O Love, Take Me to My Country
It is impossible to materially imagine our lives without colonialism. Yet, we have been given a wealth of histories that form underneath, but more urgently, parallel to the colonial structures that shape our world. What are the alternate realities our characters might have lived between?
O Love, Take Me to My Country
paracolonialism within alternate realities
It is impossible to materially imagine our lives without colonialism. Yet, we have been given a wealth of histories that form underneath, but more urgently, parallel to the colonial structures that shape our world. What are the alternate realities our characters might have lived between? We can imagine paracolonialism, the state in which we find ourselves today. And despite its insidious hold on our lives, we must find ways of unearthing a new world.
In Xandria Phillips’ ‘You and I,’ dual narratives are presented, and each life is read within and across them. What is the political place of a contrapuntal poem, in which a third narrative is born from a splitting, a duality? Phillips uses the form as a means to imagine “NO COLONIAL” and “POST COLONIAL” realities. Consider how tenderness and violence stand in isolation, and what becomes of the plot when the lines are blurred and they are forced to interact. Consider how this blurring occurs in our lives everyday as we live in this world.
Read Safia Elhillo’s ‘vocabulary,’ the first poem of her ‘Alien Suite.’ Consider the first lines that speak to hawa, how meaning becomes double-edged in the poem as she quotes Abdelhalim, Fairouz and Oum Kalthoum. Consider how the challenge of translation creates alternate realities within Elhillo’s piece. What role does language play in our imaginations of a new world? How does our world rupture the ways in which we perceive ourselves and our places in it?
In her ‘poem that wrote me into beast in order to be read,’ Marwa Helal writes: “we were winged creatures werent we tell me because i still dream of flight sometimes i trumpet waiting to be sound i who have made earrings of arrow reporting now to you of the mythical creatures i dismantled in order to become the one writing words you are reading” What does it mean for us, as marginalized people, to dream of flight, in the face of paracolonialism? Consider how Helal presents the poem with no punctuation. What must be dismantled in order for our stories to be told?
Consider how Jade Matias Bell uses numbers to work around form and alternate narratives in ‘Dissection.’ While this isn’t a piece on colonialism per se, it is a fine example of how to play with alternate narratives, and could be interpreted as a microscopic look on paracolonialism when taken as metaphor. Consider the final lines: “It only looks that way,” she said, “because of what you’ve done to it.” And we all sat there looking down at it, wondering what we had done.
In the excerpted section of Layli Long Soldier's long poem, ‘WHEREAS,’ the speaker grapples with whiteness that exists freely in her homeland, with settlers that take up Native space and expect her to explain to them what they have done to her people. Consider her rage and how she must contain it, especially in institutional spaces. “Whereas truthfully I wished most to kick the legs of that man’s chair out from under him; // Whereas to watch him fall backward legs flailing beer stench across his chest; // Whereas I pictured it happening in cinematic slow-motion delightful;” If we are only free to be reactional in our imagination, what is the role of writing and other creative responses to paracolonialism? Are the alternate realities we create any less valid when they only exist in our art? Can we delight in them, still?
In Natalie Diaz’s ‘Post-Colonial Love Poem,’ she puts forth the idea that we are not actually post-colonial, but rather still within a form of colonialism. She writes: “The war ended / depending on which war you mean: those we started, / before those, millennia ago and onward, / those which started me, which I lost and won—these ever-blooming wounds.” How do we envisage ourselves healed of these wounds? In the middle of the war that “never ended and somehow begins again,” how do we go about the work of reimagination?
For this lesson, you can write a contrapuntal, styling the form that Phillips uses, or write a prose piece that expresses the alternate realities, perhaps using numbering like Bell. You could do away with punctuation like Helal does. Ultimately, the form is up to you; the mission is to examine the lived experiences that are shaded by colonialism, how those experiences might differ depending on space and time. For an added challenge, try to incorporate the following words in your piece: capsule, border, static, silver, unnamed.
You and I by Xandria Phillips
vocabulary by Safia Elhillo
poem that wrote me into beast in order to be read by Marwa Helal
Dissection by Jade Mattias Bell
from WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier
Post-Colonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Alien Suite (video) by Safia Elhillo