Doing this was one of the most tedious processes of my life. It easily rivaled editing my PhD thesis or working through dense Soviet chess training manuals. I cannot count how many hours I spent on these cards, but they eventually bore fruit. Such is the way of many artistic endeavors. There is a flash of insight, followed by weeks of working toward the realization of one’s vision, weeks of the preparation-production-revision cycle.
One of the first poems I wrote this way was “Hoktiwe,” the second poem in the film. The word hoktiwe means “we are together,” something I thought about while isolated, and eventually quarantined, at A Studio in the Woods during that time. I read it publicly at A Studio in the Woods the day after I finished the first version, and was met with a good response. I would eventually revise it dozens of times before it got to its final form. This was a good way for me to begin learning Ishakkoy. In time I began composing my own Ishakkoy sentences, and the first poem of the film, “A Studio in the Woods,” was one of my first efforts in that regard. The tedium pays off, I find. The dull, plodding note-taking was the core of it. More than in any other work I’ve done, I learned the value of tedium by making poems in Ishakkoy.
Collabs and Comrades
George Scheer, executive director of the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, contacted me in the summer of 2020 and asked if I might be interested in contributing to their open-call exhibition Make America What America Must Become, whose title was taken from a James Baldwin essay. I am not much of a visual artist, even if I have produced some works and have been in art shows. I had the idea of making a film from some of my poems. I am not a filmmaker either, but I knew immediately whom I would ask to be a collaborator, namely, Fernando López, who has contributed photos to a zine I coedit. I have admired his work for a while, and so I approached him with the idea that he should make whatever film he wanted to make of the poems.