Panel discussion held on healthcare for the LGBT community
Statewide poetry inititative to kickoff with Mt. Blue Campus event
FARMINGTON - A new statewide initiative designed to provide students with additional resources to learn, practice and create poetry will take an important first step at the Mt. Blue Campus next month.
Imagination 101: Poetry in the Schools, supported by Maine Poet Laureate Wesley McNair, represents an attempt to change what he sees as the oftentimes "top-down" method of teaching poetry in school. Students exposure to poetry in the classroom usually consists of poets being brought into the school, according to McNair, with the students then following up with prepared questions.
Recently, a three-member "poetry team" performed at the Blaine House to kick off one component of the Imagination 101 initiative, a program called "Written Word, Spoken Word and Hip-hop." The team includes Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, the former executive director of the Telling Room in Portland who has a background in teaching and poetry; Eric Axelman, a hip-hop artist who has released two CDs; and Lady Zen, a spoken word artist who performs to jazz fusion music.
More at http://www.dailybulldog.com/db/features/statewide-poetry-inititative-to-kickoff-with-mt-blue-campus-event/
Expressive Therapies & Social Action Interview
Interview with: Alzenira Santos Amaral Quezada aka Lady Zen by Tessa Hayes
Due to weather conditions, I was not able to meet with my interviewee as I’d hoped, but I was able to conduct a phone interview instead. I covered confidentiality, that this interview material will only be shared within my course-with professor and peers. I let Zen know that I will withhold from interpretation and meaning-making of her responses, and asked that she call me out if there was a question she did not want to answer. She asked if I would be recording our conversation (no) and she requested a copy of the interview presentation (which I am happy to share). Disclaimer: As I did not record the conversation, but took notes instead, any quotes from Zen have been filtered through my subjective experience of her response in conjunction with direct words jotted down while absorbing the conversation.
T: What is your favorite color today?
Z: “Grey. Cashmere sweater grey; I am wearing a cashmere grey sweater that matches my kitty’s fur, which reminds me that we are from the same tribe.”
T: Is there work that you do that helps to bring visibility to those who are at the margins due to their social positionality? How so?
Z: “Yes, by presenting in everyday life.” Zen gave the example of Brad and Angelina’s child wanting to be referred to as a male (John) instead of Shiloh. This pop culture family icon provokes conversation in which it is common for people to talk about approving of people who are transgender but not people who are transsexual. Zen discussed how people may know that she’s different but they’re not sure how. Zen looks for opportunity to clarify, she is not a not transvestite. “People don’t understand transgender.” She refers to the native term, two-spirited, and further critiques the common practice of getting caught up in defining her gender and missing that she is also a woman of color. She becomes concerned when there is so much acceptance, that she becomes invisible; then it is time for a kind and gentle conversation about difference. “My presence is a political statement.”
T: In my course, I have been reading about the idea of pursuing community social action specific to one’s own interests/passions, and to look to local community for collaborators. Do you consider any or all of your experience, public performance, fashion aesthetic, lyrical poetry teaching in high schools, and or public presentation of identity under the scope of arts activism?
How so- (overt-covert)?
Z: Collaboration is a huge component in everything Zen does. She values interaction within community, and looks to bring ideas together for one purpose through an interdisciplinary lens, stating, “art helps to make that connection.” When working collaboratively, such as choosing a band and ballet troop, Zen considers who to match to best break barriers among individuals from varied backgrounds, creating opportunity for participants to understand each other as people, as individuals. This effort works towards a sense of self in belonging, worthiness, and towards a greater good within community. In response to whether she works covertly and/or overtly as an arts activist, Zen responded that we have a responsibility as artists to show up, be vulnerable and gentle, and to meet the audience where they are, to be sensitive to what they are able to handle publicly. She gave the example of working at “Take Back the Night” and how important it is to create a safe space. By witnessing Zen’s sharing, the audience participates in 2nd person narrative to put themselves in her place. Just as it is very different to say jello versus rape, there is a continuum of comfort in how Zen brings up gender and sexuality issues; she is not going to come out and say she is a butch dyke in her opening statement to an audience of medical students studying choice in healthcare, not right away anyhow.
T: What would you say to someone who says that can’t sing/make music/write poetry/make art/be creative?
Z: “Everyone can sing, everyone has a voice, everyone can be educated about art/appreciate art. There is no limit to self-expression, whether drawing or how one dresses…”
T: I notice you changed your name. I may be presumptuous here, but is there any connection between this choice, and the need for a disruption of colonization/globalization of so-called 3rd world countries, and healing of cultural trauma associated with this historically pervasive reality?
Z: “Kind of.” Zen shared that her adoptive parents were abusive; her mom would often shame her, saying, “I can’t believe I gave you our [family] name”. Zen imagines this came from a place of intergenerational trauma. Zen remembers seeing her birth name on all of her legal documents, as Brazilian law states that adopted children must keep their first name, but her family never used it. Being a practicing Buddhist (a core part of her everyday life), Zen was delighted to find her chosen name in the middle of her birth name, Al-Zen-ira. What started out as her DJ name, Miss Zen, was changed when someone commented, “you’re not a Miss; you’re a lady!”
T: Performance anxiety tips (based on past articles)?
Z: Who, you?
T: yah, me… (nervous laughter)
Z: Performance anxiety is all about shame and empathy. Talk to yourself. There is a back-of-the-head recording, warhorses of shame. We ignore them, they are not taken care of; sit with them. Feel vulnerable. Conjure up comfortable; where am I most at peace? How does it feel? Go back to this place. Accepting these uncomfortable feelings about ourselves isn’t easy, it takes time. Love them. Zen also shared that she had done much exploration and work based on Bernet Brown’s Ted Talks about shame and vulnerability.
T: Do you ever create visual art too?
Z: Zen shared a personal story of a challenging time during her adolescences, and that making art was the one way she could communicate during her crisis. She also shared her enjoyment of found art, mosaic tiles, mandalas, sculptures, and that she is fascinated with organizing beauty into something new. Her art form consists of lyrical fusion poetry, film, music, and collaborative work. “Poetry is the language we use for emotion.”
T: Are you still engaged in the slow food movement and if so in what way?
Z: Whoa, you’ve done your research! My new passion is women’s/trans/butch/men’s healthcare & gender-specific access. Too many women are dying of ovarian cancer as a result of denial of their feminine bodies. I am still engaged in the slow food movement, but on a more personal practical everyday manner. We need power over our food. We buy our pigs from local farms when we eat meat, we know our butcher.
T: Can you tell me… would you like to tell me about Artistic Scars?
Z: I had taken a workshop with Tara Hardy and she spoke a about artistic scars. We had a prompt to free-write for 20 minutes for 5 days, “why I write”. My mom used to tear up my poetry when I’d put it on the fridge, so I didn’t want to put myself out there, to be criticized. My need to control, to want to change everything, was keeping me from success. Through the hard work of learning to love my work with all of its mistakes, I changed the idea that nothing was ever good enough. I meditate all the time and this one time, I envisioned myself in an elegant ballroom with a Persian rug and I in my tuxedo, looked up at the ceiling, and there were all these black gooey balls, like balloons, clinging to the ceiling. I got this long spear, and I began to pop them, and I saw, they were filled with lies people said, “you’re not good” etc. I realized that the ballroom was for my “pity party”. There are truths and there are scars.
T: Do you miss the south?
Z: No, it’s very racist there. There are pockets of treasures, enlightened people, but it’s a hard place to live, with such intolerance. I miss the Northwest, though.
T: Your responses make me think of Audre Lorde’s, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. (We have some back and forth as I formulate my question in a way she/and I understand it). Lorde was suggesting that presuming that black women [women of color] should be explaining their oppression to white feminists is unnecessary, that white women should do their own digging to educate themselves; it is a distraction of the oppressed to work to explain their oppression to the oppressor. I was curious about Zen’s engagement of conversation with those who don’t understand her identity versus educating themselves.
Z: Dr. Harold Simmons (1971) talked about “attention economy”. In 1994, we didn’t have the Internet yet. Now I can go online and order a cucumber or a bobble; wealth of info leads to lack of attention. When Audre Lorde spoke of this, we didn’t have as much information sharing as we now do. It goes back to the shame element; “I’m so embarrassed about slavery,” etc.. Not that long ago, people like me, women of color, transgender, all kinds of people, were being killed. In the past 10 years, transgender has become more public. I’m still at risk, but people are more enlightened everyday. The key to our entire existence is in this next generation.
T: What are you up to these days?
Z: Imagination 101, Hip-Hop, Spoken word/formal poetry, films, consulting with poets/performers (Off the Page), music, art. Lady Zen has a regular gig in Portland, “Obligato” and is headed to Mother Tongue Monologues in Harlem 2/21/15. Zen also teaches “Women Write”, a workshop at Justice in the Body in Portland. She is collaborating with University of New England on a campaign for transgendered healthcare. She is writing a curriculum for nurses to work with trans people while avoiding medical voyeurism, curiosity about what trans people do in bed. Addressing this is a way to break down barriers so that more people who are transgendered seek out medical healthcare. This led to a question I should have asked at the beginning, “how do we ask people what they would like to be called” I had asked an either or at the beginning of our interview (Lady Zen or Alzenira). Lady Zen offered that she is fine with the feminine pronouns she/her, etc. I asked her what she thought was the best way to make sure that question gets covered. She suggests asking, “How would you like to be addressed? Look at everyone on a broad spectrum.”
10QS WITH LADY ZEN
17 APRIL, 2013 | STEPHEN QUIRK
Making Noise: Zen: Singer, poet, teacher, grad student … Lady.
BY AIMSEL PONTI - STAFF WRITER firstname.lastname@example.org | @Aimsel | 207-791-6455
Lady Zen talks about her musical and literary upbringing as well as her future plans.
Lady Zen's Moment
Lady Zen’s Moment
Portland’s jazz-funk poet finds her groove
By Chris Busby
The Little Things: Portland Phoenix
Does Sexism Exist in the Maine Music Scene? -Olivia Gunn http://issuu.com/thebostonphoenix/docs/portland_100314