Sunday, October 20, 2013

ModPo 2013 #43 The Harridan Poet and Gi-Atay Ninyong Mga Politiko: On Waldman's "Rogue State"

Image of hag from

Below, Anne Waldman performs "Rogue State"


A first in my experience of ModPo: no text link, only performance links.

But I just couldn't help it. I searched for the text. Here it is, from

I’m in a rogue state, honey
Getting unpredictable & strange
Just a rogue state itching to
Test my harridan ballistic range

National Missile Defense System
Got nothing on me
I can pierce thru the genome project
With a cyborg’s vitality

I’m in a rogue state, Mr. President
Don’t tell me what to do
Your rules aren’t my rules
Cause I’m the Lady of Misrule


It was really fun to piece together the different meanings of rogue state in the video discussion. There is the rogue state that is political and on a national level: the likes of North Korea (with all its talk of blistery threats of nuclear weapons) and Afghanistan. There is also the rogue state meaning "state of crazy" or an imbalanced state just waiting to explode (or implode). And since this is a feminist piece of text as well, I wanted to add the "rogue state" of women. In some earlier civilizations, women who had their period were isolated into tents, left to hemorrhage together outside of the community. Perhaps men were afraid of menstruating women. Or perhaps menstruating women were crazy.

Waldman is difficult to listen to, with her warbling (which can come out awkward because she's obviously not a singer) and her ranting. But if one sees this in context of a protest poem, all the difficulty and the "harridan" antics are deliberate. They are meant to grate. They are meant to scorn.

I love what Waldman wrote about the role of the poet:

It became exceptionally clear that we’d be starting off on the wrong foot with the axing of the Inaugural Poem during the President Select  events of the Inaugural Day (June 20, 2001).  Romantic poet, visionary Percy Bysshe Shelley, has said that poets are the  “unacknowledged legislators of the race”.  Every culture in the world has had a place for its poets (its artists, philosophers)  --often perceived to be the imaginative conscience or psyche of the people who can articulate the ‘rasa’ -  the Sanskrit word for flavor or taste -  of the times. Well these are bitter times, my friends.  And the President Select might have thought he’d  be hearing some bitter poetry so why risk  embarrassment. It is also telling that poetry will not have a home in this Select Administration. It will be rallying from  greater position of power and dignity, outside the corruption of corporate & media stranglehold. The War on Civil Rights,  on Women’s Rights over their own bodies, on  Voting Rights, rights of the Environment and all its countless and beautiful and amazing denizens are all part of the War On The Imagination – a War that threatens free thinking, free expression, the ability of people to empathize – to imagine themselves as “other”, as less well off, as suffering, as disenfranchised, that doesn’t remember its history & is cursed to keep repeating the same mistakes again & again -  that doesn’t recognize the struggle or appreciate the many lives that it has cost to IMAGINE those freedoms that we hold as inalienable.


Wow. Unacknowledged legislators of the race. I like the role of the artist, the role of the poet that Waldman puts forth, here. When no one will say artist will. It is the power of the poet to shout from the margins. It is the poet who captures the flavor and the taste of his or her times. They will cook up the dish of the nation and the ingredients are the words, bitter they may be.

I also like the discussion of the performance of the poem. Some poems are meant to be performed. In this case, it takes its power from the context of protest. It takes its tone, its shrieking quality from the times in which it was performed. The times required the shrieking and the madness. If the times call for it: SHOUT!

So, inspired by the harridan of Waldman, here's a poem for the upper and lower houses of my country.

"I'm in a rogue state, Mr. President
Don't tell me what to do."
- Anne Waldman

Kaon Na, Among Gipinangga na Mga Politiko

Mga GI-ATAY ninyo! Gi-BABOY ninyo ang among
kalisuran! Kan-a ning PAIT namong kinabuhi.
Pastilan! Mag-away mong mga animal. Ibahin ninyo
ang among mga gi-KATAY na mga lawas.
Mayta'g ma-TUOK mo sa among mga bukog!

This poem is in Bisaya.

Translation in English:

Eat, Our Beloved Politicians

CURSE you (or may your livers be diseased)! You make an OBSCENITY
of our hardship! Eat our BITTER lives.
Damn! Go on and fight among yourselves, you animals. Divide
our BUTCHERED bodies.
May you CHOKE on our bones.

There. That was just a little bit of the anger I feel. I just want to point out that "baboy" means pig in Bisaya and Tagalog and it is also a verb, as in "to pork," an idiomatic expression in English which means to f*ck (so yes, if it's literal, you could say that my poem says: "You F*CK/ our hardship"). And "gi-atay" is a very serious curse in Bisaya. It literally means "to curse your liver." So, yes, I have never really said these words in polite conversation. But I think they are appropriate for the level of looting that happens in national government. Only my native curse words come to mind. It makes me feel like a dissident harridan!

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