Tuesday, June 01, 2010

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh

Occasionally, I get requests to post links on my blog. I received one today from Sampsonia Way magazine. I decided to oblige and take the opportunity to explain my theoretical framework. The links listed under IntoPittsburgh demonstrate my commitment to the region. If you are involved in making Greater Pittsburgh a better place, then I would happily add your website. The blogroll (right below IntoPittsburgh) is an actively updated account of conversations I think I am having through the Burgh Diaspora. It's a bibliography of sorts, ideas that influence my own.

Steering this post back to Sampsonia Way, the 411:

In the summer of 2004, Huang Xiang became the first writer in City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s exiled writer-residency program. He immediately made his mark on the city, figuratively and literally, by covering the fa├žade of his residency house on Sampsonia Way with calligraphies of his poetry. This remarkable artwork, called “House Poem,” became an instant landmark celebrating the freedom to write. Since then, it has attracted thousands of visitors and inspired many poets.

Huang Xiang’s “House Poem” motivated City of Asylum/Pittsburgh to create additional writer-residencies on Sampsonia Way, each a rehabbed single-family home with text-based artworks on the facade. Sampsonia Way (in reality, a long, narrow, hodge-podge of an alley) is now a “public library” of “house publications” that you can read any time just by walking down the street.

Sampsonia Way, the web magazine, is intended to provide the same shelter for writers and writing as Sampsonia Way, the street lined with writer residences. Each defends free speech by protecting the people who actually do the writing and speaking. The homes provide shelter for writers; the magazine provides shelter for their work.

I appreciate why both Sampsonia Way the magazine and Sampsonia Way the street are in italics. Each is understood as a publication medium. To further the metaphor, landscape is a form of language. Every definable region has its own rhetoric.

I feel connected to City of Asylum/Pittsburgh in many ways. I blog about Pittsburgh in exile. I'm not a political refugee like the Endangered Writers, but an economic one. There are also social refugees. You can learn about that experience from authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri. All of the above help to define the diaspora experience. I'm also an advocate for international human rights. I champion geographic mobility, but support other causes.

I'm proud that Pittsburgh is home to Sampsonia Way. I imagine the city as the locus of interstitial meditations. Exile is dreaming about one place and living another, caught between two geographies. Belonging nowhere.

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