SADIRN Creative Lives Project: Michelle Cahill talks with Chris Ringrose (August 2018)

SADIRN Creative Lives Project:  Michelle Cahill talks with Chris Ringrose (August 2018)

(Photo of Michelle Cahill by Nicola Bailey)

Michelle Cahill has lived in the UK and Australia. Her collection of short stories, Letter to Pessoa, won the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. She has received prizes and fellowships in poetry and fiction, notably the Val Vallis Award, the KWS Hilary Mantel Short Story Prize and the ABR Elizabeth Jolley shortlist for the story ‘Borges and I.' Vishvarupa was shortlisted in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. She co-edited Contemporary Asian Australian Poets and Vagabond's deciBels3 series of poets and is the artistic director of Mascara Literary Review. She is writing a novel as part of her DCA at the University of Wollongong. 

CR: Michelle, I'm struck by the global ‘reach' and settings of your poetry and fiction, as well as your travel and research. A number of reviewers have remarked on this as strength of your poetry collection The Herring Lass. How significant is the notion of “South Asian Diaspora” for you and your writing?

MC: I don’t know if it is for me to say. Perhaps that is a question best left for critics.  I don’t think of myself in terms of an identity when I am writing creatively because writing is a process of becoming, a postponement of my ‘self’ in the material and functional sense. In many ways it is depletion, really, of those parts of myself, and who the author is, or who she becomes in that process feels remote from me. Perhaps that is why I enjoy it; because it is liberating to be free of oneself.  However, when I write an essay about race and literature, that involves performing arguments about, or against, notions such as ‘authenticity’ and ‘identity’.

I can say that at least two of my published books explore the South Asian Diaspora: I’m thinking of Vishvarupa and the novel that I am currently writing, but there are also several stories in Letter to Pessoa that explore the world of the South Asian diaspora and its travel narratives through the lens of Sarita, Hemani, Nabina. And in The Herring Lass, a book about migrations from the global north, there are poems conversing with the South Asian diaspora, ‘Youth, by Josephine Jayshree Conrady’ and ‘Mumbai by Night.’ My sense of home is located in language and is contingent. I am cautious of committing myself intellectually to defined categories. Whether this is symptomatic of Buddhist conditioning or whether my thinking is sympathetic to post-structuralism, or an inherent scepticism, who knows? Does it matter? If you read ‘ Letter to Derrida ’ you may find a trace of Derrida there, and perhaps a trace of his translator, Spivak. She was a young French-speaking Bengali scholar forging a singular career in the United States on a regimen of European philosophy and social theory. So there you have another iteration of the South Asian diaspora. Actually, Spivak has inspired me quite a lot; from an early essay I wrote on ‘The Poetics of Subalternity’ to what she describes as the ‘irretrievably heterogeneous’ in ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ and my theorisation of interceptionality. I don’t think of myself as a scholar but conceptual language can be useful in one’s praxis. I don’t want to have to answer to categories. My evidence has been in language and what it can do.

CR: You're also diverse in that you write successfully in so many genres and modes — short fiction, essays, poetry, a blogs and (I think) a novel. Do you see this versatility and variety as essential to your creativity? Is any one genre the most congenial to you?

MC: That’s an interesting question. Supposing that the whole notion of genre is imposed on the text; suppose it is a contrivance? Our relationship to language certainly tethers us to the world and to each other;  partly it’s through language that we begin to know the real and the abstract. Of course, there are different genres: the novel can be thought of as quite distinct from a collection of short stories, or from a collection of poems. My process relies on concentration, being attentive to what each piece of work requires: whether a poem, a short story, a novel, or whether it is an essay.I like to enter the process fluidly, without excessive preparation; I like to improvise. But with a novel, it helps to have a sure sense of what you want to do. There was a time when I believed that anything is possible in language. Writing enables possibility and the more one writes, the more skilful one becomes. I think of writing in a technical way; when I write I am like a gymnast; over time my language develops strength, flexibility, balance, so that it can perform with grace, with speed and precision; so that it can fly, dance and jump. Poetry is a powerful form but the reception afforded to some poetry is problematic; deeply so. I see a lot of hypocrisy in the world of poetry. Fiction is the most technically demanding genre and, I think, also the most satisfying because of its craft and scope. I’ve always loved prose writing but that is different to a novel. I think a novel can be transformative in a way that a book of poems can’t be; even though poetry can be very striking.

CR: In your essay “The Colour of the Dream”, you are severely critical of aspects of Australian literary culture and its stultifying “whiteness”. Do you see yourself as an Australian writer? or as a global one, or as something else that won't be reduced to that kind of labelling?

MC: Thank you for reading the essay. I think there is insufficient analysis of trauma, and what that does to our writing; how it morphs for better or worse. Some degree of trauma deepens our understanding, but too much can mutilate our work or silence us. That’s why self-care matters.That essay was written during a stage of my career, having spent ten years waiting for and working towards a break through with my fiction. It was only after that break though that I realised the extent to which writers of colour are being filtered, curated and mediated. Very few of us can even find a good literary publisher or agent. We have to achieve something extraordinary. The late Candy Royalle wrote in one of her performance poems: ‘We search for truth but we’re forced to jump through mainstream hoops and loops, daily.’ I think the process of fighting those systems can have adverse effects.

Critics please themselves and sometimes exploit the hermeneutic privilege. Some have no qualms about overwriting me, but when you look at the history of how the Western canon sustains its authority you understand that it is not simply individual critics who are positioning us, it is the ‘his-story’ of erasures, reductions, that go back for centuries, how those marginalised by hybridity or class are written over by those with more agency. This can happen at the administrative level of the industry or the editorial level. How minority narratives are framed by the canon-makers mediates those stories and becomes equally, sometimes more powerful than the stories themselves. So agency is very much located in theoretical and industry frames.

Ultimately, however, this is not my problem. I usually work on more than one project and I have found that writing criticism, for the present, is a necessary part of my work. Fiction is demanding and also immensely pleasurable. I try to just focus on my work, on my writing. It’s very demanding to give oneself to writing and to develop a manuscript. I am not receiving much of an income these days so that is also a challenge.

CR: I wondered whether, in that essay “The Colour of the Dream”, you are a bit hard on a review of Maxine Beneba Clarke’s collection of stories Foreign Soil? You say that “Wright’s verdict [on the book] hinges on a single word. She pegs Foreign Soil as ‘flawed’.” It’s just that I remember thinking that was a perceptive and enthusiastic review, even though it expressed certain reservations.

MC: ‘Flawed’ is a conspicuous description for Foreign Soil given the anti-immigration rhetoric and the White Australia Policy. Also, to be fair to the context of my essay, ‘The Colour of the Dream’ is about gatekeeping and policing Australia’s cultural borders, the stereotyping of the refugee narrative contrasted with a personal experience of travelling to Indonesia in 2012 and visiting the Belawan Detention Centre. I also spent several days visiting refugees from Afghanistan and Sri-Lanka who were being housed outside detention.

Underpinning all racism is the notion that others are ‘flawed’. Structural racism is not simply an abstract jargon. It is about restricted rates of inclusion in immigration, in industry, within the literary workplace, and in academia. At a micro level it is transacted through seemingly neutral discourse: conversations, reviews, articles, reports. There is an accumulation of archival and administrational subtexts, paratexts, errata and erasures that accrue to devalue the narrative legitimacy of those marginalised and to delimit how they can move across narrative subjects and genres.

What is difficult to appreciate is that filters are not always intentional; the filters are an inherent part of mainstream frames.

How do we recognise the voice of structural racism? We have to record these things: the reductions, the erasures, the absences, which are often minor and anecdotal but which are sufficient to position us hierarchically and to disqualify us. Colonialism did not simply end with independence or with equal rights to citizenship. These spaces are being negotiated through a range of discourses, formal and informal, macro and micro. They are deeply rooted in our legal frameworks which are inherently racist and do not acknowledge the sovereignty of First Nations people in Australia. Our immigration laws enforced racial aspects until 1973. Now we are witnessing a revival of racist rhetoric concerning immigration and Islamophobia with Turnbull’s paranoia about African gangs, with Fraser Anning’s ‘Final Solution’ senate speech, with the treatment of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru, and with One Nation.

Analysing literary criticism may require us to adjust our focus to consider historical and legal frameworks, but master narratives and mainstream frames are less flexible.

CR:Mumbai by Night’ is an interesting example of your treatment of South Asia, because the title suggests a tourist trip, and there is that sense of the exotic in the “miasma of smog over the Dharavi slums, the marsh/redevelopment, the Indiabulls and Oberoi towers”. You even say you  “catch [your] flight all the way back to oblivion until the next stop-over” and that your friend Sharlene to whom the poem is dedicated might just see you as a “foreigner [she’s] obliged to entertain”. Yet you’re not really (or quite) a “foreigner” in that environment . . .

MC: It’s a poem that expresses the disconnection that happens with diaspora. The poem is dedicated to my cousin, Sharlene, and it mourns the loss of family and time. The meeting of poet and cousin; or as you have read it, poet and friend, is so transitional and fragmented that it can be misread, and must be contained in the economy of verse, something the speaker regrets and resists by the telling of an ordinary experience: sharing a meal, going out to a club and dancing, having fun, packing, unpacking, falling short on what she can offer and how little she can take away. These are the conditions of diaspora; it doesn’t explore the reasons for leaving, but it tries to embody a way of not forgetting.

CR: I like the way in which you refrain from being “authoritative” about the city, while still giving a vivid impression of it that is more than that of a tourist. As with some of the stories in Letter to Pessoa, it conjures the experience of visiting, belonging, and not belonging. . . you are drawn to the way Pessoa used a series of masks, or “heteronyms”, to write via other selves with different lives. You write as Sarita (who also appears elsewhere), Jo, Nabina and Luke, as well as a number of others. Can you reflect on that writing process?

MC: Well my heteronyms are not typical. Unlike Ricardo Reiss or Alvaro de Campo they do not have separate biographies and they are often narrated in third person. But some of the authors whom I address become another aspect of themselves: Pessoa, Coetzee, Woolf, Borges, with resonances to the real persona. Do they become heteronyms of themselves? I like the expansiveness of fiction and its suppleness, but no writing process is the same. It is organic for me: contradictory, fluid and broken, as time is. It is only structure that creates the appearance of being whole. That kind of architecturally stable narrative can be beautiful to read, particularly when done masterfully, and I deeply enjoy reading those stories; but is that my story? Is that my task?

I think that the diaspora narrative is interrupted and the minority narrative is fragmented. How can it be represented as a whole, without losing its contingencies, without being absorbed into larger stories that flatten its vulnerability, its gaps? Why are we so focussed on positive representations? Why are we afraid of the erasures in history, in coloniality, the silences? How can we find a language and a structure for the experiences that we, those of us who have been colonised and have suffered the loss of family, of language, of community, of culture, know best?

CR: Can we talk about your latest poetry collection, The Herring Lass? Tell us about the striking Winslow Homer painting of the same title that features on the cover – and provides the subject for one of the 48 poems.MC: I didn’t want to use the Scottish images, as they are stereotyped. I admire Homer’s conjuring of the weather, the woman’s stubby hands and muscular arms in the painting, the way the net is draped over her shoulder. She is wearing ordinary working shoes, yet she is gazing outwards.

CR: “The Herring Lass” poem itself refers to “shoals of migrant herring” that provide the woman’s tough livelihood. Would it be fair to say that the collection on a whole is a meditation on the important and worldwide phenomenon of migration — forced as in “Harbour”, or occupational as in the title poem? Did you always have that overall design in mind, or is it the cumulative outcome of your artistic and political interests?

I had the idea to write from the experience of northern migrations as I spent ten years living in the northern hemisphere. I thought this might be something of interest also for Australian readers, since as a nation; European invasion and settlement began with these migrations. I wanted to explore the brutality of territory and frontiers.

It seems to me that exploitation of labour and environmental impacts of migration are disturbing contemporary problems that remain unresolved.  So the fishing and sealing industry poems in ‘The Herring Lass,’ ‘Bear,’ ‘Day of a Seal,’ ‘Pirogue,’ and the refugee experience in ‘Interlude’ cast historical shadows on situations like extinctions, corporate piracy, and the warehousing of refugees.

CR: I admire the way you blend different animal voices into the collection: the seal and the thylacine, for example. There is also the example of the journeying cat in the story “Biscuit” from Letter to Pessoa. Do those personae allow you to try out new things?

MC: In many of the animal poems, I wanted to write about violence. I was going through divorce at the time and I went through an intense, almost hallucinatory period of writing during which memories came harrowingly back to me of male violence, sexual violence, domestic violence and the human exploitation of animals and their homelands; how it has endangered them.

To experiment with form in fiction is enjoyable and it can extend my skills. When I wrote ‘Biscuit’ it was thrilling; I couldn’t wait to get back to the story when I was interrupted by housework or having coffee with a friend. It was also exhausting. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t work; other times the result seems to exceed what I expect of myself. I don’t like to address subjectivity directly. I am not confessional as a poet. In fiction, I suppose I integrate figurative elements with plot structure and I am interested in prose writing that does this. I like to texture the writing; but it’s not really intentional.

CR: That’s interesting. I did feel, as I read ‘Biscuit’ that the story had a special significance for you. Do you want to say a little more about it?

MC: Well, it is partly autofictional, using elements of magic realism, and poetic tropes. The cat’s fantastical journey from Africa to England, with its coincidences and exigencies is a way of telling a complex history of migration, without having to over-explain, digress or politicize the storytelling act of a minority experience. I use a simple, open-ended and sometimes ironic style for the story, allowing the reader to consider a range of possibilities and outcomes from the migration experience. It extends the limited migrant narrative we hear of through media reports or public talks. Hopefully, the reader can reflect through the cat’s perspective more liberally about subjects such as home, coloniality, belonging and citizenship. But if I were to write in a realist mode about my early life journeys, the truth might be compromised by memory, the need to protect others, by the demands that conventional storytelling places on gaps, disruptions and conflicted emotions which result from a traumatized landscape. So, for me, it was a process of reinventing that landscape as playful, energetic and imaginatively reconstituted. I do trust fiction to reveal the truth about our lives without restricting it to definitions.

CR: Can we talk about the stories in Letter to Pessoa? In their concerns, settings and the way they play against a range of other writers, they could find an enthusiastic audience anywhere in the world. I know you might be wary of categories like “world literature”, but do you find that notion inspiring at all? Or are you happy to leave that kind of assessment to others?

MC: I probably do have a global voice. I spent my formative years living in three countries which is not very typical. But like many Australians my family background was aware of the world, through our communities, through coloniality, through trade, through art, through different cultures and languages. The mobility of people across borders, religions and caste was not foreign though it posed difficulties that we didn’t anticipate. Now, when I travel overseas, it’s primarily for my writing, and somehow, place, travel and writing are connected for me.

I’m glad that Letter to Pessoa can be read as ‘world lit.’ or ‘global lit’. I am very fond of the opening story because an early draft was written whilst I was traveling in Spain; and at that time, it seemed like a failure, a fragment, a futile exercise. But the act of imagining and believing in our fragments holds much promise. The uncertain proximity to meaning is where rich stories can have humble beginnings. When I read the opening story ‘Letter to Pessoa’ I’m reminded of how I wrote it in a hotel, alone, during transitions and how a writer often needs to be stripped of a great deal of routine and security to embark on fictional journeys. That multiplicity matters to me. I did take risks engaging poetic tropes but I was pleased the language was able to cross gaps in migrant time and colonial history, providing structural cohesion and literary complexity for the book as a collection of stories. I was inventing and developing my own structural devices. The books also feels like a progression from my previous work, which is validating for me as a writer. Alexis Wright in conversation with Melissa Lucashenko and Kim Scott at the FNAWN symposium last week, spoke, inspiringly, about always learning and challenging oneself as writer.  So yes, I am pleased on a personal level with the book, because it was the product of self-learning and thinking about themes like exile, belonging, difference and the writing process.

CR: I love the way that in Letter to Pessoa you take the work of other writers – sometimes particular works, like Lolita in “Chasing Nabokov” or “Aubade” in “Aubade for Larkin”, and at other times the spirit of a whole oeuvre – and use them to create stories which can both stand alone and be read at an angle to the originals. (I’d say they riff on the originals, but I’m not sure that’s the right word – though I see you use it in the notes to the collection, in terms of particular phrases and sentences.) How do those stories grow in your imagination?

MC: The epistolary stories started with an early draft in third person prose which appeared on my blog. It was titled ‘Derrida’s Reinscriptions.’ This was a few years before ‘Letter to Derrida’ was developed and appeared in the journal, TEXT. I had also written a theoretical paper on Derrida’s deconstructionism and Buddhism and I am interested in the idea of the fragmentation of the self; and how writing is postponement. (When the book manuscript was edited, I was asked to revise the Derrida story further, which led to allusions to Derrida’s life and his work being included.) But the blog post is proof that strong stories can have humble beginnings. Letter to Pessoa is a book of stories; but also, a book about reading and writing, the writing process.

I began to write more letters to authors which was rather enjoyable. It required me to read their work and to think about my writing as a departure, a variation and a conversation. One of the challenges of poetic language is to make different things seem similar so that we apprehend the world in a new way; we see things with fresh eyes. My technique was to texture the language as a medium, using it like paint or fabric, and to manipulate the layers. I enjoy that aspect of language and how it carries meaning; so that was how the letters in the book were crafted. Another aspect was being able and willing to go deeply into my story so that it wasn’t simply a variation. Each has to have its own existential validity, its characters and tensions.

I enjoy reading these stories to an audience because they work best when read with an inner voice trusting of the music, or to an audience. There is a performatory aspect to them because of how they use voice.

CR: Virginia Woolf clearly has a special place in that set of creative talents. I’m thinking of the story “Letter to Virginia Woolf”, which strikes one as deeply personal as well as a poignant tribute to her, as in “maybe I cannot live without words. Each one maddening as a stone thrown into the river, heavy as death . . .”

Elsewhere you cite Woolf’s words: “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” Do you see her (and Larkin, Pessoa, Coetzee and others) as allies and companions in your creative journey? Or sometimes as adversaries or counterpoint?

MC: I see them as companions. Some of the stories are homage pieces. I read Rózewicz at a time in my life when my mother was very ill. His book, Mother Departs, helped me understand and cope with the alienation a writer feels and the sacrifices, the losses; also, the indifference of history to minorities. Who is going to teach us the way forward with compassion and understanding? Not society. Society, after all, does not really value our work as writers. Writing is rewarded in our world based on whether it can be consumed and traded. So, these writers have helped me enormously to model a pathway; I don’t mean a career pathway. I mean I’ve learned how to live as a fragment, and how to decolonize. The Borges story, ‘Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote’ made me think radically about authorship, about the canon and history; about how we are innovators as much as we are imitators. What Coetzee does with Robinson Crusoe in Foe can be traced back to what Jean Rhys did with Jane Eyre in Wild Sargasso Sea; and in Waiting for the Barbarians there is a trace of Cavafy. We share in a repository of dreams; we receive the language and the visions of these writers, as other writers in time will receive ours; that’s what I mean. That is very real for me.

But you’re right. I do feel in a special sense connected to Woolf, no less than many women writers have done, I expect. My novel-in-progress engages more deeply with her work. But also, with her life and her essays. She was extremely privileged and charmingly sociable and a white, English woman. Certainly, she lived in a different world, but she suffered childhood trauma, she was poetic and inventive in her language and she worked as an editor and independent publisher with Hogarth Press. She was somewhat to the side of the canon as a modernist and a feminist; she was an essayist in her own right with strong opinions and a formidable critic; a photographer, a Londoner; she was openly bisexual. As a couple Leonard and Virginia Woolf were anti-imperialists, Leonard having served for seven years in Ceylon. So there are several aspects of her life which I can relate to. I find her exploration of class distinctions fascinating and almost callously observed. I think what I relate to most, however, is her intensity; the overwhelming way that language absorbed her and was inseparable from her life, determining her destiny. I understand that gravity and it can be harrowing and exhausting but also exhilarating.

CR: “A Year of Smoking Menthol” from Letter to Pessoa is a brief story suffused with tenderness and friendship. Plus some great metaphors (such as “you were my litmus strip”). You end it with powerful abstractions: “decency, morals and society”. In its quiet way, does that story throw down a kind of challenge to the reader?

MC: It’s the story of a friendship between two young women who aren’t content to use their minds in the way society expects because they see the hypocrisy and fakeness and misogyny of the world and they long for something more; Lulu is becoming unhinged, suffering insomnia, delusions, sharing suicide fantasies, while her friend, the narrator, cannot save or protect her, and things are spiralling out of control, but there is a sense that Lulu’s illness is part of what’s wrong in society. There is a sense of repressed sexual tension and a betrayal is implied. Sometimes the most ethical people in our lives are considered dysfunctional and pathologized because they subvert or fail to conform to an insensitive system of values.

A gap between the upbeat, vernacular tone and the seriously disturbing themes makes it provoking and poignant. I’m glad that it works because it was risky to write in the second person, and in such a brief, poetic form. It could have been a standard-length short story of 4000-5000 words, but the brevity and intimate second person address make it an affecting and unique narrative.

CR: In an article “Interceptionality, or The Ambiguity of the Albatross” published in the Provocations series of the Sydney Review of Books in August 2018, you develop the concept of “interceptionality” and its special usefulness today – for example in relation to other concepts like “intersectionality”, which was broached in a 1989 essay by Kimberlé Crenshaw and has been much used since then. Is it possible to briefly outline the importance of “interceptionality” for you?

MC: Interceptionality is a communications tool using social media, email, written correspondence also phone conversations. It’s about speaking as an equal and reclaiming one’s subjectivity as a minority individual or it could equally apply to a minority argument in contentious issues, for example arguments about cultural privilege or even issues on climate. Minority positions and arguments get flattened and homogenized or reduced by mainstream frames and paratexts within the publishing industry, the media and education. Interceptionality ruptures through the frame repeatedly to change the status of the speaker. It is also a decolonizing strategy because when used to question the assessment of merit, the distribution of cultural capital or structural racism it resists the silencing of voices that are already positioned with less agency within discourse. Inspired by narrative theory, it uses narrative to mediate oppression; and it has a spatial appreciation of representation: that there are master narratives that hierarchically position and validate all the stories we are permitted to tell. Interceptionality enters the methodological gaps of intersectional discussions, which have been powerfully descriptive, but which have failed to address arts policy. An example of interceptionality is the work of the Kurdish author, Behrouz Boochani, detained on Manus Island since 2013. He has used the technology of a smart phone to write stories, articles, interviews in international media to send messages to the world on the atrocities happening there daily, to write a book, No Friend But the Mountains and to send videos via Whatsapp to produce a documentary film, Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time. Because they are peripheral it is easy to lose sight of what is happening in the detention camps on the islands; his work intercepts that framing to expose the cruelty of the state, to show from the centre of his subjectivity how fragile and humane the refugee’s experience is in detention. This is not without personal risk; but it is more powerful than journalists or refugee advocates speaking on his behalf.

CR: In that essay you move from a fascinating account of the possible meanings of the albatross in Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, through conceptual bearings and contemporary social commentary, to a powerful statement of your own personal experience in relation to these things. That seems to me one of the strengths of your writing — that you bring together other writers, ideas, creative fictions and personal experience. Is that a fair comment? Or are you thinking “that’s just what writers do”?

MC: I don’t have an overarching plan for my work. I work from within my creativity outwards. My strength is from within; focussing on my creative task and working outwards. I don’t want to lose that deep connection with my work, and I don’t think I possibly can. Interceptionality teaches us to believe performatively in what is vital: our truth, reclaiming our subjectivity. Even when we are displaced within the master narrative, if we are centred within our own process, it becomes deeply meaningful and it can survive. My preference is to write fiction, but I have learned that discourse is a powerful moderator of fiction and I have used language and theory to intercept the cultural frame that colonises myself and others. Understanding more about the canons and master narratives has really questioned my understanding of what history is and what authorship means.

CR: In the poem “The Sound of Our Brown Bodies” you address (among other things) Australian border policies and bullying, saying “how hard on the body/being brown is in this white country”. In terms of your own writing, you write in the SRB essay of the experience of being “marginalised as a literary writer of colour in a culture that seeks to limit its migrant authors to the closed narratives of immigration, assimilation and consumption”. This is obviously something you feel strongly about and want to explore . . .

MC: Yes, as a migrant, I came to Australia, studied a profession and was treated as an equal in that industry. Citizenship enables me to become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a dentist, an accountant. But if I enter the arts, if I enter literature I am immediately disadvantaged by the canon; my voice is not recognized by the literary representations that our culture knows and endorses. I must work several times harder; the measures of appraisal are rarely on par. This is strenuous physically and psychologically. It is becoming increasingly harder to deny class privilege and Eurocentric privilege; and to this I would add canonical privilege. There is a policing and punitive dynamic if you are critical in a public space. I felt it was my responsibility to share these dynamics. To be able to map our history of erasures, oppressions, to talk about entitlements, and how they work in the arts industry, this will serve our communities as we go forward towards a more inclusive, participatory arts culture.