Check out this conversation between Gabriel Ojeda-Sague and Jai Arun Ravine at Drunken Boat!
Gabriel Ojeda-Sague: We (Jai and I) have talked very quickly before about feeling differently raced or between racial subject positions or between argumentative positions regarding race. I think we talked about “adjacent to” which is a phrase I used to describe my relationship to Latino folk magic, or Santería in this case, and I remember you discussing your mixed identity and using a similar term. And like I talk, and write, and think, a lot about being a “white latino” (a term I personally don’t like), or a white-passing latino (a term I do like!) and how that affects my place in poetry/the world. I’m bringing this up because it seems to be one starting point for connection between our works.
Jai Arun Ravine: Yes, I was really moved by how you were talking about “adjacency.” I grew up with a cultural absence or silence around my mother’s immigration story and cultural identity as Thai. As a teenager I would go to the used book store in my hometown and look at books about Thailand as a way to learn something about myself. This is one example of a prevalent feeling I had then and still carry now — an adjacency to self, to experience, to being. When I was in Thailand for the first time, I felt adjacency instead of belonging because the majority of people perceived me as white and American. My barrier to fluency in Thai language is the adjacency I feel when I’m required to gender myself as male or female. This jostling forces me outside my own body.
In your book Oil and Candle, I really resonate with the way you write about your experiences of adjacency through everyday tasks. Like comparing the price of vials and candles for ritual. Or Googling the word for “dispose.” Or uncertainty: “I can’t / stop and get the symbolism / straight what is white / for again and what does / this candle do.” Or mis-hearing: “this / whole time I thought / we were just saying / the name of a woman / ‘Sandima.’” I’m also thinking about the role of American imperialism in this adjacency — immigration policy, assimilation, citizenship, nationalism, war. In your book
where is my future
in the encyclopedic eye
of the tyrant codes?
if I am reaching for ancestry
it’s just for the
I like this image of “the throbbing envelope.” Even as we try to heal this adjacency of self, those in power are ever-watchful, hungry, and ready to draw our blood, as you so brilliantly write about in your piece “Limpias.” Can we ever be completely cleansed of the racist, imperialist, capitalist eye?