I DIDN’T KNOW MUCH about Robert Irwin’s work when I wandered into the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden a few weeks ago. I knew that he was a contemporary of a few other artists I admire, James Turrell among them, and that he was the first artist to win a MacArthur Genius Grant in 1984, but I could not recall seeing his work at the Hirshhorn, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, or any of the other museums I visit on a frequent basis.
The exhibition is called Robert Irwin: All the Rules Will Change. Step off the escalator, walk a few feet, and before you, floating at about eye level, is a white sphere. It is split in half horizontally; a thin band of black pulses at the center. Instead of appreciation, comprehension, even confusion, your mind generates a series of questions. How can it be that this sphere is floating? And what exactly is in the middle of that … that thing? Is it some kind of light? Can light be black? Can black light pulse? Step closer to the sphere, look behind it. Ah. A clear plastic tube connects the sphere to the wall. Indeed, from this vantage point the sphere no longer resembles a sphere; it is actually a wedge of curved plastic. Or metal. Or something. You still cannot tell what is happening in the middle.
Read the rest of the article here: Tope Folarin in the LA Review of Books
For the Kimbilio panel at AWP ’16, Cole Lavalais (’13, ’15) presented these remarks on directionality in fiction:
Several years ago during my first semester in graduate school, some of my classmates and I went out to a local watering hole after a rather tedious writing workshop. Which, by the way, was nothing new. I found my graduate writing workshops consistently difficult, not because I couldn’t take critique, but the focus of the workshop, at least my workshops, weren’t craft. Instead the professor and workshop participants’ critiques would often devolve into cultural anthropological digs, peppered with questions about the organizations and events taking place on the fictional black college campus where my novel was set. So while my classmates communed at the bar and I whined into my beer about my growing black-splaining fatigue, one of my white classmates countered, “Well, who is your audience?” Due to her tone and body language, I could tell it wasn’t a question she expected an answer to. On the contrary, it was one of those questions meant to shut me down or shut me up. Of course, being who I am and where I’m from, I’m not easily shut up, so I countered back with just as much pointedness: “People who read books are my audience.”
Read the rest of the article here: Writing Woke
By Dennis Norris II
Long before it actually happened, I tried to tell the world that I was a figure skater. I tried on Saturday afternoons, back in the nineties when skating was on TV every weekend. I tried by pushing all the furniture to the edges of the living room. I tried by learning the proper technique for every jump and its takeoff years before I took my first skating lesson. And I tried by idolizing Michelle Kwan, by taping every performance on VHS, by learning all her choreography. I paid close attention to every opening pose, and assumed them when she did, matching my breath with hers, my movements with hers. I was a boy in those years, pre-pubescent, still under five feet tall. I knew little of the world, other than the fact that I loved watching figure skating. It enchanted me, captivated my attention for hours at a time. But for many years, for me, I thought skating was for watching, not doing.
I didn’t become a real figure skater until I was fourteen, which in skating, is geriatric. I had just started high school at University School (US), an elite, all-male college preparatory school. Though there were no formal gym classes, there was the expectation that every boy participate in some kind of sport, school sponsored or otherwise. I had never shown any real athletic talent in anything, but had obsessively followed figure skating ever since my baby-sitter exposed me to the sport in the early nineties. My earliest memory of fandom was in 1994, during the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Olympic controversy, though I know my enthusiasm came about years prior. So by the time the 1998 Winter Olympics rolled around, I’d been “figure skating” around the living room for years. I had plenty of dress socks—the best kind for slipping and sliding on a hardwood floor, pretending to jump and spin and fall. In middle school gym class, my favorite days were free days—I didn’t have to be bothered with kickball or basketball or running track. I was happy to be left alone pretending I was Michelle Kwan—that it was me moving across the ice telling stories with my body, presenting every detail flawlessly, from the top of my head all the way through my fingertips, to the point in my toes. I was Salome, I was Desdemona’s Dream; it was really my love story that built the Taj Mahal.
Read the rest of Dennis’ essay here: Finding Michelle Kwan
FROM SMOKE LONG QUARTERLY
Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Dennis Norris II
Your story, “Daddy’s Boy,” devastated me when I first read it, flooded me with discomfort. I had to step away and think about it, come back to it and read it again and then sort through competing emotions: admiration, disgust, sympathy. What sort of effect were you hoping to achieve with this story?
Well first, thank you so much for saying that, and for your kind words regarding “Daddy’s Boy.” This is a really satisfying question to consider because it tells me that as a reader this story asked you to work to receive it. Which is exactly the effect I’m hoping to achieve with everything I write. When I’m reading, the stories and novels that impact me the most allow me to work in partnership with the writer–in a very intimate way–and in that relationship, our combined efforts make the reading experience worthwhile. I hope a reader will return to my work, will need to do so, and will find something new, or deeper, or more challenging with each read, the same way that I do with the stories and novels that I hold most dear. But that means I have to do my part and deliver that story, which as I’m sure you know, is really hard to do.
Read the rest of the interview here: Rion Interviews Dennis
Brian Gilmore (’14, ’15) made the following presentation at AWP 2016 in Los Angeles as part of a panel entitled This Ends Now.
As a poet, and writer in many other genres, politics has never been too far from my writing. By the time I took writing serious and decided to be a writer, the movement for the end to apartheid in South Africa was in full swing and myself and many other students and activists rarely missed an opportunity to join a protest. Those of us who were poets wrote about it all the time and it often consumed our literature and created a personal challenge to write good poetry that we respected but that also spoke to the moment. Ronald Reagan was also President, and he too, became easy inspiration for our political verse considering policies he advocated that denigrated the poor and people of color.
It has never been an issue for me to mix art and politics, and especially, the serious issues as they appear in society. As a black writer, it is impossible to ignore the politics of my time and many writers, Sonia Sanchez, Richard Wright, Haki Madhubuti, John A Williams, and others, provided examples of writers who wrote in a time of crisis, on a variety of issues.
Read the rest of the remarks here: This Ends Now!