Sarah Parker Remond Centre


Transcript: In conversation with Alexis Pauline Gumbs

This conversation was recorded on 29th July 2021. Speakers: Ashish Ghadiali, Activist-in-Residence, SPRC // Alexis Pauline Gumbs, writer, independent scholar, poet and activist

Ashish Ghadiali: Hi, my name’s Ashish Ghadiali, I am Activist-in-Residence at UCL’s Sarah Parker Remond Centre and today I am joined by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Alexis is a writer, independent scholar, poet, activist and educator, and between 2017 and 2019 was Winton Chair in the Liberal Arts in the department of Theatre, Art and Dance at the University of Minnesota, and is the author of three outstanding books of poetry that comprise a triptych, engaging with the works of Black feminist scholars. Those books are Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist FugitivityM Archive: After the End of the World and Dub: Finding Ceremony, all published by Duke University Press. Alexis is also the author of a brilliant work of non-fiction called Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, published by A.K. Press, which is what brought us together, which we will start with today; and is also the author of the forthcoming biography of Audre Lorde, titled The Eternal Life of Audre Lorde: Biography as Ceremony, to be published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Girous. Thanks, Alexis, for joining us.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs: Thank you for inviting me.
Ashish: We’ve been corresponding for a while and I don’t think we ever named your locations. So, where have you been writing?
Alexis: I’ve mostly been here in Durham, North Carolina. I had a Fellowship at the National Humanities Centre which is also here in Durham this past year. So I’ve mostly been here writing while we’ve been corresponding, but I did get to go to Anguilla, which is an ancestral home of mine and a spiritual place for me, and I just got back from there a week ago.
Ashish: In fact, I saw on your biography that you are the Pride of Anguilla.
Alexis: Oh yeah, that was a really beautiful miraculous declaration by the Anguilla Literary Festival, and it’s a wonderful festival which I think really values and brings together writers from all over the world and all over the region of the Caribbean, but people like to brag, so I think there’s a certain pride in writers who are from Anguilla or who are Anguillian granddaughters like me.
Ashish: That is a cool declaration
Alexis: Yes, it means a lot to me.
Ashish: Shall we talk about seals first? I feel like seals is possibly what brought us together.
Alexis: Yeah, let’s talk about seals.
Ashish: So, when did that begin for you?
Alexis: It’s interesting because I first started researching and writing about marine mammals because of whale songs. I was listening to whales and that’s actually what led me, in fact I went to the Aquarium of the Pacific and they had this digital archive of different whale sounds and songs that were really amazing. But when I was there, I actually started to buy these guidebooks about marine mammals which, of course, seals are marine mammals. And I wrote and wrote and wrote about marine mammals for a long time but the first time I actually decided to share something that I wrote about marine mammals, which ended up being the first post of the collection of posts that became Undrowned, was about the hooded seal. And my mothering is an important research focus and just dynamic in the world that I study and I think there was something about - that first piece was right before Mothers’ Day - and it was about how fat-rich the milk of seal mothers is and that a hooded seal could travel the whole world, they have what they need in this profound way that has to do with that adaptation, that particular adaptation, not unique to hooded seals but among seals, of this profound offering in the first few weeks of a seal’s life, and there was something about that that was important.
I was like I think there’s something that I and other people, who are dispersed all over the world - because that’s the thing, sometimes they call hooded seals vagrant juveniles but they can be anywhere on the planet, they have that capacity because of fat and they get that initial fat from this transfer with their mothers - and I was like I think that there’s something about that that I need to remember, that I have what I need, or that whatever the offerings have been from those people who’ve nurtured me, they might actually be more than I think they are, especially if I have outstanding expectations or I’m like but what about now, or like what if our relationship isn’t ideal now or living into some kind of narrative now, what would it mean to actually focus on the fat and the capacity and the transfer?
And a lot of the writing I ended up doing about seals does look at that. It looks at the mothering relationships of seals and especially the perspective of young seals becoming seals and learning to adapt. To me there’s an intimacy to each of the pieces about seals. I wrote about my father in terms of a Caribbean monk seal, learning about the extinct Caribbean monk seal and then how tied in the blubber of seals, in particular, in the Caribbean is to the plantation economy, that was so important for me to be able to understand.
And as part of the work of Undrowned, to understand this, how colonialism and enslavement impacted multiple beings and multiple species at the same time and that actually I want to be in kinship with all of that and I want to be in solidarity and honouring with all of that resistance, and also the loss and also the depth of what there still is to be reckoned with. I never grew up thinking about the extinction of the Caribbean monk seal as one of the horrific outcomes of enslavement and colonialism in the Caribbean but, in fact, that is a part of it and without that piece of it, the other pieces of it would not have been possible.
Ashish: I think it could be really helpful to maybe unpack that a little bit more and to tell the story of what is the significance in your research and in your writing of the Caribbean monk seal because not everyone listening to it will have read the book yet.
Alexis: Yeah, I hope y’all go read it. So, the Caribbean monk seal, the scientific community agrees, is an extinct species of seal. The closest relative to it is another monk seal, the Hawaiian monk seal is the closest relative, and they also are endangered right now. And in my research, what I learned was that really the reason that Caribbean monk seals are extinct is because right at the beginning of colonialism, when Christopher Columbus and his crew of people arrived in the Caribbean, they hunted monk seals. And they were easy prey, the story goes, because they were curious, because they weren’t afraid and running away from some people who may not have been super great hunters in the conditions that they were in, they were kind of like the easiest to catch.
And then as across the Caribbean, a plantation economy was being set up and, in particular, the sugar cane plantations that are still operating in some areas of the Caribbean, the oil from the blubber of the monk seal was what was used to lubricate the continually moving parts of that, because in order for a sugar cane refinery to function, there has to be this heat and it has to be constantly moving; so either human beings or oxen in certain cases are pushing this circle. There’s a fire under it and there’s this vat of the sugar that’s being melted into molasses but if it crystalizes and sticks to the thing, it’s all over. That has to be able to continuously turn, which is part of the horrific labour conditions that exist in sugar processing to this very moment, but it’s also part of this need for lubrication.
And so that blubber, that source of oil was what they used and there was a constant need for that, and it was absolutely not sustainable in terms of the population of Caribbean monk seals on any island and is what led to them being so severely endangered, and by the time scientists started being like, let’s name what species are endangered, it’s possible that the Caribbean monk seal was actually already extinct by that time. It’s one of the earliest but also lasting impacts of the extraction of the Caribbean landscape and environment for profit.
Ashish: And you've spoken and written about the connection between that story and your dad, can you say a bit more about that?
Alexis: Yeah, I would love to. I think this is what happened with every single study of marine mammals that I was able to engage, there was something drawing me and I had to figure out what that was. Sylvia Wynter talks about the need for socio-poetics, a way to just have a ‘we’ that needs no ‘other’; and of course, I feel my otherness from Caribbean monk seals and not having the same experience as a Caribbean monk seal did and yet there was something familiar; what do I know about that form of being that is curious, that is actually vulnerable to harm because of how other people relate to and take advantage of their curiosity, their presence, their refusal to just hide, which is part of what the dynamic was with the Caribbean monk seal.
And I realised, my father, and not only my father as a curious person, which he definitely was, not only my father is somebody who really valued self-expression and didn’t hide who he was or what he thought, but also my father is somebody who died of preventable prostate cancer, metastasised, as a result of a healthcare system that functions in a way that is horrifically similar to the plantation sugar economy that impacted the Caribbean monk seals. And then, of course, just the word 'monk' and thinking about my father as a reflective person, as somewhat of a loner. He’s a person like me also who was a poet, that he was this type of person and an aesthetic in certain ways, he was a minimalist in terms of he really didn’t keep many things or collect things, and he also lived in a way that economically made him part of the huge sacrifice of, in particular, the United States lack of a healthcare system or anti-health system or just sickness and sacrifice system, I don’t know what we would call it.
So, I realised that my gratitude and my connection to this extinct Caribbean monk seal and my desire for them to not really be extinct - people sometimes are like, I think I saw one or maybe I identified one and maybe there still are Caribbean monk seals - and I hope so, but it’s very unlikely and it feels so similar to me to my impossible hope to be able to just see my father again, to talk to him one more time, to think him in a different way than I was ever able to think him during his life. And what that forces me to do is to really touch the part of me that feels this loss, that continues to be melancholic about this, to refuse that this can be possible, even though of course I know it is and it’s not only possible, it’s routine and it’s very common. And I think that because the entire project of learning from marine mammals and starting to consider myself a marine mammal apprentice was about acknowledging the depth of emotion that’s impacting me all the time, the real effort it takes to breathe in the circumstances that I’m in, with the intersecting systems of oppression that we face, that there’s a way that I would not usually admit to the fact that this also is a common thing, but just as a daughter whose father passed away of a preventable illness, relatively young in his life, I hold an impossible hope. I want to see him again. I rage against the systems that resulted in his death and I have a vow that includes the Caribbean monk seal and includes my father. It includes so many people to really be part of creating what destroys and outlives these systems that have caused so much harm and are continuing to cause harm. And there’s an aspect of my intellectual work, and even my work as a poet, that usually functions at a remove from all that emotional reality that’s going on inside of me, but it’s important.
And it was my father’s death that made me realise I had to do something different and I had to be honest about what I was feeling and make space to feel it, as opposed to avoiding or sanitising it or transmuting it into a form where it was no longer embodied for me, there were no longer aspects of it that are impossible to explain. 
Ashish: Thank you for sharing that. So, when did that happen?
Alexis: He passed away in 2016.
Ashish: A lot of the books that we’ve kind of talked about have come since then, right?
Alexis: Exactly. In fact, the same month that he passed is when my first book, Spill, came out. He had read it already, so it’s all in that time period.
Ashish: Can you talk more about your process - that journey beyond self, beyond species is actually taking me deeper and deeper into my own inner world and my own emotional space?
Alexis: Yeah, I love that you ask it that way because I know it wouldn’t have been possible to write anything that came after Spill without writing Spill, or to write Undrowned without having the experience of that triptych. I think that my poetic process is always about an understanding that there’s something I need to learn and I don’t quite know what it even is that I need to learn, and that it’s very possible for there to be aspects of it that are non-linear and that, like I was saying before, are impossible to explain.
And with Spill, really I made a decision to engage the entire triptych because Hortense Spillers, M. Jacqui Alexander and Sylvia Wynter are theorists who I’ve been learning from my entire intellectual career and who, in some cases, have been direct mentors to me and, in some cases, have been authors of the works of theory that have changed my life and my thinking. And there is something that each of them do with form that is not normative within academic publishing, that is something that I noticed connected the three of them for me and attracted me to all three of them. And then also my relationship to their work, there was a lot of excess to it, like when I would read Hortense Spillers, absolutely the arguments that she was making and the points that she was making and the things that she was bringing into conversation so resonated with me and are the parts of the foundation of which any intellectual work I’ve ever done is built upon, and there was something else, there was something about the way that she would phrase what she said. There was something poetic about her work that was giving me access to something beyond just what she was explaining with that poetics and I wanted to give myself space to explore what is that, what is it that I’m so drawn to that I can’t even explain all why I’m drawn to it, or what is so valuable about it to me?
And so, my literal process was going to those places, those turns of phrase or those particular things that she would do inside a sentence or multiple sentences or two words, different moments in her essays, and I just wrote those quotes down, I just wrote them all down. And then every morning, I would open this notebook that I’d written them all down in and I would just choose one, not in the order that I wrote them in but I would choose one each day and I would start the day just writing very open to where did it take me. And I think that as much as I needed to engage her work in particular and then to engage M. Jacqui’s work in particular and then to engage Sylvia Wynter’s work in particular, I also needed the rigour of, Alexis sit here and write every day, first of all, and second of all, be open to what comes through that it may not even make any sense to me; that same day when I read back over, I may be like I don’t even know what or why and not feel like I have to know that. Like be open enough that you can go beyond what makes sense to you and see what happens.
And I think what’s important about that process, I think it’s important about the process of Undrowned also is that I value that, I really value my own learning. I value my writing as a way to learn and I never know while I’m writing which aspects of that am I going to then realise should be shared with other people or should be published. I don’t know that, which is different writing a biography of Audre Lorde because I’m specifically writing in order to share with people a way of looking at her life; but those books, no, I didn’t know I was going to share anything about these marine mammals with other people, it’s just that when I got to the hooded seal, I was like oh I’m not the only person who needs to think about this today.
And that was a huge shift because with the triptych, I didn’t share anything from those with anyone until I was completely finished. Maybe I read out loud to my partner and be like, what do you think is going on? But I wouldn’t share it until I had written the whole thing and then I had reflected back over it, and then I had done this whole process to think about the things in relationship to each other and how would I want to order it, and even in that case, I shared it with some people not even thinking. I shared it with my editor at Duke Press, not even thinking - I was late on the book I thought I was writing about letters between Black feminists basically and I was like, yeah I haven't, but this is what I’ve been doing and he was like, oh but this is something I would want to send to readers, is basically what he said.
I emphasise that because I think that freedom is a practice and I think that just like everything else, our creativity, our process of learning, our intellectual process can be colonised by these forms and before we even get anywhere near a printing press. I think that, as someone who wrote for a teen newspaper when I was young and has loved the idea of print and obviously has read voraciously and loved having access to the things I’ve been able to read, there was a time where before I would even sit down to write, I was narrowing for my sense of what people could and couldn’t receive. And that’s fine if I’m actually just trying to explain something or I’m trying to do something specific in that way, but this triptych, and also Undrowned, I had to sit there and be free. I had to be free enough to not know what was going on. I had to be free enough to not impose a use value on my time sitting there or whatever I wrote. I had to be present in a way that was very important.
So, the depth of presence that I experience in the process of what became Undrowned benefitted from every morning before that that I sat. And, in particular, being open to marine mammals in that way came through the process that happened in Dub when I was writing with Sylvia Wynter's work every day, that had me understand somewhere in that process that what I’m doing is ancestral listening, and then I realised it’s still ancestral listening when I listen to whales, it’s still ancestral listening. How can that be? What does that mean? That was part of that journey until that really was the bridge to Undrowned because I continued to listen to whales in a particular way that said this is an important connection and there’s something for me to learn here, and then that expanded, as I talked about earlier, to all other marine mammals that I got to pay attention to and to just a break within me, a break of a barrier around me, a species barrier around me that said, no, the ancestors I need to listen to aren't only the dehumanised human ancestors and it’s bigger than that and it’s more expansive than that but that also means there’s so much to learn, that also means there’s so much guidance, support and possibilities that had been unimaginable to me that, in fact, are there. 
Ashish: That moment that you talk about in Dub, of realising that the ancestors that you were hearing weren’t the ancestors you had visualised before, can you describe that?
Alexis: There’s a particular passage - and each passage represents one day of me sitting there, I never append them or anything like that - and there’s a particular passage in Ethno or Socio Poetics, which I referenced earlier where Sylvia Wynter talks about the possibility of a ‘we’ that needs no ‘other’. She says, "but who are ‘we’?" So that day I was working with, but who are we? And I wrote from there and the passage, it says, "if you gather them, they would be everyone. Gather them." And it starts to go through this process of I have to gather all the ancestors, including the enslaving ancestors, including the abusive men who are my ancestors, all of the ancestors who I disidentify with in this lifetime. And then there is this moment where it’s like, "gather them more, gather them still." So, there’s this depth that happens and I start to realise that some of these ancestors are… "if you gather them, they would not fit on this island, they would spill back into the ocean whence they came. When you gather them, they will have fins and claws and names you do not know. Gather them anyway. Some will look you in the eye. Some are too microscopic to see. If you don’t gather them all, you will never be free."
So, this is something that I’m writing, receiving and I’m like - fins and claws, microscopic organisms - I wasn’t thinking about that but in that process of sincerely asking but who are we, which is a question that Sylvia prompts us to ask and never to oversimplify because there’s a violence in this oversimplifying of the ‘we’ that has been used for colonialism, because if we are only the white people of the European nations, it doesn’t matter what we do to the enslaved people, to the indigenous folks wherever we go. So, that ‘we’ not being accountable for what’s happening with that ‘we’ is the cause of the harm that I’m trying to remember and relate to differently.
So, when I’m asking that for myself, I’m like yeah, ‘we’ and then I’m like oh, we are also the people I disidentify from. 'We' is not bound by the human, when I’m honestly answering this question and I felt like also receiving these instructions, like Alexis you are going to reproduce the violence that you’re seeking to respond from if you insist on this species limitation of the ‘we’ in this moment, in this moment of writing and that was the moment, and I was like, wait what? That I had to be accountable to that. And I think it’s significant that the ocean is so key to what that was because I was thinking about the people on the ships, but I was thinking about the people who made those ships and I was thinking about the people who ran those ships and then I was realising oh, yeah, everyone in the ocean, who’s in the ocean?

There’s so many levels of organisms and part of the structure and the illustrations of Dub ended up really drawing on the coral and the conch, the different organisms that are part of that ocean but also have intimate relationships along these ancestry lines that I was revisiting and realising okay, these are also the relations, these are also the relatives. And that one of the things that Sylvia Wynter is challenging us to do is to relate to each other and our environments without the mediation of capitalist violence, colonialist hierarchy definitions and definitions of what it is to be human, and that is what was happening in that creative process with me. It was like okay, just now we’re in Anguilla, we’re trying to avoid - in Anguilla, we call it burr grass, there’s different names for those seeds that stick you, and in Dub I call it burr grass because that’s what we call it - and like oh, they’ve been accompanying us the whole time and what a teacher also to learn about what it means to persist, what it means to stay, what it means to be tenacious in diaspora, they’re literal seeds.
So, I think if I had to put it to a moment, I think that day was the day that I was like okay, I see the limitation that I could have imposed and now I get to lean into what I need to learn in order to live this other possibility.
Ashish: So, the day is a day where you’re sitting still, reading and writing. It’s funny because what I was anticipating is like a kind of moment of you out on a boat…
Alexis: …in the middle of the ocean.
Ashish: Yeah, and actually the realisation that you’re talking about is interior, right?
Alexis: It’s deeply interior. Now, I do feel that I was near the ocean when I wrote this particular day and when it says they would fill this whole island, actually, in this moment I’m like, was that island Anguilla that I was saying they would fill this whole island? Because I did write a significant part of Dub in Anguilla, but it could have been this whole continent that I was thinking because the depth of it would not fit on one continent in terms of the gathering that I felt was being demanded. But no, I was sitting like I’m sitting now, in front of my computer, that’s where I was sitting.
But I think the other thing about this practice of writing first thing during a day is that it’s almost like I receive a structure for being in the rest of the day, if that makes sense. So often, like I said, I give myself the space to not know and just be like, whatever, and then I move into my life and it’s like okay, I almost feel prepared by that writing, to listen to this person in a particular way, or to pay attention to these plants that are here, or this work of art that I get to engage in a different way, and sometimes it’s uncanny. There have been times where I’m sitting there and I’m like, this is what I wrote about this morning but this morning I didn’t know this is what I was writing about. So, in a way, the moment of receiving that happens when I’m sitting by myself in this first thing in the morning, usually still dark part of the day, usually nobody else is awake around me or anywhere around me like in the whole city, people are mostly still asleep, that’s when that part happens.
But in another way, it is outside of time and it’s important that it’s daily because it’s like what does it mean that then this happens on this exact day? And I feel ready for it to mean what it becomes to mean to me because oh, this morning I said gather them all, you’ll never be free. So yes, it’s almost like I’m preparing to be in relationship in the part of my life where I’m not sitting somewhere writing, during the part of my life when I am sitting somewhere writing.
Ashish: I’d love to hear more about this practice, actually. In order to commit to that kind of practice, what happens the night before that? How do you prepare yourself in order to be receptive the next day?
Alexis: Yeah, it definitely starts the night before. So, I don’t stay up particularly late. Some people may still be awake when I wake up to write because people have different sleep cycles but yeah, going to sleep is important. The other thing that happens, I talked about writing down the phrases in the notebook from Hortense Spillers and then M. Jacqui Alexander and then from Sylvia Wynter. Part of it has been that, like to know what process I’m in, all of what I’m doing is I’m just trying to learn something and I have a sense and I just try my intuition on, this is an archive of my learning, these phrases from Hortense Spillers, this is an archive of my learning, I’m going to engage it every day until I run out of them. By the time I run out of them, I’ve re-read M. Jacqui Alexander and I’ve written down, so I prepare in that way because it doesn’t work for me to just wake up and be like, ah, what would be a good thing- because I’m asleep, let alone that I’m an air sign and my mind might go any direction.
So, that’s part of the discipline, is that I’ve already decided and so with the marine mammals, I was working with the guidebooks and I’d open a guidebook and I'd say okay, so the hooded seal and then allow that to lead my process but, of course, the book is already sitting there, I know what I’m doing. I’ve been writing with photos, like childhood photos, photo albums that my mother left with me when she migrated, actually to London which is where she now lives. I know that I’m going through them backwards and I’m writing particularly about pictures that my dad and I are both in. So, there’s a decision that I’ve made that when I sit here in the morning, I’m just fulfilling on that decision. I’m not deciding what to do, and that’s very important for my process and yes, I do wake up really early in the morning and that is a result of good advice from one of my favourite writers and someone who has mentored me since I was a teenager, Asha Bandele, and she created a very early morning writing process because she was a mum, raising her kid by herself, she needed to figure out what was the time that she could really have to herself.
And I’d also say in terms of doing the same thing every day in a particular way, which does not work for every person, it’s very grounding for me to do that, especially because of other aspects of my life, I don’t work for an institution that requires me to be on a particular schedule. I have lived many places. In times of safer travel, I have travelled a lot and the practice is what grounds me. The practice is the actual ground of my living that allows me to be present where I am, but I’m also a daughter of parents who believe in - my mum would say operational practices - like daily practices. My mum has her scripture reading that she does every morning. My dad would take a picture of the sunrise and the sunset at a particular period of his life, and so there is a resonance too.
And also, just maybe that’s my learning style. There’s something I need to learn, the way I learn is like 300 days at a time. I have to do it 300 times to stay in it, for it to really hold in a particular way and I love that, I feel really held by that and there are so many things, like a sky study of poems that I’ve written about the sky out of this particular window that I’m pointing at, during this time of non-travel; I shared them with my one friend who lived in a different time zone, but I don’t know if that’s something that I’m ever going want to publish. A lot of this practice, I guess just understanding that this practice is for the way I want to live and for what I believe writing makes possible in my life as a life that is interconnected with all life. That’s the value of it and sometimes I realise that there’s value in sharing an artefact of that experience. So, Spill and M Archive and Dub and Undrowned are artefacts of a particular experience that I was having.
Ashish: So, you’ve been working on the Audre Lorde biography, are you done? It felt like like were deep diving and there was a kind of auto response on your email, there'd be long stretches and I just had an image of you with a scuba tank on about 40m below…
Alexis: Yeah, that's what it felt like. So, no, it’s not done but a draft is done. It’s interesting because what’s behind me is the post-it note map of the biography is what is right here. It’s always right here. So, it’s a deep dive. What’s amazing is that right now the part that I’m revising is about a deep dive. So, in the early 1970s Audre Lorde went to the Caribbean for the first time. She went to Barbados to see if she could learn more about her father who had passed away. He was young, he passed away 20 years before that. So, she went to Barbados and she was looking to see if she could find birth records for him, which she never found. What she took with her was a book of her friend, Adrienne Rich, called Diving into the Wreck, and what I have since learned from my own deep diving but didn’t know before, and you may know this, is that under Barbados is the Barbados accretionary prism which is a meeting of three tectonic plates. It’s an archive, if you take a core sample of it, of geological time. So, in the Barbados accretionary prism, there’s Saharan sand, there’s Amazonian river silt, there’s the geological world meeting itself basically as a rock prism that is underneath Barbados.
So this is part of - you’re learning something about this biography and the approach that I’m taking by the fact that this is relevant at all - but this is part of what I feel like I’m experiencing as a Lordean guide to the universe and that she’s like, follow me and then I have to learn about geology. Now, the thing is she loved geology and she collected stones and she was really fascinated by geology itself. I’ve never seen her write about the Barbados accretionary prism, but I needed to know about it in terms of this. When she’s diving into her own heritage, which is how she thinks about this trip that she’s taking to Barbados, and she’s really trying to unearth who her father was because he was quiet, he never talked about his childhood, he had a very difficult childhood is the sense that she got, and because of my research I’ve seen some of what the factors of that were. What does it mean?
Now, when you research the Barbados accretionary prism - whoever listens to this, if you Google it, you can learn more about it. If you start to read scholarly articles about it, you’ll find that many of those articles are written by petroleum scientists because there’s this question about- I mean a lot of geology is written by petroleum scientists at this point because the funding of trying to find more sources for oil is larger than the funding of all the other parts of geology that are, of course, in my opinion more important. But that accretionary prism is very studied, sampled, written about because there’s this question of, are there fossil fuels that can be extracted from it? What would be the impact? Although not enough about what really would be the impact if you drilled for oil there. And, of course, there’s 200 shipwrecked boats around Barbados too.
So, I’m in the process talking about all of these things at the same time and I’m in my revision process of how it can be shareable beyond just the depth of experience it’s offering me. But one of the things that it definitely connects to in Audre Lorde’s life is that when she moved to Saint Croix and decided that she was going to live the rest of her life in the Caribbean, she started to specifically write about and use all her platforms to talk about oil drilling and Hess Corporation’s impact in Saint Croix and the environmental risks of it and the extractive relationship of US corporations to Saint Croix as a colony.
Anyway, the point being that’s the part I’m revising today so that’s part of where my brain is coming into this conversation, which is a long way of saying, yeah, you said you had the sense I was on a deep dive and I’m saying in fact, yes, very much so.
Ashish: I just think that what you’re on right now is just so profound because the stories that you keep telling are ones of quests for relational depth, intimacy, like this questing after those most intimate relationships, and yet what’s turning out to be the pathway to that is this profound but expansive engagement with the planet, which just seems to me to be such a leading edge of what is being revealed in this moment through artists. So, I’m just really grateful for your work and for your time right now in sharing and I’m really looking forward to more.
Alexis: Yeah, thank you for inviting me to be part of this and thank you for your openness and intimacy with the seals, with the ocean and with the possibility of what this time of reflection can be. I think that there’s something actually prismatic about your approach to it and I really admire that and I really value and feel very good about the fact that there was a way for me to be involved.