Some Things I Did. . .
To quote the late Choctaw author Roxy Gordon, here are “some things I did” – at least since my last blog in March 2011.
In April and May, 2011 I had radiation for the nuclear reactor in my body, the thyroid. The similarities between your body’s metabolic system melting down, and a nuclear reactor meltdown are stunning. Metaphor-wise, I mean. With Graves Disease’ running amuck in one’s body, the levels of T4 and T3 rise to dangerous levels and burn out the control valves in your thyroid gland. T4 and T3 control how quickly your body uses energy i.e., the heart constantly races ahead, as you shed pounds and muscle; heart, kidneys, begin to suffer, and you think you’re losing your mind. The thyronines act on nearly every cell in the body, including those in the brain. At the time I had radiation, I was living alone in Amman, Jordan. It was during the heady days of the Arab Spring. Living a solitary life turned out to be a good thing. The first few days after radiation you can’t be in direct contact with anyone because you’re leaking radiation like a nuclear reactor.
All better now. No worries.
Left: Wintertime in Wadi Rum. Sunset.
As a Fulbright scholar for 2010-2011, I was able to finish the semester at the University of Jordan in June, 2011, but not all of my research. Yet, I had wonderful graduate students at UJ. Pictured below.
Our last class together, and with some visitors to our class presentation. Pulling these pictures together for the blog makes me weepy. My students for this class were: Rasha Shaher, (back row, third from left) Majd Al-Kayed, (standing next to me, left) Malik al Khawaldeh, (standing on my right) Zainab Al Qaisi, (second row, second from left) and, Ayah Waqqad (front row third from left). Here’s a shout out to you all! One of my students from the fall semester 2010 is also pictured here: Eman Ghanayem, (front row, second from left). Here’s a shout out to Eman! Mabruk to Rasha, Madj, Zainab, Haneen, Eman that graduated with MA degrees. And, Mabruk ya Zainab and Ahmed on the day of your wedding, September 10 2011.
In my Spring 2011 graduate class at University of Jordan students chose to show Arab transnationalism and how it works in modern context by creating five film short-shorts that were loosely woven together in a presentation we called, At the Door of Spring. Each film project was created, written, filmed, produced, by a graduate student. Titles were: Amal’s Water [set in Libya]; Guevara, the Arab [set in Syria]; Fida’s Play [set in Egypt]; Khalid’s Choice [set in Palestine]; and Ooruba [a journalist covers each of the above events and narrates them.] I miss Jordan, long to see it again, soon, and I especially miss the wonderful students and the Jordanian people, their hospitality, and all the things they taught me. Below, here we are all piled into one car, zooming around Amman — for fun of it!
After classes finished, some other travels:
Flew to Beirut, Lebanon, for some additional research at the American University of Beirut.
Beirut, Yatiki alfia! More pixs, far below, and left.
Before leaving the Middle East, Jim Wilson and I devised Writing in Petra, a 10-day creative writing retreat in Petra, Jordan, June 2012. We hope to bring writers from England, Canada, the U.S. and other countries to write in a retreat in Petra, a city as old as time. If you’re interested in a cross-cultural writing adventure, check out our itinerary and website. We’re just now beginning to market the writing retreat to writers. We have 9 spaces left!
Saying good-byes, we left Amman, and headed straight for Alaska to the Kachemak Bay Writers Festival. Some 14-city stops later, we arrived in Homer, Alaska.
There were two eagles outside the hotel room window. I took that as a good sign, an eagle’s welcome.
The sun never sets in Alaska in June. So from desert sands reds to blue water and snow covered mountains. I gave readings, and creative writing lectures in Homer, Alaska, and suffered from jet lag, at least I think it was jet lag. I also got to see a dear friend of mine, Rigoberto Gonzales, fiction, CFN, and poet of six books. We also had a sing-along and bon fire in the land of midnight sun. A kind of dreamcycle moment for those of us not accustomed to midnight sun.
Pictured far below are authors to the left, and right and all around, with author Hannah Tinti (The Good Thief) on ukulele, singing with friends “If I had a hammer.”
Then back to Oklahoma in late June for Salon Ada: This year 8 writers and visual arts came together for a literary weekend in Ada, Oklahoma. Four new books that are out from Salonaires this year are: Hanging Men, by Alvin Turner; Spare Parts by Ken Hada, winner of the 2011 Western Heritage Award for poetry, Dynamic Chickasaw Women, by Philip Carroll Morgan, (Choctaw-Chickasaw) and Indios, by Linda Hogan (Chickasaw). Please give them a hand, or better yet, buy a book and read aloud to one another. Beats TV!
Speaking of new books, Illinois colleague Jodi Byrd, (Chickasaw) has a new book, Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism.
Her book sails out scross the heavens, September 15, 2011. Here pasted from the website: “In 1761 and again in 1769, European scientists raced around the world to observe the transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event in which the planet Venus passes in front of the sun. In The Transit of Empire, Jodi A. Byrd explores how indigeneity functions as transit, a trajectory of movement that serves as precedent within U.S. imperial history. Byrd argues that contemporary U.S. empire expands itself through a transferable “Indianness” that facilitates acquisitions of lands, territories, and resources.”
Also, colleague and friend, Dean Rader has a new book out, Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI. Here’s a true confession. My copy just arrived this past week so I’ll be reading it before he transits from the University of San Francisco to University of Illinois next week. Pasted in from the University of Texas Press website: From “Sherman Alexie’s films to the poetry and fiction of Louise Erdrich and Leslie Marmon Silko to the paintings of Jaune Quick-To-See Smith and the sculpture of Edgar Heap of Birds, Native American movies, literature, and art have become increasingly influential, garnering critical praise and enjoying mainstream popularity. Recognizing that the time has come for a critical assessment of this exceptional artistic output and its significance to American Indian and American issues, Dean Rader offers the first interdisciplinary examination of how American Indian artists, filmmakers, and writers tell their own stories.”
Dean will also be reading in the Carr Reading Series, September 28, 4:30 p.m. at IUB on the Illinois campus. His first book of extraordinary poems, Work and Days, was winner of the coveted T. S. Eliot prize in poetry 2010. Look for the schedule of events on the Illinois’ Creative Writing website under “Carr Reading Series.” We’re delighted to host him.
Finally, I’m working on a new theater project with playwright and performer Monique Mojica. (Grandma Builds the Fire, Smoke Signals.) We’re working on a new play, Sideshow Freaks and Circus Injuns for which we (six principle investigators/researchers) were funded $238,500 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines Research/Creation Grants in Fine Arts: November 2010 Competition Awards in Ontario Canada. The project is to research Indigenous knowledge, contemporary performance over the next three years. This past week we trekked across four states and visited mound sites. From mound sites outside of Toronto Canada, our travels took us to Cahokia Mounds, Poverty Point Mounds, Spiral Mounds, and finally Tuskahoma for the Choctaws Labor Day Festival.
Of course, once at the Choctaw Nation’s homelands, we hung out with ball players, and visited the Choctaw Museum and gift shop at Tuskahoma.
Above, Monique signs autographs while we talked to Jay Watson, coach of the Chahtas Women’s ball club. The Chahtas were winners of the 2011 Women’s Fastpitch Softball tournament at Red Warrior Park in Tuskahoma. Go Chahtas!
Working, writing, working, writing on new play, a new collection of short stories, nearly complete, a memoir, a scholarly book on base and ball, and a new novel. Okay sometimes I am all hat and no cattle, I admit. However, Seeing Red: American Indians and Film will be out next year, fingers crossed, from MSU Press, edited by Harvey Markowitz, Denise Cummings and myself. Whew, that’s all folks.
Beauty in front of me, beauty all around. Beauty in all things. . . achukma.