Saying So Long to 2016 with Sisters, Theories, and Song in New Orleans

This summer, I sat down with beloved friend and art padna Roland Dahwen Wu, of Patua Films, and talked about a dream I wanted to work through. In it were Field Theories in full shapeshift. These poems, this poem, moving through form, leaving it's ink-on-tree self as matter on earth, and taking its place as light through space.

-- and as happens almost effortlessly when Roland and I discuss our dreams, we looked at each other and said YES. And here we are, somehow, halfway through. The fourth short film of six; December's theory, last of the year, is in the can and ready for it's New Orleans debut.

FIELD THEORIES -four- is now. is necessary. Is love embodied. So much beautiful. So much us. So much reminder. So much yes. I am in gratitude to the world, to all of my beloveds who have helped me make these dreams happen, again and again, and to those who have made them with me like Roland and Keyon.

Sometime on or before December 31, 2016, end of the month, end of the year, it's coming. In New Orleans? Come on through. Elsewhere in there world? Stay tuned to how to be there, anywhere. 

Sometimes we need reminders of who we are. Sometimes we make things that remind us. "What is a thing of beauty, if not us?" #gratitude

 FIELD THEORIES - four - Ready for its in New Orleans Pop Up Drop!

FIELD THEORIES - four - Ready for its in New Orleans Pop Up Drop!

During the six months leading up to the release of FIELD THEORIES, the poem(s) of it are being reimagined through a new medium: sound+image+light.

Follow along every month as each mini-short is released in a different city across the country: Portland; Los Angeles; Baltimore; New Orleans; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C. Is that where you'll be? Come through and see!

Then don't miss the full stitching of all six mixes into one intergalactic FIELD THEORY just in time for the New York City release of FIELD THEORIES in its ink-on-tree book form.

Catch up here on any films you've missed:

Stay tuned for a heads-up on when/where/how to be down!


:: This Week's Word on the Street ::  

"Field Theories masterminds the “neverhush,” and each poem makes a spectacular event of artful speech that dances on the ridgeline of this brilliant poets’ history, heart, and intellect. And while she cuts to the quick, all swift-witted and informed, what I admire most is Bashir’s dexterous language, how she aligns our bodies to a vernacular sense of ourselves, knowing that the world is more than empty signs and algorithms, and that we need to ever engineer the widest possible love the world has ever seen."

Author of Holding Company, Hoops, and Leaving Saturn


We know we're not arguing about freedom right?

We know we're still arguing about sharecropping and lynching, right?

2016. 1916. 1816.

America continues to offer only a slight difference of optics.‬

There were always black and brown slavers.

There were always white women at the end of one whip while controlling another whip.

There were always a group of us who could pay up a bit to stay sorta out of the fray.

I don't know about you, Dear Reader, but I am REALLY in the mood for a different fight. Our current mess is so old it's rusted.

i bet we can imagine better. I bet we can create better.  

I know we can do better because we're honestly hardly even trying. 

Let's imagine it in our dreams.  

Let's make it with our waking.

Maybe this is all fine with us... 

but maybe it's not -- 



:: This Week's Word on the Street ::

“A lyric scientist at the top of her game, Samiya Bashir explores the emotional and cultural physics of desire, love, loss, family, history, and everyday existence in her new collection Field Theories.

These inventive poems move across a range of psychicscapes, recentering black voices and bodies through blackbody theory and quantum mechanics, backyard meditation and bedroom lament.

Bashir asks and shows with consummate artistry, what are the deep and hidden laws that divide and connect us?”

- John Keene

Author of Counternarratives, Seismosis, and Annotations.  


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Writers Resist: Portland Edition

Image Courtesy Jon Wippich


Sunday, January 15, 2017

6:00pm  8:00pm

Aladdin Theater

Click HERE for tickets!

I hope to see you there!


Join me and "Dear SugarsCheryl StrayedSteve AlmondWendy Chin-TannerZahir JanmohamedCooper Lee-BombardierLidia YuknavitchCari Luna, and more greatness at The Aladdin Theater, from 6pm - 8pm. 

Click here to purchase tickets for a $30 donation here.

On January 15, 2017, writers across the United States and in Europe will come together for Writers Resist, a “re-inauguration” of our shared commitment to the spirit of compassion, equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy. Writers Resist events, large and small, will be held in dozens of locations throughout the US and the world.

Writers Resist is a multi-city event organized by writers and activists across the nation seeking to "re-inaugurate" a shared commitment to the spirit of compassion, equality, free speech and the fundamental ideals of democracy.

Here for The Writers Resist, Portland Edition I am excited to join The Sugars, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, Wendy Chin-Tanner, Rene Denfeld, Zahir Janmohamed, Cooper Lee Bombardier, Cari Luna, Sam Roxas-Chua and Lidia Yuknavitch, plus, music from Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Wonderly and Angela Freeman. They'll also be taking your questions about how to move forward as a nation during this time of tremendous division and uncertainty.

Tickets available HERE.

Friday FIELD Notes!

The season is changing. It's bringing all manner of madness to the surface with it. Let's have at least one day to receive a little dollop of poetic love.

Introducing: Friday Field Notes, a weekly multimedia poetry lovebomb.

Sign up in the sidebar to the right, and click through the image below to check out the first issue!

New work in Drunken Boat's Winter Issue (No. 24)

Thanks to Eunsong Kim and the editors at Drunken Boat for including my work in their newest issue. I am proud to have the title poem from my forthcoming collection, FIELD THEORIES, as well as a few other poems alongside all of the great work included.

sold for poker chips
left cold left thawed left
bent into the yawp
ass up
let be
let air

Click here to read the rest of "Field theories" along with the following poems -- "Notions of temperature," "Sometimes in a body," "Sore broken in the place of dragons," and "You don't have to pump the breaks you just gotta keep your eyes on the road" -- in Drunken Boat 24.

If ever there were a time for poetry, this is it. As Eunsong wrote in her editorial for the issue:

White liberalism and fascism is quick to commodify the use value and deploy the weaponization of poetry and language: theirs is a “furniture without memories.” The poems for the 24th issue of Drunken Boat present the stakes of “furniture without memories”—which is Toni Morrison's phrase. 
The poems here navigate and narrate hopeless tasks, impractical gestures and provoke unimaginable relations: these are not poems in volunteer service of better statehood or diplomacy—too many of these have been published and circulated so enough already.
Memory building, memory labors, memory frames, memory vehicles memory circles memory gatherings tending to memories presented here. 
Eunsong Kim
Poetry Editor
November, 2016

For those who think Islamophobia only impact Muslims, or hijabi women, pay attention.

First things first, I AM Muslim according to them. My family, my name makes the claim. Ask European Jews if anyone asked when they'd last been to synagogue before pinning on that star. Doesn't matter. And even if the other side (still not me) is Christian, we're still black so there's no pretending any reprieve from fear and hate exists on any end of the gene pool. Of the body pool.

All of my "racially ambiguous" looking friends know this too. All of my Latinx peeps who "look Arab," all of my actually Arab peeps, Asians, blacks, no need to list because all of us are screwed hwre. Even you dear white reader. Screwed, just perhaps a bit more slowly.

And I'm not particularly interested in selling out my religious family (or anyone's) for my own lack of religious practice to gain some semblance of security. We should all be safe. We should all be treated with dignity. We are all beautifully human.


I have to be loud and clear here. Because screw this. "They" come for every single thing I am--separately and together--every time. Even when all it is is human. Human is enough. 

I will not break into pieces.

I will alloy into platinum.

Blind them all with shine.

Here we go again...

I've just been welcomed back to Muslim name = pointless travel drama. Again. Security made me go through the long line, though I was cleared for the short line. Security held me after the scanner for 30 minutes. My bag. For NOTHING. Unpacked everything and ran it separately. While being assholes - no real reason except their reason. Knowing my flight was going to leave. Then, knowing, slowly putting everything BEHIND everyone else's bags, waiting for more bags to go behind. Then made my stuff, unpacked, sit there. I couldn't take it even though it had cleared. At the final surly reply that I was free to go, I ran. Got to the gate at 7m before take off. Woman didn't want to let me on because it closes at 6m before take off. She got angry (at me) when I told her about what's just happened with security. Thank GOD a black woman came out and said she'd take me back because it WASN'T officially closed yet, despite the angry white gate woman's protestations. Thank goodness for this sister.


Please goodness let us have each other's backs through this madness.


For real. 🙌🏾



Thinking of the Water Protectors

Tell me you can watch this video and not feel it in your whole body. Tell me this family love between people, earth, animals doesn't unclick every true thing you know beneath this cloak of western culture we wear. Tell me--someone tell me--how those armed and militarized men and women old and young can stand there and not know they're wrong. Can know they're wrong and keep on standing there, armed and violent, anyway. Tell me how this history repeats and repeats and repeats and we are supposed to move through our days, especially as educators, pretending this is not real. Not happening. Not the regurgitated reflux of centuries old manifest destiny genocidal blasphemy. Tell me how you don't see that when they kill the water, they kill all of us. They even kill themselves. Tell me how many killings it takes for this to stop. Is it yours? Theirs? Tell me you'll watch video after video of the murder of black men women and children but you won't watch this. Tell me the people can stand and speak and cheer and cry, the wild buffalo themselves can make a stand, the earth itself can send emissary after emissary and you can still remain unmoved. Tell me these things, friend, and I will kneel on this beautiful dirt and pray for all of us.


Today in: studying creative writing with Samiya

For my Somatic Writing: Memoir class, I took my students to be with the Belmont Goats. Together with them we wrote, we petted, we followed and were followed, we were supremely in our bodies, we interacted with the bodies and horns and teeth of our new friends. Also: we met a chicken. 

I can't wait to see next week what they've done with what they wrote today! Very exciting. (Insert goat scream!)

 "I felt most safe when..." 

"I felt most safe when..." 

 "I felt most seen when..." 

"I felt most seen when..." 

 Writing through memory and desire...with goats!

Writing through memory and desire...with goats!

 Letting ourselves be cuddled. Be friended. Be vulnerable in the outdoors. Be chewed upon. 

Letting ourselves be cuddled. Be friended. Be vulnerable in the outdoors. Be chewed upon. 


In Conversation: Blackness as Field

Poet Claudia Rankine beautifully encapsulates Field Theories cover artist Toyin Ojih Odutola's work in a new article for Aperture, "A New Grammar for Blackness":

Blackness, for her, is not only her subject; it is also her question. The space of blackness is itself the subject of her portraits. Historically, in a narrow read, blackness becomes unilaterally a signifier of race. But in Odutola’s work, race is there or it is not there, but its presence is never without our perceptions and projections. Blackness on the level of the line simply fills the terrain of the body with blackness.
 Toyin Ojih Odutola, Above all else make it look effortless, 2012. Pen ink, marker, and varnish on paper. © the artist and courtesy  Jack Shainman Gallery , New York

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Above all else make it look effortless, 2012. Pen ink, marker, and varnish on paper. © the artist and courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Odutola’s portraits explore how to desegregate blackness from a fixed racial position and open it out to all the mythology, missteps, racism, beauty, and life that is held by the term, while still landing it within the free space of bodies. She engages blackness as a field of tonality. [emphasis mine]

Read the rest of Rankine's Aperture article here.

See Odutola's cover image for Field Theories, plus find out more about the project, here.

:: COMING SPRING 2017 ::

Samiya Bashir      |        FIELD THEORIES      |       Nightboat Books

These poems span lyric, narrative, dramatic, and multi-media experience, engaging their containers while pushing against their constraints

Field Theories wends its way through quantum mechanics, chicken wings and Newports, love and a shoulder’s chill, melding blackbody theory (idealized perfect absorption, as opposed to the whitebody’s idealized reflection) with real live Black bodies. 

“These poems resonate as code rising from caverns of the unexpected. When listening to their seeming irregularity one thinks of Dolphy's work where seeming fracture exists as portal to luminosity.” –Will Alexander

Albert Murray said, “the second law of thermodynamics ain’t nothing but the blues.” So what is the blue of how we treat each other, ourselves, of what this world does to us, of what we do to this shared world? Woven through experimental lyrics is a heroic crown of sonnets that wonders about love and intent, identity and hybridity, and how we embody these interstices and for what reasons and to what ends.

“To read Samiya Bashir’s poetry is to be pulled up by a force so intense and magnetic as to constitute a new field of action: dark matter and radiation, witness and redaction, and the pendulum of time and history, swinging, swinging. I am reminded of Melvin Tolson’s description of the night on which that legendary steel-driver John Henry was born: 'an ax of lightning split the sky.' This book splits the sky right open, swinging like a melody, swinging like a boxer, swinging on each elemental and freighted word to beat the devil.” –D.A. Powell

cover image: Lonely Chamber (T.O.), 2011, Toyin Ojih Odutola

"I melt dead air."

Samiya Bashir's FIELD THEORIES areola's PICA's Time Based Art Festival.

Portland, Ore. 16.9.16 :: Beneath the fractured light of a harvest moon eclipse, black|bodies descend into PICA's Time Based Art Festival and radiate poetry/light.

The poem: "Paleontology" from Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017) -- read it online at The Offing.

The film:  FIELD THEORIES -one-

movement by keyon gaskin + filmed with Roland Dahwen Wu & Patua Films || Field Theories wends its way through quantum mechanics to chicken wings and Newports, love and a shoulder's chill, melding blackbody theory (idealized perfect absorption, as opposed to the whitebody's idealized reflection) with real live Black bodies.

The Co-Conspirators:  I'm grateful for everyone who helped with the descent:  Natalie Figueroa + Sidony O'Neal + Sharita Townsend + Derrais Carter + Keyon Gaskin + Intisar Abioto + Sika Stanton + Victor Cazares + Sameer Khan

Watch out for a new film each month through March 2017 -- descending into a city near you. ;-)

PODCAST: Five Local Writers on Place, Poetry, and Old Portland

What a great time doing this podcast with Anis Mojgani, Elyse Fenton, and the whole crew. Check it out below, download the whole conversation or hear it on SoundCloud!

 Portland Monthly Magazine:&nbsp;Fiction writers  Margaret Malone  and  David Shafer  are joined by poets Samiya Bashir,  Anis Mojgani , and  Elyse Fenton  to read their work and talk about Portland as inspiration.

Portland Monthly Magazine: Fiction writers Margaret Malone and David Shafer are joined by poets Samiya Bashir, Anis Mojgani, and Elyse Fenton to read their work and talk about Portland as inspiration.

This summer, we gave three of Portland’s top writers—Margaret Malone, PEN/Hemingway finalist for her short story collection People Like You; David Shafer, author of 2014’s techno-thriller Whiskey Tango Foxtrot; and Diana Abu-Jaber, author most recently of the memoir Life Without a Recipe—a challenge: write a short story set in the Pacific Northwest, to the prompt “That summer...” 

Here, Malone and Shafer read the stories that resulted—“The Buried Forest” and “Night Air,” respectively—and talk about place as inspiration, writing from the opposite gender, and ’90s-era Portland. Then, we hear from poets Samiya Bashir, Anis Mojgani, and Elyse Fenton, who drew inspiration from all over, from the Vaux’s swifts at Chapman Elementary School to a bear in a tree in Northeast Portland. 

Download the Long Play on iTunes.

Audio production by Samala Coffey