Pick up the new issue of The Baffler—the quasi-legendary journal of contrarian politics and art co-founded in 1988 by Thomas Frank—to check out a new poem by Room 220 friend and contributor Kristina Robinson. “Diaspora: Breakfast with Mahmoud Darwish,” which Robinson read last summer at a MelaNated Writer’s Literary Jook Joint that featured Baffler poetry editor Thomas Sayers Ellis, is an elliptical travelogue through the Arab Spring, the War on Terror, the Palestinian conflict, and beyond. It recites fragmented moments in history, casting key actors (Sadaam, bin Laden) in ambiguous light, confusing notions hammered home by U.S. politicians and media as to who owns sorrow, struggle, conquest. “I’ll take my imperialism brown/thank you,” Robinson writes. It’s tough to hammer things home for a diaspora.
The Baffler, which was as highly aggravating as it was influential among leftists throughout the 1990s, has gone in and out of print several times in recent years, but seems to have found a steady rhythm lately under the editorship of Jonathan Summers (with help from Frank and Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann) and with publication by MIT Press. It’s consistently smart and mostly makes its mark by pointing out bullshit in bourgeois liberal rhetoric and viewpoints. Frank’s article from a couple issues ago, “Dead End on Shakin’ Street,” is a must-read for anyone living in the increasingly “vibrant” downtown neighborhoods of New Orleans.
Kristina Robinson is currently finishing her MFA in creative writing at the University of New Orleans. She has read at several Room 220 events and written pieces for the site on T. Geronimo Johnson, Cornel West, and the local justice system. She blogs when she feels like it at Life in High Times.