Wednesday, April 2nd
panel 4:00pm, reading 6:30pm
STATE OF THE ART: AFRICAN-AMERICAN POETRY TODAY
Two events showcasing the range of distinctive voices in contemporary African-American poetry. With Elizabeth Alexander, Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Nikki Giovanni, Major Jackson, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dawn Lundy Martin, Carl Phillips, Quincy Troupe, Sonia Sanchez, and Afaa Michael Weaver. Hosted by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University and co-sponsored by Boston Review and Cave Canem.
I have been having a crisis of poetic faith of late -- and there is nothing to give you back faith in a process than to see one after the other incredible poet read their work. The beauty in the room last night was staggering, and it felt like an honor to be alive.
Yesterday I went to my favorite spin class. It's with this young extreme sports guy who is always having us close our eyes and imagine a mountain or a river or a certain kind of air. This class, he was on a geese kick. He told us about how geese follow their elders because the elders remember the way.
I thought of that last night because so often the voices in poetry and society these days that we listen to are the young ones -- but if we follow our elders... there are stories of hope and redemption and progress and love to be had.
Yesterday I read an article in the Phillyburbs.com, poet Jorie Graham talked about her new book, "Sea Change," which deals with issues of the earth and of climate:
DW: This collection feels as if it ties the connection between the past and the unknown future into a state of teetering present—yet you weave hope throughout. Would you consider yourself a hopeful person? Do you have faith in the future?
JG: In the short run I cannot but hope, I wouldn’t have written this if I were hopeless. I think artists have a large responsibility at present—that of awakening the imagination of a deep future. If humans have to be asked to make sacrifices for people they do not even know will be alive—sacrifices the results of which will not be evident, if at all, except four or five generations hence, then we are going to have to help awaken an imagination of that “deep” future, in order that people feel “connected” to it in their willingness to act. After all people are going to be asked to radically alter their lives--for their whole lives-- in order that their kind and their world might remain. I happen to feel one can reawaken that sensation of an “unimaginably” far off horizon. We are so collapsed-down now into a buzzing noisy here-and-now, an era of instant gratification, decimated attention-span, that it is going to take some work to help people “see” in their mind’s “eye” that far off horizon many generations beyond their own time, a time towards which they are going to have to try to take a leap of faith—and a leap which involves deep sacrifice at that. But I wouldn’t be making the effort to answer you in this way, at length, or to write such a book, if I did not believe we still had that chance. A real chance. And that art could be in service of that goal.
Spin guy also told us that in the pack, a goose can fly 71 percent farther than he can alone.
So today I will surround myself with poetry -- keep it like a warm coat --
and hope that the real future is the integration -- of poetry and journalism -- of loss and love -- or language and feeling. That if the poets and the poems can -- we too can move to a place of truth -- of balance.
Cornelius Eady read last night.
Crows in a Strong Wind
by Cornelius Eady
Off go the crows from the roof.
The crows can’t hold on.
They might as well
Be perched on an oil slick.
Such an awkward dance,
In their spottled-black coats.
Such a tipsy dance,
As if they didn’t know where they were.
Such a humorous dance,
As they try to set things right,
As the wind reduces them.
Such a sorrowful dance.
How embarrassing is love
When it goes wrong
In front of everyone.
Cornelius Eady, “Crows in a Strong Wind” from Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997). Copyright © 1985 by Cornelius Eady. Used with the permission of the author.
Source: Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1997).
And the Poetry Foundation website.