Voice as Spectacle

I like to play with my voice. I like to whistle. I like to wail. I like to fumble with inadequate affectation (i.e. pretend I can mimic Monty Python or Gomer Pyle, to nobody’s amusement whatsoever). I enjoy to write as if no one is reading and to dance like no one is watching. The older I get, the less I care for the shade of embarrassment regarding my every stride or utterance.

If my erratic endeavors as former associate editor for The Rogue Voice taught me anything, it’s that not everyone will understand your voice or how you use it. In my time with RV, a once small circulation monthly pulp magazine (of fiction, cartoons, poetry, nonfiction serials and op-eds), we generated enough heat for our small staff of 3 to receive a death threat. We had worked our way up to coveted spots on the newsstands at City Lights Books in San Francisco, as well as Rogue Ales in Portland, OR, but this meant nothing to some anonymous nutter in our own backyard. A scrawled note reading: “Be careful when you sleep” showed up in our P.O. Box. At least one person didn’t like what we were printing (enough to insinuate that we were in danger in our own homes). Around the same time, fresh stacks of Rogue Voice copies at local coffeehouses and markets began to disappear within minutes of delivery. Loyal readers witnessed the culprit maniacally laughing as she threw 50 copies into a dumpster. The RV publisher and editor had a guest radio appearance on the Dave Congalton Show to discuss the illegality of intentionally trashing someone else’s passion project. The culprit had the deluded ignorance to show up on Congalton’s show the following week with the claim that her’s was an act of free expression that should be protected under the First Amendment. Dave set her straight. She limited her public disapproval of our “filthy content” to nonsensical yawping into the ears of our townsfolk from that point on.

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Some people don’t just hate that your voice differs from their point of view, politically or aesthetically, they hate that you’re still speaking. Why are you still creating words or art or breath when they just don’t want you to exist anymore? If it was up to those folks, they would send you somewhere–to an island or perhaps floating directly in shark infested waters–somewhere where they don’t need to listen to a voice so out of harmony with their own. Don’t listen to ’em. Yawp on. Unless you’re one of those fascist fucks. And then, by all means, shut up and listen without your knees as your filter! What the world needs now is more rogue voices, and far fewer critics of diversity in art and life.

I can still remember the words of that same trash talking “filthy” arbiter telling me what one of my RV pulp-published poems meant (not just to her but to me). She insisted, No, that’s not what your poem means! I’ll tell you what it meant! I argued over the meaning of my own poem. I argued until calling for backup at the coffeehouse where she accosted me as I worked, watched as they took her statement, refused to talk to me & left without asking her to leave. She probably told them what my poem meant, too. They probably believed her, and didn’t care to add this artist’s voice for the record.

We need more rogue artists on the record now to defy all the morons with terminal complacency as well as the sociopaths who acknowledge only one echelon of voice. Come out of the shade. Stand for empathy. Stand for democracy. Or else just go ahead and punch yourself in the face, why don’t you?

 

 

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