as hyper-real, something with the capability to break free from the specimen and emerge embodied? I might never know. But while I saw Sontag’s notes on Camp (note the capital ‘C’), I recalled the phrases I had been seeing: “akimbo pose,” “queer attitudes,” “camp it up.” Every piece certainly was different but what appealed to me most was the necessity of the text. The text, the writer of the text was on top of the whole and Sontag’s text appeared atop the semicircle of glass displays, each letter being typed away, fading into each other as the line extended with the soft sound of a typewriter emerging. That, for me, was camp: the crowd, the abundance of text, the many glass displays, the specimens, the color, the sound, the bright light shining on each one, making them stars in the show.


To plan your visit or find out more about the ongoing exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, visit their website by clicking here


155113583331125364MARIA PRUDENTE has written about feminist ethics for Manifest-Station and is featured in Grey Wolfe Publishing’s upcoming anthology of nonfiction short stories. Maria is a professional stage and film actress. She received her training from the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute and graduated from the American Musical & Dramatic Academy with a concentration in Musical Theatre performance. Maria is the Content Editor at CountrySkyline, LLC and proud member of Actor’s Equity Association. She lives in NYC where she studies Creative Writing at Columbia University.

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DEVANSHI KHETARPAL is from Bhopal, India, but currently lives in New York City, where she is a junior at  NYU majoring in Comparative Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. Her poetry collection, Small Talk, is coming out soon from Writers Workshop India, Kolkata, and her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Sahitya Akademi’s Indian LiteratureBest Indian Poetry 2018, Transom, Aainanagar, Vayavya, TRACK//FOUR etc. among others. She is a recipient of the 2018 David J. Travis Undergraduate Research Fund for research on modern Italy, and has studied abroad at NYU Florence and NYU Paris. She has served as an intern at Poets House, and currently works as an application manager for The Speakeasy Project, a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine, and as a student office assistant for the NYU Department of Comparative Literature. Khetarpal can speak, read, write and translate from or to Hindi, English and Italian, and will start learning Punjabi soon.

Conversation on ‘REJECTION’

by Joanna Cleary and Maria Prudente

Joanna Cleary: Rejection: it’s awful. Unfortunately, however, artists– regardless of medium, experience, and to a large event, even talent– have to face rejection on a continual basis, which is why I’m so excited to have a conversation about it. Since we live in an increasingly progress-oriented world, rejection has become equated with failure and failure with shame. However, when I received my first rejection letter at the age of twelve or thirteen, I felt proud. Even though my poem wasn’t accepted by the magazine I’d submitted to (and for good reason– it was terrible), I was thrilled that somebody other than me, literary editors no less, had actually read what I’d written. I’d given something – a perspective, perhaps, or a story – to somebody else. I learned that being an artist is about giving; as long as you try to do that, you’re on the right path. Even though rejection is undeniably discouraging, I’ve learned to never be ashamed of offering my work to others. Now over to you– tell me about your first rejection.

Maria Prudente: I didn’t get a part I wanted in my high school musical. I was a sophomore, and I had my heart set on playing Velma in “Chicago,” but this senior who was known for doing beauty pageants and had never done theatre before walked in and nailed her audition. It was between the two of us in callbacks, but the director loved her; and the next day when the cast list went up I was, as expected, devastated. I think it’s common to compare and self-loathe in the first moments of rejection. I kept thinking, “If only I was older and sexier and more tan and had longer legs…” the list kept going but it was all superficial. Within a couple of hours of feeling sad about it, I realized what I had that this senior didn’t have was experience, knowledge, and a deep curiosity and love for performing.

Consequently, I ended up not only taking a small part like Mona in the “Cell Block Tango” and making my monologue land a big laugh every performance, but I ended up being an assistant director for the show. Deciding to turn the pain of that particular rejection of that role into a new role where I could contribute to the theatre in a new way was incredibly empowering. But, as you stated earlier, experiencing rejection is ongoing for artists. How do you cope?

JC: I think the key to coping with rejection is not letting it define you as a person and artist.

Whenever I receive a particularly difficult rejection, I make an effort to do something I enjoy, such as having a cup of hot chocolate or going for a run. By investing energy into who I am as a person, I don’t feel as if my self-worth relies on who I am as an artist. However, I also use rejection as a motivator when it comes to my identity as a writer – for every rejection I receive, I try to send out one or more submissions into the world so that there will always be a glimmer of possibility for me to aspire towards. Again, over to you – how do you cope with rejection?

MP: I think you have a really healthy outlook. Creating routines to feel connected to our sense of self or reciting positive self-talk is an ideal way to deal with rejection. It’s also a really hard thing to practice. There have been days where I have found out from several publications that my work hasn’t been accepted. Sometimes I’ll read that my work was being considered but wasn’t quite right for their issue and I obsess over what thing it was that kept them from putting my piece in the “yes” pile. I think tailoring work for certain publications is important for writers to improve their chances especially if they are trying to build a body of work. Submitting work and finding out what people like is so subjective and completely out of our control. All we can do is revise, rewrite and re-wire the way we accept rejections and instead use them to, as you say, motivate us. When I’m looking for a win, I write something that I feel really good about and I save it to my documents for my eyes only. I think sometimes having something in my back pocket helps me to feel confident. Returning to a piece and cutting it or building on it can be really satisfying because it isn’t being judged by anyone but you, the writer. I can tell a story and chip away at the truth the way I want to. What’s important for writers to remember is why they write and for whom they write. This helps me keep a grip on reality and reminds me of what I love about writing in the first place.

An acting teacher of mine always said: “tell the story simply and clearly”. The same can be said for writing. I often remember this phrase when I feel caught up on using flowery language or I’m inside an overly stylized piece and I fall away from what I’m trying to say. Have any mentors from your past or present given you advice that you’ve found valuable in your writing?

JC: A creative writing mentor of mine once told me not to think of rejection as a lost opportunity, but as an opportunity to give meaning to hardship through growth. Like you say, we need to revise the way we accept rejections so they enhance our ambition instead of draining it. It’s all about finding a balance between controlling our stories and accepting that, oftentimes, we can’t control everything in our lives. I’ve learned to tell myself that I can control what happens to me, but I do have more say over what I make happen.  


155113583331125364MARIA PRUDENTE has written about feminist ethics for Manifest-Station and is featured in Grey Wolfe Publishing’s upcoming anthology of nonfiction short stories. Maria is a professional stage and film actress. She received her training from the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute and graduated from the American Musical & Dramatic Academy with a concentration in Musical Theatre performance. Maria is the Content Editor at CountrySkyline, LLC and proud member of Actor’s Equity Association. She lives in NYC where she studies Creative Writing at Columbia University.

149460297287447JOANNA CLEARY is a college student double majoring in English Literature and Drama. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cicada MagazineInkletteGlass Kite AnthologyParallel Ink, Phosphene Literary Journal, HIV Here and Now, and On the Rusk. Poetry has been a long-time passion of hers. When she is not writing, she can be found reading, eating various forms of chocolate, and, of course, thinking about writing.