POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY
"For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams towards survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought."
Though brief, it takes a long time to read Audre Lorde's essay 'Poetry is Not a Luxury'. Each sentence so tightly packed that you find yourself pausing often, letting each truth unfurl. It feels almost impossible to write about without quoting whole reams since Lorde's words articulate so accurately, and so joyfully, what she is communicating.
Lorde argues that poetry is essential. That it is revolutionary in its ability to move us. That the naming of our deepest feelings; our innate, non-rational knowledge; our emotions (so often discounted in our society), through poetry, is the only way to bring about profound and lasting change. That poetry is the way we recognise and implement our freedom. For Lorde, none of this is in the abstract. She writes from a place of practicality, real life ever present. Real life, in fact, is what makes all this so vital.
Early January this year and feeling a little post-holiday blue, a walk in St James' Park and an impromptu visit to the ICA found me snuggled in at their tiny screen two to watch RBG, a documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the nine sitting justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. An unlikely choice of subject matter for a comforting pick-me-up but I'd seen the memes and the American babies dressed in white collars and huge, dark framed glasses for Halloween, and if nothing else it seemed like an interesting enough way to pass the afternoon.
Described off the bat as the 'closest thing to a superhero' by (none other than) Gloria Steinem, furthered by shots of the diminutive, eighty-something Ginsburg lifting weights at the gym wearing a sweatshirt that reads 'Super Diva!', alongside clips from SNL and the like, her status as a liberal icon is quickly established. But 'they don't know the half of it', one commentator notes, and charting the course of her life from Harvard Law School to Supreme Court, it becomes clear that far from the larger than life character that her moniker 'the notorious RBG' suggests, quiet-natured and reserved, it is Ginsburg's intellect, pragmatism and tireless work ethic that are her real superpowers. Examining her contribution and commitment to gender equality and civil rights, the documentary emphasises Ginsburg's belief that real and enduring change happens one step at a time. Every case, every dissenting opinion, carefully considered and built upon to further the cause. As Aminatou Sow (of Call Your Girlfriend) says: 'realising that somebody like RBG has been doing her job for decades, and being forceful and speaking truth to power, kind of blows my mind'. I leave the cinema blues dispelled, loins girded, mind equally blown.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
We never need an excuse to celebrate women but since it's the month in which International Women's Day falls, here are a few things we're hoping to do in March:
Visit the Southbank Centre to see Diane Arbus: In the Beginning which brings together 100 of her pictures taken in the first half of her brief but prolific career. Organised by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and adapted for the Hayward Gallery, more than two-thirds of the photographs have never been shown before in the U.K. On until 6th May 2019.
Attend Women Shaping the World at Institut Français: a series of events, film screenings and discussions addressing issues and perspectives on women's rights across the world. Continuing until 13th March.
Watch Girl at Ciné Lumière, a film about 15 year old Lara, a trans girl and aspiring ballet dancer. A directorial debut by Lukas Dhont, the film won the FIPRESCI Prize and the Golden Camera at Cannes 2018. It's showing from 15th-31st March.
Experience Phyllida Barlow's interpretation of a residential 'cul-de-sac': a series of vibrant, large-scale sculptures that will spread through the new galleries at the Royal Academy. We predict that our visit will prompt a re-watch of the brilliant BBC 2 documentary 'When Lynn Barber met Phyllida Barlow' currently available on YouTube. The exhibition runs until 23rd June 2019.