Sunday, March 7, 2021
Saturday, February 13, 2021
Sunday, February 7, 2021
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Reading poetry is something I love and have done for decades, but sometimes it still intimidates me, either because I’m in awe of the poet’s skill or I’m frightened by the depths of emotions the words take me to.That’s why I loved discovering #theSealeychallenge last year and why I’m doing it again this year. Reading a poetry book a day for a month (or 100 pages a day, or however close I could come to that) was so freeing! At first I approached it like a task to do well, but I soon realized the only way I could do it was to let go of how I normally read (slowly, carefully, thoughtfully) and just go for it. Let the words flow over my eyeballs, my brain, my heart. Devour the words like popcorn, instead of eating them gingerly like petites fours.
I discovered some poets whose work amazed and excited me. I slogged through some who just didn’t do it for me. But the best gift I got from the experience was gorging on words, trusting that they were changing me even as I let them go, like racing down a highway with the windows open, poems written all over the land.
|My bookshelf, ready to go!|
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Is autumn for them
With their seed-hair
Bright as grandma’s halo
Then naked as a man
With no teeth
Our work here is done
But you must keep on
Don’t fight the wind
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
With its soft innocence
Its basket of knitted possibilities
The warm light of the sun
The bright light of the sun
The harsh light of the sun
Exposes a beetle on a leaf of grass
Sharpens each blade into a knife
Silences the flowers
It started before Eve
Was framed, exiled beyond
The first of many walls
Let there be light
Meant let there be
Have and have nots
No one talks now
but trucks and sparrows
Thursday, June 18, 2020
About a month ago, after a long dry spell, I restarted my writing practice by creating what I’m calling poem sketches — they begin as notes on my phone, often while I’m drinking my morning tea. I was inspired by my artist friend Lauren Kindle, who shares her sketches in blog posts as well as more crafted works of art in her online store. I’ve been trained to recognize Poetry (with a capital P) as being necessarily labored over, but I wanted to give myself permission to play and share less polished things, too. Because why not? Life is short and all that.
In the current moment, when I and many of my fellow well-meaning white folks have awoken or re-awoken to the need to, as Bryan Stevenson says, “reckon with our history of racial injustice,” I don’t feel right simply launching into another period of posting and sharing my words on this blog without first acknowledging the work of writers of color, particularly black American writers, whose words have instructed and inspired me to become more awake, aware, and active.
Here are four Black poets whose work has affected me in the past year:
- Morgan Parker’s Magical Negro is a kick-ass collection of righteously pissed off, bold and brazen poems. One of my favorites is It Was Summer Now and the Colored People Came Out Into the Sunshine.
- Ross Gay’s writing focuses on joy, gifts, and beauty, even when his topic is tragedy or violence, like in his poem about Eric Garner called A Small Needful Fact.
- Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith explores love, violence, the afterlife and outer space in a beautiful, celebratory, and mournful collection of poems. Her podcast The Slowdown delivers powerful, contemplative essays and poems daily.
- Kevin Young’s Brown is, among other things, a series of history lessons in poem form, a primer in empathy for white folks to imagine, as he writes in Nightstick [A Mural for Michael Brown], what it’s like to “dare take / a left / into the wrong / skin.”
Something I’m learning that making art and fighting racism in society and ourselves have in common is that all of these efforts can be thwarted by perfectionism. Too often, I’m hesitant to share creations I view as somewhat flawed or to say things I’m not 100% confident about, for fear of — gasp! — making a mistake. Going forward, my aim is to fear mistakes a little less (my own as well as my culture’s) and to learn from them how to do better. Being unconscious of my white privilege is one of those past mistakes. One action step I’ve taken is to use race and ethnicity as part of the criteria for choosing the books we read in a discussion group that I lead, alternating white authors and people of color.
Remember, if you read or hear a poem that you like by a poet who’s new to you, that’s a great reason to get a book of theirs and see what else they have to say. There are many ways to fight racism and educate ourselves, including reading literature (poetry or otherwise) written by black Americans — preferably procured from your local public library or independent book store. You can also check out this list of black-owned bookstores.
While trying to find a citation for the pictured quote from Lucille Clifton (which I haven’t managed to find yet), I came across one of her poems called my dream about being white. In it she says “there’s no future / in those clothes,” implying that there’s no future in the so-called privilege of “wearing / white history.” What I take from those lines is that there’s no good future based on an unacknowledged and unhealed past of white dominance — hopefully, with awareness and action, we can make a better future together.