A word of wisdom from a literary ancestor I met briefly during grad school

“For the poet, the world is word. Words. Not that precisely. Precisely: the world and words fuck each other.”
― Kathy Acker

It was my first conference, my first time presenting a paper at an academic conference, and my first time in California. San Diego was almost overwhelming to my senses, but upon listening to this heavily tattooed woman with face piercings, electric blue leggings, and short blond hair, I began the process of understanding why I was drawn to Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and Erica Jong–and ultimately Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison.

I love Kathy Acker, God rest her beautiful, subversive soul and her penchant for being so raw, so fierce, so raunchy, and so unafraid of putting it out there for us to see. It was my first time meeting and listening to a writer who showed me how to embrace my own penchant for not giving a fuck about what people think about me writing about erotic subjectivity or writing about desire.  Imagine that, given the assumptions about religious, racial, and social class similarities and differences regarding women in America.

If you are reading this, go click on my podcast with Ronald Mason–I didn’t mention all of these writers during our podcast talk, but the ghosts of Nin, Miller, and Lorde were in the room and on the phone as we spoke. I think I’ve been holding back, a bit of a wound that has not healed from the trauma of grad school and worsened in the business of academia. Mason and I did talk on that a bit. He gets it as a writer as well as an administrator in academia.

And no, it is not an accident that my confidence as a literary scholar and as a creative writer revived itself when he came to UDC in 2015–sometimes a change in leadership from mundane and normalized misogynoir in academia can liberate the marginalized from the corners, even it wasn’t necessarily intentional. A pause so to speak, so that one’s passion for the word can flourish. He called me a scholar in a previous podcast I posted this summer–something I don’t hear often from colleagues.

To be Black and female in academia (even at a so-called HBCU) is to be constantly challenged as to whether one is truly a scholar, or even someone who is qualified to teach. Unlike the previous leaders at UDC, this man who is our leader actually calls me Dr. Turpin and means it. In this political climate that’s worth mentioning more than once–and bookmarking as a reminder every single time a cloud of worry or anxiety about my worth as a writer emerges.

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