216 Chapters
Medium 9780253018571

Dire Straights in Nigeria

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Come to Soul Lounge this Thursday night—the night before Valentine’s Day. Bring your wife! Bring your deputy wife! Your assistant wife! Your sins will be forgiven!

NIGERIAS HETEROSEXUALS HAVE it rough. This may sound facetious in light of the ways homosexuals have been targeted since the Nigerian government passed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act earlier this year. But the challenges facing straight Nigerians are key to making sense of the physical and symbolic violence currently being done to people accused of being queer. The Anti-Gay Law, as it is called, criminalizes membership in gay organizations as well as same-sex marriage. Though condemned by human rights advocates, it enjoys massive popular support. Politicians, clerics, and ordinary citizens defend it as consistent with the nation’s cultural and religious values, and several observers have noted with satisfaction that opposition to homosexuality is one of the few issues that Nigeria’s Muslims and Christians can agree on.

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LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka and Me

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

THE TENSIONS BETWEEN Amiri Baraka and me began when the late Calvin Hernton, Amiri (then LeRoi Jones), and I were standing at the bar at The Five Spot in 1964 and I told him that his poetry was weak. I had a hard time getting through a poem called “The New Sheriff,” which had been published in The Evergreen Review. Obviously angry, he left the bar in a huff. It was then that I understood the power that Amiri had in downtown Bohemia. Having overheard my remark, the owner of The Five Spot barred me from the club. Amiri was good for their business. His jazz columns brought customers to the club. Later, Baraka dismissed these early poems himself. Blamed them on his being under the sway of “a white aesthetic.”

Amiri (then LeRoi Jones), and I were standing at the bar at The Five Spot in 1964 and I told him that his poetry was weak.

In 1964, some members of the Umbra Poetry Workshop read at Columbia University with Amiri and Allen Ginsberg. After the reading, Amiri approached me and brought up The Five Spot encounter. I still have a newspaper photo of Amiri bawling me out. At that time, he was still LeRoi Jones. He could have remained LeRoi Jones and continued to be “The Emperor of the Lower East Side,” the title given to him by The Herald Tribune as a result of his connections to the Beat publicity machine. These were poets who were featured in mass magazines like Life and Time.

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Medium 9780253018595

Burial Ground · Poetry

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

There are dark places; drunk with grief where water

drizzles. There are wilted flowers and dried wreaths.

There is your grave hidden back there, behind

God’s back. There are clusters of Charles

buried here; neighbours in this family plot.

Two lone wooden stumps mark the grave

where you wait for that marble headstone

etched with your name. There is wild bush

and the broken fence where your nephew

crashed that rented car at your funeral,

when his vision blurred with tears. There are

the marks we leave and those that will be made.

Malika Booker

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Medium 9780253356864

5. Books

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

There are probably words addressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could really hear and understand, would be more salutary than the morning or spring to our lives, and possibly put a new aspect on the face of things for us. How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. (76)

For Thoreau, the book that marked “a new era in his life” was Emerson’s Nature, published in the fall of 1836 and checked out of the Harvard library by Thoreau the following spring. He was ready for it: having been examined by Emerson on rhetoric in 1835, he had by 1837 won the older man’s support for some of Harvard’s prize money. More importantly, Emerson’s “manifesto of transcendentalism” suited Thoreau’s interest in reconciling his own avidity for nature with an emerging intellectual ambition. In Walden’s terms, Thoreau was “a prepared field.”

Although he writes dismissively of his own college education, Walden’s enormous number of allusions suggests just how bookish Thoreau was. In fact, as Richardson details, he read omnivorously, working fluently in the major European languages, as well as Latin and Greek. But his choice of reading seems strange, perhaps offering a clue to this mysterious man and his mysterious book. Thoreau, of course, was steeped in the classics, having a special fondness for Homer, but as he grew older, his taste became less and less literary: Goethe and Carlyle, yes, but mostly things like books on Eastern religions, tracts on Canadian history and Indian life, Cato’s treatise on farming, natural history (especially botany), travel books (a guilty pleasure), William Gilpin on landscape painting, the Jesuit Relations (forty-one accounts of the Jesuit missions to Canada’s Indians), Darwin. Thoreau showed no interest in fiction: although he knew Robinson Crusoe, he apparently never read any of his friend Hawthorne’s novels. When we remember that Thoreau was born in 1817, four years after Pride and Prejudice, the following list of books he appears never to have looked at seems suggestive:

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Medium 9780253000958

Speaking for the Land

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

At the dedication ceremony for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in June 1934, the pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold began his remarks by declaring: “For twenty centuries and longer, all civilized thought has rested upon one basic premise: that it is the destiny of man to exploit and enslave the earth. The biblical injunction to ‘go forth and multiply’ is merely one of many dogmas which imply this attitude of philosophical imperialism.”

Leopold was not shy about making such grand claims, especially when, as in this brief talk, he wished to distill a complex argument into a few words. One could cite many examples of “civilized thought,” including the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Native American cultures, that do not advocate enslavement of the Earth. And one could cite biblical injunctions that urge us to be caretakers rather than exploiters of the creation. Still, there was ample evidence in Leopold’s time that the majority of his fellow citizens regarded the Earth as purely a source of raw materials, to be mined, dammed, deforested, plowed, paved, and otherwise manipulated to suit human needs, without regard for the needs of other species and with scant regard for the needs of future generations. This attitude of “philosophical imperialism,” which wrought so much damage in the Dust Bowl years, remains powerful in our day, and is now wreaking havoc on a global scale.

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