Postcards to the Future: JOY / Duriel Harris

We begin JOY with an audio clip of Duriel E. Harris discussing radical self-acceptance and knowing. This knowing acceptance includes shames, as an aspect of bringing ourselves to ourselves, including our body, by holding space for its understanding. This space and its holding are radical for the society in which we live. 

Duriel Harris

“Joy backsides suffering right? One of the visual arts editors for the journal that I edit for, Obsidian, said something to me — I was speaking with her about joining — and she said ‘I want a revolution I can live for.’ And I said: ‘Yes.’  Why endure? Why endure if there’s no pleasure? If there’s no joy? There’s no reason to continue? And I really mean that. Right? So to me  it’s not about, you know, just sticking around for it as if it’s like a destination, something that comes later. In cultivating our joy we cultivate life. Right? And so part of it is like shifting our attention towards that which feeds us so that we can continue — as opposed to — I’m not saying that we aren’t embattled, I’m not saying that, I’m not saying that we don’t have to endure some real, absolute insanity, I’m not saying that extremity and all of that isn’t there — but when we look at folks who are in some of these really devastating situations and they are smiling and they are loving their families and the people that they care about, and [caring for] the animals in the world, that they are taking to take care of the earth. Some of those people, of course, are in our historical context as far as the present, right here with us even in this geographical space, and they’re all over the world, right? And the reason to endure is because there’s something about being alive that is worth it.”

(Excerpt from an interview with Duriel Harris at KXCI Community Radio station with Dr Stephanie Troutman Robbins in celebration of the Tucson launch of Letters to the Future )

Dr. Duriel E. Harris is a poet, performer and sound artist. She is author of three print volumes of poetry, including her most recent, No Dictionary of a Living Tongue (Nightboat, 2017), Drag (2003) and Amnesiac: Poems (2010). Multi-genre works include her one-woman theatrical performance Thingification, and Speleology (2011), a video collaboration with artist Scott Rankin. Appearances include performances at the Chicago Jazz Festival (with Douglas Ewart & Inventions), the Greenhouse Theater (Chicago), Naropa Capitalocene, The Votive Poetics Workshop (New Zealand), and Festival Internacional de Poes.a de La Habana (Cuba).

Cofounder of the avant garde trio The Black Took Collective, Harris has been a MacDowell and Millay Colony fellow and has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the Cave Canem Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Her work has appeared in numerous venues, including BAX, The &Now Awards, Of Poetry & Protest, Ploughshares, Troubling the Line, and The Best of Fence; and her compositions have been translated into Polish, German, and Spanish. Harris earned degrees in Literature from Yale University and NYU, and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago Program for Writers. The 2018 Offen Poet, Harris is an associate professor of English in the graduate creative writing program at Illinois State University and the editor of Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora.

Photograph by Gina Sandrzyk.

JOY is part of KPI’s small experiments of radical intentseries: Postcards to the Future: Protest in Place that began during the BLM protests while on pandemic lock down in summer 2020. The series runs through August 2021 and focuses on the voices in Letters to the Future: Black Women / Radical Writing, with the intent to uplift and celebrate Black women’s voices and their radical, inventive and liberatory writing. You can navigate through the series by following the tag Postcards, at left, and by clicking on the icons below for each unit.


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