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Ailish Hopper
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I. Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker, Statement presented by Adrienne Rich at National Book Awards, 1974 The statement I am going to read was prepared by three of the women nominated for the National Book Award for poetry, with the agreement that it would be read by whichever of us, if any, was chosen. We, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and Alice Walker, together accept this award in the name of all the women whose voices have gone and still go unheard in a patriarchal world, and in the name of those who, like us, have been tolerated as token... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
"A poet is somebody free" ---June Jordan To talk about race in America is, unfortunately, to often feel caught in a game of racial "gotcha," as we step around closed spaces in the present, kept that way by racial codes. And so, it's not surprising that many will do anything to avoid speaking, or writing, freely about race. Or, when and if they do, to feel exhausted and resigned by it. Many of us are concerned about being pigeonholed as one or another racial "types," or feeling like, as John L. Jackson calls it, a "racial sinner." As poets, how... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Kyle, Thanks for this. I'm glad that you're having these conversations with your students! And, we're actually mostly in agreement, in that we're talking about a poetics of freedom. But I mean something different by "rewriting" than what you caught here. And I think that the process of naming, of seeing, difference is important. At least, as long as it's important to the structures in the US that still use it to oppress and ignore some, while giving a pass (and goodies) to others. And as long as whiteness is still predicated on my /not/ seeing, and naming, it. But neither do we have to make it all we see about someone. In other words, even in those solutions---more dichoto-myelitis! Only way out is through. Ailish
Yes, I sidestepped the persona issue with Hoagland, along with a lot of other important points. Because the point stands: persona or no, our art plays in the world, in real people's lives. And there are consequences. I think there is a difference in our responses to, and expectations of, poetry and fiction, certainly. But when it comes to race....I don't know that we let fiction off the hook. In fact, in Major Jackson's great APR essay about race, he begins by relating a difficult experience he had listening to Barry Hannah read in the voice of one of his particularly racist characters. The whole formal question, though, of /how/ we bring that poison into the world, "how to enunciate race while depriving it of its lethal cling?" as Toni Morrison put it----that's tomorrow's post. :-)
Something that's fun to do sometimes is talk with white people about reparations for slavery. Well, it's fun---like a German Expressionist play. Fun---like an absurdist novel. Or, like Groundhog Day: the same show, over and over, with all of us seemingly unaware that we’ve been fed our script or our lines. Fun like ---the abyss. Here is Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert writing about the abyss, relating his older brother’s appearance, when home after the war: nothing was left him but touch… we walk together in the streets and he recites to me improbable tales touching my face with blind fingers... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at.”---Oscar Wilde A poem has been likened to many things; here I’d like to consider how it resembles a map. Though maps are allegedly dutiful, accurate recordings of empirical realities---in some ways the opposite of a poem---as in poems one can “map” anything. Map-making can also show us the way that poems, too, reflect choices: what to leave on or off, what scale, and what orientation will prevail. Just as there are dominant maps, or published views of reality, there are maps that show alternative... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Thanks, Farid and Laura. Both really thoughtful contributions, & I'm glad to know them.
The last year or so have been eventful in American poetry, especially if you follow the conversations, in verse or prose, about race. The blogosphere, and many other spheres, have lit up on several occasions with differing opinions on Who is Right or Wrong, What the Problem of Race is Really About (or its variant, Why do People Have to Keep Bringing this Up). In other words, maybe not so eventful, maybe, The Usual and Familiar, Part Ad Infinitum. Meanwhile, the last two years have also brought some important new poetry that deals directly with race, including books by Thomas... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Aug 3, 2012