Embodying escrevivência, wake-work, and Conceição Evaristo’s “Poemas da recordação e outros movimentos”
I argue that by working within the porous intersection between feminism and race, Evaristo writes back against Western phallogocentrism, under whose domain “a man’s body gives credibility to his utterance, whereas a woman’s body takes it away from hers”. Moreover, in re-constructing her own version of the Black female body, Evaristo strives to counter what Spillers describes as the processes by which “the dynamics of signification and representation […unravelled] the gendered female” through the marking of Black woman’s “flesh as a prime commodity of exchange” during slavery. This leads in Poemas to a rejection of sexuality’s lexical crisis under enslavement, or rather, a rejection of the ways in which bodily “dispossession as the loss of gender” translates into Blackness’s “anagrammatical [abuttal]” of the feminine/familial markers ‘woman’ and ‘mother’. Disavowing the ‘American Grammar’ as such allows for Evaristo’s re-vindication of Black flesh, seeing it transfigured into an embodied cipher of shared heritage, unified resistance, and communal healing – a project of re-inscription which, drawing on the theoretical idiom of Christina Sharpe, I shall call ‘wake work’. The kaleidoscopic meanings of ‘wake’ abound in Sharpe’s writing, encompassing “the keeping watch with the dead, the path of a ship, a consequence of something, […] awakening, and consciousness” – at once appealing to the historical traumas of the Middle Passage and the violent slave-plantation economy, ‘wokeness’, and projects of memorialisation.