Perigee

Notes On Loving A Black Man

Photo credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters by Taylor Steele   1. When he leaves the house, know he may not come back. If he comes back, know he may not be whole. Knowing this will not make you any readier for either. 2. When a bullet is the only thing that grounds him Enough to weather the hands of porcelain, Glass shards full with promise, lily torn from womb, Remember, a bullet has never made a happy hymn Of Black skin. And “grounded” here means dead, The way Black skin means dead, And dead means nothing to porcelain, glass, lily But the inconvenience of a fallen tree limb on the way to the grocery store. 3. It’s World War IV. The President is still our President. He livestreams himself singing nursery rhymes About democracy, so we hum it At work not noticing, so we Tuck our children in night, That they grow up unafraid to bear buds of dusk, Knowing someone will burn the tree they fell from, They are the tree. That song just be so stuck in their heads— 4. Oh, how well-oiled the rig is! Hear that whistle a-blowin’? Better get off the train tracks! It’s not that...
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We Stand With Ferguson

The acts of police brutality against Black people in recent weeks, in particular the shootings of Michael Brown and John Crawford in Missouri and Ohio and the homicide of Eric Garner in New York, bring us to outrage and indignation. The staff of Apogee stand behind the idea that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Missouri, as they seek to make sense of Michael Brown’s pointless death, and raise their voices against the ongoing, systematic oppression of Black and Brown bodies in America. We stand with them as they continue to rightfully protest in Missouri, and we witness with the rest of the world, including Amnesty International, as community members, protestors, and journalists suffer a disproportionate, violent response.  We will raise our voices too in New York on August 23rd to take a stand against the repeated abuse of police power in America, the militarization of the people meant to protect us, and the victim-blaming that is a double injustice against the murdered. We are thankful for the strong activist networks in this country, which mainstream media often leads us to believe do not exist. We encourage you to follow mobilizers The Dream Defenders and the National Action Network, and activists like Anonymous, Feminista Jones and Avis...
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The Vulture is a Patient Bird

By Fathima Cader One thousand hollow bones suspended from one small island’s underbelly, watery roots seeking anchorage, ours its submerged landscape of crags, broken into language and served with wooden spoons half-toned with salt’s residue, sickled for the hoarding of pre-dawn prayer, the lowering light of day, the remains of night splattered onto paddy fields, darkness packed beneath fingernails, broken from sifting through cracks in parched soil, every fissure a new stanza, a new border, from where we come and to whom we belong, this knowledge of god as place, confluence of meanings and homecomings; meanwhile, our bearing of witness, our presence, our martyrs. We saw; we saw, ya haqq, this scrabbling through time’s departures, we saw, our shahadah.  * Voices carry poorly under the sea, granulating, wires carrying roughly to me my mother reminding me that today marks thirteen years ago that we moved here, our first mooring a dollhouse Mississauga hotel, home for the singularity of one month, its corridors loud with the noise of other people’s luggage, and our first neighbours Afghani and bustling, before we knew enough to know what manner of stories subsequent years would give us to share. This is the week of voices...
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We're Not Ready for This: An Interview with Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker is a prolific NYC-based poet, activist, and museum education director. Her debut collection Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night is forthcoming from Switchback Books in 2015, and her poems “Negro Sunshine” and “Their Grandmothers Never Did the Laundry” appear in the latest issue of Apogee Journal. Morgan chatted with fellow Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn resident and Apogee Editor-at-large Melody Nixon about race, gender and politics in the poetry world today. Melody Nixon [MN]: You wrote a Facebook post about working on this interview and all the truths you’re laying down, and you said, “No one’s ready. Not even me.” What did you mean? Morgan Parker [MP]: I think we’re all very accustomed to speaking and listening to bullshit. It’s the American way. It’s easy to avoid being candid about certain topics in mixed company. Your questions were so upfront and big, which is what I appreciate about Apogee in general, but I know a lot of people don’t want to hear it. Some people would rather hear me talk about Beyoncé or The Real World or brunch than the direct realities of my struggle as a Black woman. They want a “break” from hearing about race politics from...
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Nepantla: an Interview with Christopher Soto

Christopher Soto is the founder and curator of Nepantla, a new online journal featuring the writing of Queer Poets of Color. Nepantla offers not only a new creative space for poetry to thrive, but a new way to look at what a literary  community can be. The Journal will go live next month, and Apogee Journal and Columbia’s Our Word are thrilled to be collaborating on the launch reading September 4th. Cecca Ochoa (CO): How did Nepantla come about? Christopher Soto (CS): I was talking trash with Jameson Fitzpatrick about white supremacy and the New York queer literary scene. He gave me the idea to start a QPOC journal and then introduced me to William Johnson at Lambda, who helped me get the project started. The first thing Nepantla hosted was a dinner at NYU. We invited all the Queer Poets of Color that we knew in NYC and sat to discuss our community’s needs. Shout out to everyone who attended our first dinner: Rigoberto Gonzalez, Eduardo C. Corral, r. erica doyle, Pamela Sneed, Timothy Liu, Cheryl Boyce Taylor, Juliet P. Howard, Charif Shanahan, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Rickey Laurentiis, Alok Vaid-Menon, Janani Bala, Jerome Murphy, Tommy Pico, Eden...
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Spotlight on Issue 3: Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta’s story, “Ife Adigo Market—1978” appears in Issue 3 of Apogee Journal. Her first story collection, Happiness, Like Water, was released in 2013, and was selected as one of The Guardian’s Best African Fiction of 2013. Chinelo and I corresponded about politics in writing, immigration, and the discomfort of labels. Zinzi Clemmons: Your story in Issue 3, “Ife Adigo Market—1978”, describes the changes that occur in a Nigerian town that coincide with the arrival of white people—ndi ochas. Can you describe the events that inspired this story? Chinelo Okparanta: The story was inspired by an event that happened to my mom when she was a girl. She, too, had fallen ill and had nearly gone blind when she was young. The story was also inspired by some of my time back home in Nigeria, periods in which there were questions surrounding the quality of medicines being sold there. Knock-off items exist everywhere, but the issue of counterfeit medicines was especially problematic during that time. “Ife Adigo Market” illustrates the battle between old world and new world and the confusion over the better way to go: the native doctors or the new medicines. There’s a sort of hopelessness but also...
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Ai Weiwei in New York City: An Interview with Kelly Tsai

Kelly Tsai is a spoken word poet, writer, performer and director, whose latest work AI WEI WEI: THE SEED is an exploration of Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei’s early life in New York City. The performance traces the years before Weiwei became internationally renowned for his provocative, political art. Apogee Editor-at-large Melody Nixon talked with Tsai about her upcoming show and whether art and politics can ever be separated. Melody Nixon (MN): How did you first come across Ai Weiwei’s work? Kelly Tsai (KT): Back in 2012 I was in Taipei, Taiwan, and I saw Ai Weiwei’s exhibit at the contemporary fine arts museum there. When I was walking through the exhibit I saw all these photos of street corners that I knew in Brooklyn and the East Village and I was like, “wait a second, what are these?” Then I realized that Ai Weiwei had actually spent much of his 20’s and 30’s (1981-1993) in NYC as a young artist, which I thought was really interesting. MN: That inspired you to investigate his life story? KT: Yes. With a little more research, I found out that his father was a political poet and he also was friends with many...
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Spotlight on Issue 3: James Yeh

James Yeh’s “Your Giant New Loft” appears in Apogee Issue III. The brief story tours the expensive home of a friend you didn’t know had money while exploring class anxiety along the way. I spoke with James about the piece, his writing, and more. Scott Dievendorf: Part of Apogee’s mission is to publish literature that interrogates the status quo and engages with issues of identity politics. Not all of your work is explicitly political and I wouldn’t necessarily classify you as a political author, though your piece in our current issue certainly speaks to class anxiety. Do you ever feel a personal urgency to explore issues of class, race, or other facets of identity through your fiction? In other words, what are your personal feelings about using literature as means of social inquiry? James Yeh: That’s a tough question to answer because on the one hand, of course I’m interested in class and race and issues of identity. As the son of Taiwanese immigrants to South Carolina, where I was born and grew up, there isn’t much choice. Questions of race and identity come to you—sometimes at you. That said, I’m less interested in work that strikes me as wholly or...
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David Mura on The Last Incantations

    David Mura is a contributor, advocate, and advisory board member of Apogee. He is a poet, memoirist, novelist, playwright, critic, and performance artist. Mura’s most recent work is the poetry collection The Last Incantations. He is also the author of three other books of poetry: After We Lost Our Way, The Colors of Desire, and Angels for the Burning. His prose work includes the memoirs Turning Japanese and Where the Body Meets Memory, and the novel, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire.   Crystal Kim (CK): As Creative Nonfiction Editor of Apogee, I read and immensely enjoyed working with you on Bondage & Liberation for Apogee’s Issue 3. It was exciting to dip into your writing in another form—poetry. How does your new collection of poetry, The Last Incantations, differ from your previous books? David Mura (DM): In my earlier books, particularly The Colors of Desire, there was a significant focus on my identity specifically as a Japanese American and on the history of my community. I was trying to transfer and reflect some of the discoveries I’d made in my memoirs. In a way, I had to write those memoirs to create an intellectual, cultural and historical context...
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Taking it Lying Down: An Interview with R. Erica Doyle

“You have come to do an autopsy and at the first excision found a beating heart.” R. Erica Doyle’s Proxy cuts with terrifying precision as it performs an autopsy on desire.  Proxy was published by Belladonna* and won the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award, and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist.  I sat down with Doyle to discuss. Cecca Ochoa: How did Proxy begin? R.Erica Doyle: The origin of Proxy was an exercise in exposure and vulnerability.  I was in Patricia Smith’s workshop, and there was an exercise to write about a taboo. Not something that is a taboo in society, but what is taboo to you. Maybe it is taboo to you to write about piercing your nipples, but I don’t really care. At the time what was taboo was writing about the really fucked up things that women did to each other in relationships. Right now there is this call out culture, but it’s not really happening in a real way, in my opinion. CO: It’s a game, now. RED: Yeah, it’s a game. People are not calling out some real things that they could call out. But, that was something that a couple...
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