Excerpts from The Canción Cannibal Cabaret, a performance work By Amalia Ortiz
From The Introduction
The Making of a Revolution Performance art does not subscribe to the tradition of High Culture. It is revolutionary art. —Norman Denzin
The Canción Cannibal Cabaret, a collection of poem songs and prose poems set in a post-apocalyptic future, tells the story of the revolutionary leader “La Madre Valiente” who aims to incite future revolutionaries to join in intersectional feminism and activism. After an environmental apocalypse, a refugee raised under an oppressive state, La Madre Valiente studies secretly to become the leader of a feminist revolution. Her emissaries, Black Bards and Red Heralds, roam the land reciting her story, educating, and enlisting allies in revolution. This is the premise of my punk musical.
……. Questioning authority is at the heart of my work. Ultimately, The Canción Cannibal Cabaret constitutes the synthesis of much of my past work. It combines activism, politics, writing, music, performance, costumes, visual arts, and POC aesthetics. It also claims a rightful space in academia as the work of an educated woman of color. What this book cannot capture on paper is expressed in live performance. As Denzin explains, “We should treat performances as a complementary form of research publication.” Like Cynthia Cruz, I am skeptical of the literary world’s new, self-interested embrace of political poetry. As so many grapple with the question of how to move forward in the shadow of a presidency at war with the weakest, least able, and most marginalized among us, I also agree with her assessment that, “The solution is a drastic reimagining.” So suggests La Madre.
From Poem Songs
A Message from Las Hijas de la Madre
Welcome, hijas y hombres. Welcome, fugees and flaggers. Welcome, bossholes, broadbacks, and boots on the ground.
All you civilyoungs and warhorses who daily tow the line. Worm workers in low appointments and Elect allies alike. If you have willingly broke curfew to secret meet and receive the herstory of La Madre Valiente, then we salute you. If any notes of this testimonio ring bona fide, we hope that you not bury these truth bones, but instead ingest them to your memory to spit up and feed others in times of need. So suggests La Madre. So, we swallowed herstory and hid it in the safest place where no law can destroy it—deep inside our own flesh where only death can pry it from us. And so, we now feed you the same nourishment once fed us. And you, when you are full enough to rock rebellion, can continue the song.
As a live performer trying to connect with people, obscuring meaning from an audience does not work. I see nothing wrong with clarity of meaning. But what I see as a strength in my work, other academics have labeled a weakness. These criticisms have not deterred me from trying to create a poetry that is above all else accessible. My poetics highlight the intersection of racial discrimination, poverty, and gender inequality impacting the lives and identities of people of color. I center and claim space for marginalized voices in my writing, therefore, it must be decidedly political and accessible.
As an activist artist, I believe art can inspire change. When I create art it is a selfish act. I feel immediate catharsis in sharing my art. Yet I also claim space for dialogue for other disempowered voices that do not have my luxury of an audience. My art is desperate. It is crude and angry and bleeding. It is didactic and loud because it cannot aff ord to go unheard. “Your silence will not protect you,” the great feminist poet Audre Lorde wrote in her rallying essay, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”:
Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid. (42) Silence or subtlety will never be my choice.
Las Hijas de la Madre
Re Membering Herstory
In her domestic appointment in a home of the Elect, La Madre Valiente would slip out of her quarters at night to study a restricted device she had stolen away. This was how La Madre began to recover so many herstories lost to the State. Before the Pocked Eclipse, the learning was webfree, but those untangled herstories were burned or flooded during the Fall.
It was sometime after the death of her last son that La Madre Valiente began her recitation of the old folk songs. (Words on paper or the discovery of fugee use of devices is punished with expulsion from the State Gates.) And so, La Madre began to share herstory in secret.
She returned to the old folk songs and repeated them among the mothers and the colored. Her campaign spread faster than violence through the tenements. Her anger gained momentum, as the dark and poor women’s children suffered more than others. Even the Yardie gangs set aside their fracasos with one another to begin to fight for some- thing larger—perhaps true homes instead of block corners in State yards. The herstories La Madre loved most—those that spread quickest through the tenements—were the songs of workers and mujeres past long before the Fall—old folk songs of fugees like us long forgotten.
Rememory of Strange Fruit
with thanks to Abel Meeropol and Toni Morrison
Strange fruit, not hanging but withering in crowded trucks— Loss is expected in transport. Drivers still get paid big bucks. Brown bodies praying for the pardon of our southern breeze— The south still produces strange fruit, just not entwined in trees.
If the fruit survives delivery, it can be bought and sold. Market prices double if fruit is ripe and not too old. Dried and rotting in the desert, trampled falling off trains— Bondage continues in this land, though not with chains.
Growers and traffickers supply consumer-demanded yields. There’s a fortune to be made from strange fruit fertilizing fields. Rememory of blood on leaves, rememory of blood at root— The profits from the bitter crop outweigh our losses of our strange, strange fruit.
Nom de Guerre
You think because we are women we are weak, and maybe we are. But only to a certain point… We can no longer remain quiet over these acts that fill us with rage. And so, I am an instrument who will take vengeance.
--Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers
I eat the cries of the dead. I am a hunter a huntress of men. Some people think me a monster. For others, fantasies of vengeance I foster. I am Diana the huntress. We are Diana the huntress.
I wear the moon on my head. I am a hunter a huntress of men, born in the barrio in a mass grave threatening to those holding chains to enslave
I am Diana the huntress. We are Diana the huntress.
Hello, from the gutters of Juárez. Hello, from the slums of Mumbai. Hello, from the brothels of Thailand. Hello, from sweat shops in LA. You will know my name. You will know my name.
Hello, Malala assassins. Hello, Boko Haram. Hello, from my Pussy Riot. Hello, from my Gulabi Gang.
You will know my name. You will know my name.
My hounds are free and unfed. I am a hunter a huntress of men. My Wild Hunt’s broken loose— ghost riders crunching bones beneath their boots.
I am Diana the huntress. We are Diana the huntress.
Join me all you who have bled. Become a hunter a huntress of men. Fight corruption. Protect the powerless. Left with no recourse, unleash your huntress.
You are Diana the huntress. Become Diana the huntress.
Hello, from the classrooms of Yemen. Hello, from Radical Monarchs. Hello, my Arming Sisters. Hello, Hijas de Violencia.
They will know your names. They will know your names.
Hello, auto-defensas. Hello, Nevin Yildirim. Hello, my Ovarian Psycos. Hello, to my Red Brigade. And they will know your names. They will know our names. They will know my name. They will know my name. justice frozen in our crosshairs--
Amalia Leticia Ortiz is a Tejana actor, writer, and activist who appeared on three seasons of “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry” on HBO, and has toured colleges and universities as a solo artist and with performance-poetry troupes Diva Diction, The Chicano Messengers of Spoken Word, and the Def Poetry College Tour. The first of many other awards, her debut book of poetry, Rant. Chant. Chisme (Wings Press), won the 2015 Poetry Discovery Prize from the Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards and was selected by NBC Latino as one of the “10 Great Latino Books of 2015.” The Canción Cannibal Cabaret is due for release July 27, 2019, in San Antonio, Texas. For more information and to purchase copies of the book, contact Aztlan Libre Press at: firstname.lastname@example.org and aztlanlibrepress.com.