Jaz Dorsey on Writing Political Literature — Gonne-Yeats Institute for Political Literature , Jaz Dorsey — AAPEX

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jaz Dorsey on Writing Political Literature

This essay is dedicated to Owa.

The African American Playwrights Exchange > The GONNE/YEATS Institute for Political Literature

Since starting AAPEX in 2007, I have spent 5 years in a state of advocacy re: those playwrights whose work strikes me as most meritorious. I have done a lot of writing but never saw it as anything more than a tool. However, I am something of a wise ass and, subtle or not, my writing constitutes an attack on the socio-economic psyche and politics of the American theatre.

I was already on a warpath before AAPEX opened a whole new can of worms, but in those days we didn't have the miracle of cyberspace and since one group I was railing against the most strongly were the editors who control the theatrical press - and critics - I didn't make friends and there wasn't much chance of my getting published.

But once Dave Copeland set up the AAPEX blog, that changed 180 degrees.

Still the writing was basically utilitarian, even when Penny Landau set up the Nashville Notes column on Nite Life Exchange. But when Adam Leipzig asked me to contribute to Cultural Weekly and then I got such cool feedback to the first piece, TALKING WITH OWA,I finally said to myself - "self, if you are nothing else, you are a writer."

Before this came down on me, I was a playwright and a lyricist, but both of those ultimately do not exist until they are performed before an audience, and, like most of us, I was really addicted to those two things - performers and audience. It really never occurred to me that I could reach people or be satisfied with reaching people in print. I craved the intercessor of the actor or the singer.

But print has changed and I am being dragged back in my own psyche to when my fascination was with Vonnegut and not with Brecht. Suddenly I prefer a good book to an evening in the theatre, a conversation with a librarian to an audition with an actor, or a few moments alone with my own piano to trying to even find a piano you can play here in Music City, USA.

Suddenly I am asking myself - what can I write OTHER than plays and is it worth writing that kind of thing anymore? Are there new lives for poetry and novels in the libraries of cyberspace.

Of course, anything I might write right now would still most likely reflect my obsession with the theatre and the role it needs to play in people's lives - but American's, most of them, don't even know what "theatre" is, and they are the ones I want to reach, not the elitist grant writing bigots who have their fangs into our art. The Meudsas, I call them.

Then I discovered Maud Gonne & W. B Yeats and the Irish Renaissance.

I put it this way- Maud first - because for me Maud leads this army, but Yeats is the flag that she waved and she forged a nationalist in him that I don't think would necessarily have been his destiny if he had not become mesmerized by Maud Gonne. In fact, I suspect that young Yeats' romantic fantasy would have been to follow in the footsteps of other Anglo Irish writers such as Shaw and Oscar Wilde and become a part of the London literati, much like some young American writer from El Paso would want to move to New York and become a "New York" writer.

Maud brought him to his knees and made him sing of Ireland for her.

In the scheme of things, in the UK, Dublin was to London what Birmingham, Alabama is to The Big Apple even today. Small, provincial...


The birthplace of one of the most profound civil rights actions in the evolution of democracy. Some call Maud the St. Joan of Ireland. I call her the Martin Luther King.

In their mythic relationship, Gonne and Yeats were the Mars and Apollo of Ireland - or you may see Maud more as a Valkyrie - Brunhilde. But if we're going Greek, woman notwithstanding, Maud Gonne was a god of war, a jihadist in her own right.

This was a time of voracious writers - the Victorians wrote like crazy - so all of their political fury flamed into not only plays and poems but letters and speeches, and these were the weapons of their revolution.

And all of this because Yeats had a boner for Maud that he couldn't shake (no pun intended) - which is something that I can identify with - and in fact one of my political fights is for a world where men can live in harmony with their penises. I mean, we have the Vagina Monologues, but the vaginas are not the ones causing all of the trouble, right? Where's the play about the penis? Thank God for Charlie Sheen and the writers of TWO AND A HALF MEN.

I have a stack of plays by AAPEX writers that could change the world but while these wonderful plays may indeed have profound consequences if and when they do get produced, for the moment I think that playwrights need to stop writing plays and write in other genres - and aim for their targets more directly via the revolutionary conduit of the internet.

What do you think?

Jaz Dorsey
The GONNE/YEATS Institute for Political Literature

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