Author: Sam McClure
On September 28th, I attended a discussion panel with poets Daniel Borzutzky and Amy Sara Carroll. The theme of both of their presentations was Bor/der/i/za/tion.
Daniel Borzutsky began his presentation by reading poetry while a Speedy Gonzales short played on the screen. The short featured the titular cartoon mouse attempting to steal cheese from across the border, and Borzutsky expanded on that allegory with his poetry. There was a stark contrast between the comedic antics of the short and Borzutsky’s aggressive political commentary. Sometimes the poet commented on what was happening to the characters on screen, while other times the images and the poetry seemed to be wildly dissimilar. It was an interesting experience that would have only been possible in a live setting.
Borzutsky then showed the audience a variety of YouTube videos featuring representations of illegal immigrants. Some were quiet offensive, like Genesis’s “Illegal Alien”, but others, like a clip from Born in East L.A., represented immigrants much more fairly. His critique of the media’s portrayal of immigrants provided me with context for his book, The Performance of Becoming Human.
After Daniel Borzutsky’s presentation, Amy Sara Carrol took the stage. She read some of her poems from her collection Fannie/Freddy. I hadn’t encountered Carroll’s work before her presentation, but her delivery was very impressive. She also showed a clip of a documentary about an app that aids illegal immigrants crossing the border. Not only does it give the user survival tips, it also contains relevant poetry. I thought the app was an interesting combination of art and technology, and the documentarians did a good job of explaining the functions of the program in a clear and concise manner.
My favorite part of the presentation was the question and answer session, where students asked the poets to respond to the racist vandalism on campus. One man was very inspired by Amy Carroll’s use of poetry for activism. This led to a discussion on the effectiveness of activism against those using hate speech to gain attention for a cause. If the whole school comes together to protest an offensive, yet relatively minor crime, does that prove our strength by showing racists that we will take a stand against any level of hate-speech? Or, are we giving the vandal more power by showing them that they can create outrage with a single can of spray-paint? It’s a dilemma without an easy solution, but I’m glad that the student body is thinking about it.
Needless to say, there was a lot to think about at this BathHouse event!