Monday, April 11, 2011

Wanda Coleman - What Does a Black Poem Look Like?

Wanda Coleman, a Black Sparrow poet, has just posted a powerful piece on the Poetry Foundation's blog:

What Does a Black Poem Look Like?

The speculations of contemporary thinkers on the future of humankind tend to fail and often seem silly in retrospect. Only those with the power, position and money to design that future (on hugely political, scientific and economic scales) can predict it, because they control and influence the change in and the passage of the four governmental levels of laws and regulations that dictate the future for those living and for those yet to be born. They are in control of the criminal justice system. They are affecting who and who does not become a criminal of the most beastly kind. They are affecting who and who does not become a leader in one’s society. In the interval of Now, the poet and writer affects what will come in terms of the emotional, social and aesthetic values/landscapes of the culture, and does this best when being as representative, as much as possible, of one’s time, having mastered one’s craft as well as one is able. Poets and writers determine what is important in the present, with the hope that what is encapsulated will have increasing value over the passage of time. Some poets write to inspire social change. Some write to document a way of life. Some write for the sheer love of writing, and more. Whatever drives the poet and writer, we represent our Now to those future beings. In Y3K, I hope that the readers of my poetry will look back and find it dreadfully passé and that the emotional, social and oft political issues I confront are things of the savage past and God bless ’em. That a significant portion of the work of Langston Hughes, or Mark Twain, remains relevant; or, that Ai’s complaint, repeated by Kwame Dawes, still evokes argument and dismay, speaks volumes about what little progress has been made on those emotional, social and aesthetic fronts when it comes to discussions on race relations. Electing a Black president has not uprooted or effectively mitigated the racism that continues to dominate American discourse even when couched or unspoken. Celebrating MLK Day or Black History month ain’t bloody gettin’ it. Neither did the Bush Administration apology for slavery without attaching one effing cent in reparations to the parchment. To Hell and Damnation with timelessness. I want my poems to go out of date as fast as possible.

Black Sparrow Books has published several titles by Coleman including Jazz and Twelve O'Clock Tales, Mercurochrome, The Riot Inside Me, Bathwater Wine, and African Sleeping Sickness.

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