What I am Reading Now…
Saoirse Amira Anis
I’ve been noticing a lot of full-circle moments recently, like I’ve been living within a four-year cycle and things are looping back to the beginning. My introduction to Audre Lorde was four years ago when I found Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches in the library at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. I’d spent the summer after graduating having a race-related existential crisis after a tutor made it clear that he saw me not just as an artist, but as a Black artist. I recently started working at an art school and met this tutor again. He seemed delighted for me, unaware of the continuing turmoil for which he is responsible. Audre Lorde’s writing has been with me continuously through this cycle, with essays from Your Silence Will Not Protect You and A Burst of Light providing insight that has supported my life and my creative practice. Among other things, she has brought my attention to the Black mother within me, “within each of us — the poet — [who] whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free”. I’ve never felt more understood than through Lorde’s writing, and I’m eternally grateful to SSW for facilitating my introduction to the world of Black, queer, feminist literature.
I was recently gifted Ignota’s 2023 diary by a dear friend, and I can’t wait for it to carry me through the new year. I’ve been dipping in and out of two of Ignota’s books over the past few years – Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry, edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás; and States of the Body Produced by Love, by Nisha Ramayya. Each has a particular way of holding me while I hold them; welcoming arms reaching out from the pages. The diary features contributions on rituals, spell craft, astrology, farming, foraging, weather and more. I flicked through and got sucked into the guide to acupressure: that’s all I will allow myself to read for now; these offerings are destined for 2023, and I shouldn’t disrupt that destiny. New Year brings equal amounts of dread and excitement, but having a little piece of Ignota guiding me through 2023 just tips the scales in excitement’s favour.
I’m reading a few novels at the moment. My most recent new-starter is The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I dip in and out of it sporadically, but it consistently lingers in my mind. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in beautiful conversations about utopia and how to get there, and each time there’s a reason to reference The Dispossessed: anarchy, community, mutual aid, luxury, desire, and joy. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m optimistically certain that it contains some vital truths about how to solve the world’s problems. A quote from Le Guin that helps me to continue when hope feels lost is: “We live in capitalism – its power seems inescapable but so did the divine right of kings.” She is an absolute treasure and I love her.
Having watched Schitt’s Creek roughly 10 times, I needed a new show to consume my quiet-brain hours, and started watching The L Word. It is total garbage and I love it. Queerness, as represented in the show, is a far cry from queerness as I experience it, but I do wish I’d watched this during my teenage years. It may have helped me to understand my sexuality sooner than I did. Much of the show is wildly superficial – it dips its toes into issues of racial inequalities, trans rights and mental health, but it doesn’t keep them submerged long enough to achieve any sense of poignancy. I’m not watching it for intellectual stimulation or social commentary, so I can let that slide – I watch it for the messy drama of a group of friends that I can become mildly attached to for a while, probably start dreaming about, and inevitably develop a long-lasting fondness for. A semblance of gossip without any personal investment — all reward without risk.
This summer, I had the pleasure of performing as my alter-ego, Freedom Princess, at an event organised by Listen Gallery and Sunshine Books. The bookshop-in-a-van was stationed outside the gallery during the event, so before I performed I had a wee nosey at their selection. One of the first books to catch my eye was Scots Poems to be Read Aloud, edited by Stuart McHardy. It fell open on a poem called Freedom. This serendipity felt like a sign that I should bring the anthology of poems into my life, and I’m very grateful I did! My absolute favourite allows me to embody my more indignant attributes – Matthew Fitt’s pure radge:
a richt ramstoorie ragabash
My relationship with my Scottish identity and the Scots language is fraught for various reasons, but it feels solidified while performing these poems. As my tongue wraps around the lilting, dancing words, my heart feels certain that this is my culture — irrefutably so.
Seriously, dinna mess.
Saoirse Amira Anis is a Dundee-based artist and curator. Her work has been exhibited recently in the form of a solo show, For no other reason than joy, at Cample Line, Dumfries, and as part of Platform for the 2022 Edinburgh Art Festival. Other recent projects include: Jupiter Rising, 2022 & 2021; A Lesson in Vanity, David Dale Gallery and LUX Scotland, July 2021; and We can still dance, Jupiter Artland. In 2022 Anis curated an exhibition entitled Miss(ing) Information at Perth Museum and Art Gallery.
Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry, Eds. Rebecca Tamas, So Mayer, Sarah Shin (Ignota, 2018)
States Of The Body Produced By Love, Nisha Ramayya (Ignota, 2019)
Ignota Diary 2023 (Ignota, 2022)
Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Essays and Poems, Audre Lorde (Silver Press, 2017)
A Burst Of Light And Other Essays, Audre Lorde (Dover Publications Inc, 2017)
Scots Poems to be Read Aloud: Yin or Twa Delightfu Evenin’s Entertainment, Ed. Stuart McHardy (Luath Press Ltd, 2003)
The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin (Gateway, 1974)
The L Word (Created by: Ilene Chaiken, Michele Abbot, Kathy Greenberg 2004-2009)