On offence, phobia


Homophobic. Transphobic. These words don’t make sense to me. We’ve used “homophobic” all my adult life, and the other day a co-worker use the term “transphobic” in conversation about yet-another screed on topics of how people should exist, which existences are acceptable or real or make sense. Must have been the relative “newness” of “transphobic” that struck me this time.

Here’s my trouble. Men who loathe women/feminism aren’t “gynophobic.” And white people who loath and abominate people of color aren’t “ethnophobic.” They are not scared of women or people of color. They’re misogynists and racists — they’re anti-woman and they choose to believe in race as a thing in order to use the concept again others, the hate is implied clearly. But, not –phobic, not fear. I might feel sympathy for someone who is afraid, and yet, I have never for a moment in the long history of my empathy for every downtrodden thing felt sympathy for these views or the people who hold them.

Why fear in the case of transness and queerness? It just hit me the other day — this is weird. It’s like hyphenation “rules.”

The old Greek suffix for hatred or aversion is -misia. It even sounds good. Let’s practice.

Transmisia. Homomisia. Gynomisia. Enthnomisia.

Misia: hatred of, aversion to.

Daniel Harris is a transmisiac. Sounds like maniac, sounds unbalanced. *grins

I, on the other hand, am a little androphobic and anglophobic because in a white supremacist and patriarchal culture, that’s just good thinking.


So, when a transmisiac or gynomisiac or ethnomisiac makes shit-tongued comments about how other people should exist in the world beyond having decent table manners, I am of offended. My moral sensibilities are disturbed and distracted by that kind of noise. But, when one of these misiacs lets go with their hate and their need for power, tansgender and genderqueer and gay folks and women and people of color or immigrants are DAMAGED. They are placed in fear, they are warned that their lives are at stake, they are made to live with WARNING blaring in their minds all the time.

That these communities suffer a kind of social PTSD is part of what I mean by this word “damage.” Theodore Adorno coined it for this purpose decades ago.  It’s use would give us a way to intervene in misiac discourse that goes beyond the relatively powerless word “offence.” Detractors might be able to claim that they are offended by responses to their privileged slights-of-hand, but they cannot claim to be damaged. They may live in a state of annoyance, but they do not live in a state of bodily and mortal fear that they get up and overcome every-single-day just to get to work.



A Scalia Poem

Hobson’s Choice between a Mare’s Nest
and a Roundmouth

    ~~ A Scalia Dissent Poem in honor of the Marriage Equality Decision, Love v. Beashar

All hollow as my dissent may prove
before this arsy-varsy ballum rancum
calling itself a court so full of bam and apothecary
in defense of taylors, flaybottomists, and all these knights of the rainbow–
I must dampen the horn colic of mollies and their hoydon friends. 

Shabbaroon perhaps, but making of marriage
other than a true swive between a tickle tail and Miss Laycock
is to take a running smobble at the foundation of all known society.
When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868,
every State limited marriage to one man and one woman,
and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so.

For we are a wide land of isolate and self-contained American families,
the source of all our legitimate passing of taxable property,
soul-rending suburban alienation, and socially destructive disfunction.
By this ruling we take that seat of all our highest values,
values we place far above those of mere and mire of the civitas,
and render it queer as Dick’s hatband.

Even a cup-shot cove and a covey all agog to dock
and playing at his gigambobs has more reason
than the riot of havy cavy gamon and patter
produced by this Kit Cat Club formed by my associates.
The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry
or inspirational pop philosophy; it demands them in the law.
The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish
this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.

With a full quaf of Irish assurance The Court has fetched mettle
and decided for the Nation that a man might wrap
himself in something other than a lawful blanket
and call it marriage. These rantipoles can go quiffing rantum scantum,
while their rammish morts might mow all the money
and tuzzy-nuzzy they can find, but you’ve windmills in the head
if you think this doesn’t all come to rumpus and disorder.

This Ominum Gatherum will be Job’s comfort to our good families
as the galimanfrey of a ruling comports with the people’s will
but is followed quick by one that wiffles away  their understanding,
leaving them not only at the mercy of quidnung social engineering,
but at the mercy of a scapegrace collection of screw jaws
who think their packthread so rum they might take a Trickum Legis
and by it erase good and all the sovereignty of the several states.
The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious
as its content is egotistic.

The Law should rather assure all the righteous
men singing black psalms, be they nazy flogging cullies,
either lobcocked or docked smack smooth,
but they are still men assured place by fear of force and tradition.

Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality
(whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is,
one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged
rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.
Expression, sure enough, is a freedom,
but anyone  in a long-lasting marriage 
will attest that  that happy state constricts,
rather than expands,
what one can prudently say.

But this lot of sauce boxes think consistency of practice
more fair than the voice of a local vote! Today’s decree says
my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast,
is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.
Tantony pig, I’m sure I bear the bell, rounded by prime and prinking
silent flutes and tu quoques. I can only cry in the dark my davy
in prayer that one day, before the reign of Queen Dick,
the people will find a way to replace this feckless and defiant court.

* Liberal borrowing from  The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Fwd. Max Harris, London, Bibliophile Books, 1984.

* Passages hi-jacked from Scalia’s dissent in Love v. Beashar are sourced from Mother Jones.


Coolest Internships in DC


Be part of DC’s premiere poetry event and the only festival of its kind in the country, highlighting poets working at the intersection of the imagination and social change!

Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016, to be held April 14-17, 2016, will gather poets, activists, and dreamers in DC for four days of readings, workshops, discussions, youth voices & activism — and YOU CAN BE AT THE HEART OF IT ALL!


  • Registration Assistant: Support the festival registration process
  • Volunteer Manager: Recruit, manage, and coordinate festival volunteers 
  • Marketing Manager: Oversee festival publicity & social media outreach
  • Venue Manager: Work with festival venues to prepare for festival
  • Special Events Manager: Coordinate call to action event, open mics, festival party, and book fair 
  • Fundraising Intern: Supports sponsorship & fundraising efforts

While all internships are unpaid, all interns receive:

  • Free festival registration!
  • Free festival t-shirt!
  • Priceless work experience!
  • Exposure to some of the most significant and artistically vibrant poets today including Amal Al-Jouburi, Jennifer Bartlett, Jan Beatty, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Regie Cabico, Dominique Christina, Martha Collins, Nikky Finney, Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Rigoberto González, Linda Hogan, Dawn Lundy Martin, Craig Santos Perez, and Ocean Vuong – plus, U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera at a special festival kick-off event.


Send resume, cover letter, and a brief prose (no poetry please!) writing sample of up to 2 pages to Tiana Trutna at Positions available till filled and applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Be Part of the Split This Rock Festival Leadership Team!


On the Abolition of Political Parties

Organizations of scale: multinationals, trading houses, banks, political parties, maybe bigness itself is the problem?

Simone Weil, On the Abolition of Political Parties, trans. Simon Leys, with essays by Czesław Miłosz (“The Importance of Simone Weil”) and Simon Leys (“In the Light of Simone Weil: Miłosz and the Friendship of Camus”) (New York: New York Review of Books, 2013), 71 pp.

— from Common Knowledge, 21.3 (Fall 2015), 516-17.

“Political parties are a marvelous mechanism, which, on the national scale, ensures that not a single mind can attend to the effort of perceiving, in public affairs, what is good, what is just, what is true. As a result—barring a very small number of fortuitous coincidences—nothing is decided, nothing is executed, except measures that run contrary to the public interest, to justice and to truth.”

The relevance of these remarks of Weil’s, published in 1942, to contemporary political mischief is galvanizing. Her arguments are worthy of everyone’s serious consideration, in particular her philosophical account of those characteristics of a political party that lead to its becoming totalitarian—to the inevitable reversal, that is, from its being a means to its becoming an end. Since “a good tree can never bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree beautiful fruits” is for her a trustworthy biblical text, she focuses on whether political parties contain enough good to compensate for their evils. The only legitimate reason to conserve anything is, Common Knowledge Published by Duke University Press Little Reviews 517 for Weil, its goodness. Given that her criteria for goodness are truth, justice, and public interest, she concludes that the “institution of political parties appears to be an almost unmixed evil” and that its abolition “would prove almost wholly beneficial.” Today, the quantity of “bad fruit” produced by our political parties makes one yearn for ways to nourish a “good tree.” One propitious means of preparing the ground could be to cultivate a wide readership for this essay by Simone Weil, together with the related pieces by Czesław Miłosz and Simon Leys that accompany it in this succinct volume.

— E. Jane Doering is a professor and the executive coordinator of the Teachers as Scholars Program in the College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame. She is the co-editor of The Christian Platonism of Simone Weil (University of Notre Dame Press, 2004).

doi 10.1215/0961754X-3131207


You Can Support Social Justice and Get Free Poetry at the Same Time!

Hello My People of the Internet —

If you know anyone in the nonprofit world, you know we all hustle for donations, even if we do have a few grants that keep the lights on. And, if you don’t, now you do.

I am asking you to donate whatever feels good to you to Split This Rock. We’re a really small nonprofit. I do masses of work for here for free because I’ve seen with my own self how our work at the nexus of poetry and social justice affects people for the better, moves hearts to open, and generally keeps people’s souls in good working order in these trying and mournful times.

We’re passing a hat for general purposes, but we also have a big biennial poetry festival coming up April 14-17, 2016, so work and expenses do blossom. Major American and international poets from all traditions and backgrounds get together for four days to discuss the poetics of justice on nearly every issue of concern or celebration for communities creating liberation and the full glory of all our human ways of being. Plus, we read and enjoy heaps and piles of bone-shaking poetry.

Like the Poem of the Week we published for Christmas this year by the inimitable Aracelis Girmay, “from The Body of the Black Maria.”

If you want, donation or no, you can sign-up to get our newsletter, and that means you get our Poem of the Week — a free poem every Friday on one of a range of social justice issues — which, would make me happy because I help curate and publish these poems. They all live here: *The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database*. And they are incredible poems, top-of-skull-off poems.

This is by far not all we do. Our monthly reading series brings poets from DC and the whole country

Joy and comfort to you each, and to all your other beloveds, too.
Simone Roberts
Poetry & Social Justice Fellow



Allies, SURJ-Va Offers Action Advice

As you can imagine, there is a flurry of activity happening right now in response to the white supremacist shooting of 5 Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis last night. SURJ has been called in to mobilize white people in this moment. In the last two weeks, we have seen an uptick in white supremacist organizing against Muslims and the movement for black lives. It is crucial that white folks step up and take visible action.

Since Thanksgiving is this week, I know many of you are traveling. If you are staying nearby, and you’re available Friday, please let me know ASAP. We are hoping to form a couple of small groups that can be visible in our community that day.

National SURJ has put together a list of things you can do, wherever you are, in response to the shootings. Please take visible action this week! It’s time to show up!

SURJ Actions in response to MN shootings

This list is evolving…more resources may be coming.

  1. Sign and widely share the SURJ petition

  2. Donate and share the link to the MN bail fund to support the on-the-ground organizing. MN Bail Fund.

    1. Ask your family members to donate to the bail fund at Thanksgiving!

  3. Change your Facebook profile picture to break white silence. You can find your new profile image here.

  4. Go out and recruit new white folks. Many of white folks who have never been engaged in racial justice work have been woken up this week. We want to go find them and invite them into our work!

    1. Identify a public location in your community (coffee shops, libraries). Pick a time and location  

    2. Review the scripts provided below

    3. Gather clip-boards and pens.

    4. Pick a time and go have conversations and sign folks up  

  5. Use the SURJ Placemat to prompt discussion at the Thanksgiving table, and/or ask family members to contribute to the bail fund.

Sample script for canvassing/ talking to folks in public

  • Hi I’m __________ from Showing Up for Racial Justice and wanted to talk to you today about what’s happening with racial justice in our country and just how heartbreaking it is.

    • What do you think about what’s happening?

    • Did you hear about the shootings in MN?

    • What do you think we could do about it?

  • I’m part of SURJ, a local group that’s working to bring more white people into racial justice work and break white silence. Can I take your contact information to keep you in the loop on our work?