Please visit the Fall 2012 class website project at Queer Arts Los Angeles Website.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Blogpost week 7 - Alok Vaid-Menon



For this course, I picked the poet/writer/activist Alok Vaid-Menon. They are an artist I have been following for a couple of years now, first part of a duo and now solo. The first piece I would like to talk about is the poem “street tax”.

street tax

today a man on the street pointed to me & said
“what the hell is that!?”

i wanted to turn around,
tell him that i got this dress on sale
& i got this body for free
but you have been making me pay for both
ever since.

(source: https://returnthegayze.com/2014/12/13/street-tax/)

This is the first poem I ever read by this artist and I think it is beautifully depicts a real-life situation. It is a short and simple poem, only 7 lines, and it has no capitalization, and no rhyme. Even though it is a very non-traditional poem, it is in my opinion a poem nonetheless. It is touching in a way prose can never be, and it has a flow to it that defines it as a poem for me. It discusses the topic of street harassment. The fact that the writer is trans-femme explains the last couple of lines. The man on the street is commenting on combination of the body the writer has been born in and the dress they are wearing. The poem is posted on the website of the writer where we can see pictures revealing they are not conforming to the gender binary, which is what the street harasser is referring to.

            Another interesting thing is the theme of capitalism. The mention of the dress being on sale and the body being free introduces an idea of payment for something you wouldn’t think to include in a commercial area. The body is something we usually do not see in the context of transaction. However, in this case the writer says that they have been “paying for both” the body and the dress. This payment is not in money but in emotional capital. The street harassment takes a toll on the writer, and that is what is being told here.

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