[-empyre-] Decolonial Poetry & Play in the Pacific

LeConte J Dill ljd9 at nyu.edu
Fri Oct 25 11:39:16 AEDT 2019

Thanks for your insightful comments and dialogue, Margaret.

As far as "authorial mentors," to coin a phrase from Dr. Gholdy Muhammad,
Lucille Clifton ranks as #1. People say that, like Clifton, my poems can be
written in simple language, but still pack a punch. She also does deep
ancestral work in her poetry. I love and am indebted to her praxis of Black
Feminist Conjure!
I love how Nikki Giovanni plays on the page and on the mic. She has fun and
is so unapologetic....and she works through what we call now
'intergenerational healing' through her work.
Mahogany L. Browne writes for and with Black girls and women. she reps our
beloved Cali and also pays homage to our legacies of/from The Great
I've recently been exploring Toi Derricotte investigation of her own
pregnancy, labor, and motherhood, namely in "natural birth."

I've definitely been dedicated to my hybrid practice/play since my doctoral
program (so over the last 11 years). And I carried into my roles as a
post-doc, Assistant Professor, and now Association Professor and
administrator. I never asked for permission to blend poetry and public
health, I just did it and provided "receipts"--cited or nodded to dope
folks outside and inside of the academy who also practiced this rigorous
play. Dr. Rich Furman was an early guide--he's a full professor of Social
Work and former chair and a poet--well-published in academic journals and
poetry ones. I believe he's pursuing a MFA now. He was doing and publishing
about "research poetry," which I went onto adapt at "participatory
narrative analysis"--doing rigorous work as a qualitative research, but
then playing with the transcripts and inviting my participants to play with
their words/transcripts and the themes therein and to look at how those
themes resonated with other poets and to create poems from those
transcripts and from those themes. I definitely started this by playing
during my dissertation (when folks wondered how I could afford to play and
especially play with poetry to invite young people in Oakland in as not
research "upon" but as "co-researchers). It felt like an experiment, an
experiment that worked! When I moved to Atlanta for my post-doc, I still
thought that this play was a fluke. A dear poetry comrade reminded me that
this was indeed MY praxis and pedagogy. So, I kept doing it and expanding
and evolving it. I haven't had any pushback from mentors or supervisors,
thankfully. But even if I did, I would push on back, too!

I definitely encourage play as a teacher and mentor. Grad students are
soooo stressed nowadays, even moreso than we were. They've inspired me to
make space in my classes, curriculum, office, etc. to facilitate play. I
created a whole course called "Centering Wellness," which is really a
practice, not just a class, focused on public health students reading
poetry, memoir, and fiction, and creating collages, songs, poems, etc. Some
students are hesitant, because if they've been on a pre-med, pre-health
careers track, at times the play and the personal has been forced out of
them. But for the most part, students come to like this remembering, this
letting go, this imagining.
I also facilitate meditation sessions right before finals for all of our
grad students, and even staff have started to come. I encourage students to
take breaks, to have fun, to build community. I see students as my
co-learners, but I recognize that this is a disruptive praxis in academia.
Bi-directional mentoring is disruptive to the hegemony. Play is disruptive.
Well then, I'm a disruptor.

*LeConté J. Dill, DrPH, MPH**Director of Public Health Practice*

*Clinical Associate Professor,*

*Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences*

*College of Global Public Health*

*New York University*

*665 Broadway, 11th Floor*

*New York, NY 10012*

*Email: ljd9 at nyu.edu <ljd9 at nyu.edu>*

*Phone: (212) 992-6087*

<https://publichealth.nyu.edu/faculty/leconte-dill> *

On Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 6:13 PM Margaret Rhee <mrheeloy at gmail.com> wrote:

> Thank you LeConte and Craig, this is really beautiful, and truly a honor
> to engage with both of your work.
> I've always been informed by both your work and presence, and grateful for
> hybrid scholars and artists in my life, who make things possible.
> I feel so much that community is such an important part of not only
> activist practices,  but poetic practice too. I really love this
> conversation
> and wish we could be in IRL to talk about these things sometime soon.
> I know Maria and Gabriela had some issues with the listserve access, and
> Ill forward their posts shortly.
> Craig, I love how you articulate playing with space of the page, and an
> "oceanic poetics" in "words as islands, sentences as archipelagoes, and the
> space as oceanic." It really teaches us to view the page and the poem in
> such different and meaningful ways. It's an important intervention, and
> seeing the page as a canvas, or map (remapping).  It does remind me also of
> Maria's work with paper dresses, she paints on, and the deep attention to
> form, that is a decolonial intervention.
> For your poetry, I've always been so moved by this play as a subversion of
> the page and remapping of colonial maps. I'm excited to read further about
> the new Oceania and the history of colonization.
> I also love thinking about the ocean. It reminds me of the resonance with
> Kale's work on oceans and seafaring and Filipino migrants sailors.
> In terms of your work as a publisher, which I've admired greatly over the
> years, and our collaboration on Kundiman chapbook was such a special
> experience. It reminds me of how poets and cultural workers of color also
> support the publication and distribution of the poetry as well. Your work
> with Ala Press is so dynamic in how it intervenes in what we understand as
> arts and letters and how not only are you intervening as an artist, but
> also support other artists in a collective activism.
> If you had a moment, I'd love to hear more about how this developed as
> your practice? Did you always see publishing and community work, as
> integral to the poetic intervention you make on the page? I'm always
> grateful to be in conversation.
> I'm thinking now of LeConte's anthology publication of her work with Black
> youth in Oakland, and her many interventions with poetry, and
> participatory action research in public health. It's beautiful to think
> of the voices of Black female ancestors and Black girls from the future in
> terms of your practice, and such a honor to engage. I love this how you
> discuss remapping LeConte and about the "narrative maps of Black girls’ and
> women’s journeys towards safe and healthy landing places" which resonates
> with Craig's work too. It's all deeply moving and an intervention of the
> poem and remapping of the page.
> It's fun and incredible that you are also deemed the "Play Priestess" (!!)
> I had initially thought of your incredible poetry and community based
> research in public health, but it makes sense, and how to include play, and
> intervene in our fabric of life to enjoy and play in our creative and
> academic writing lives.
> This play can and should extend into our lives and not only adherence to
> the structures of the institutions in which we reside.
> I was fortunate to meet you in Cecil's workshop, and later with Cecil and
> Craig too. I'm wondering if you can talk more about experimentalism and the
> legacy of Black poetry and who has informed your work, and practice? Additionally,
> it's so exciting to learn about your teaching that has also crossed
> boundaries of health in the MFA and working with MPH students about poetry.
> I wonder if you were always able to find this hybrid practice, or did you
> experience any administrative hurdles in being able to teach across
> programs and approaches? It's an inspiring to think about and it is buoying
> to know that the students can learn from both MPH and MFA content.
> I know that I also feel blessed in my department to teach artists about
> theory, and that there are not many places that also see the value of art.
> I'm wondering if you both experience this when working with students?
> I guess I'm thinking of mentoring here after teaching.
> Do your students (especially grad students) take on this practice (of
> play)? How do you teach this? I guess I think often of models, like both of
> your work and presence, which helped teach me these possibilities too.
> Now in the role as a teacher, I'm often wondering how I help my students
> think in hybrid embodied ways. And the stakes for artists of color to
> create these spaces and roles not only for ourselves but for others. I
> would like to think I have students who also would want this practice
> and openness, and yet the structures often make it impossible.
> I'm also thinking about the role of collaboration in both of your work,
> and how is this part of your play, and practice? Thank you both again for
> your interventions, and all that you do.
> On Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 12:30 AM LeConte J Dill <ljd9 at nyu.edu> wrote:
>> Thank you for the invitation to join in on this discussion, Margaret!!
>> And thanks for kicking things off, Craig.
>> My poetry is inspired by the voices of Black female ancestors, Black
>> girls and women that are known and unknown to me, and Black girls from the
>> future. In my poetry, I've come to realize that I'm creating narrative maps
>> of Black girls’ and women’s journeys towards safe and healthy landing
>> places.
>> Some of my poetry teachers and mentors have encouraged me to dance more
>> and play more in my writing and on the page (and stage). One of my comrades
>> recently donned me the "Play Priestess"--I encourage selfcare
>> and squadcare, naps, breaks, beach time, dancing, and joyfulness in life,
>> in general, and also in my creative and "academic" writing.
>> One way that I've played is by merging my identities, knowledges, and
>> practices as both a poet and a public health professor. For most of my
>> life, I kept these "crafts" separate. When I started my doctoral program, I
>> knew that I had to bring them together for my own sanity because I'm only
>> one person afterall. Almost a decade ago, Margaret witnessed me attempting
>> this playing in C.S. Giscombe's poetry class at Berkeley. Health-inspired
>> poetry...poetry-inspired health research...Both/And. So you might find me
>> teaching MFA students about the themes of chronic and infectious disease,
>> social support, and healing in Sonia Sanchez's "Does Your House Have
>> Lions?," or asking MPH students to write an "I Come From" poem for
>> first-day-of-class introductions (and to not begin their poem with "I'm not
>> a poet"). This playing always engages me with young people, folks of color,
>> people who have filled countless journals but don't call themselves
>> "writers," and folks who name writing as one of their coping mechanisms.
>> Special shout-out to my #weareallpoets squad in Jo'burg who showed me how
>> to play with our words all the way in the Motherland:
>> https://weareallpoets2015.wordpress.com/
>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__weareallpoets2015.wordpress.com_&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=5kB4dPfoAASCpmcz1IEzEhbsHKqM5RWmL8QKfafJbyE&s=KQ0X_Ygv2mknqIk2TuPeOyhTXLssWmiNo3UGk2x2sfc&e=>
>> Take care,
>> LeConte
>> *LeConté J. Dill, DrPH, MPH**Director of Public Health Practice*
>> *Clinical Associate Professor,*
>> *Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences*
>> *College of Global Public Health*
>> *New York University*
>> *665 Broadway, 11th Floor*
>> *New York, NY 10012*
>> *Email: ljd9 at nyu.edu <ljd9 at nyu.edu>*
>> *Phone: (212) 992-6087*
>> *https://publichealth.nyu.edu/faculty/leconte-dill
>> <https://publichealth.nyu.edu/faculty/leconte-dill> *
>> On Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 12:09 AM Craig Perez <csperez at hawaii.edu> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Thanks so much, Margaret!
>>> Yes, playing with the space of the page is an important part of my
>>> poetry. Iʻve written before about articulating an "oceanic poetics" in
>>> which I see words as islands, sentences as archipelagoes, and the space as
>>> oceanic with rhythmic currents and unseen depths of meaning. I write more
>>> about this here:
>>> https://www.academia.edu/30082881/_On_Writing_from_the_New_Oceania_The_Ottawa_Poetry_Newsletter_2016_
>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.academia.edu_30082881_-5FOn-5FWriting-5Ffrom-5Fthe-5FNew-5FOceania-5FThe-5FOttawa-5FPoetry-5FNewsletter-5F2016-5F&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=syO_oPYgWZHgiupvSQ9OchcSozLh83MYX7OUcz41xC0&e=>
>>> .
>>> I also think about the page as a kind of mapping. In the Pacific, as
>>> elsewhere, there's a long history of colonial mappings that reduce our
>>> islands & ocean to territorialized spaces. So in my work I try to play
>>> (subvert, re-imagine, de-territorialize) colonial maps.
>>> Yes, I also work as an editor & publisher. I have co-edited four
>>> anthologies of Pacific islander literature and I co-founded Ala Press, the
>>> only press in the US dedicated to Pacific literature (we have published
>>> around 10 books thus far). It's nice to think of this labor as creating a
>>> space (anthology or collection) for other voices to gather and inter-play.
>>> For those interested, here is the press: www.alapress.org
>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.alapress.org&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=1kpdtti3ri_b5KQVYQGXZIK2anBTnmxJ2mdCZesVhJU&e=>
>>> and here is one anthology that I co-edited that just came out this year:
>>> https://www.amazon.com/Effigies-Allison-Adelle-Hedge-Coke/dp/1784631833/
>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.amazon.com_Effigies-2DAllison-2DAdelle-2DHedge-2DCoke_dp_1784631833_&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=31-FHHdUKdLFKyxvl2av9zwTDZFQldh63p7r_73A_yg&e=>
>>> .
>>> Cheers,
>>> Craig
>>> On Wed, Oct 23, 2019 at 6:12 AM Margaret Rhee <mrheeloy at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Thank you Craig for your message, and for participating. Such a honor
>>>> to engage with your work and continue the thread on poetry, activism, and
>>>> decolonial play. I've always been moved by your collaborative work across
>>>> mediums such as poem-videos and visual art, and your work on the page in
>>>> your collections too. I've inserted an excerpt from your first collection
>>>> from unincorporated territory [hatcha] that to me, exemplifies the play on
>>>> the page, that is all at once decolonial and experimental in terms of the
>>>> visual.
>>>> It's incredible to think of land, the ocean, and the poem in this way.
>>>> It certainly reminds me of Maria's play with poetry and of Jerry's work on
>>>> environments too. I wonder if you can speak more to your work in the visual
>>>> and when thinking about oceans, land, environments, and poetics?
>>>> I've also been moved in your collaborations as a publisher of Pacific
>>>> and POC poetry in your practice. I wonder if you can speak more to this
>>>> work of fostering Pacific poetry, and social justice movements through
>>>> poetry readings and publishing as an activist practice? Always moved by
>>>> your interventions, and excited to hear from others for this week.
>>>> warmly,
>>>> Margaret
>>>> ---
>>>> "The Page Transformed" Interview with Craig Santos Perez:
>>>> http://www.lanternreview.com/blog/2010/03/12/the-page-transformed-a-conversation-with-craig-santos-perez/
>>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.lanternreview.com_blog_2010_03_12_the-2Dpage-2Dtransformed-2Da-2Dconversation-2Dwith-2Dcraig-2Dsantos-2Dperez_&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=02UIJauJAxTRdfUM_k_wQZawkBOffqyAwW7U9U94trw&e=>
>>>> [image: image.png]
>>>> On Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 12:36 PM Craig Perez <csperez at hawaii.edu>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>>> Hafa adai and Aloha!
>>>>> Thanks, Margaret, for the invitation to join this exciting discussion.
>>>>> My poetry focuses on my home island of Guahan (Guam), my current home
>>>>> of Hawaiʻi, and the larger Pacific and our diasporas. Thematically, I
>>>>> address issues of decolonization, demilitarization, environmental justice,
>>>>> food sovereignty, political self-determination, and migration. Four of my
>>>>> books have been published thus far, with my fifth forthcoming next year
>>>>> (you can see my books here at my website: www.craigsantosperez.com
>>>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.craigsantosperez.com&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=3gU3S9tccCpTBj6pKAWLoMO85dKmfvWg2pOubavMNsk&e=>).
>>>>> When I think about "play" in my work, I think about my use of playful
>>>>> techniques/aesthetics, including collage, polyphony, satire, humor, gossip,
>>>>> the carnivalesque, and metanarratives.
>>>>> I enjoy thinking of collaboration as a kind of inter-play. The two
>>>>> main collaborations I have done have been with Hawaiian artists/writers.
>>>>> One art installation called "defence" can be found here:
>>>>> http://craigsantosperez.com/defence/
>>>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__craigsantosperez.com_defence_&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=U2vVLlez_DumNG_xXVtFUrPtmV0K4umN1fnHxBbmQwA&e=>.
>>>>> A poem-video, called "praise song for oceania" can be found here:
>>>>> http://craigsantosperez.com/praise-song-oceania/
>>>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__craigsantosperez.com_praise-2Dsong-2Doceania_&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=SU17xJlzU25bs_N-Cz1ftgYvcHHNd5J4ICWmRbrdbWw&e=>
>>>>> .
>>>>> Lastly, I have found that creating a space of creative play at
>>>>> activist events have been very fruitful. I have organized many poetry
>>>>> writing spaces and creative writing workshops at different kinds of protest
>>>>> marches, activist festivals, cultural events, and more for people to
>>>>> express themselves. I have also hosted poetry reading and open mics at
>>>>> activist events, teach-ins, etc. I believe making these kinds spaces are
>>>>> vital for social justice movements to keep things playful (engaging, fun,
>>>>> pleasurable, expressive, creative, etc).
>>>>> I look forward to learning from everyone one.
>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>> Craig
>>>>> --
>>>>> Dr. Craig Santos Perez
>>>>> Interim Director of Creative Writing
>>>>> Associate Professor, English Department
>>>>> Affiliate Faculty, Center for Pacific Islands Studies
>>>>> & The Indigenous Politics Program
>>>>> University of Hawai'i, Mānoa
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> empyre forum
>>>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>>>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__empyre.library.cornell.edu&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=Rfefd_eCpqpOLb-fNBdAfgjLmrtf2C8xDZzKeTw2lOk&e=>
>>>> --
>>>> Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.
>>>> College Fellow in Digital Practice (2018 - 2019)
>>>> Department of English
>>>> Harvard University
>>>> Assistant Professor in Media Theory (2019)
>>>> Department of Media Study
>>>> SUNY Buffalo
>>> --
>>> Dr. Craig Santos Perez
>>> Interim Director of Creative Writing
>>> Associate Professor, English Department
>>> Affiliate Faculty, Center for Pacific Islands Studies
>>> & The Indigenous Politics Program
>>> University of Hawai'i, Mānoa
>>> http://craigsantosperez.com/
>>> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__craigsantosperez.com_&d=DwMFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=PQNxp9KQfv-_Pd9URUCThHVrRcC3viMPV3iko9xuJbs&e=>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__empyre.library.cornell.edu&d=DwICAg&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=7orC5lGIdGAnr6U_9qaZ1w&m=n3YxeShUWhYEzynfSGtjN4Ejwq5LcF3yuOaKzIt04Lk&s=Rfefd_eCpqpOLb-fNBdAfgjLmrtf2C8xDZzKeTw2lOk&e=
> --
> Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.
> College Fellow in Digital Practice (2018 - 2019)
> Department of English
> Harvard University
> Assistant Professor in Media Theory (2019)
> Department of Media Study
> SUNY Buffalo
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