The principles of the Catholic Church are such that women are secondary. Obviously, when women discovered they had a voice, no one was able to shut them up, and this is what has saved us in this country.
I am essentially a political woman, but above all I am a poet. I am a poetess. The word exists in Portugal, and I use it all the time. An interventionist poet, a poet who fights for freedom. Because you can only be a poet in freedom.
- Guernica: What is the best word to describe you?
- Maria Teresa Horta: Insubordination.
- Guernica: Why this word?
- Maria Teresa Horta: Because, on the one hand, I was born insubordinate and, on the other, because I’ve always been a symbol of change in Portugal.
"Lore has it that audience members panicked when the life-sized locomotive came throttling toward them on the screen of the 1896 Lumiere brothers’ film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station. But in 2013, audiences remain placid as they watch a tank barreling through the narrow street of a ravaged Syrian city. Casual observers of a reality recorded anonymously on cell phones and iPads, they witness the war over social media.
"However disparate these images may seem, they come together in the work of Czech artist Tomáš Svoboda. In Filmu uz se nebojim, or Not Afraid of Film Anymore, sequences from both the Lumieres’ famous early work and from the contemporary, unnamed video from Syria form the basis of an installation mounted at Jeleni Gallery in Prague this past November.”
"What was transformative was being at the inauguration, reading my poem, and realizing that the quest for home and identity had always been part of my work, but that I’d been home all along. I understood that my story, my mother’s story, the story of those hundreds of thousands of people up there, is America. I had the dawning of a new connection with America, a new love affair. Not a blind patriotism, but just an understanding that it is part of who I am."
- Guernica: While working in academia, what pushed you to pursue more alternative mediums as well?
- Bassam Haddad: I was always struck by the disconnect between the great minds around me at the university level and what was going on within the minds of students. I felt that academics were often out of touch with the next generation. I also felt that many of the students around me, from all kinds of backgrounds, were out of touch with the world or not interested in the mechanisms and systems that have a great impact on their lives. I thought, “Academia needs framework that is not only grounded in yesterday, but in today’s world and the preferences and habits of today’s peoples.” It was important for me to produce good content, but it was also important to present it in attractive and compelling ways, especially in the United States, where comfort is the opportunity cost for many.
- So I tried to follow a model that provided a balance between scholarship and other activities that sometimes have more of a direct impact on the world. Though my first scholarly book on the political economy of Syria [Business Networks-- The Political Economy of Authoritarian Resilience] has had considerable success, it is arguable that other forms of knowledge production that I have been involved with have had more of an impact on public discourse.
As an immigrant, there’s a little part of you that always says, “Well, I’m not a hundred percent American.” America is some other little boy or some other place I haven’t been to yet.
Image by Katie Marshall.
"I was thirteen when Kurt Cobain died, and entirely more interested in the Jurassic Park soundtrack than Nirvana. I watched the MTV coverage of his death with my mother, who sat in a recliner ignoring a novel in her lap and saying over and over that it was so sad, that it was just like Jimi Hendrix. “You’re gonna remember this,” she warned, knowing I was still too young. She grew up in the sixties, an era whose narrative lingered like the sounds of a carnival after you’ve left. Catastrophic deaths had mile-marked her youth: JFK, MLK, Marilyn, Janis, Jimi. She paired each tragedy with a coordinate in space-time where/when she had received the news, and the result was an archive of snow-globe moments, each paused in the ether of their impending resonance.
Kurt was my first such tragedy and there I was on my living room floor, sitting on my feet, my hand deep in a can of Pringles. I was supposed to remember that forever.”
The Walk, by Jamie Quatro
Wednesday, early March. My twelve-year-old son has the day off from school. It’s his older brother’s birthday and I need to bake a cake. Hudson and I decide to walk to the Lookout Mountain Market to get a mix and frosting. We take Boji, our yellow lab, along.
It’s the first sunny day in a week, warm, the kind of soft-focus, liquid air that makes me feel half-time and drowsy. Blots of color in yards along Lula Lake: purple crocus, yellow forsythia, green onion grass. Hudson yanks up a cluster and chucks it across the street, then smells his fingers. Will that grass make actual onions? he asks.
We walk a block and cross from Georgia into Tennessee, alongside the rock wall with built-in mailboxes in front of each house. Past the Civil War trenches—hospital, not battle—at the four-way stop where Lula Lake road becomes Scenic Highway. We wind along past the trailhead that leads, Hudson says, “to a sick cave.” I had no idea he’d been there, though it doesn’t surprise me: mountain kids grow up roaming free, climbing boulders, swimming in creeks. We reach the small ravine across from Watauga road and cross the metal replica of the Market Street bridge—this smaller version painted black, not blue like the full-size bridge in downtown Chattanooga.
I wave to Ruth on the patio of the Café on the Corner. She’s the owner and chef, keeps my favorite Cabernet in stock for half-price wine night. I spot Gwen—the “mountain tracker” social columnist—exiting the post office. My friend Melanie speed-walks past us, waves.
Everyone we see is white. I wish I could say this grim reality is still something I notice daily, as it was when we first moved here. The shameful truth: I rarely think about it anymore. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee—there’s a reason Martin Luther King singled out our town in his famous speech.
We reach the market and I sit outside with Boji while Hudson goes in to buy the mix and frosting and a snack for himself. A woman whose name I don’t know comes out of the market—I’ve been told she’s a “socialite.” She drives a convertible. Her young son is with her. They get into the car and a country song blares. I LOVE this song! she says, and high-fives her son, who’s drinking from a juice box. They sit there and listen, together.
On the way home Hudson kicks at the spiked seed pods lining the road. Boji sniffs at ivy, lifts his leg.
There he goes, I say. Reading his pee-mails, replying.
How much is Boji worth? Hudson asks.
He’s priceless to us, I say.
I mean his actual body, Hudson says.
I tell him how much we paid, when we bought Boji from the breeder. Hudson stops walking.
You bought him?
It hadn’t occurred to me that Hudson wouldn’t know this.
We bought him from his owner, I say.
You can’t own an animal, he says. You just take care of them, in your house.
I guess you’re right, in a sense, I say.
Like, humans can’t be owned, he says, and Boji’s pretty much human.
The dog sniffs, lifts, jogs ahead.
So how much is a human body worth, Hudson says.
And we’re off again.
The next day, driving Hudson to school, we pass Howard High School, in the inner city. We’ve passed it all year, but today it’s a late start and there are students outside.
Is that a private school for black kids? Hudson asks.
Actually, it’s public, I say.
But racism is illegal, right, he says.
How do you explain to a twelve-year-old? I wish I could say, Yes, darling: racism is illegal.
Mandatory segregation is illegal, I say.
It’s the best I can do, for now.
We get on I-24 and take the Sugar’s Ribs exit at Missionary Ridge, where a herd of kudzu-eating goats grazes the hillside. Hudson’s school, private, sits at the base of the ridge, where in 1863 Arthur MacArthur—the famous General Douglas’s father—charged the hillside and took Chattanooga for the Union, General Grant watching from Orchard Knob nearby.
The sun is already high above the ridge. I say goodbye to Hudson and drive back up the mountain, the city growing hazy below. Birdsong, pillared homes, pear trees laced in white blossom—another gorgeous Southern day made, it seems, to lull us into forgetfulness.
[Originally published in Guernica’s special issue, The American South.]