Let It Go, Girlfriend!

I stopped discussing the whole Rachel-Racial matter after defriending FB “friends” who seemed to be trying to shout me down.  I collected all the articles, thinking I might write a flash memoir or personal essay someday.  With all the race crap in the past few months in the US of A, the subject dropped out of my mind.  …until it popped up again on the Internet and spawned the social commentary below.  So I say to Ms. Dolezal, please stop reminding us; please let this matter drop from the collective consciousness; and for your own peace of mind, girl, let it go!

*****

I can’t even read this stuff anymore!  But I have to say that her terminology is assbackward to begin with before one even gets into the deeper issues of misappropriation.  I can relate in a strange way–as her total opposite. This comes from my identity and experience as a lifelong tan woman who identifies as Black but not African-American.

I choose Black because it describes my familial, emotional, and social identity.  Both of my parents identified as Black and wrote it on my birth certificate next to my name (of which they used the German pronunciation, which is why it is MINyin).  I have never felt anything other than Black, connected biologically and experientially to members of the Black race regardless of geography. However, absolutely nothing has ever made me feel part of any mainstream culture (African Americanized or otherwise).  

Who am I, in a nutshell?  I’m a Black woman artist; that’s an identity for which I need no external validation.  To say: “I am not Black, but I identify WITH and deeply respect African American culture” would make all kinds of sense if Dolezal had said that.  Identifying AS Black when neither of her parents nor any of her 4 grandparents is biologically Black is just so very deluded, stupid, and wrong!  There, I am done.  Ms. Dolezal, I hope you are too.

http://www.salon.com/2015/07/20/rachel_dolezal_i_wouldnt_say_im_african_american_but_i_would_say_im_black/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

June 12, 2015

I finished revising the upcoming “A City of Trees: poems of tribute 1” this week.  It’s the prequel to the Bukowski-inspired “What Good’s a View of the Charles…?” (2013). Both from ALL CAPS PUBLISHING.

And the proof arrived for “Playground: poems” by Margie Shaheed, winner of the 2014 Hidden Charm Press Poetry Chapbook Contest.  So the book will be out this month.

So guess how productive I feel right now!  Here’s my Amazon page, with three books I’ve written and the Extra MoJo! anthology I edited.  I will post links when the new books are officially launched.  Now, off to rest my brain!

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_gnr_fkmr0?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Amignon+Ariel&keywords=mignon+Ariel&ie=UTF8&qid=1434154484

March 1, 2013

Well, it’s really only Feb. 27 at 3:30am, but close enough.  So my back and neck are still protesting having to sit still for 3 hours Monday night, and the cold I refused to let get the best of me until Tuesday is wiping me out…BUT it was totally worth it.

The launch of Hidden Charm Press with its first title Extra MoJo! at the Stone Soup Poetry reading in Central Square, Cambridge, MA on Monday night was fantastic!  The open mic was great.  My sisters-writers were an outstanding feature, making poems from the anthology leap off the page.  It was truly enthralling!  I couldn’t be prouder.

Hidden Charm Press (HCP) was created in July, 2011.  It took until July, 2012 to put together a first draft of the Extra MoJo! anthology. By Winter, 2012 I had a cover artist and layout artist on board to make the manuscript into the book that the 20 writers deserve.

Hurrah to my co-features Toni Bee and Robin White; kudos to Denise Washington whose poem is on the back of the book; woo hoo to cover artist Jessica Grundy and to my football buddy, layout artist Steve Glines, for making a pile of papers into a gorgeous book!

The Press’s inventory for the evening sold out, so now I can afford a new computer battery, the HCP website purchase, and incidentals like food all at the same time 😀

HCP-StoneSoup3-Feb.2013

photo of Robin White, Mignon Ariel King, and Toni Bee by chad parenteau

Missing Winks (memoir)

All I want to do in February is sleep.  I’d always assumed this was due to the snowy, cold weather.  The cold outside makes settling into soft white socks, heart-printed thermal underwear, and a plush robe a moment of sheer sanctuary.  Armed with a cup of tea, shortbread cookies, and a serious book, I’m a literary woman warrior taking a stand against hostile elements.  There’s also a bit of “back home” nostalgia stirred in to this fantasy.  “Back home in New Hampshire we had to get out of bed in the dark to start a fire. …and at night we’d make a big Dutch ovenful of beef stew and dip biscuits in it.”  I have never lived outside of Massachusetts.  My parents met in Boston in the late 1940s, settled here after marrying.  Yet I was so used to them–having grown up on opposite sides of New Hampshire–refering to that state as “back home” that part of me grew up longing for the deep, dark woods, a creek, or a barn full of chickens.  Being comforted by the indoors is combined with respect for the outdoors and with a love of those mighty winters that give bookish homebodies an excuse to fall asleep reading in an emotional and physical retreat.  Maybe if I close the blinds and drapes I can pretend a blizzard roars without.  I’ll drop marshmallows into liquid chocolate and finally doze off.

Black History Month Series (II)

Q: What does it mean, really, to be a multicultural writer?

A: I write as I live, through all of my valued private and public traditions and experiences…as an American. There’s no pie chart for my cultural percentages, and 9 times out of 10, the Black part is not open for discussion.

Blackness is a state of being shaped by experiences, not just a biological “marker,” so when I say “Black” I am not talking about physical packaging—9 times out of 10. Why is that such a difficult concept for non-Black Americans to get, especially women? Is “woman” just a biological fact or marker for them? When a man relates to a woman’s “femaleness” or refers to her as a woman when that specific fact seems irrelevant to the current human communication or interaction, doesn’t that woman get angry, defensive, feel insulted, maybe think “sexist jerk”?

If so, why do I get labeled an ABW or militant for thinking “race-obsessed jerk” when my race is gratuitously or inappropriately “related to” or referred to? When is it inappropriate for another person to refer to my race? 9 times out of 10 that the person is not one of my oldest and dearest friends, and yes, especially if the person is not a Black American and/or of African descent. It’s a cultural understanding thing, complicated by both historical and present racism. I catch a lot of heat for mentioning my own race, asserting that it “makes a difference,” so all non-me’s should have even stricter racial gag orders than I.

Turning specifically to the question of art, when I apply pen to paper, it is not with the pressure of a monocultural agenda. That is, if I’m in a Black state of mind, my pen writes about race, or culture, or racism. When I’m feeling my “woman-ness”, I write about sex, or gender, or sexism. Major holidays bring out my inner American; that’s when I write about friends and family, or mistletoe and pie, or anti-patriots. Some days, when socio-economic inequities are especially noticeable and infuriating, I write about class prejudice. In other words, I write what I write, with neither boundaries nor pretenses of belonging to any one literary tradition. To write with respect for the past, appreciation for the present, and an eye on the future is perhaps my subconscious, apolitical, multicultural agenda. A reader who possesses a monocultural agenda or monomaniacal obsession with any one part of a writer’s personal features or demographic categories (i.e., with her “markers”) will probably find my work disappointing.

Black History Month Series (I)

In honor of Black History Month and the impending publication of my first collection of poems, which are autobiographical, I will be posting a series of personal essays.

Q: What does it mean to be Black, and multicultural, and a woman writing into the 21st century?

A: It’s a race, class, gender tale of nature versus nurture.

Here in the twenty-first century, on the cusp of publication of my poetry, there is still such an unpleasant focus on the biology and social status of Americans that I am stuck under the label “Black,” which I will gladly keep, and “ghetto girl,” which I reject as racist, sexist, and elitist. For I am not from the ghetto, street, or inner city. My inner child is indeed a girl from the ‘hood, but the term is short for “neighborhood,” and it is for me an internalized term, not one that is merely suggestive of a past or current geographic or socio-economic location/status but also representative of a complex now-woman’s identity.

It means that I am confident, sassy, strong, yet love being a woman: wearing lipstick, skirts, and shiny new shoes if I please; being unashamed to have feelings; keeping secrets or indulging in a bit of harmless gossip; saying thank you when a man swings open a door in front of me rather than being insulted. Any so-called “low-class” woman will tell you, there are more manners in the poor and blue collar men of Dorchester, Eastie, and Roxbury than in the Financial District, Newton, and West End. “Class” to me means that one actually recalls having been raised right, with common manners and sense, respect for both genders, and an old-fashioned notion of decency.

How a child was born and raised and who an adult has chosen and still chooses to be and become—two different things. A truly multicultural artist, like me, embraces nature via self-acceptance and spirituality as well as nurture via accepting the best, most interesting, most compatible people, concepts, pleasures, responsibilities that exist outside of the self. For me, allowing the internal marriage of nature and nurture, of high and low culture, has created an identity. It is bothersome, to say the least, to be answering the same questions about my bookish and artsy self that I was answering twenty-five years ago. At 20, I was a confused and misfit girl, student, living in one tiny area of the world. At 45, I am an educated woman who has discovered, and who constantly stretches the limits of, her current power and her artistic and human potential. Recognition of that fact respects the general process of learning, growing, and maturing in a society that is still less than kind to its minorities and its poor. Artists, Black Americans, and women fall into at least one of those categories.

Prose Poems and Flash Memoir

You decide which is which:

When Dearly Departed

     Why the heck were most of my aunts single and kidless? Simple. Aunt Stella–living happily in the sticks with her thirteen cats, root cellar, famous rhubard pies, old stereo with an automatic arm working through a stack of 78’s–knew the score. You have to marry a big baby to give birth to little ones. Oh, just go with the cats, borrow other people’s kids once-per-week for Sunday school, keep the colorful, took-months-to-make-’em quilts vibrant and tear-free for years. Sigh with Mario Lanza and Sinatra as you doze in a room lit only by fire, soft purring ball in your lap.   

     And there was Sara, in a Boston ‘burb wearing silver slippers and African turbans on Sunday, pouring cream from a little cow pitcher at ladies’ brunches with just her twenty-something nieces putting monogrammed, starched-white napkins in their laps, grateful to learn the difference between British tea and Asian, delighted by the homemade mayonnaise on her crustless cucumber sandwiches. She zipped to the city and hopped a plane with her always-packed overnight as easily as the Europeans do. 

     Aunt Mignon haunts bookstores by day, lurks nights in Irish pubs with crazy-fun artists of all types, hearing about who’s slept with whom, what anti-depressants so-and-so is on. Min rolls her eyes at all the political talk from older poets who marched in the ’60s, and she tolerates burn-outs who call her a square for never puffing a ciggy much less pot in her life…and only dating one spoiled-brat guy at a time. She graduated in Faneuil Hall, goes to rock shows there decades later–under the shiny white Christmas lights and blue neon clock of the Custom House. What a life to put before “she never married” in post-mortem bios. Oh, wait. That wasn’t my namesake. That’s me!

“Halfway to Hell”*
     Oh, it’s fine ’til I’m walking over the River, my three-seasons-per-year companion. 200 smoots in, I know it’s entirely too cold for a long walk today. What was I thinking? My handsome appointment made me feel twenty-five again. Back then, what was an hour’s walk at dusk in late, cold, windy November? Back then, a marathon night of making love had no effect on rolling out of bed for work on a Friday morning. What was sleep to me?  

     So here I am, knowing why some name that point Hell. One fourth of the way, you want to stop when meeting the wind.  But the stars, and the sky-high towers, and the lights so shiny on the midnight ripples, all pull like a tug-o’-war rope. Halfway, you’re stuck. Know you’ll lose your voice. Hear the chill, laughing at your cotton hood, seeping into the tips of your ears that will ache tonight as you sip spiced chai in pink thermals and fuzzy purple socks, longing for a man to rub you warm. 

*Painted on the Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River that connects Cambridge to Boston.

   

We Three Kings    

I.  My father banned Christmas. No lights, photos, tree-trimming. Ham was out too. If it snowed, morning was a sledfest for us Three Little Ones–Sammy, and H., and me. We zipped down the hill from the old Shirley House, rich people’s spirits sipping hot toddies and looking down on us, destined for Hell. What madness it seems now. Man, that hill was steep and slippery, and I was not the boldest girl on earth, hated snow inside my mittens. But that’s what you do with boys for playmates when you’re avoided like the plague by normal girls who eat sweet potato pie and don’t have to braid down their hair. My teen sisters made bean pie, wore dresses down to right-below-the-knee, smuggling mini skirts to switch, fake normal, in school. And my big sister had outweirded the whole neighborhood by going away to college. Only the invisible girl across the street who dumped oatmeal out her gabled window was stranger than us. 

II.  We Three’d pretend it was fine, and had never known anything else. But the older ones griped, said how it had been before the tin men took the house, back when there was a dog, Daddy had smoked cigars, and Christmas began with Momma poking little pushpin things into a juicy, scored ham. That, my sister said, was in the good ol’ days, back when you were dead. Her spirit-twin sister got upset at that, but I wouldn’t find out for another ten years that I was the only one of us nine who almost didn’t make it home from the hospital, so tiny, wouldn’t eat. Eventually, I swept into the family like part of the blizzard, on the Epiphany, cuddled in Daddy’s arm and a purple plaid blanket; named after a dead aunt, and a gypsy, and a faerie too…which explains a lot, really. 

III. But enough about me. On Christmas afternoon, we went to Grammie’s house. The door swung open to a world that would do the Sugar Plum Faerie justice, tables draped in handmade ivory lace, white cotton and green-foam village with a tiny man actually ringing the church bell. The tinsel-dripped tree scraped the ceiling, its spiraling rainbow tube splashing star shapes on the walls. And, oh, the cookies. Snow-sugar-covered raspberry sandwiches, gingerbread men (and girls, just for me), all stacked like a Seuss tale on a three-tiered goody tree. There were hundreds of presents, even for family I’d never met, curlicued and bowed. The five of us feasted, my mother happy that I’d wolf down anything, even peas, if you poured gravy over it. And we laughed, Sammy and I singing Later on, we’ll Perspire! as we sit by the fire… with Johnny Mathis until nightfall, then stuffed ourselves, all those presents, and tin-foiled pie for our siblings into a cab, giggling all the way home. To this day I wonder: what did the older ones do while we three were playing normal for a day?

What Really Counts at the End? 

It reminds me of my aunts in their 80s–seeing two 
tiny elderly ladies who must be sisters, one 
with a crushed-velvet burgundy clutch, three   

feathers on her matching veiled hat. Eighty- 
something years of bickering or ignoring for six 
days per week, then going to church on the seventh! 

Her sister, in a crushed navy dress, matches too. 
They competed for a lifetime. I wonder who won.