Friday, November 04, 2005

FORGIVE MY SILENCE: Alita Anderson, Novelist and Poet

I received this email on November 1st. gwg


Please forgive my silence. I could lie and say that I have been silent because I have been busy. Today is my first day back in Atlanta after two and a half months of residency/research in the Northeast. I could lie and say that it is the first day that I have had, in my own space, to read the blog; to commune with my fellow SISters and comment. I could lie and say that the little glitch that I had with getting onto the system before is the reason that you haven't heard from me. I wont. I am angry. I fight against being the little girl who stood and sulked in the corner with her arms folded and her lips protruding - still. There are days when prayer works... when laughter works; making fun at the edges of a situation too painful to touch at its core. But these aren't those days, this not the situation - the wound too wide. I was in Amherst Virginia when Katrina came. I arrived the day a writer at the colony where I was visiting was rushing home. He was from New Orleans. "There is going to be a hurricane." He said rather lightly. "I'm going back to be with my family who are getting out" "Hurricane - Smurricaine" I thought. " He's overreacting. It couldn't possibly be that bad."

Where we were there were acres of farmland; tranquil English gardens, food freshly prepared for us three times a day. We were artists at work in our well lit studios: painters, sculptors, writers, musicians on this idyllic island at the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. Where we were it was easy to pretend that life was perfect. I was the only African-American artist there. I didn't watch the television those weeks. I heard about Katrina through the newspaper (and had to write the editor of the local paper in Lynchburg VA about their inhumane coverage); I heard about Katrina through friends when my cell-phone could get a connection; and I heard about Katrina over dinner, at lunch chats, coffee chats, over morning fruit and muffins with my artist/colleagues. Rarely did I like what I heard.

I went to that residency to write a novel about love in action; a novel based on the virtues defined in 1 Corinthians 13. But somehow - while there, and hearing, reading, talking about Katrina - the novel took a different direction. What is a community? I began to wonder. How is it that love transcends the divisions that we have placed amonsgt ourselves? What is it in us; in each of us that makes us capable of showing compassion? of Connecting with one another? of healing the illusion that "the other" is someone distant from ourselves? These are the things that I think about now.

When I was a child and would be regulated to the corner; I would extract a finger from my fist and etch wall, floor... first the words would be "I hate Ms. Canally" (my 3rd grade teacher who had a propensity for sending me to corners) or "I hate Kevin Issac" (the boy in my 3rd grade class who had the uncanny ability to get me in trouble) but over time, somewhere in etching those things I started doodling rivers, or flowers; hearts. I hope that is what happens over the next few months. That through the writing the anger transforms into something useful; maybe even something beautiful; something that can show one path of many that offers a possibilty for a way out.

Alita Anderson

2 Comments:

Blogger ggayles said...

Alita, this is hardly what I call silence. In your own way, you are screaming. That is often what writers do.

ggayles

Sunday, November 20, 2005 5:11:00 PM  
Blogger alita anderson said...

I only know this because you taught us to "claim our space" and our voice.

Thank you, Dr. Gayles for you.

Friday, December 16, 2005 4:12:00 PM  

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