written by v ness (2020)

“I’m not interested really in talking to you as an artist. It seems to me that the artist’s struggle for [their] integrity must be considered as a kind of metaphor for the struggle (which is universal and daily) of all human beings on the face of this globe to get to become human beings. It is not your fault, it is not my fault, that I write. And I never would come before you in the position of a complainant for doing something that I must do… The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets. That’s my first proposition. We know about the Oedipus Complex not because of Freud, but because of a poet who lived in Greece thousands of years ago. …

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Peche by Lou Stovall (2004)

— —

“How much better is they love than wine — and the smell of thy ointments than all the spices — Thy lips — O my spouse — drop as the honeycomb — honey and milk are under thy tongue — and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon — A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse — a spring shut in — a fountain sealed — Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits — camphire — with spikenard spikenard and saffroncalamus and cinnamon — with all trees of frankincensemyrrh and aloes — with all the chief spices — A fountain of gardens — a well of living waters — and streams from Lebanon — Awake — O north wind — and come — thou southblow upon my gardenthat the spices thereof may flow…

A open letter to my father on Homer, Kubrick, and culinary authority.

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“Back In Your Own Backyard” by Patrick Lorenzo Semple. “The original song is Billie Holiday [1938] but this was under the influence of Sun Ra’s version[1983]” —from our personal correspondence

“A thousand girls that look like me
Staring out at the open sea
Repeat the words until they’re true:
Cover my eyes electric blue.”

— Arcade Fire, “Electric Blue”, Everything Now (2017)

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“Oh Maker, tell me, did you know this love could burn so yellow? Becoming orange — and in its time — explode from gray to black then bloody wine?”

— Janelle Monae “Oh Maker”, The Archandroid (2010)

— —

“I had my recurring dream last night. I guess I should have expected it. It comes to me when I struggle — when I twist on my own personal hook and try to pretend that nothing unusual is happening. …

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“Untitled” by Patrick Lorenzo Semple

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~in reverent memory of Toni Morrison~

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The figure of liquidity courses through the ancient Greek imaginary unpredictably, mapping a complex terrain. If, however, we move into modern discourses about classical antiquity and, in particular, about the past’s survival into the present, its meanings cluster around the sign of loss. Indeed, liquidity haunts classicism. Water erodes and erases. […] The liquid is the enemy of the monument, the destroyer of memory, the scourge of the library. Moisture corrupts texts and rots books. …

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“She is a Blackbird in the way that I am a Crow” by Patrick Lorenzo Semple

“The first phase of this attitude [stamping out the intellect of the Negro] reached over from about 1700 to 1820: and as the result, almost Egyptian darkness fell upon the mind of the race, throughout the whole land. Following came a more infamous policy. It was the denial of intellectuality in the Negro; the assertion that he was not a human being, that he did not belong to the human race. This covered the period from 1820 to 1835, when Gliddon and Nott and others, published their so called physiological work, to prove that the Negro was of a different species from the white man. A distinguished illustration of this ignoble sentiment can be given. In the year 1833 or 4 the speaker was an errand boy in the Anti-slavery office in New York City. On a certain occasion he heard a conversation between the Secretary and two eminent lawyers from Boston, Samuel E. Sewell and David Lee Child. They had been to Washington on some legal business. While at the Capitol they happened to dine in the company of the great John C. Calhoun, then senator from South Carolina. It was a period of great ferment upon the question of Slavery, States’ Rights, and Nullification; and consequently the Negro was the topic of conversation at the table. One of the utterances of Mr. Calhoun was to this effect “That if he could find a Negro who knew the Greek syntax, he would then believe that the Negro was a human being and should be treated as a man.” Just think of the crude asininity of even a great man! Mr. Calhoun went to “Yale” to study the Greek Syntax, and graduated there. His son went to Yale to study the Greek syntax, and graduated there. His grandson, in recent years, went to Yale, to learn the Greek Syntax, and graduated there. School and Colleges were necessary for the Calhouns, and all other white men to learn the Greek syntax. And yet this great man knew that there was not a school, nor a college in which a black boy could learn his A, B, C’s. He knew that the law in all the Southern States forbade Negro instruction under the severest penalties. How then was the Negro to learn the Greek Syntax? How then was he to evidence to Mr. Calhoun his human nature? Why, it is manifest that Mr. Calhoun expected the Greek syntax to grow in Negro brains, by spontaneous generation! Mr. …

~in which, a look at the harmonics of capitalistic worship, a chapter review of Antiquities Beyond Humanism, an ideological look at Disney’s Hercules, and utilizing the building blocks of philology towards abolition

Watching my country’s ideology collapse makes me more grateful than anything that I quit being a structuralist in academia —

Okay wait, lemme rephrase: it actually made me glad that I’ve gone my whole life working service jobs and understanding not only how essential those roles are to American society, but also how to work a variety of jobs so that when something unexpected happens to the economy (or as I view it, ideological collapse as far as America is concerned, for our ideology is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” at the cost of silenced and exploited bodies), I have a network to fall back on. Like the old saying: Jack of all trades, master of none, but better than a master of one. …

As a part of the tradition of black female resistance in the Classics, my mere presence embodies a reality that most in the field do not want to consider. And that makes them lazy scholars.

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“Silver River” by Patrick Lorenzo Semple

At the dawn of this new year and decade, I was in a much deeper introspective mood than usual — if hindsight is 2020, then call me Epimetheus — and found myself in quite the quandary. There was much I wanted to do in the new decade, yet felt if I tried to break through new ground without addressing some deep-running issues, then I ran the risk of not being able to grow and create to my fullest potential. One particular issue needed to be addressed: I was a black female classicist active in the field.

I felt an increasing urge to speak on just how my identity has impacted my experience of the field — but the more I thought about it, the more circular the question became. Sometime in the morning on January 11th, I saw a tweet from Oxford Classicists of Colour on Twitter calling to hear from different classicists of color on how race has impacted their experience of Classics. I saw replies from different classicists of color and saw glimpses of empathy and solidarity with experiences that I’d also had, but it also resonated with an uncomfortable reality that I was forced to acknowledge head-on: that among many classicists of color I am frequently either the only American, the only black person, or both. I had to acknowledge that even though my whole life I’ve always said that I’m the last person anyone should listen to about the “black experience” (I’m lightskinned as hell and colorism is real y’all), I do identify as black, I was socialized as black, and I have an experience to share. So I stitched a structure together in a string of tweets, and this piece is the end result of that, fleshed out a bit. …

About

Vanessa Stovall

Classicist | Harpist | Playwright @theoctopiehole

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