Sunday, December 03, 2006

Welcome, Patersonians

Well, you finally made it (some of you). Now the impossible object can really party. Since you may be here because of Jean Stevens' story in the Herald this morning, a word on navigating the site. Like the poem Paterson, but even more so, the vlog you are reading invites open-ended readings and encounters. Throw out your sense of a stable Paterson, even if it is right below your feet. Before it was only me, now there are six of us, but even six people will have trouble figuring out exactly where they are at any one moment. Maybe it's a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen type of thing. Nevertheless, I invite your communiques and participation. I am especially interested in songs based on the poem (see entries at 9/16/2006 & 6/23/06) and poets who know the poem and the city equally well. But I'm not limiting this all to poetry: after all, you will probably get a sense of the limitations of literary alchemy on even the idea of New Jersey, let alone the substance of a small corner of it. If getting a good start is all you want to do right now, go to the video entry on 6/19/2006 and the sound clip on 8/11/06. But hey, since you are closer to the real thing than I am: raise the sashes and look upon the night. Word.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. I am a poet and a native Patersonian; while I am no William Carlos William, some of my experiences and my opinions about Paterson and Patersonians are in my 2 poems below.

In these poems, I generally accentuate the positive because of the negative image that the entire city and its residents constantly receive. However, I do recognize that Paterson and Patersonians are not perfect (no place is perfect just as people are not perfect).

We know that all places have their problems, some just more than others. As far as the people here in Paterson goes: they are just like people anywhere else.......

“MOST Patersonians.”

To some people, the “Silk City” is now symbolic of “urban blight”. But remember, Paterson also has many positive things, including its people. Paterson’s citizens and denizens are comprised of “true Patersonians”— the positively “defiant” ones:

MOST Patersonians defy exaggerations
that delivers unreal characterizations.

MOST Patersonians defy broad generalizations,
stained by negative manifestations.

MOST Patersonians defy “dramatizations”
that feeds off of labels and insinuations ...

MOST Patersonians defy any negative connotation
that strives to condemn their positive continuation ...

MOST Patersonians defy the untrue depiction
that they all commit crime and cause constant friction.

MOST Patersonians, the “defiant” ones,
refuse to succumb to destruction.
MOST Patersonians, the “defiant” ones,
create “positive construction”.

MOST Patersonians, the “defiant” ones ...
are proud to be a true Patersonian.

“Where I Come From.”

This poem shows the contradictions
between a city’s negative image or reputation versus the city’s inhabitants who are mostly decent people.

Where I come from—
the usually peaceful co-existence between many diverse people disputes exaggerations of constant, rampant racial discord.
(Like any where else, there are some negative, prejudiced people; but not everyone in the city is racist and hateful. Many people in the city embrace Multiculturalism because they recognize that we all live in a world filled with diversity.)

Where I come from—
still produces smart, determined and ambitious students
despite the sad state of the public school system.
(These children are deprived of a lot of things that they need to receive a decent education; but this does not mean that there are no good teachers, good students, loving, caring parents, and etc. These positive people create a beacon of hope that brightens the city.)

... Where I come from—
law-abiding citizens outnumber the law-breakers.
(Some people help to perpetuate a negative image with their behavior; but the voters and most of the inhabitants in the city are the people who get unfairly labeled and disgraced!)

Where I come from—
the people are just like anyone else—
they have hopes and dreams—
just like “other” people who live any where else.
(Some people who think negatively about everyone in this city forget that good people and bad people can live anywhere! So, whatever can happen in one place (good or bad) has the potential to happen in another place, because people are people. A person’s value is not determined by the name of the city or town that they are born in and/or live in.)

Where I come from—
the people—the gems and jewels of the city are kept hidden,
to perpetuate the stereotypes that the city is crime ridden.
(There are stereotypes that all or most of the city’s inhabitants are unlawful and criminal; yet, the positive people, places and things are often overlooked.)

Where I come from—
the people are pursuers of their endeavors,
making them resourceful, determined survivors.
(There are stereotypes that all of the poor inhabitants are lazy, freeloaders, stupid, ignorant and etc. But, most are not. Many are intelligent people who happen to be the working poor or disabled. Some may survive on very little income, but most of them strive to do their best to live decent lives. And many, if not most of them, do not commit crimes!)

Where I come from—
the powerful Great Falls makes this city known worldwide,
symbolizing the hopes and dreams of a native’s pride.
(To some, the Great Falls flowed in an once industrial “Silk City”. Yet today, the Great Falls still flows, looming large, cascading with rushing waters to symbolize the continuation, the perseverance of the city. It also brings to life the hopes, dreams and the many contributions of the city’s inhabitants.)

Where do I come from?

Both poems are from my poetry book: My Poetry is a Window into My Soul.

8:47 PM, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Joe Milutis said...

thanks for adding your voice to the mix.

9:43 PM, December 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from "dawniris":

Joe Milutis, thanks for your reply.

I have a couple of questions for you:

1. Pleae explain what you mean when you said in the Sunday Herald News feature article that if you talk about Paterson you "...could be construed as racist?"

Your exploration alone of Paterson may not be the root cause of the bitterness that you perceive yourself to be the receipent of (from some Patersonians); perhaps, it is something that you expressed to some folks along the way.

Please explain your statement so that we can understand clearly what you mean and why you feel that way.

2. While you are on your journey to explicate William Carlos Williams poetry on Paterson, please share the answer to this question with us: what you are looking for?

For example, do you expect to see remnants of Williams' poems about Paterson in the everyday lives of Patersonians and in the city's landscape, in the city's "culture" and in the racial and ethnic diversity here now?

In other words, do you expect things to be the same as when Williams' poetry on Paterson was released?

7:55 AM, December 04, 2006  
Blogger Joe Milutis said...

Since the news and the blog are unfortunately sometimes too succinct, that comment was a result of some long conversations. WCW says in his poem that he tries to "make a start out of particulars and make them general": Jean had wanted me to make some general comments about Paterson, the city, and I felt uncomfortable with that. We talked about how the very act of generalizing works the same as racism. We also talked about how coming to the city with the poem in hand could be a kind of cultural imperialism. But I think the fact is that the poem provides a focus, at least for me. Paterson is a very fluid changing city, and that focus may be temporary. The poem of WCW may have no more relevance to the city. But when you read it you do get a sense that there are things that continue, and that the poem is part of the landscape as much as the mountain and the silk factories.

9:09 AM, December 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from dawniris:

Sometimes, I cannot help but wonder why some folks use William Carlos Williams poetry/book on Paterson as if it is the bible.

Let's remember, Williams was not born in Paterson and he did not live in Paterson; many folks assume that he did because of his extensive writings about Paterson. As a result, he is sometimes incorrectly listed as a native Patersonian.

As far as I can tell, he was not a native or resident of Paterson, therefore, he most likely wrote from the vantage point of an "outsider": from an observers point of view. Now, I don't mean the word "outsider" in a bad way. But, let's be honest, I could not go to another place (where I never lived) and presume to know more about that place or the people than the natives or residents do.

On the other hand, sometimes when we can observe from a distance, we may see things that those up close cannot see (and sometimes, things they don't want to see). That is, as long as the "observer" does not bring their self serving agendas, preconceived notions or biases along with them.

Having said that, let me be clear: I am not saying that Williams poetry is not relevant; it may be or it may not be (I have not read or explicated all of his poetry. But, I am a Patersonian).

However, if one embarks on a journey in Paterson (present), in their quest to discover all things in Williams' Paterson poetry (past), they may be disappointed, or not. They may not see things he saw for various reasons including: time (we all know things change over time regardless of where you live); demographics, landscape, etc.

By the way, if I am incorrect about Williams not being a Patersonian (I have not found a source yet that says he was a resident of Paterson) please enlighten me; I don't mind being corrected.

I find that Williams was born in Rutherford, NJ and lived in Rutherford. Well, Rutherford and Paterson are both in NJ but they are different places. NJ was often the subject of Williams poetry since he did like most poets often do, write about their own area and surroundings, as well as other people, places and things.

Rutherford celebrates Williams as their own. I think he was poet drawn to Paterson's history and that may have been his spring board to start writing about Paterson. As good as his poetry may be, it is not the bible.

9:13 AM, December 05, 2006  
Blogger Joe Milutis said...

Yes Williams lived in Rutherford. But I think one of the things the Herald article didn't really highlight, but that you might get from the blog with more exploration, is that while I am exploring a reference to a real Paterson (almost as a novelty, since many poets haven't done that) I am also pointing to disconnects, the absurdity of using the poem as a map. I'm interestd in the ability of that non-reference to create a poetry of place, but that space is more fantastical, not the space that the Chamber of Commerce might recognize if that makes sense. Check out the work/ideas of the Situationists (Google them), which I reference. Also, as you probably have seen, the very first video is in Patterson, Georgia, not New Jersey. So in some sense, the use of the poem as a map of experience is more indebted to Surrealist techniques than it is to realist representation. I think even people who live in a place for a very long time have conflicting emotions about urban pride. And that's because people live in cities, but they also live in their mind, in the private spaces that we cultivate regardless of whether we are in Paterson or Paris. then again "no ideas but in things": the concrete nature of the city influences, or IS our thought, so we better pay attention to that too.

4:27 PM, December 06, 2006  

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