When Divas Howl at the Moon: A Sample Reading
Introduction to Book When Divas Howl at the Moon: Canadian Publisher -CCLEH American Publisher- Xlibris YES, SUNRISE IN LOVE IN THE SEASON OF MAGICAL BEINGS In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love. - Frank O'Hara I'm listening to Maria Callas as I sit down to write this introduction. It was either Maria or Aretha. Mention the word diva and one immediately has an image (or no image of a woman). Some people are great, many simply aspire to be. We live in a time of personalities -singers, actors and sports figures. Does Oprah have diva status? What about Venus or Serena? It's more than a name - it's a style. Today the word seems to be more and more a metaphor for female empowerment. I know a number of women who have that presence which seems to linger near the divine. One of them is Chezia Thompson Cager, a poet who I immediately associate with Baltimore. Might she be related to Billie Holiday? Chezia, the name resonates like a river and one ponders the existence of water maidens, singers whose voices or words have the ability to possess the soul. The poetry (and work) of Chezia Thompson Cager always carrys the smell of oils and the rhythms that conjure as well as educate and entertain. The poetry included in When Divas Howl at the Moon will make you want to love in two languages. Thompson's anthology begins with the work of Ylonka Nacidit-Perdomo. One will read her work and consider it to be seashells - discovered and placed against the ear. I live. The rain touches the rocks all is so immense... Now and then one might be critical of the literary editor who includes their own work in a book they are editing. That's not the case with When Divas Howl at the Moon. Chezia Thompson's " City Woman: A Ragtime Walk On River Water Near the Ocean, In Baltimore-USA" follows Perdomo and sets the tone for the rest of the collection. Autobiographical with a touch of hot sauce sassiness, Thompson's poem further highlights images of water. A City Woman I count TIME as I go. River Maiden, I now count sea shells by the sea shore singing to sea horses - pregnant and male. By bringing together a choir of female voices who reside in this hemisphere, Thompson's anthology pushes aside the concepts of borders and boundaries. It is language and poetry that brings us together in the 21st century, as much as economic globalization and political upheavals. We live in a time when there is no longer a literary -other. When Divas Howl at the Moon embraces and celebrates sisterhood and community. I'm suspicious however of the word squad, as in, The Diva Squad Poetry Collective. The word seems too restrictive to the genius and talent represented in this book. There is power here which resonates beyond the images of a Queen Latifah on a movie screen. Queen Latifah leads squads. Chezia Thompson presents two divas: Ylonka Nacidit-Perdomo and Linda Rodriguez Guglielmoni. Their poems and translations are here, as well as their creative recipes. Guglielmoni's "Recipe for Becoming a Great White Writer" is as wonderful and different as Gertrude Stein's homecookin. Beat the drum and this book of poems will gather the ancestors and gods. Word rituals in search of believers. However the "heart" of When Divas Howl at the Moon revolves around the work and energy of Chezia Thompson-Cager. The Diva Squad might feature three members but so did the Supremes. This book begs the reader to once again - Stop in the name of love. Stop in the name of Ogun, Shango and Yemoja.. So let us speak of visitation .and remembrance. Let us think of a time when women of color undressed and revealed the beauty of their words: I am a child born into the sin of the world Remembering the ancient awakening Of righteousness, a fallen angel, GOD's eyes Carrying the sword of real history - the story of our lives Chezia Thompson Cager, Ylonka Nacidit Perdomo and Linda Rodriquez Guglielmoni are three women who have kept their heads above water. Now comes the tides of magic. The power of poetry resides in word-beads. These Divas know how to dress as well as strut. Behold the necklace of creativity which dazzles when they speak. E. Ethelbert Miller Director African American Resource Center Howard University Washington, D.C. January 26, 2008 (added A Missive by... in email to Branden on final edited copies in manuscript Introduction Section: The Age of Women: The Diva Squad Poetry Collective Comes of Age At the turn of the 21st Century the Diva Squad of contemporary poets stepped out and up. At first they laughed and celebrated the promise of a new dawn for African American poetesses in When Divas Laugh, published by Black Classic Press in 2001. Three years later, an integrated Diva Squad used the joyous infection expressed in kinetic exultation to summon achieving women and women artists in When Divas Dance published by Maisonneuve Press in 2004. Now as the first decade of the second millennium winds down, CCLEH in Canada and CDLEH in Santo Domingo have wisely brought together 3 unusual women poets on different continents to celebrate their inter-continental howling to communicate with each other and Diva Squad howls in When Divas Howl at the Moon, 2008. These poets/ poems celebrate the onward march of women since the last century, (of Senator Hillary Clinton competing for the Democratic presidential nomination and maybe presidency). The eight participants of the Diva Squad explore many aspects of contemporary society in the 3 works. They represent gender achievement as they are in the top percentiles of academia and the arts; they represent diversity across national and ethnic lines, which includes linguistic and ethnic differences. In this age, they represent the finer aspects of globalization and international cooperation. This book continues that representation. For instance, Ylonka Nacidit Perdomo's legendary readings in Spain and Columbia breathe passion and loss in a Spanish that doesn't fit English syntax. Unlike English poetry, her work's tonal features develop within the order of the words in the sentences of the poem. Her world is nature and the cycle of it's moods effects on her as a woman is always present in the poem in Spanish. The poems are romantic, desperate and altogether a function of the present moment. To my surprise, Cager's transliterations capture that power by not trying to imitate a Spanish syntax in English but rather but using enjambment to create in English an equally powerful poem. Guglielmoni's translations of Cager's poems into Spanish dare to mimic Cager's structure and sound. For all three writers, the work in both languages is an adventure for the mind. While Perdomo's poems are grounded in the soil of Santo Domingo, Linda Rodriguez Guglielmoni's poems move between Europe, Puerto Rico and America. The language of the poems in English twist Spanish and English together to create a "mixed poem" that is between worlds. The poems themselves describe living between worlds as they try to describe what those worlds are and how they function. From her grandfather's sleepy "hamaca" in Puerto Rico to American beaches in Florida and New York, she addresses the shifts in society that effect it's humanity; ending with a potent recipe for how to become a great white writer. My fascination is with the putative leader of the Diva Squad, who like the leader of a pack of poetic she-wolves \'Howl[s] at the moon.\' Students of the howls of wolves aver that the leader of the pack leads the howling and chants, and permits others in the pack to join or not join the howling. The howling calls on all the scattered members of the clan to locate the place of substance and succor, by homing in to the queen, the mother, the queen diva as a target, as a destination, as a vessel. This is for me, one of the reasons why I have followed the career and call of Diva Chezia these many years. Her many award winning activities have enlivened my literary life vicariously, especially on account of her reach from her enclave to make the literary universe her home. In some of her poems she reveals aspects of autobiography unknown to me but still familiar: the \'City Woman\' reminiscing about her life, her landscape, her folk background, her symbolic grandmother, her culinary formations, her transition to city woman (Dr. City Woman). She learns her history and politics and gender relations. City Woman with discerning eyes, questioning: \'Do I really need romanticized crime in a life that awakens To a nesting Swallow\'s chirping joy in the Oak Tree outside my window Painting my gratitude for life with sound?\' And she answers philosophically: \'Well I guess I do cause if it\'s city I\'m choosing to walk it's life path Soul shout happy to still be here, to walk at all toward an end dance With love and faith in the city. \' These lines reflect her more simple vicissitudes relative to life in America, as she connects it to her life experiences in the Caribbean and Africa. Most of her work is marked by colorful, dense imagery in a cultural and mystical landscape rarely explored. All of the poems of When Divas Howl at the Moon evoke connotations of the past striving of women, whose displacement from their central roles defy archaeological artifacts that proclaimed their position. They recall that time \'When God was a woman,\' not in overt questioning but in their own action and creativity. Chezia Thompson Cager\'s travels through cosmic time to recreate the sensibility of the moment of cultural and spiritual breach, speaks as much as M. Stone\'s conclusions. Her immersion in the Orisha traditions shows complete empathy with a past and path which have deep meaning for those of her African American Blackfeet background. This adds a new dimension to that eclectic culture that is New World. As the members of Diva Squad hearken to the call of Diva Cager the world of poetry will be further enriched by their collective contributions which will surely herald, once again, the age of women. Anson Gonzalez, Editor Founder, New Writers Press & The Anson Gonzalez Historic Archives of Caribbean Writers National Library Trinidad and Tobago.