216 Chapters
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Medium 9780253018595

We Eat Cold Eels and Think Distant Thoughts · Poetry

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Said American boxer Jack Johnson, glistening like a fish,

To the newsman who asked him why white

Women were drawn to black men, like him.

What is it like to eat cold eels and think distant thoughts?

What is it like to be a black man who eats cold eels

And thinks distant thoughts? What is it like to be

A black man who thinks to say we eat cold eels and think

Distant thoughts to a white reporter, in early-1900s America,

Who wishes to reduce him to meat, to red, to sexual.

Once in the Chicago Aquarium, a long time ago,

I met an eel I was told by the label on his large

Tank weighed 53 pounds, and was 100 years old.

It looked at me with such a fierce intelligence through the glass

And silty water of its address—its grey bald head almost human,

Its two lidless eyes, its small nose holes; and instead of a body

Below its head, no body but a tail of fluid form, one great muscle

Behind ears that were not ears, but also holes. Its whole body

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Medium 9780253018571

Ode to the 99 cent store

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

You a kind of utopia,
you know. God’s garage.

Counterhegemonic magic,
how you tug on dollar bill
until it becomes open field,
how you mock semiotics openly,
proffering products which often belie
your professed mission, your wondrous
intentions, these too-expensive toasters, fragile
dishes, ironing boards that make mom appeal to American
Express as backup, her escape route from unplanned shame.

You ain’t have to do us like that. But I peeped game. I know you just like everyone else, hoping to hustle your way off this ziggurat block, all these poor folks stacked on top of each other like tropes. Your true currency is the cheer of children, the love of learners under duress, black & white notebooks I still call upon in hopes that these, my most harried dreams might have rest, shelter when smartphones give in, fading to moonless wan like everything else around here. You persist. You tenacious meditation on excess. You candy bars & batteries when pilot lights kissed us no more & Peanut Chews were the best high we knew or could afford. You smorgasbord.

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Medium 9780253356864

38. X Marks Walden’s Depth

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

During the winter of 1846, Thoreau mapped Walden Pond, partly to disprove the local myth of its “bottomlessness.” Lying on the ice and taking soundings with a small stone and cod line, Thoreau produced surprisingly accurate measurements that revealed the water’s actual depth: 102 feet. He also observed what he calls “this remarkable coincidence,” which he drew on a map, “that the line of greatest length intersected the line of greatest breadth exactly at the point of greatest depth” (195). After leaving the woods, Thoreau would caution himself against ready generalizations: “Let me not be in haste to detect the universal law; let me see more clearly a particular instance of it!” (J, 25 December 1851). But in “The Pond in Winter,” he is quickly off to the races. Proud of his X, he begins to speculate:

Who knows but this hint would conduct to the deepest part of the ocean as well as of a pond or puddle? Is not this the rule also for the height of mountains, regarded as the opposite of valleys? (195)

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Medium 9780253019028

Remembering Ali Mazrui

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Ali Mazrui. Photo by Seifudein Adem. ©2011

THE RANKS KEEP thinning, bringing sadness both for the individual loss and for the inevitable receding of an era whose seizure owed so much to the intellectual industry of scholars such as Ali Mazrui.

Ali and I were unflagging adversaries. Indeed, it is only by dint of a hard effort of recollection that I find myself able to cite a few areas of absolute concordance on any critical issue that concerned the “Africa Project”! Fortunately, I was able to participate—at his touching insistence!—in the colloquium at Binghamton University to mark his seventieth birthday. He was the perfect host, presiding affably over the multidisciplinary motley of African scholars and Africanists, including statesmen and -women, that he had labored very hard to bring together.

Among these was another adversary of a different kind—General Yakubu Gowon, former Military Head of Nigeria. We were meeting for the first time since my emergence from prison detention in 1969. Gowon was obviously ill at ease, understandably, since he had signed the detention order that had kept me in prison for over two years during the Biafran war of secession. Many knew this already, so the tension was not confined to the General alone; certainly, Ali was on the watchful side, especially as he had seated the two ‘enemies’ side by side.

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Medium 9780253018632

“My Spirit is There”

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

an interview with Edouard Duval-Carrié

Kaiama L. Glover

IN OCTOBER OF 2012, I interviewed Edouard Duval-Carrié—one of Haiti’s most important contemporary artists—at Duke University’s Haiti Laboratory, where he was spending a semester as a Visiting Professor. The interview was part of a documentary about Haitian art titled In the Eye of the Spiral, directed by Raynald Leconte. In these excerpts, Duval-Carrié speaks about a collective art project he completed in 2011 with faculty and students at Duke, and also about his past, present, and future as an artist seeking to represent Haiti.

Kaiama L. Glover: Can you tell us where we’re sitting right now, and what this place means to you?

Edouard Duval-Carrié: We’re here at Duke University, in North Carolina. We’re inside the Haiti Laboratory, which is one of the few international centers that focuses on Haiti with such intensity. The directors, Deborah Jenson and Laurent Dubois, invited me to put together a project with them. You can see it behind me. For this project I asked for input from the students—they’re not really students, but researchers, but I have fun calling them students because they are a little bit younger than me—and over the course of two days they brought me everything they could find in terms of visual material about Haiti, from Saint-Domingue through the Revolution, and all that has happened since then. All of them were doctoral students working in different areas, and we worked around a theme: “Haiti: History Embedded in Amber.”

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The Great Convert

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

The fangs of a tiger and the mouth of a mosquito are capable of the same harm.

—IGBO PROVERB

IN MANY OF his sermons, Fr. Paul talked about the process of sanctification. He would stand on the altar, his arms half-concealed in his flowing white robe with yellow stripes, and his steps lissom as he moved about the altar, speaking and gesticulating while the congregation sat in silence as if hypnotized. Although it is now nine years past, the memory of these things is so sharp in my mind that I can still vividly recall the exact words he often used: “It is a process, a divine process akin to that of childbearing. Christ tears down the once imperforate veil of sin with the tempered force of his divine presence. And this,” he would say with great assurance, letting his eyes dart from row to row, “is the way of sanctification; of transformation.”

His own transformation began one Sunday morning in March 1984, when a band of armed robbers stormed our church during a service. Mass was going on and Fr. Paul was about to bless the sacrament, his hands raised over the bowl containing the Holy Communion, when the service was interrupted by a blast of gunshots. Within a breath, armed men entered the cathedral from all the entrances, screaming: “All of you get down. Get down! Down!” There was an immediate response as the congregation of over two hundred people flattened on the paved floor. One of the men pointed his gun to the roof again and, after a thunderous roar, I saw a bullet perforate one of the blades of the ceiling fan. From where I lay on my back near the front seat of the auditorium, I watched the hole in the now dented fan blade swirl like a revolving eye. Although the entire congregation had lain on the floor, Fr. Paul did not. He stood firmly behind the wooden podium, his hands on the Bible half-opened in front of him. As he would tell me later, although he’d found himself trembling, he’d felt as though two long nails had been driven through his feet into the firm ground, rendering him immobile. This defiance surprised the bandits.

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Amiri Baraka and the Music of Life

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

UNFORTUNATELY, THE NEW York Times neglected most of the materials that I provided their reporter for the Amiri Baraka obituary. Fortunately, they included Maya Angelou’s assessment that Amiri Baraka was the world’s greatest living poet. However, it is difficult to account for the newspaper of record that neglected to mention that, by 1995, Amiri Baraka was officially inducted into this country’s most prestigious cultural assembly, the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Was that a case of criminal neglect or a case of tragic blindness?

He advised that students imaginatively learn the art of maneuver in the Black Revolt; then he referred students to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

A few years ago, Baraka invited me to his sunny breakfast nook; that is the room that housed his portrait standing amidst an overwhelmingly white crowd of the 250 men and women honored in the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995. He pointed to the few dark dots in the group portrait, indicating where he and Toni Morrison were standing as a token gesture to racial diversity in the constellation of American genius represented in that esteemed academy.

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Medium 9780253000958

Mind in the Forest

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

I touch trees, as others might stroke the fenders of automobiles or finger silk I fabrics or fondle cats. Trees do not purr, do not flatter, do not inspire a craving for ownership or power. They stand their ground, immune to merely human urges. Saplings yield under the weight of a hand and then spring back when the hand lifts away, but mature trees accept one’s touch without so much as a shiver. While I am drawn to all ages and kinds, from maple sprouts barely tall enough to hold their leaves off the ground to towering sequoias with their crowns wreathed in fog, I am especially drawn to the ancient, battered ones, the survivors.

Recently I spent a week in the company of ancient trees. The season was October and the site was the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a 15,800-acre research area defined by the drainage basin of Lookout Creek, within Willamette National Forest, on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. It’s a wet place. At higher elevations, annual precipitation averages 140 inches, and even the lower elevations receive 90 inches, twice the amount that falls on my well-watered home region of southern Indiana. Back in Indiana the trees are hardwoods—maples and beeches and oaks, hickories and sycamores—and few are allowed to grow for as long as a century without being felled by ax or saw. Here in Andrews Forest, the ruling trees are Douglas firs, western hemlocks, western red cedars, and Pacific yews, the oldest of them ranging in age from five hundred to eight hundred years, veterans of countless fires, windstorms, landslides, insect infestations, and floods.

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“Is Viola Davis in it?”

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

2013 WAS LAUDED as a “Renaissance Year” for black films within the Hollywood movie industry. Notably, the films 42, Fruitvale, The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom shared the quality of having an extraordinary black male character at the center of their stories. With characters ranging from an athlete, a victim of police brutality, a butler, a slave, and a political leader, the diversity of black male roles is telling. Each film set out to represent a real person: each opened with that most powerful of filmic premises, “Based on a True Story.” Each of these historical and male-dominated or male-centered stories is the kind of film that—for better or worse—informs audiences about important African American topics in place of classroom lectures, lesson plans, and, most importantly, books.

Each film also subtly sent the message that black men can play great and complex roles, while black women can continue to play marginalized roles as their girlfriends or wives. It is rarely, if ever, that we see a film in which a black woman is the central character and her husband or partner plays the sidekick or emotional supporter to her goals. Even in the imaginary world, there is no black Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games trilogy, who would heroically lead all of the men around her. We continue to only “see” black women in film when their images are peripheral—which is another way of saying that black women are barely seen in historical films.

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Medium 9780253356864

20. Leaving Walden

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Walden’s celebration of Thoreau’s glorious twenty-six months in the woods leaves almost all of its readers with a stark question: why did he choose to leave? The book’s “Conclusion,” of course, offers one explanation, but its laconic offhandness has never proved very satisfying:

I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. (217)

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there”—what could that sentence mean? In “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,” Thoreau had already spelled out his reason for going to the pond: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach” (65). With its senses of care, consideration, and unhurriedness, deliberately does a lot of work in that passage, endowing Thoreau’s move to the woods with the aura of an existential choice. As he set about finishing Walden, Thoreau had certainly come to recognize that choice as the decisive one of his life, the one that had given him the most immediate happiness and prompted the writing that would establish his reputation.

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Medium 9780253019059

Indianapolis

Edited and with an Introduction by Owen Indiana University Press ePub

Four bold men pass in review, one thrilling, one sad, one
puzzling and the other—was Doctor Brinkley

WASHINGTON—Four very bold men have been goose-stepping it across the pages in front of my leisurely eyes this past week. They are:

Peter DePaolo, the racing driver; John R. Brinkley, the goat gland doctor; Haw Tabor, the fantastic Colorado metal king; and William Randolph Hearst, the poor little rich boy.

About each of these men I have read a biography. It was a varied experience. These four had nothing in common—except boldness. But even that one bond knits a close society, for boldness is not squandered among us.

Peter DePaolo’s book is an autobiography. He wrote it himself. It is called “Wall Smacker.” It is not especially well written, but it is certainly not badly written.

DePaolo is an American-born Italian. He dreamed up following in the footsteps of his famous racing uncle, Ralph DePalma. And he did. DePaolo won at Indianapolis in 1925.

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23. Numbers

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

• 2,000: population of Concord during Thoreau’s stay at the pond

• 2 years, 2 months, 2 days: length of Thoreau’s stay at Walden (before deducting a month spent at home while his cabin was being winterproofed and his two-week Maine trip)

• 1.3 miles: distance from Thoreau’s cabin to Emerson’s house

• 28–36: Thoreau’s age during Walden’s composition

• 550 yards: distance from Thoreau’s cabin to the Fitchburg railroad line

• 204 feet: distance from Thoreau’s cabin to Walden Pond

• 612 acres: size of Walden Pond

• 31: tools Thoreau used at Walden

• over 3,000: uses of first-person pronoun in Walden

• less than half a mile: distance from Thoreau’s cabin to Irish railroad laborers’ huts

• 10' x 15': size of Thoreau’s cabin

• 30: people that could fit in the cabin without removing the furniture

• almost 7 miles: total length of Thoreau’s bean rows

• over 700: references to animals in Walden

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Medium 9781574412086

11. Naomi Shihab Nye, “Home Address” from Never in a Hurry

Edited by David Taylor University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 11

Naomi Shihab Nye

Home Address

Naomi Shihab Nye’s seventh and most recent anthology, Is This Forever, or what? Poems & Paintings From Texas, came out in 2004. “Home Address” is from her collection Never in a Hurry: Essays on People and Places. She lives in San Antonio with her husband, photographer Michael Nye and their son. Her collection of poems 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle

East was a National Book Award finalist. Forthcoming in 2005 are A Maze Me

(poems for girls), Going Going (a novel for teens) and You and Yours (poems).

She is one of the many Texans who still believes in separation of church and state.

Yesterday we paid off the mortgage on our ninety-year-old white house on South Main Avenue. I drove from San Antonio to Austin with a cashier’s check in my purse and a receipt marked HAND-DELIVERED for the mortgage company to sign. I wanted to see that stamp marked

PAID IN FULL, to step back out the door into the sun and blink hard and take a full fine breath.

When I entered the marble lobby of the office building—cool and blank as any bank—beams of light were slanting through high windows onto the gleaming floor and the music playing over loudspeakers was the very same trumpet anthem I walked down the aisle to at our wedding

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Medium 9780253019028

Ali Mazrui (1933–2014)

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Ali Mazrui. Photo by Seifudein Adem. ©2011

THE RANKS KEEP thinning, bringing sadness both for the individual loss and for the inevitable receding of an era whose seizure owed so much to the intellectual industry of scholars such as Ali Mazrui.

Ali and I were unflagging adversaries. Indeed, it is only by dint of a hard effort of recollection that I find myself able to cite a few areas of absolute concordance on any critical issue that concerned the “Africa Project”! Fortunately, I was able to participate—at his touching insistence!—in the colloquium at Binghamton University to mark his seventieth birthday. He was the perfect host, presiding affably over the multidisciplinary motley of African scholars and Africanists, including statesmen and -women, that he had labored very hard to bring together.

Among these was another adversary of a different kind—General Yakubu Gowon, former Military Head of Nigeria. We were meeting for the first time since my emergence from prison detention in 1969. Gowon was obviously ill at ease, understandably, since he had signed the detention order that had kept me in prison for over two years during the Biafran war of secession. Many knew this already, so the tension was not confined to the General alone; certainly, Ali was on the watchful side, especially as he had seated the two ‘enemies’ side by side.

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Medium 9780253000958

A Road into Chaos and Old Night

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

When I first read a handful of his essays in college, I didn’t much care for Ralph Waldo Emerson. He seemed too high-flown, too cocksure, too earnest. I couldn’t imagine he had ever sweated or doubted. His sentences rang with a magisterial certainty that I could never muster. In the library, his portrait gazed from the wall with a superior air; his name was carved in stone alongside the names of other literary immortals. More like an angel than a man, he seemed to float above the messy Earth where I labored in confusion. He rarely told stories, rarely framed arguments, rarely focused on any creature or place, but instead he piled one oracular statement atop another like a heap of jewels, each one hard and polished and cold.

While resisting Emerson, I fell under the spell of another citizen of Concord, Henry David Thoreau, who was agreeably cranky and earthy. Here was a man who rode rivers, climbed mountains, ambled through forests, and told of his journeys in wide-awake narratives, as I aspired to do. He built a cabin with his own hands, hoed beans, baked bread, and chopped wood. Thoreau kept his feet on the ground, his eyes and ears alert to the homely world—ants fighting on a stump, mud thawing on a railroad bank, men building a bridge, skunk cabbage perfuming a swamp. He led an outdoor life, keeping his distance from the gossipy town. He stood up against slavery, protested the Mexican war, went to jail for refusing to pay the poll tax, and wrote prose that seemed to me as wild as the loons he chased across Walden Pond.

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