Category: poetry

Pat Parker, Black lesbian poet and activist well worth knowing

Autostraddle has a Megapost with over 100 Black LGBTQ women–some well known and others little known. The list is rich with beautiful photos. I am slowly working through the list sitting with one a day, doing Google searches to learn more, watch video to read and hear their words. Over the next few weeks I will share some with you. I start with a poet and activist, Pat Parker (1944-1989) Do check out the video below to hear her voice and powerful words as she speaks of “Perversion”

Everytime we put on the proper
clothes to go to a family
wedding and left our lovers
at home —
It was an act of perversion.

Pat Parker

Pat Parker

Pat Parker

Pat Parker

Parker’s activism included involvement with the Black Panther Movement, contributing to the Women’s Press Collective and serving as medical coordinator for the Oakland Feminist Women’s Health Center. Cheryl Clarke has said of Pat that she articulates “a black lesbian-feminist perspective of love between women and the circumstances that prevent our intimacy and liberation.” She toured with Varied Voices of Black Women, published multiple volumes of poetry, and, in 1980, founded the Black Woman’s Revolutionary Council.

    • From Pat Parker Wikipedia pagePat Parker and Audre Lorde first met in 1969 and continued to exchange letters and visits until Parker’s death in 1989. Their collaboration inspired many, including lesbian-feminist blues/R&B singer Nedra Johnson, whose song “Where Will You Be?” has become somewhat of a feminist anthem in the USA. 
    • From Qualia Folk page on Pat Parker:

Parker wrote poems that have been described as having “punch lines,” verses that deliver immediate emotional content. Sometimes the punch line is amusing, as the final verse in “A Small Contradiction,” a poem dealing with a theoretical critique of monogamy:

Me, i am
totally opposed to
monogamous relationships
unless
i’m
in love

Where Will You Be? read by Pat Parker recorded at the Third World Conference sponsored Kick-Off Rally for the 14th October 1979 (first) National March On Washington for LGBTQ Rights. From Queer Radio. See text of poem over at J Spot.

Assorted Goodies

So much good stuff out there that has come to my inbox recently.

  • Candace Chellew-Hodge, the creator of Whosoever.org, has a new book out, Bulletproof—A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay & Lesbian Christians. You can hear a public reading here. Check out what Desmond Tutu has to say about the book.

    Gay and lesbian Christians are constantly demoralized and told they are not children of God. In Bulletproof Faith, Chellew-Hodge reassures gays and lesbians that God loves them just as they were created and teaches them how to stand strong, with compassion and gentleness, against those who condemn them. -Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

  • Allyson Robinson gets quoted in a great piece that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post, Ruling Inspires New Hope for Transgender People.

    But for transgender women such as Robinson, the County Council’s passage of the law was a key reason she chose to live in Montgomery when she moved to the area this year from Texas to take a job at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender civil rights organization.

    Before settling on a townhouse in Gaithersburg, Robinson and her family sought to rent an apartment. She worried, unnecessarily as it turned out, that the landlord would want to pull out of the lease upon meeting her. Until the law took effect this week, Robinson said, the landlord could have rejected her application because she is a transgender person.

    In the past, Robinson has also worried about taking her four young children to public restrooms at restaurants, because she fears that someone will identify her as a transgender woman and call security. “You find yourself on guard, and mentally and emotionally prepared for that,” Robinson said. “You just never know. For many of us, this kind of thing we fear happens rarely; for others it happens constantly, and the fear of it is very real.”

  • Over the weekend I got to hang out with poet Karla Kelsey. She has done collaborative work with her partner visual artist Peter Yumi. You can see samples here.
  • If you go in for the whole debate thing, check out Opposing Views, which includes polar opinions on politics, religion, money, health and more.

Meaning

Recently in Frostburg, MD on an excursion to Mainstreet Books, one of the finest independent bookstores I’ve been to for some time, a poet who accompanied me slipped a copy of The Collected Poems of Constantine Cavafy, a new translation by Aliki Barnstone (read review here).

Cavafy, the 20th Century Greek writer, who lived unashamedly with his gay side (well openly for the most part), always drew me since I read his poem Ithaka for a college course on Odysseus. (Hear it read in English by Sean Connery or in the original Greek from the movie about Cavafy.)

Reading this new fresh translation, I had to buy the book.

This poem tells my story in a way that has eluded me for over a decade. (try reading it aloud)

Meaning
by C.P. Cavafy

The years of my youth, my sensual life–
how clearly I see their meaning now.

What needless repentances, how futile…

But I didn’t see the meaning then.

Out of the dissolute life of my youth
my poetry’s aims grew.
my art’s realm was drawn.

That is why the repentances were never steadfast.
And my resolutions to hold back, to change,
lasted two weeks at the most.

You can read more Cavafy poems in English and Greek here.