We pretend that we are living in a time of best practices. Of strategic progress based on generations of progress. Sometimes even our progressive conferences sound like corporate commercials. About how it is better. And if it is worse it is urgently fundably worse. (Sub)Prime for the better connected better thinkers that we are.
I don’t think that we are living in a time of best practices. We are living in a time of beautiful failures. Of transformative break-ups. Of mistakes that really seemed like the best thing. Of spills that cannot be ignored anymore. And maybe we always have been.
In “Poetry is Not a Luxury” the great black feminist lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde encourages us to stop thinking that our thoughts will save us, stop pretending that we can figure it all out. That we are smarter than we ever have been. That we are smarter everyday. She encourages us to trust the darkness of dreams. Which are strong and dark because they have survived.
What if as a species we are less smart than we have ever been. What if everything we thought we knew is falling apart around us, and that’s a good thing. What if the rate of our unlearning is so exponential that we actually get to live in the deep dark world of our dreams, and the news can stop feeling like a traumatic intergenerational version of déjà vu.
I thought I was “progressive” but I have never felt more backwards. I have never reached more desperately for the oldest most outdated parts of myself. In my dreams I see the moment that the universe was born and when I meditate I realize that moment isn’t over. I just think it is. And my thoughts cannot save me.
So I wanted to share my dreams with you. The technology I am using to know less every morning. And I wanted to share my failure with you. The time I wrote 35 dream love poems every single day to a POC land collective I helped found and ended up having to leave. (Spoiler.) This poetic video memoir is dedicated to Earthseed, the idea and the project and the loss. And it is in conversation with Octavia Butler the whole time.
I will be recording and posting videos versions of the dream poems I wrote last summer with prompts for you and ways for you to share.
I hope this can be interactive. And that your experiences help me know even less. I am sure I am not the only person who has been completely transformed by love and loss in this work. May this be deep space for us to share about our dreams. And how it didn’t work out.
And how we are still dreaming. After brightest star.
Love before and after everything,
To see all of the videos go to alexispauline.com/afterbrighteststar
Take. Root.: After Brightest Star Poem #1 from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
Take. Root. “The destiny of Earthseed / is to take root among the stars.” -Octavia Butler
On Octavia Butler’s birthday I am sharing the first in installment of my dream memoir. 35 poems I wrote last summer in conversation with Octavia Butler’s Earthseed verses and dedicated to Earthseed, a people of color land collective based in Durham, NC. Today’s prompt is “How do you take root?” (Is the emphasis on “take”?) What is your relationship to land and community. What are the politics of where you live and how? What have you learned from failures and setbacks of renting, buying, collectively owning, splitting up shared stuff after break ups of relationships or collectives? Reply in the comments or send me an email at brokenbeautifulpress at gmail dot com!
And dreams are collective resources! Support the Dark Sciences People of Color Dream Retreat happening in Austin, TX this August. More info below:
Own Drummer: After Brightest Star Poem #2 from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
This is poem number 2 of my dream memoir about love, land, failure and POC collective organizing. It is inspired by Octavia Butler’s Earthseed verse “All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is change.” Turn the volume all the way up!
I would love to hear your thoughts on change and touch and land. How do we deal with the lasting truth of change when so much of what we are organizing for as POC has to do with forms of stability that have been taken from us by displacement and violence? Have you ever made choices in your organizing that have to do with just not wanting to have to change everything again (move to a new place? leave a job? challenge a community you have helped build?)
As always, infinite love. And if you want to support the Dark Sciences: People of Color Dream Retreat you can donate here:
Donate $101+ for a one on one dream conversation with me and $15+ for a pdf of this dream memoir.
Poem #3 Green: After Brightest Star from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
“A gift of god may sear unready fingers.”-Octavia Butler
This poem is about what it means to receive gifts that we are not ready to handle. What does it mean to be over-prepared for the worst case scenario and under-prepared for the best case scenario? In your collective organizing have you ever been overwhelmed by an influx of resources? What has sudden abundance taught you about the existing or lacking structures of your collectives? Have you ever tried to offer a resource that your community wasn’t ready to receive?
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. And if you want to have some indepth conversations about resources, water, wide distances and love sign up for Maroon Studies Session 2: Necessary as Water through Brilliance Remastered: http://www.alexispauline.com/brillianceremastered/2015/06/16/maroon-studies-intensive-2-necessary-as-water/
And we would love it if you donated to the scholarship fund for Dark Sciences: People of Color Dream Retreat:
attend god (after brightest star poem #4) from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
“We perceive and attend God. We learn from God…we are Earthseed and God is change.” -Octavia Butler
This poem is about how sometimes (always) we are learning lessons we didn’t sign up to learn. Or did we? We thought we had joined the people of color collective for access to land and a hopeful future. We find out that our first overwhelming access is to lack and the trauma of everyone’s past. What are lessons that you have learned, especially in your work collectively organizing…that you didn’t realize at the time were exactly the lessons you needed? What are the lessons that you are still learning? What are the lessons you wish we could collectively move past already?
As always, we would love it if you would contribute to the Dark Sciences People of Color Dream Retreat: http://www.alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-dark-sciences-a-people-of-color-dream-retreat/
And to see all the videos so far and the introduction check out: http://alexispauline.com/afterbrighteststar
tricksterteacherchaosclay: after brightest star poem #5 from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
“God is pliable—Trickster, Teacher, Chaos, Clay. God exists to be shaped. God is Change.” – Octavia Butler
Today’s poem is about our process of shaping and being shaped by the clay and mud, the land around us. It acknowledges that the ancestors are literally present in the land beneath our feet and that the earth and sun can become a kiln revealing who we are and who we are not. What have you learned from the consequences of your collective decisions? Has there ever been a period in your collective organizing where it seemed like the tendency was to decide NOT to decide? Or where a “not no” was more likely than a yes?
As always, it would be great to see your thoughts in the comments section. And if you’d like to invest in the continued dreaming of POC please support Dark Sciences: A People of Color Dream Retreat coming up this summer: http://www.alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-dark-sciences-a-people-of-color-dream-retreat/
If you donate $15+ I will send you the full series of “After Brightest Star” poems.
If you donate $101 we can have a one on one dream consultation.
Email me at brokenbeautifulpress at gmail dot com if your organization is interested in cosponsoring the retreat!
To watch all of the videos so far visit: alexispauline.com/afterbrighteststar
#6 Intelligence is Demanding: After Brightest Star from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
“Intelligence is ongoing individual adaptation…Yet intelligence is demanding.” -Octavia Butler
This poem is about how demanding intelligence is and how hard it is to plot the points of change when all our points of adaptations are different and linked. How do you make decisions with groups of people? Does intelligence ever hinder you? Does the combined intelligence of everyone in the room sometimes make you unintelligible to each other? How does a group trust its evolutionary gut? Please share with friends and share your experiences in the comments.
If you want to see all the videos so far go to alexispauline.com/afterbrighteststar. And if you want to donate to the dream retreat and get a one on one consult ($101 perk) or the text of these poems ($15 perk) or a print of Audre Lorde dreaming about us ($35 perk) go to http://www.alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-dark-sciences-a-people-of-color-dream-retreat/
We are so proud that Art in Praxis and River Rose Apothecary are our newest dream retreat co-sponsors!
#9 Point Nine (After Brightest Star) from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
"Belief initiates and guides action—or it does nothing." Octavia Butler
Have you ever had that moment when you feel like what you believe and what you are actually doing don't quite match? Have you been frustrated when the stated beliefs of a group, organization or institution you are involved in and the actions and impact of that institution seem almost directly at odds? Well this is a poem about a time like that. This poem invokes point 9 in the Black Panther Party's 10 point platform which talks about prison and the american impossibility of black people being tried by a true jury of their peers. Drawing on that revolutionary history (and the energy of the goddess of change Oya, represented in the number 9 and as the middle name of Octavia Butler's fictional protagonist Lauren Oya Olamina) I am asking a question about what happens when we, as peers and collaborators, call each other out on our chosen prisons? How do we imprison ourselves and each other? How do we fail to liberate each other like we should?
Share your thoughts in the comments. And please do invest in the Dark Sciences Dream Retreat to get your own copy of these poems or other perks: http://www.alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-dark-sciences-a-people-of-color-dream-retreat/
And all power to the dreamers.
P.O. (After Brightest Star Poem #8) from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
"Prodigy is, at its essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all." – Octavia Butler
This poem is about how we build a groove with our repetitive actions, positive or negative. I am in the groove of black feminism, my persistent life-shaping practice (along with my other repetitive practices some of which are groovy and some of which are just ruts.) What are you positively obsessed with? Do you have any obsessions that are digging you into a rut? When have been times when you ended up just where you were supposed to be, not because you knew how to get there, but just because you were who you are, doing what you came to do?
We would love your support as we gather at the Dark Sciences: People of Color Dream Retreat! We are excited about our newest cosponsor Charis Books and More! http://www.alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-dark-sciences-a-people-of-color-dream-retreat/
#7 Planning (Hallelujah): After Brightest Star Poem from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
"A victim of God may, through learning and adaption, become a partner of God. A victim of God may, through forethought and planning, become a shaper of God." -Octavia Butler
"Poetry is planning." -Patricia Torres
This poem is about my ongoing mission to try to wake up before my fear starts to run the show. Some people stay up beyond the point where their fear goes to sleep. Why does fear shape so much of the day? What does it mean to live in a capitalist week? Our dreams and the edges of our days are sometimes the juiciest most transformative moments. What if the whole day, week, year, was shaped like dreams?
What do you think? Do you wake up early? Stay up late? Sneak to the bathroom in the middle of work to write poems? Make a secret blog during meetings? Share in the comments.
And please support Dark Sciences: A People of Color Dream Retreat Check the following link out to see the perks! alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-dark-sciences-a-people-of-color-dream-retreat/
We are soo grateful for our newest donors and our newest cosponsor Maximize Good!!!
#10 Face (After Brightest Star) from Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Vimeo.
"Drowning people/ sometimes die/ fighting their rescuers." -Octavia Butler
What does it take for us to face ourselves, to face the contexts of our lives honestly? How do we push away those same people who we were drawn to for deep healing when it gets too real? How do we push away the parts of ourselves that feel too scary. In addition to Octavia Butler, this poem draws on Lucille Clifton's series of poems "Letters to Clark" where she speaks to Clark Kent about the myth of superheroes and how no one can save her from herself and the traumas she has experienced without her own participation.
Looking back, has there ever been a time when you pushed away someone who was trying to help you? Are there things that it is just too hard to face about yourself, even when you see them reflected in other people? How do we save each other from drowning and not elbow each other in our beautiful faces in the meantime?
Please leave any thoughts you have in the comments. And if you'd like to get these poems, get a collage, or have a one on one dream consultation please invest in the Dark Sciences People of Color Dream Retreat: http://www.alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-dark-sciences-a-people-of-color-dream-retreat/
We are so excited that New Voices of Pittsburgh is our newest organizational co-sponsor! Much love to each of you!