things that speak to now – collected – april

It’s been quiet on this blog recently, as life goes on in its busy ways, and I travel through deep-rooted things (internal travel, not places, still)—sometimes words fail.

So here is a collection of things that are speaking to me, now.

I used to periodically follow and then unfollow museums on social media, because, try as they might, with their young snappy interns at the job, some museum’s posts are really boring, and many larger accounts that ‘curate’ art posts end up a bit blah, too.

Perhaps because I can’t go to museums, or, um, anything, outside of Taiwan for the foreseeable future—or more likely, because we’ve reached a critical mass of social media usage—I decided to fix my feed, which was uncultured af, by following more visual artists’ personal-public accounts this year.

It yields much better results than the museum accounts, as you sometimes get a sneak peek into their personal tastes (or better yet, lives!), or vicariously/virtually take in exhibitions you can’t see in person, or check out their works-in-progress, as in the case of the three snippets above, from painter Arghavan Khosravi‘s Instagram.

Her recent art has been speaking to me, in Persian colors and diaphanous clouds and mystical creatures, of the loneliness of the pandemic (yes, we feel it, here, too, in heartbreak for family unseen, for peripheral happenings, for suffering, near & far) and the yearning for freedom—intangible, orbiting, and close, so close it’s almost within (hint, hint—it is).

Other painter’s Instagrams I really like recently: Zoe Blue M ; Salman Toor.

Send me mooore.

I’ve been working on a new project, about my grandmother, originally, and Taiwan, ostensibly—still ongoing, more on that another time.

So far this project has yielded a clear lack of answers about my grandmother’s mysteries, and deep intergenerational healing despite that, and the moody photos you see above, taken in Pingtung, a short drive from where my 外婆 landed in Taiwan from mainland China for the first time.

A foundational part of this project is a poem I wrote about history, memory, and exile. One day, getting close to a due date, I worked on it from the perspective of a man—or rather, as if I was a writer within the poem, who happened to be a man. I began speaking to subjects greater than myself or direct family history. The scope of the poem grew larger; it felt as if more things were accessible to me.

Is that what it’s like to write as a ‘man’ in this world? To capture with ease, without self-effacing thought—without ‘womanly’ fear of going out of reach, of one’s own body?

As filmmaker, writer, and post-colonial thinker Trinh T. Minh-ha writes in her book Woman, Native, Other—which you can actually read in its entirety here, if your poor eyeballs can take any more time on the screen—the woman writer’s internalization (or projection?) of the masculine voice is a practice of forgetting:

“She must learn not only to impersonalize the voice she stole or borrowed, but also to internalize gradually the impersonal generic interpretation of masculine pronouns and nouns… She-her has always conveyed the idea of a personal and gender-specific voice. In order to be taken more seriously, she is therefore bound to dye this voice universal, a tint that can only be obtained through words like man, mankind, he-him. The writer-he, the reader-he, the chairman, the cameraman, the protocolman. Such a convenient way to generalize and to transcend the sex line. One must practice to forget oneself, she said.”

Although I agree on many counts, the breakthrough within the poem did not feel like a forgetting. But it may have been. I felt I had tapped into a new voice—not a truly male one, if that even exists—rather, the one the poem had been looking for; a voice with a bit more authority, which could be seen as more ‘masculine’, by the forces-that-be (of humanity). And yet my poem is contained within, and held by, and emitting frequencies of my softer, confessional, and, some would say, feminine nature.

Of course I don’t want to write like a man. I want to write to things without fear. Without fear, perhaps meaning closer to the universal, rather than dyed by it, as Minh-ha says. Even so, my words in the last sentence–perhaps, meaning, rather–sound a bit, well, you know what I mean… masculine/universal? It may be a problem with the English language, of which I am still bound to in writing (sad face?).

I think this experience is not a surprise: it is at once free-ing and not-free.

Because, paradox. Because, this earthly plane, this everyday physicality of fruits and flowers and decay and blood and galaxies exploding, seems to lean a hair more to the feminine—yet contains within it an energetic structure of the masculine, which is birthed from the feminine, and vice versa, and again, and again—it’s the yin and yang of things, these alternating currents, of no separation.

So yeah, an illusory notion to be beheld by, either way.

I’ll let Minh-ha wrap it up, as I continue careening down the slippery (and substantial, and fulfilling) slopes of being a human who identifies as a woman, a non-native to any ongoing indigenous tradition, an eternal other on this very land, writing in a voice that is both mine and not mine:

Writing in the feminine. And on a colored sky… In other words, how do you forget without annihilating? Between the twin chasms of navel-gazing and navel-erasing, the ground is narrow and slippery. None of us can pride ourselves on being sure-footed there.

orbiting // sure & slippery footing // coloring // sustenance & destruction // colliding // work & play // entwining // nature & Burial-esque urban scenes // here, happening

With love,

Jasmine.

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