Adrienne Rich-What is Found There- Notebooks on Poetry and Politics-W.W. Norton (1993)

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The "impulse to enter, with other humans, through language, into the order and disorder of the world, is poetic at its root as surely as it is political at its root, " writes Adrienne Rich at the beginning of her powerful new prose work. What Is Found There is Rich's response to her impulse as a poet to know poetry fully, to plumb and scale and inhabit it; it is also, profoundly, Rich's attempt to bring poetry into the lives of many kinds of people - out of the academy, away from the literary magazines. In a voice that is generous, bold, and personal, Rich uses the poet's materials - journals and letters, dreams, memories, and close reading of the work of many poets - to reflect on poetry and politics, to consider how they enter and impinge on an American life, and what it means to be a citizen of a fragmented country, part of a people turned inward for safety. Rich acknowledges the cost of this turning: "We have rarely, if ever, known what it is to tremble with fear, to lament, to rage, to praise, to solemnize, to say We have done this, to our sorrow; to say Enough, to say We will, to say We will not. To lay claim to poetry." But she acknowledges hope as well. Speaking to poets, to readers of poetry, to all of us who imagine and desire a humane civil life, Rich lays claim to poetry as an instrument of change, and offers up its possibilities: "I see the life of North American poetry at the end of the century as a pulsing, racing convergence of tributaries - regional, ethnic, racial, social, sexual - that, rising from lost or long-blocked springs, intersect and infuse each other while reaching back to the strengths of their origins."

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Content

^)(/HAT

IS

FOUND THERE
NOTEBOOKS ON
POETRY AND POLITICS

ADRIENNE RICH

The "impulse

to enter, with other

humans,

through language, into the order and disorder of
the world,

is

poetic at

root as surely as

its

it is

Adrienne Rich at the
beginning of her powerful new prose work.
What Is Found There is Rich's response to her impolitical at its root," writes

know

pulse as a poet to

and scale and inhabit

poetry

it;

is

it

fully,

also,

to

plumb

profoundly,

Rich's attempt to bring poetry into the lives of

many

kinds of people

from the

— out of the academy, away

literary magazines.

In a voice that

is

generous, bold, and personal. Rich uses the poet's



journals and letters, dreams, memoand close reading of the work of many
poets
to reflect on poetry and politics, to consider how they enter and impinge on an American hfe, and what it means to be a citizen of a
fragmented country, part of a people turned inward for safety. Rich acknowledges the cost of
materials
ries,



this turning:

what

"We

have

to tremble

it is

rarely, if ever,

with

fear,

known

to lament, to rage,

We have done this,
to our sorrow, to say Enou^^h, to say We will, to say
We will not. To lay claim to poetry." But she acknowledges hope as well. Speaking to poets, to
readers of poetry, to all of us who imagine and
to praise, to solemnize, to say

desire a

humane

civil life.

Rich lays claim to po-

etry as an instrument of change, and offers

poetry

at

up

its

of North American

possibilities: "I see the hfe

the end of the century as a pulsing,

racing convergence of tributaries
nic, racial, social,

sexual





regional, eth-

that, rising

from

lost

or long-blocked springs, intersect and infuse each

other while reaching back to the strengths of
their origins."

Jacket design by Laurie Dolphin

Jacket art: "T-5" by Judith Larzelere 1986

Collection of: Kenneth Kronenberg

Photo: Jan Bindas Studios, Boston,

T-5

is a

color-field quilt.

where only

10-93

a sliver

It

MA

represents space in

a

canyon

of light can pierce the darkness.

Digitized by the Internet Archive
in

2010

http://www.archive.org/details/whatisfoundthereOOrich

BY ADRIENNE RICH

Collected Early

Poems

1950-1970

An

Atlas of the Difficult

World:

Poems 1 98 8-1 99
Time's Power: Poems 1985-1988
Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose

Your Native Land, Your

The

Fact of a Doorframe:

Poems

1

979-1 986

Life

Selected and

New

1

950-1 984

Sources

A Wild Patience Has Taken Me
On Lies, Secrets,


This Far

and Silence: Selected Prose,

The Dream of a

1

966-1 978

Common Language

Twenty-one Love Poems

Of Woman

Born: Motherhood As Experience and Institution

Poems: Selected and New,

1

950-1 974

Diving into the Wreck

The Will

to

Change

Leaflets

Necessities of Life

Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law

The Diamond

Cutters

A Change of World

i

What Is
Found
There

W-W-Norton & Company
NEW YORK LONDON


What Is
Found
There
NOTEBOOKS ON POETRY
AND POLITICS

Adrienne
Rich

Grateful

acknowledgment

is

made

for permission to

the

Women

quote from the works of

Mary Glover in INSIGHT:

Gloria Bolden, Jacqueline Dixon-Bey, and

Portions of this

book

first

appeared in The American Poetry Review, Hungry Mind

Review, The Kenyon Review, Parnassus, and
present parts of the final draft

PMLA. was fortunate
I

Iowa Writers' Workshop, and

Poets House,

art:

to be able to

the McGill Lecture at the University of

as

Southern CaHfornia, for the Hellgate Writers' Workshop
tana, for the

Jacket

Serving

of Florence Crane Women's Facility, Coldwater, Michigan.

in Missoula,

the 1993 Paul

as

Mon-

Zweig Lecture

for

New York.

T-3 by Judith Larzelere (1986). Collection of Kenneth Kronenberg.

Photo: Jan Bindas Studios, Boston, Massachusetts.

©

Copyright

1993 by Adrienne Rich

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

The

text

of this book

is

composed

with the display

set in

in

Bembo

270

Centaur.

Composition and manufacturing by The Haddon Craftsmen,

Book
Stenciled

Inc.

design by Antonina Krass.

book ornament by William Addison Dwiggins.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Rich, Adrienne Cecile.

What

is

found

there:
/

notebooks on poetry and

politics

Adrienne Rich.
p.

cm.

ISBN 0-393-03565-4
I.

Rich, Adrienne Cecile
2. Politics

and

—Notebooks, sketchbooks,

literature.

3.

Poetry.

PS3535I233W45
818'. 5403

—dc20

I.

etc.

Title.

1993

93-9912

ISBN 0-393-03565-4

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY loi 10
W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., 10 Coptic Street, London WCiA iPU

234567890

Contents

Preface

xiii

I.

Woman and bird

II.

Voices from the

III.

"What would we

IV.

Dearest Arturo

V.

*'Those two shelves,

VI.

As

VII.

The

VIII.

How does a poet put bread on the table?

40

IX.

The

muralist

43

X.

The

hermit's scream

54

XI.

A leak in history

if your life

3

air

9

create?"

14

22

down

depended on

there"
it

space for poetry

28
32

34

72

Contents

viii
1

poem

XII.

Someone

XIII.

Beginners

XIV.

The

XV.

"A

XVI.

What

XVII.

"Moment of proof*

124

XVIII.

"History stops for no one"

128

XIX.

The

145

XX.

A communal poetry

164

XXI.

The

181

XXII.

Not how

XXIII.

"Rotted names"

197

XXIV.

A poet's education

206

XXV.

To

XXVI.

Format and form

XXVII.

Tourism and promised

XXVIII.

What

real,

is

writing a

90

not the calendar, twenty-first century

clearing in the imagination"
is

83

an American Hfe?

mother

transgressor

distance

between language and violence

to write poetry, but wherefore

invent what

we

desire

102

107
118

190

214
217

lands

if?

228
235

Notes

251

Selected Bibliography

271

Acknowledgments

277

Permissions Acknowledgments

279

Index

285

It is difficult

to get the

news from poems

yet

men

die miserably every day
for lack

of what

is

found

there.

—William Carlos Williams,
"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"

Dead power

is

everywhere among us



in the forest,

the songs; at night in the industrial landscape, wasting

new

life;

in the streets

of the

city,

chopping
and

throwing away the day.

We wanted

something different for our people: not to find ourselves an
tionary repubhc,
birth.

full

of ghost-fears, the

fears

down

stiffening the

old, reac-

of death and the

fears

of

We want something else.

—Muriel Rukeyser, The
.

.

what, anyway,

.

was

that sticky infusion, that rank flavor

poetry, by

which

I

Sometimes

we drug ourselves with

The

of blood, that

lived?

—Galway

save us.

Life of Poetry

Kinnell,

dreams of new

"The Bear"

ideas.

brain alone will set us free. But there are

waiting in the wings to save us

as

women,

as

The head will
no new

human. There

ideas

are only old

and forgotten ones, new combinations, extrapolations and recognitions

from within ourselves
out.

—along with renewed courage
—^Audre Lorde, "Poetry Not
the

to try

Is

a

them

Luxury"

Pr e f ac e

This book

needed

a

is

about desire and daily

me

I

began

it

because

I

way of thinking about poetry outside of writing poems;

and about the society
to

life.

of timidity,

I

was living and writing

docility, demoralization,

in,

which smelled

acceptance of the

unacceptable. In the general public disarray of thinking, of feeling,

I

saw an atrophy of our power

perception, but

I

felt it

with

a

of my

life,

began to unravel.

It

so

Some

life, it

was not alone

seemed

in this

especially as the

much of the political

opportunity was passing through and
dissolution of public

I

growing intensity,

Cold War, which had occupied

ways of

to imagine other

navigating into our collective future.

horizon

that a historic imaginative
that, in the stagnation

might be grasped

at

weakly,

if at

and
all.

people, indeed, spoke of claiming a "peace dividend," of

Preface

xiv
I

turning the billions of Cold

War dollars

our borders, even toward creating,

lesions within

mocracy without exceptions,
major

(in

toward curing the

was

that



use

de-

really for us

all.

But the

the sense of most visible and audible) conduits of pub-

dialogue in the United States have had

lic

social

at last, a

aptitude

little

for framing such visions, or the poHcies that

—or

might emerge

from them.
I

—had

knew

long

known

—how

locked chambers of possibiUty, restore

poetry can break open

numbed

recharge desire. And, in spite of conditions

zones to feeling,

at large,

it

seemed

to

me that poetry in the United States had never been more various
and rich

in

its

promise and

wanted

realized offerings.

its

acknowledge, internalized the

than

I

mon

in this country, so strange in

is

to

powerless, or that

powers

it

said that

And

so this

I

did not accept

book

more

idea, so

com-

I

places, that poetry

can have nothing to do with the kinds of

that organize us as a society, as

society, as relationships within

have

most other

had,

But

communities within

communities.

Yet

this idea.

If asked,

it

would

I

haunted me.

time and place in which

reflects the

that

has

it

been written: an alleged triumph of corporate capitalism

—our

which our experience

desire itself



is

taken from

cessed and labeled, and sold back to us before

chance to name

it

for ourselves (what

do we

we

have had

really

or to dwell in our ambiguities and contradictions.

flects

the undertaking, by one kind of

way

to an understanding

of her

art's

to see

I

have never believed that poetry
it

is

more, or

health, education, decent

less,

is

and

It

re-

feel

her

responsive and responsible

relationship to history, to her contemporaries,

do not think

a

want and

fear?)

artist,

in

pro-

us,

and to the

future.

an escape from history, and

I

necessary than food, shelter,

working conditions.

In a different kind of society, the struggle

I

It is as

necessary.

was experiencing

might seem perplexing, either because the repression of the
took such unmistakable and ruthless forms, or because

artist

art

was

Preface

assumed to be
air,

as integral to daily life as roads, laws, literacy,

and water.

know

I

that "capitalism"

is

xv

|

clean

an unfashionable

word. "Democracy," "free enterprise," "market economy" are
the banners
poet,

floating

above our economic system.

present.

silt,

turn

Where

them

over, and bring

a

them

into the air of the

every public decision has to be justified in the

of corporate

profits,

poetry unsettles these apparently

—not

evident propositions

presence and ways of being,

and

Still, as

choose to sieve up old, sunken words, heave them, drip-

I

ping with

scales

now

through ideology, but by
its

its

self-

very

embodiment of states of longing

desire.

This

is

one poet's book, one

citizen's

book. But, in

fact,

po-

new places, by unforetold
hands and voices. In this, it is like the many movements against
demoralizing power. We don't know where either will come
etry

is

firom.

always being created anew, in

This

is

a story

without an end.

—Adrienne Rich
February 1993

What Is
Found
There

I

Woman

January iggo.

houses in

I

live

trees,

standing.

a street

of mostly older, low-lying

small towns

few old palms,

walnut

An

on

a straggling, villagelike,

hood between two
are a

and bird

on

the California coast. There

apple, guava, quince, plum, lemon,

garden boasts an ancient, sprawHng prickly pear.

elementary school accounts for most of the

days or weeks or

months

traffic,

age road and the freeway.
it

feels fragile, as

multiply up and

down

It's

mornings

trailers sit for

in front yards; old people

in the road, while the serious traffic

pose, yet

and

here and there old roses, cHmbing a fence or free-

One

and midafternoons. Pickup trucks and boats on

walk

little

"unincorporated" neighbor-

and children

moves along

the front-

an ordinary enough place,

condominiums and automobile

the coast.

I

sup-

plazas

What

4

Found There

Is

I

Around

the house

hve

I

terey pines, acacias, a big

an eastern maple

cypresses,



on plums and

so that mockingbirds,

or two

far

crows

dawn.

at

Today
house.

drawn

chickens;

Opening

the car door

saw and heard the beating of

I

Then

or even a raven.

gull,

of the house next door, stretched
profile to
I

rooster

a

returned from an errand, parked the car behind the

I

enormous wings taking off from the deck. At
very big

come and

year. There's almost always a gull

Somebody keeps

overhead.

to

Italian

fmches,

honeysuckle and fuchsia dur-

ollalieberries,

warm months of the

ing the

—Mon-

two

elder, fruit trees,

doves, Steller's jays, hummingbirds are
feed

enough

in there are trees

box

me.

was

It

a Great

on

alighted

it

its

first

I

thought: a

the

low roof

long body, and stood in

Blue Heron.

had never seen one from below or from so near: usually from

a car

window on

one many times
the roof,

turned a

a

road above

at all.

I

a small

was not

sure.

looked immense,

it

little;

seemed

I

inlet.

had not seen

I

apparently calm.

fastidious,

It

to gaze as far into the blue air as the curve

of the earth would allow; took
step or two.

bay or

Poised there on the peak of

a

slow, rituaUstic, provocative

could see the two wirelike plumes streaming from

the back of its head.

walked quietly into the garden toward the fence between

I

two houses, speaking

the

thanked

it

for having

backward again

to

come;

a little to

it

in a

that

look

at

I

it

low

voice.

wanted
better.

it

to

I

be

told
safe.

Suddenly

it

it
I

that

I

moved

was

in air,

had flapped out of sight.
It

not

would be

easy to

feel so. After

to be sure
seen.

ogy.

I

I

call this

apparition "dreamlike," but

some moments I went

could

name what

I

into the house.

had seen; to

stay

I

it

did

wanted

with what

I

had

pulled from the bookcase a guide to Pacific Coast ecol-

The

naming.

color plate of the Great Blue

Heron confirmed my

Woman
Then,

as

I

sat there,

my

of creatures and plants

habitats

of the 4,000-mile Pacific coastline of North America.
an

enough

idle

upon

activity at

5

|

eye began to travel the margins of

names and

the book, along the

and bird

first,

was

It

the kind that sometimes plays

other, subterranean activities of the mind, draws think-

ing and unfiltered feelings into sudden dialogue.

Of

late,

I

had been consciously thinking about the decade just beginning,
the

of the twentieth century, and the great movements

last

and shudderings of the time; about the country where
and what has been happening

citizen,

emotional and sensual

life,

our

in

feel the pull

of the future, to possess the inner

sentimentality, the fortitude, to see into

it



if

a

our

Somewhere

vaguer

a

am

social fabric,

during that century.

beneath these conscious speculations lay

I

to

desire:

the un-

gift,

only a

little

way.

But

I

found myself pulled by names: Dire Whelk, Dusky

Tegula, Fingered Limpet,

Bat

Star,

Fringed

By-the-Wind

Worm,

Hooded

Sailor,

Puncturella, Veiled Chiton,

Crumb-of-Bread Sponge, Eye

Sugar Wrack, Frilled Anemone, Bull Kelp,

Ghost Shrimp, Sanderling, Walleye Surfperch, Volcano Barnacle, Stiff-footed

Sea Cucumber, Leather

Lug Worm. And

I

felt

the

piercing awareness, a state

poems. These names

names work

as

I

Star,

names drawing
associate

Innkeeper

me

Worm,

into a state of

with reading and writing

—by whom given and agreed on?—

these

poetry works, enlivening a sensuous reality

through recognition or through the play of sounds (the short
of Fingered Limpet, the open vowels of Bull Kelp,

I's

Hooded

Puncturella, Bat Star); the poising of heterogeneous images {volcano

and

barnacle,

leather

and

star,

sugar

and wrack) to evoke

other worlds of meaning. Sugar Wrack: a foundered ship in
the Triangle Trade? Volcano Barnacle: tiny unnoticed under-

growth with explosive potential?
Sanderling and gave

it

Who

that caressive,

saw the bird named

diminutive name?

Or

What

6

Is

Found There

I

was Sanderling the name of one

work

poetry works in another sense

as

You

something unforgettable.

names

you won't the

as

genus and

as to

who saw

forms of

life

species.

Latin,

will

only hope for

a

pictorial

more

eyes gazed at each of
in difference



civil Hfe.

The

specific
all

these

the core of

close to the core of poetry

lies

humane

the

is

make

they

well:

remember

which, however,

Human

and saw resemblance

metaphor, that which

as

These names

it?

itself,

the

eye for Hkeness in the

midst of contrast, the appeal to recognition, the association of
thing to thing, spiritual fact with embodied form, begins here.

And

so begins the suggestion of multiple, many-layered, rather

than singular, meanings, wherever

we

look, in the ordinary

world.
I

began to think about the names, beginning with the sound

name "Great Blue Heron," as tokens
poetry, when connections between
things and living beings, or Uving things and human beings, were
instinctively apprehended. By "a time" I don't mean any one
historical or Hnguistic moment or period. I mean all the times
and image delivered
of a time

when

in the

when naming was

people have

summoned

language into the activity of plot-

ting connections between, and

marking

distinctions

among, the

elements presented to our senses.

This impulse to enter, with other humans, through language,
into the order and disorder of the world,
surely as

it is

political at

its

root. Poetry

is

We

might hope to fmd the three

science, politics



at its

root as

and poUtics both have to

do with description and with power. And
science.

poetic

so,

of course, does

activities



poetry,

triangulated, with extraordinary electrical ex-

changes moving from each to each and through our Hves. Instead,

over centuries, they have become separated

poHtics, poetic

naming from

scientific

—poetry from

naming, an ostensibly

"neutral" science from political questions, "rational" science


Woman
from

lyrical

—nowhere more than

poetry

over the past

and bird
United

in the

States

fifty years.

The Great Blue Heron

is

not a symbol. Wandered inadver-

maybe drought-driven,

tently or purposefully inland,

yard habitat,

it is

Ardea

a bird,

to a back-

whose form, dimensions,

herodias,

and habits have been described by ornithologists, yet whose intangible

ways of being and knowing remain beyond

anyone's



reach. If

acknowledge

in

spoke to

I

words the

appearance, not because

I

foot-poised creature had a

system that

fragile

universe.

place,

Its

is

make

to

and signifying power of

its

had come

it

a place

of its

to

I

me. The

tall,

own in the manifold,
of its own in the

this coastline; a place

and mine,

pendent. Neither of us
efforts to

rarity

life,

needed

it

it,

thought

was because

—or

my

us that.

I

believe, are equal

—woman or
But

I

bird



is

and interde-

symbol, despite

a

needed to acknowledge the heron

with speech, and by confirming

its

name.

To

it I

brought the

my kind of creature does.
A Mohawk Indian friend says she began writing "after a
motor trip through the Mohawk Valley, when a Bald Eagle flew

kind of thing

in front

Very

of her

little

in

car, sat in a tree,

my own

and instructed her

heritage has suggested to

Hving creature might come to bring
sage.

And

I

know

friend's statement
first

a

do not mean

(I

me

a direct personal

it is

a joke).

I

am

all

of white people's tendency to

most

cases to vampirize

the heron as

my

my

spirituality,

sniff and taste, uninvited,

American Indian, or African, or

Asian, or other "exotic" ways of understanding.

upon

mes-

suspicious

—of adopted mysticisms, of glib

in

to write."
that a wild

complex humor underlies

of all, in myself

above

and

too that

me

I

made no

claim

personal instructor. But our trajectories

8
I

What

Found There

Is

crossed at a time

when I was

nature of which

I

ready to begin something new, the

did not clearly see.

And

poetry, too, begins in

this

way: the crossing of trajectories of two (or more) elements

that

might not otherwise have known simultaneity.

happens, a piece of the universe

is

When

revealed as if for the

first

this

time.

II

Voices from the

On a bleak December night in

1967,

1

lay

air

awake

in a

New York

City hospital, in pain from a newly operated knee in traction.

was too soon

for the next pain-dulling injection;

I

was

It

in the

depression of spirits that follows anesthesia, unable to sleep or to

me back to a place I
of my bedside radio

discover in myself any thread that might lead

used to recognize
for music,

I

came upon

"Who am I?"
Thou

as "I."

art a

it

Turning the

dial

a speaking voice, deep, a

woman's.

asked.

box of worme-seede,

at best,

but a salvatory of greene

mummey:

what's this flesh? a

puff'-paste:

our bodies are weaker than those paper prisons boys

use to keep

flies in:

little

cruded milke, phantastical

more contemptible:

since ours

is

to preserve

What

lo
I

Found There

Is

earthwormes: didst thou ever see a Larke in a cage? such
soule in the body.

Am not
Thou

.

the

.

thy Duchess?

I,

some

art

.

is

great

woman,

sure, for riot begins to

sit

on thy

fore-head (clad in gray haires) twenty years sooner, then on a

merry milkmaydes. Thou

up her lodging

forc'd to take

breedes

it's

sleepst worse, then if a

teeth, should

it lie

mouse should be

in a cats eare: a little infant, that

with thee, would

crie out, as if thou

wert the more unquiet bedfellow.
I

am Duchess

of Malfy

still.

That makes thy sleepes so broken:
Glories (like

glow-wormes)

afarre off, shine bright

But look'd to neere, have neither heate, nor
does not seem strange to

It

then



spirit

is

that this dialogue, in

so brutally vaunted,

me now



it

light.

did not

my

so

which the opposition of flesh and
and which ends

in the strangling

the Duchess, could, crystallized out of the airwaves
night, solace

seem

on an

icy

consciousness to the point of rehef For that

one property of poetic language:

of

is

to engage with states that

themselves would deprive us of language and reduce us to passive sufferers.

Thirteen years

later, a different night,

over the mountains from upstate

once more twisting
speaking words

I

a dial,

I

another radio. Driving

New York into

Massachusetts,

brought in not music, but

had read many times:

The house was

quiet and the world was calm.

The reader became

the book; and

summer

night

a voice,


Voices from the

Was like

air

ii

|

the conscious being of the book.

The house was

was calm.

quiet and the world

The words were spoken

as if there

was no book.

Except that the reader leaned above the page.

Wanted
The

wanted much most

to lean,

whom his book is

scholar to

The summer

night

The house was

is

be

true, to

whom

Uke perfection of thought.

quiet because

it

had to be.

The

quiet

The

access of perfection to the page.

And

the world

was part of the meaning, part of the mind:

was calm. The

truth in a calm world.

no other meaning,

In

which there

Is

calm, itself is

Is

the reader leaning late and reading there.

is

summer and

Wallace Stevens, reading
those moments,

on

itself

night, itself

we knew

at his plainest

And

poetry on a recording.

his

mountain road on

a

Hsteners in a world

Stevens

to

to

be in

a

fracture, the

and most mantralike



words

rose in that

understated, actuarial voice to bind the actual night, the
car,

the

two

existences, almost as house, reader,

summer, and night

we

could believe in

But what

is

a

Your

sister,

boyfriend ("lover"

bound

in the

poem. For

meaning,
a

flat,

moving
truth,

few moments,

it all.

poem

semblance of calm
nario:

are

for

calm night, for two

is

like this

doing in

a privilege

a

world where even the

few can

afford?

Another

sce-

stabbed in the early morning hours by her
is

not the word, "domestic partner"

is

not

What

12
I

Found There

Is

you

the word), called

evening

shift

mother,

who

at

lives

You were back from

1:30 a.m.

at

the

home; your children and your

the nursing

You had just looked in

with you, were asleep.

the children, turned to the refrigerator to pack their lunches

at

morning. As you searched for cold

for

was Connie

—Can you

me

drive

my car. You

have had to do

differently at

both of them; but

cuts, the

emergency?

to the

this before,

she's

phone

you

your

rang;

he's taken

though

are enraged

sister,

it

and you scrawl

a

note to your mother, push the food back in the refrigerator, and

run for the

car.

late-night music.
clear: house
.

.

.

truth.

would

.

.

.

On

highway you

the

There

quiet

.

.

.

calm

these

summer

night

.

.

.

book

pause on the

.

.

.

words hold you? What, of the world the

tism, the tranquil luxury

as for

of

a

complacent man?

words can draw you

meaning

the words are speaking.

—music
You

drawn

desire

up the

in

description of your world, but because

minded of your own

separa-

you go on
music

in, it's surely for their

that calls

are

If

state

of which

not because

you begin

and need, because the

quiet

why
poem

dial,

would seem anything more than suburban

listening, if the

much

.

What would make your hand

constructs,

as

.

.

twist the radio dial for

coming through suddenly

are words,

this

is

a

to be re-

poem

is

not

about integration and fulfillment, but about the desire (That
makes thy

sleepes so broken) for

do, not simply to the

the

to a part

poem, momentarily made aware,

physical, that can for a

because the phrase

and

those conditions.

poem, but

moment be

"summer

a

You listen,

if you

of you reawakened by

need both emotional and

affirmed there. And, maybe,

night"

calls

up more than

a

time

a season.

A poem can't free us from the struggle for existence, but
uncover

desires

it

can

and appetites buried under the accumulating

Voices from the
emergencies of our

had urged on
cal

us,

the fabricated wants and needs

have accepted

or psychological blueprint;

experience. But
is

lives,

we

as

our own.

it's

It's

it

we

13

have

not a philosophi-

it

when

it

reminds us in some way of our need.

After that rearousal of desire, the task of acting
love, or

|

an instrument for embodied

seek that experience, or recognize

offered to us, because

making

air

meeting other needs,

is

ours.

on

that truth, or

((

What would we

it's

like

being sick

sick in that

what

it's

what

it is

Uke to be
to

looked

the time,

I

think,

coming home from work,

low-grade continuous way that makes you forget

we

well,

be well, what

from doing work
if I

all

create?'

at

that

I

known

lives

were coming home,

loved and that was for us

I

of this country

moved

that

and what would

be

set against us,

—how would we

we

if

and

for

feel

what

knowing

we knew

what

to provide for us

think,

all,

the houses and the air and the streets,

they were in accord, not

how would

have never in our

if I

all

the powers

people

and think

create?

—Karen Brodine, "June 78"
I

imagine

this

message in Congress on the State of the Union:

situation tragic,
left

underground only 75 years of iron

50 years of cobalt

but 55 years worth of sulphur and 20 of bauxite
in the heart

what?

Nothing, zero,

mine without

ore,

cavern in which nothing prowls,

of blood not

a

drop

left.

—Aime

Cesaire,

"On

the State

of the Union"

"What would we create?"
Yet

this

is still

my country

The thug on duty

says

What would you change

—W.

October 1990.

democracy,

and

is

15

Time

my

Merwin, "Caesar"

S.

to say that in this tenuous,

unbirthed

still

country, low-grade depressiveness

is

pandemic

reversing into violence at an accelerating rate. Families

massacred by fathers
deliberate

who

then turn the gun on themselves; the

wounding and

American children

killing

of

of Asian-

a schoolyardful

in a small California

town; mass or

serial

murders of university students in Berkeley and Florida. Violence
against

women

men, perceived

of every color and
lesbians

committed by children
suicides,



against themselves, each other, adults:

make

out of mind.

sight,

the evening news,

prison, or prostitutes, or

immigrants, or in nursing

of Saturday night

after a

drinks.

violence that

undocumented

state hospitals,

or just part

When we try to think about

we're not too tired to think, we're driven to

body

male and female

socialization.

Some

and order.

poHtic: racism,

say there should

We

the vio-

against people in

Indians, or

homes and

few

Much

committed

American

sores within the

too.

And

obscured because they happen in places and to

people that are out of

this, if

young dark-skinned

gang warfare, patricide and matricide.

lences, violations

doesn't

class,

and gay men. More and more violence

blame

but another symptom.

You

name

old

homophobia, addiction,

are tired

of these

be gun control; others

television, as if television

lists; I

call for

am
law

were anything

Who owns the means of communication,

the cables, the satellites?

who

pays for the commercials? dictates

the content of "entertainment"?

What

i6

Found There

Is

I

War

January 1991:

bestowed

is

on the de-

like electroshock

pressive nation: thousands of volts jolting the system, an artificial

galvanizing,

one

effect

of w^hich

is

the end of the tvv^entieth century
tion, scientific

and

political.

loss
as

That

of memory.

War comes at

absolute failure of imagina-

can be represented

a v^ar

as

helping a people to "feel good" about themselves, their country,
is

a

measure of that

Lip service,

failure.

at least,

physical world, the

is

now^ paid to the

fragile

engers and pollinators, trees and deserts, ozone

tinuance

is

ecology of the

endangerment of algae and plankton, scavitself,

whose con-

vaguely understood to be a guarantee of our own.

But our expressive and passionate

life is

because an exploited and manipulated

seums of the

equally an endangered



sector.

We

have

mu-

waxworks, taxidermy, emotional cram

passions,

emotional theme parks, emotional tourism. Feelings

notes,

become instant commodities; at the San Francisco airport, early
March 1 99 1 you could buy A Gulf War Feelings Workbook for
Children in a bright spiral plastic binder. An out-of-date commodity, soon, no doubt, supplanted by yellow ribbons, which,
,

Hke

flags, are safe

open, they keep

and

at

static

emblems; they leave no question

bay doubt, confusion,

bitterness, fear,

and

mourning.

It's

possible that our national despair

and interwoven
loss

of jobs,

loss

for disentangling.

of shelter,

community, bewildered
blame.

We

have people

loss

We

is

by

now

too intricate

have individual despair,

of community, isolation within

resignation, daily, routine fear,

who do

not

name what

and

self-

they are going

"What would we create?"
through

thought. But

ence

would be offended or

despair,

as

we

when

see despair

dismissive at the

social arrogance

and

same person with the willingness

exist in the

indiffer-

to live at

We

devastating levels of superficiality and self-trivialization.
despair in the self-hatred that clogs the lives of so
ally

comfortable citizens.

our spoken language:
ing experience,"

We

we

17

|

many

see

materi-

We hear despair in the loss of vitality in

"No
say,

problem,"

we

was

say, "that

we

"thank you for sharing that,"

see despair in the political activist

who

a healsay.

doggedly goes on and

on, turning in the ashes of the same burnt-out rhetoric, the same
gestures,

imagination spent. Despair,

all

to absolute physical

and moral

defeat,

when

is,

like

not the response

war, the failure of

imagination.
It's

also the fruit

reahties.

ten

on

mett

The

of massive national denial, of historic national

poem

writ-

murder and mutilation of a Black youth,

Em-

passage from

the 1956

Till, in Mississippi, at

Aime

Cesaire

is

part

the hands of white

of a

men, who were

acquitted by an all-white jury. Cesaire alludes, in the
the "five centuries" of white violence
fifteen-year-old

Till's real age.

A

on

this soil,

poem,

which

to

are the

violence that shows no sign of

abating as this century closes.
Is it

when
to

possible that 1992

is

to

become

watershed, the year

a

the histories of the Americas begin to be told and listened

—not

as

the conqueror's narrative, but

as

the multipHcity of

the real stories, the true voices, of two continents?

of the United

that citizens

States,

Is it

possible

including the most recent

immigrants, might turn and face the conditions on which

country was founded, the assumptions
images and

stories

1492, from

1

revolt

we





this

often in the form of

never examined, the legacies

we

carry

from

619, to begin with, that shaped the propertied-class

call

our revolution, the national slogans that the great

immigrant waves of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
received along with citizenship?

Could we,

still,

in the

name of

I

What

8
I

Found There

Is

transforming ourselves

as a

people,

tion of our past, of the

lies

we

—could we

children

For

national recogni-

have been told and have told our

then, as a people, break through despair?

long time I've been trying to write poems

a

this social order,

words

ory, set

make some

was enough

it

in a countering order, call

up images

danger of being forgotten or unconceived. In

even among the

poetry

arts,

is

as

if,

within

to voice public pain, speak

a

that

mem-

were

in

country where,

com-

the least quantifiable, least

moditized, of our "national products," where the idea of "poUtical

poetry"

seemed

task

is

often

met with contempt and

enough. But

pering that poetry might be

little

more than

self-indulgence in a



materially at risk.
ginal activity,

but

this

howHng with unmet human needs an elite art, fieven when practiced by those among us who are most

society so
nally,

hostility,

with other voices whis-

I've also lived

It's

But

to consider poetry as a

of passionate concern to
having

as specialized,

gency,

been possible

as little to

its

mar-

practitioners perhaps,

do with

common

emer-

as fly-fishing.

there's

been

a

missing term.

I

saw, or thought

I

saw, that

poetry has been held both indispensable and dangerous, one
or another, in every country but

my

making was

really

to

assume that poetry

in the late twentieth-century

known as
because

"free" enterprise.

I

United

own. The mistake
is

was

unwanted, impotent,

States

under the system

was missing the point

that precisely

of its recognitive and recollective powers, precisely be-

cause in this nation, created in the search for wealth,
capitalist

is

it

eludes

marketing, commoditizing, price-fixing, poetry has

simply been

This

I

way

set aside, depreciated,

the difference

in the late 1930s,

when

denied pubHc space.

between the United

States

the revolutionary poet

and Turkey

Nazim Hikmet


I

"What would we create?"
was sentenced

to twenty-eight years in prison

that the miHtary cadets

difference

were reading

between the United

in the 1930s

and

after

States

World War

II,

"on

the grounds

poems." This

his

19

|

the

is

and Greece, where, both
the sociaHst poet Yannis

Ritsos was interned in concentration camps, exiled, placed

under house

arrest, his

between the United

when

the poet Osip

ers, in

writings burned. This

States

is

the difference

and the Stalinized Soviet Union,

Mandelstam (among countless other writ-

Russian and Yiddish, murdered in those years) was per-

secuted and exiled for an anti-Stalin poem, or, in the 1970s, the

poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya sent to a "penal mental institution," or, in the 1980s, the poet Irina Ratushinskaya to a prison
for "dangerous state criminals." This

the United States and Chile in 1973,
into

power

quahtatively different. So

era,

between

where the junta who came

books.

his

on who you

In the United States, depending

human

the difference

the day of Pablo Neruda's death sacked the poet's

house and banned

is

is

far, it's

not

are, suppression

question of creating

a

McCarthy

martyrs, since the blacklisted writers of the

although

artists

denied

state

and federal funding

scene" are under government censorship, and
the writer Margaret Randall, based

on her

as

efforts to

"ob-

deport

were vigor-

writings,



ously pursued for five years by the INS. Instead, poetry itself

mean not words on paper

only, but the social recognition and

integration of poetry and the imaginative

poetry

"banned"

itself is

(in the

powers

it

releases

terminology of the South Afri-

can apartheid laws: forbidden to speak in public, forbidden to be
quoted, to meet with
time). Poetry
officially

itself,

more than one or two persons

in

our national

a national

been

the same

under house

arrest, is

"disappeared." Like our past, our collective

remains an unfathomed,

of

life, is

at

a

devalued, resource.

The

memory,

it

establishment

"Poet Laureateship" notwithstanding, poetry has

set apart

from the

practical arts,

from

civic

meaning.

It is

What

20
I

Found There

Is

irrelevant to mass "entertainment"

wealth



thus, out

and the accumulation of

of sight, out of mind.

So the ecology of spirit, voice, and passion

masked by

gentrification,

deteriorates, barely

smog, and manic speech, while in the

mirrors of mass-market Hterature, film, television, journalism,

our lives are reflected back to us
daily that

our

buyable and salable
this

the

is

We

we

thirst for

little

Hves.

We see

without continuity,

on

blips

a screen, that

now. Memory marketed

it is

We

we

hibernate;

as nostalgia;

we numb

ourselves with

emigrate internally into fictions of past and future;

we

guns; but as a people

have

rarely, if ever,

known

to tremble with fear, to lament, to rage, to praise, to

We

will,

to say

Newsletters

come

cial

and

little,

any moment, mere

live

stoical;

solemnize, to say
to say

at

way we

become

chemicals;

what

and

reduced to mere suspense, to melodrama.

terror

we

as terrible

lives are terrible

have done

We will

this, to

To

not.

in the mail:

our sorrow; to say Enough,

lay claim to poetry.

North CaroHnians Against Ra-

and Religious Violence; The Jewish Women's Committee

The Center for Constitutional Rights;
Men of All Colors Together; The United Farm Workers; The
National Coalition against Domestic Violence; The Center for
Democratic Renewal facts, appeals for money, responses to
to

End

the Occupation;



crisis.

I

have written checks to these and other such organiza-

tions in the past

ism,"

money

And without

in

and continue to do

Heu of or

checks the

country could not
because, although

exist

more than

fragile

is

"checkbook

movements

beyond the

activ-

for justice in this

local level.

I

call

them

fragile

unbanned (though undoubtedly under

veillance), organizations
crisis:

so: this

in addition to time, to actual presence.

Uke these are

a force for

new

sur-

essentially responses to

initiatives,

they are a struggle


"What would we create?"
responding to erosion and violence. Yet, in an

between

democracy, shot through

selective

and the fever break

this

21

|

interstitial

time

w^ith intimidation,

country must inevitably undergo

as

it

enters the next century, they provide essential information not

mainstream

available in the

and

able,

press.

For

alone they are invalu-

this

pay the subscription price of such newsletters

I

price of admission to information that in a

would be furnished me

daily

as

working democracy

my local paper, by the New

by

the

York

Times, the radio and television news.

Over
enter

some of

time,

my

the facts circulated

As an image here.

poetry.

A

by the newsletters

voice there. Muriel

Rukeyser spoke of two kinds of poetry: the poetry of "unverifiable fact"

subjectivity



that

—and

accounts of

which emerges from dreams,



literally,

geographical and geological

details,

the poetry of "documentary fact"

strikes, wars,

sexuality,

actions of actual persons in history, scientific invention.

Like her,

have

I

single

poem, not

find

easy.

it

From

a

tried to

separating

notebook, March

combine both kinds of poetry
dream from

7,

—but

history

I

do not

1974:

The poet today must be twice-born. She must have begun
poet, she
political,

must have understood the

and have gone through

politics she

But today
poet into

I

must be reborn again

would rephrase

politics,

suffering of the

politics,

and on the other

not

a

finding the relationship.

side

matter of dying

or of having to be reborn
is

as a

world

as

of

as a poet.

this: it's

other side of politics" (where

in a

that?),

as a

as a

poet "on the

but of something

else

Dearest Arturo

Dearest Arturo,

I'm writing you tonight because

I

of addressing that "someone" to

feel

mired in the

whom

I

poetry and politics aren't mutually exclusive.
if

I

think of myself

least,

know what

as talking to

I'm trying

for,

you,

even

who

if

I

say

frustration

must explain

Maybe
would,
it

I

why

can begin

at

the very

badly.

How to plunge in? We're different generations, cultures, genders;

we're both gay, both disabled, both writers; and that has

helped in our friendship.
anger.

And

Yet the very poetics you and

the undervoices, the languages
in

so has laughter,

common. Sometimes,

in



I

good food, and



grew up with

are different,

our conversations,

the music,

whatever
I've

we love

heard myself

Dearest Arturo
asking, Does

this

make

Not wanting

sense to you?

23

|

to take anything

for granted.

ROOTS

"JEWISH

IN MISSISSIPPI"

my

poster hanging over

Leah Zigransky, of Meridian, with

their

two

My own

Wolfe and

wife,

little girls, a

teenth-century family group, solid and somber

hogany.

on the

says the text

Husband and

desk.

as

nine-

ma-

Victorian

immigrant Sephardic forebears in Vicksburg

were, in ways your novels have shown me, not unlike your

migrant Mexican-CathoUc grandparents. Both our peoples trying to prosper in a foreign culture, to be themselves and yet

home both refuge and locus of
pain. Your fiction has helped me know your people and, in
some ways, my own. And to see how "middle class" has had
"American." Family

meanings for your family and mine.

different

—would you

Arturo

we

so

central,

much wish

agree?

without writing

to do,

Chicano/Mexican, gay, not
as a

woman,

problem within

Woman

—who

answer? During the Civil
grandparents, David and

New

of
.

.

.

my

problem:

a

Question"

reporter for a

"man"

a

Jew, in

lesbian,

—we're unable
in

sixties.

politics.

your

"the Jewish

that

You,

as a

culture's terms.

I,

Like you, I've been a

the questioner?

War

to write love, as

Question,"

who

found

is

my young

PauHne Rice, Hving

"the

supposed to
great-

in Vicksburg, a

New Orleans news agency was writing: "The Jews

Orleans and

all

the South ought to be exterminated

they are always to be found

the

at

bottom of every new

villainy."

But

Virginia,

North CaroUna: middle-class people, poor

I've

not only Jewish, but white gentile roots in
in their

terms after the Civil War, ordinary white and Christian supremacists.
dictated

Yet
the

Whom

I

thought

I

could love, growing up, was

by poHtics, known nowadays

all this

word

brings

"poHtics"

me

to the brink

itself

is

as "traditional values."

of another problem

limited and trivialized.

—how

Look

at

the

24

What

I

Found There

Is

dictionary definition: the science and

art

of political government

.

.

,

the conducting of or participation in political affairs, often as a profession
.

.

.

political

methods,

party connections

.

tactics, etc.

.

poUtics. Interesting

.

.

.

.

political opinions, principles or

factional scheming within a group: as, office

how

these definitions exclude not only the

"private," domestic sphere, the places

our unsanctioned lovers, but

all

where we

activity

not carried on within

existing parties, previously institutionalized forms

whole question of power, of ends,
nitions.

So

politics

feel as if I've

at least half

been

my Hfe.

By which

I

I

wrote

these defi-

mean,

of these definitions for

in a journal:

a feeling enters the

This touch

is

that politics

body

political.

is

manely dealing with each other
politics

the

to petty in-group squabbles.

In 1969

political.

left invisible in

resisting the limits

The moment when
is

—how

reduced to government, to contests be-

is

tween the empowered, or
I

is

down with

lie

the effort to find



as

groups or

being simply process, the breaking

ways of hu-

as individuals

down of barriers of

oppression, tradition, culture, ignorance, fear, self-protective-

But, Arturo, you

know

that those words,

that definition

(however incomplete), didn't come simply out of one woman's
efforts to live

came

as

and be human, be sexual, in

much from

a spirit

of the times

a



woman's body. They
the late 1960s



that

I

absorbed through teaching and activism in an institution where
the question of white Western supremacism was already being
talked about,

where students were occupying buildings and

teachers either fled the

teaching "liberation"

campus or were
classes; in a city

manding community control of the

in constant meetings

and

where parents were de-

schools; through a certain

Dearest Arturo

|

25

kind of openness and searching for transformed relationships in

New Left, which soon led to thousands
"the Woman Question" in women's voices;

the

Malcolm X, Chekhov's

women

of

asking

and from reading

Deming's

Sakhalin Journals, Barbara

Prison Notes, Frantz

Fanon, James Baldwin, and the writings of

my students.

feel



I

could

me

around



in the city, in the country

at large

the "spontaneity of the masses" (later

words

Rosa Luxemburg) and

in

,

experience of writing poetry. Politics



this, in

was what

would fmd the

expression of the im-

as

pulse to create, an expanded sense of what's

ble"

I

was powerfully akin to the

this

the late 1960s and the early

"humanly

possi-

women's movement,

we tasted, not just the necessities of reactive

organizing

and fighting back.
I

have never forgotten that

ning perhaps with

a painful

In writing a

taste.

poem, begin-

dream, an image snatched from rid-

ing a bus, a phrase overheard in a bar, this scrap of private vision

—and

suddenly connected

my own,

connects

—with

unknown

you, of course, beginning

to

me

we

as

all

raphy, with childhood, but out of that
life

—weaving

ined.

first

than

a Hterature

who were

I

wrote them.

must with autobiog-



the material of

one

when most imag-

not of immigrants, but of

here in

this

landscape before

Europeans crossed the ocean. Writing in English of a

bilingual people

whose

Trying to render in

who

until

the fictions of many lives, truest

Trying to create

migrants, of the people
the

a life greater

an existence not merely personal, words coming to-

gether to reveal what was

And

still

barely

continent,

know

how,

Mexicans in

this

as

first

language

fiction, for

they

exist,

you've

your

is

itself a political

own

question.

people and for those

what "migrant" means on

said, it's a

country, citizens or not.

this

pervasive condition of

A psychological condi-

What

26
I

Found There

Is

Even when you've written

tion that cannot help but be poHtical.

about love in the family,

distorts

how

lives,

however

itself,

borderline. Slowly I'm

coming to

a literal

the brevity of time ticking as

feeling you're

and

learning

still

characters unless I

for being able

how to do

want them

to

do

to incorporate life

fictions artfully,

so.

how

is

my

against, the

dear one,

you work.) You've

my narratives so

historical issues into

the

and cultural

what you're up

see

newness of the work you're trying to do. (And,

know

how

to gays,

respectable petty bourgeois,

and marginal group on

part of a suspect

and

traditional masculinity

men, how heterosexuals do violence

Chicano family

how men

with the sense of

it's

rehgion can distort women's

I

talked of

best to

weave political

that they do not

overwhelm the

it,

Latin American writers have a gift

and death

political concerns into their

and I study them with envy and admiration. But

you're not a Latin American, whatever the affmities; you are "on
the bridge, at the border," here in this California that
lost

piece of Mexico, here in this country,

its art, its

soul,

You've
fiction

is

said,

its

not

The great justification for

that through

it

we

'identify" with them.

our own "questions"
ognize how we are in

When

I

began

regarding

itself so lost

was becoming

on,

as

the act of reading

and writing

can be disciplined and seduced into imagining

and compassion, even

if

we do

Yes. And, in the act of writing, to feel

meeting the world's "questions," to recthe world and the world

this letter,

life

we

really a

history.

other people's lives with understanding
'

is

Arturo, you were

a terrible effort.

is

still

in us

living,

though

Well, our conversation goes

promised each other. Tenderly and angrily and with

Dearest Arturo
laughter.

"There

is

no

death, only dying,"

about one of my poems.

And

I

still

you

need to

said in

ask:

|

27

your note

Does

this

make

sense to you?

—^Adrienne

V
Those two shelves,

down
The

means

lack of the

there''

to distribute

is

another form of censorship.

—Nadine Gordimer

been walking

I've

shopping mall.
Urbana,

It's

Illinois,

in a largely peach-colored, air-conditioned

in CaUfornia, but

or Nashua,

North Carolina. Outside
property, not
leaflets

on

pubHc

New

it

could be in Champaign-

Hampshire, or High Point,

in the heat (shopping malls are private

space)

one or two people

a bill for the protection

are passing out

of the environment, gathering

signatures. Inside, in a space the size

of a small

village, are cloth-

ing-chain outlets, fast-food parlors, stores selling computers and

camcorders, stuffed animals, papier-mache cactuses and
skulls,

mugs

real

and

ties

(now

past,

inscribed with

plastic houseplants,

in the red, white,

names and
paper

cow

mottoes, athletic shoes,

plates, cups,

napkins for par-

and blue of the national hoHday just

soon to turn to autumn-leaf motifs, the orange-and-black

of Halloween, ancient syncretic carnival
merce).

I

now ratified by comam on a search. A

enter this mall rarely, but this time

I

"Those two shelves, down there"
dull sourness

implodes in

me when

I'm

depression or anger, depending on the

come on must soon

ever search you

cophony or

restless

But why? After

human

inside;

I

can

slide

toward

to

What-

mind I bring

it's

all,

any

a

scene



expansive, brightly ht

market or

street

and around

where old people

on

sit,

this

many

objects

ticularity.

known.

less

All

though

pulls

at,

flatly

distracts,

The shops are

a single

human enough,

disorients the

on the people

eye,

stifles

I

par-

is

Americana

of tiny choice- variants

eccentric, nothing bears the

An



"antiques" shop displays

footstools,

end

tables,

bakery turns out row upon row

sam-

of identical

muflfms; the ethnic food concessions are chain-tailored.
course,

in

stocked, to the inch, mostly with repeti-

imprint of an individual maker.

plers in frames; the

surely.

colored, or in highly colored

model; nothing here

factory replications of

isn't

body languages: the sheer overload of

tions of identical merchandise, a plethora

on

animated than that

concentrate

difficult to

it

colors, shapes,

—highly


packaging

even

prams and

their

combination of pubHc park and market,

But your eyes fmd
their

seems

their conversation

serves as a

facials,

a

fountain there are slatted benches

where mothers meet with

the city park benches I've

it? It

—of

with

city square,

from which spokes of wide, banner-hung cor-

a central fountain

though

mental ca-

dissipate into

shoe-repair shop, a bakery, a shop for manicures and

sodas,

it.

anomie.

activity, like

ridors extend;

29

|

have been using the wrong word throughout

And, of

this

para-

graph: these are not shops, they are "franchises."

The terms "commodity" and "mass production"
a

queasy-making

items

—running

materiality.

men, children

a

acquire here

majority of these

shoes, T-shirts, tape recorders, three-dimen-

sional cartoon animals,

wicker baskets

Probably

beach towels,

plastic sandals,

—were manufactured by
in the

priced, rejected, or

straw and

the hands of

women,

Third World; here they are fmgered,

bought predominantly by women; when the

30

What

I

Found There

Is

season changes and the

sales are over, are

they then shipped to

warehouses in Los Angeles and Canal Street to be wholesaled
back into the Third World?

Here

is

a

chain bookstore, stacked novels lettered in high-

rehef luminescence, computer manuals, intimacy manuals, parenting manuals, investment-management manuals, grief-man-

agement

manuals,

manuals,

college-entrance

meditation

how

manuals, manuals on living with cancer, on channeling, on
to save the earth.

secular bibles,

poetry

shelves,

gleaming romances, these

past these

and ask the young clerk

at

the register

where the

He walks me toward the back of the store: "Those two
down there." Poetry is underneath, and intermixed

I

there

existed;

—not

on rock music, movies, and

think, but poetry

fmd down

know

walk

is.

with, the books
thing,

I

is:

is

awfully

one iggo

theater

low "down

Poets' Market, a

there."

pubHcation

One Hundred and One Famous Poems

like binding; the

AIDS

anthology Poets for

by Robert Bly;

Best Loved

What
I

I

didn't

in a leather-

one copy of

Life;

Wallace Stevens's Collected Poems in hardcover;

bad

a

a Selected

Poems of the American People;

Poems

a paper-

back edition of Final Harvest, selected poems of Emily Dickinson; Oscar Williams's Immortal Poems of the English Language;

James Kavanaugh's There Are Men Too Gentle
Wolves; and several volumes of plays

Walker's In Love and Trouble
shelved, the only

book by

(a

a

Among
by Shakespeare. AHce

volume of short

to

Live

stories)

mis-

is,

person of color or by a living

woman.
Except. Almost the entire bottom shelf is ranged with hard-

cover and paperback

titles

by

a single

cottage industry?): Don't Be Afraid

Your Dreams, Marriage

Is

to

female author (or

Love, Don't Ever Give

a Promise of Love, Life

Sometimes, For a Special Teenager. There are

they seem to cover hfe crises or,

books

are uniformly designed

at

and

she a

is

any

at least

rate, life

Up

Can Be Hard
twenty

titles;

transitions.

illustrated in a style

The

conform-


"Those two shelves, down there"
ing to everything else in the mall.

is

nothing

intrinsically

wrong w^ith

in poetry; but in such quantity the effect

But why

aren't these

books out front

declarative statements

is

numbing.

like the greeting cards or

with the manuals

on intimacy, parenting,

are they separated

from the consumer guides

success?

Is it

because those

come with

sex,

on

and

grief?

Why

to depression

and

the stamp of the psycho-

logical or technical professional (the author's

displayed

each occupying a

verses,

have short Hnes, make short declarative statements.

single page,

There

The

31

|

Ph.D. or M.S.W.

the jacket), implying an authority that "poetry"

And what are they searching for, who go all the way
back and stoop, down there, looking for something labeled "pocan't claim?

etry?"

I'm on

a search for

poetry in the mall. This

is

not sociology,

but the pursuit of an intuition about mass marketing, the socalled free market,

firom outright

and

how

suppression can take

many forms

banning and burning of books, to questions of

who owns the presses,

to patterns

of distribution and

availability.

your life
depended on it
As

if

You must

write,

and

read, as if your

depended on

life

generally taught in school. At most, as

on

it:

That

is

not

the next step, the next job, grant, scholarship, professional

advancement, fame; no questions asked

And,

it.

if your livelihood depended

let's

face

it,

To

read

readers

as if your life

your reading your
cal sensations

further meanings.

the lesson of the schools for a vast

—hence, of

children

as to



is

This

is

depended on

beliefs, the swirl

number of

not for you.
it

would mean

to let into

of your dreamlife, the physi-

of your ordinary carnal

life;

and, simultaneously, to

allow what you're reading to pierce the routines, safe and imper-

meable, in which ordinary carnal Hfe
neled.

Then, what of the

is

tracked, charted, chan-

right answers, the so-called multiple-

As

if

your

life

choice examination sheet with the

depended on
number

it

2 pencil to

|

33

mark one

choice and one choice only?

To

write

as if

your

life

depended on

it:

chalkboard, putting up there in public words

to write across the

you have dredged,

sieved up from dreams, from behind screen memories, out of
silence

you

—words you have dreaded and needed
No,

exist.

school, set

upon

it's

know

too much; you could be laughed out of

in the schoolyard, they

school, they could expel you.

power of the

in order to

The

would wait

for

you

after

poHtics of the schoolyard, the

gang.

Or, they could ignore you.

To

read

as if your life

be believed?

Isn't all

has a hidden

program

depended on

it

—but what writing can

language just manipulation?



to recruit

you

Maybe

to a cause, send

the poet

you

into

the streets, to destabilize, through the sensual powers of lan-

guage, your tested and tried priorities? Rather than succumb,

you can learn

to inspect the

poem at arm's length,

and protective viewing tube,
of this

style

"irony."

or that period.

Or you

that or this

can

as

You

demand

through

a

long

an interesting object, an example
can take refuge in the idea of

that artists demonstrate loyalty to

moral or political or reHgious or sexual norm, on pain

of having books burned, banned, on pain of censorship or
prison,

on pain of lost public funding.

Or, you can

say: "I

don't understand poetry."

VII
The space

for poetry

PABLO CHILE TE RECUERDA
PABLO IN ESTOS DIAS NOS HACES FALTA

PORQUE
TE NOS

LUIS

FUISTE

PABLO VIVE Y VIVIRA!

F

Y SONIA 1985
VENCE
REMOS

PMR

After the death of Pablo Neruda, in a time of brutal poUtical
repression in Chile, during

which the

and sealed up by the military regime,

poet's house
all

surreptitiously to write or scratch, graffiti

fence: messages to the poet,

was trashed

kinds of people

came

on the boards of the

words of resistance, brief phrases,

The space

for poetry

35

|

names. Neruda died on the day that the miHtary junta took

power. Even more than in
Chilean resistance. Both in

he became

his Ufe,

a

symbol of

of and for and to

his writings

his

country, and in his countrypeople's response to him, there was
a

He was

dialogue reaching beyond death.

mous, of course; of the middle
of

dark-skinned mestizo

a

manded



class; a

still

male.

less, a

internationally fa-

was not the poetry

It

mestiza



com-

that so

love and respect. Yet he could have betrayed, and did

not; could have escaped into the international literary elite,

did not.

The

a place for

fence below his locked and off-limits house

and

became

people to continue voicing their hopes and angers, a

collective page greater

even than the poet's books,

possible because of his books, because

crawled over Hne

poems.

who

can exist between poets

zens of the United States and their countrypeople?

of focus or connection

exist?

What

page made

of the hand that had once

after line, writing the

What kind of dialogue

a

are citi-

What

points

could precipitate such a dia-

logue?

The answers

—good

as far as

better taught in the schools.

they go



are:

Poetry needs to be

There should be

excellent, "excit-

ing" programs about poetry on television, radio. There should

be poetry videos,

like

music videos, to bring poems to

a

mass

audience.

People speak

like this

about sex education or drug educa-

How to make their messages
riveting? How compete with the
tion:

fered

by the

passive

media

rience represented to us



by

popular or
structures

at least attention-

of excitement of-

the manic hecticity of human expe-

television

and commercial film



the

screeching of brakes, the exploding of guns, the strobe-Ut blood
splashing white Hmousines of the rich and famous, organ transplants, babies

switched

paranoid schizophrenic
tire

family, sixteen

at birth, lottery
kills

women

winner

dies

of

stress,

children in schoolyard, self and enstudents, girl

who

refused to date

36

What

I

Is

Found There

him, surrogate mother wants

visitation, terror

nal court as theater, everything

from

history,

on campus, crimi-

wrenched from everything

from context, the meaninglessness of lives

in a fun-house mirror, a

else,

reflected

communications system designed

to

separate, fragment, disinform mass audiences.

For

a

mass audience in the United States

a collectively generated idea,

that idea

and by

common

is

not an audience for

welded together by the power of

debates about

it.

Mass audiences

are

created by promotion, by the marketing of excitements that take
the place of ideas, of real collective debate, vision, or catharsis;

excitements that

come and

go, flash

on and

off,

serve only to isolate us in the littleness of our

become incoherent
So when

mean

a

I

to

own

lives

mass audience of the kind that

What

takes

—we

one another.

speak of the lack of pubHc space for poetry,

films, top-forty music,

evision.

so fast that they

MTV,

I

don't

commercial

exists for

"best-seUing" books, network

up pubHc space

is

tel-

determined by industries

dedicated to mass marketing, by the owners of the means of

communication. Poetry remains an
ues to be, produced cheaply,

modest.

art that

whose

On most evenings around the United States,

be several thousand poetry readings
leries, in

pubHc

bookstores,

at

poet

may be

outdoor

there must

in coffeehouses, in gal-

festivals

on campuses,

in

and demonstra-

and community

centers, in

conferences, in theaters, bars, living rooms, barns;

a collapsible

dium may be

at

libraries, prisons,

in the amphitheater

be



small basement performance spaces,

synagogues and churches,
tions, in

can be, and contin-

material requirements are

of an urban teaching

music stand or

a pulpit

hospital.

A lectern may

wired for sound;

a

the flatbed of a truck or a proscenium stage.

po-

The

reading from pages in a notebook, from a hand-

printed chapbook, from a typescript, from a published volume.

She may be carrying
bring along a

a suitcase full

mandoHn

or drum.

of her books to

Or

they

sell;

may be

he

may

a roster

of


The space

for poetry

37

|

poets reading for five minutes apiece (usually going overtime)
for the benefit

of a magazine, for earthquake

reHef, for peace, for

a battered- women's shelter, for the court case

of a writer facing

deportation under the McCarran- Walter Act.

A late April evening in 199 1. At the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in
New York City a play by a Puerto Rican playwright ending,
is

and the
is

first

lesbian

about to begin.

and gay poetry reading ever held

Down

on

a scarred

in this space

and garbage-strewn block

on Avenue B, an almost unmarked entrance opens

into a

narrow

space, bar to the right, kitchen audible but not visible, brick

walls stretching

small stage,

upward, assorted

more platform than

and

tables

stage.

chairs,

Coming across

and
the

a

very

Lower

East Side, a fragment from Hart Crane's The Bridge has been

pursuing me:

And Rip

forgot the office hours,

and he forgot the pay;

Van Winkle sweeps

a

tenement

way down on Avenue A,

And Rip was

slowly

that he,

nor there.

.

.

.

made aware

Van Winkle, was not

He woke

here

and swore he'd seen Broadway

a Catskill daisy chain in

The audience



for the play, about

May

two homeless men, and

the

audience for the reading intersect, merge, some leaving, some
arriving;

but there

is

an extension of one audience into the

other.

The

cafe,

founded

in 1974

by the writer Miguel Algarin,

is

in

What

3 8
I

its

Found There

Is

second Lower East Side location. At

first

a

meeting and per-

New York Puerto Rican artists, it's become a

formance space for

center for multicultural urban poetry and theater, seeming the

more

vibrant in a city

city furious, satiric,

underground

grown more

and

desolate, singing

back to the

from an unextinguished

livid visions

This reading, organized by Susan Sherman,

soul.

poet and editor of the cultural-political feminist journal
includes Korean-born, white-adopted

Mi Ok

I-KON,

Bruining, Black

Latino Bruce L. Burgos, African-Americans Cheryl Clarke,

Dorothy Randall Gray, and Donald Woods;
a class

the white poets also

and ethnic brew: Italian-American Rachel Guido de

Vries, Catholic Charles Frederick,

Portuguese-American David

Trinidad, Jewish- Americans Margaret Randall and Susan Sher-

man. Listening

to the poets,

been working the

craft longer,

selves to the fullest,

ence,

you could recognize

different

the

at

reading to an audi-

mix of the evening

created

and sometimes conflicting voices was heady,

and so was the mix of the audience
audience intense in

from the kitchen

some had

some had not yet stretched them-

some were old hands

some just beginning. But

by these

that

its



in age, sexuality, color

—an

Hstening in spite of hangings and clashings

area or interference

from police walkie-talkies

outside.

What
itself,

common, above and beyond

poetry

was each one's stance of claiming

a foot-

the poets had in

or sexuaHty

hold, a platform,

itself,

a

voice

among

all

the voices purporting to

speak or sing of North American existence. For none of them

could such a foothold be taken for granted; but

if certain poetics

had excluded them, they were bent on finding others to reveal

what

it is

to be part of the city, part of this republic, as dark-

skinned, female, half-assimilated Jew, SiciUan, erotically at
legally at risk, living in the face

There was

of gay bashing, racism, AIDS.

poetry of mourning, accusation, high erotic

rehgious heresy, wild fantasy,

risk,

some banahty

comedy,

(almost always miti-

The space
gated

somehow by

the poet's

own

for poetry

reading

style),

|

39

and several

poems of shattering originality, sounding Hke nothing but themselves.

Wide

the social, political, aesthetic differences

as

among the poets and among us,
in that undertaking;

ward mike, poetry Hved,

And perhaps
ical

this

needs simple,

concocted in the

is

its

lights,

at

home

sometimes way-

clear

is

mechanis

of promotion, marketing, consumer-

—taught

in the schools,

expense of the

makes people want stardom rather than

association,

others. Perhaps this

its

of the fumes of how "success"

that pushes the "star" at the

culture as a whole, that
participation,

a

the hope: that poetry can keep

head

capitals



with

pulling us toward each other.

ism, and in particular of the competition

abetted

community arose

their hearers, a

under harsh

were

exchange, and improvisation with

the hope: that poetry, by

never become leashed to

profit,

its

nature, will

marketing, consumerism.

VIII

How

does a poet put
bread on the table?

But how does
poetry alone.

a

poet put bread on the table? Rarely,

Of the

Cafe about w^hose

lives

funded community
teachers,

one an

other poets

I

four lesbian poets
I

arts

assistant

know, most

job.

is

two

project,

very odd

directs an

under-

untenured college

at a state university.

disability;

one does

a paid organizer;

one has

in erratically

clerical

Of

work;

a paid editing

from readings

grants, permissions fees, royalties, prizes can

money

by

teach, often part time, without security

Whatever odd money comes

and workshops,

are

dean of students

if ever,

the Nuyorican Poets

know something, one

but year round; two are on

one cleans houses; one

at

be

indeed, never to be counted on and almost

always small: checks have to be chased down, grants

fewer and more competitive in

a

worsening

political

become
and eco-

How
nomic

does

poet put bread on the table?

a

Most

climate.

poets

who

teach

|

at universities are

41

un-

tenured, without pension plans or group health insurance, or are

employed

public and

at

ing loads and low

shops

of their

as part

community

Many give

salaries.

colleges with

political "tithe."

Inherited wealth accounts for the careers of
inherit wealth



true that a

Most of

to inherit time.

sum of money,

hearing of a
into time

is

translate

it

some

the poets

poets: to
I

know,

not into possessions, but

that precious immaterial necessity

poem

heavy teach-

unpaid readings and work-

of our

lives. It's

can be attempted in brief interstitial moments,

pulled out of the pocket and

worked on while waiting

for a bus

or riding a train or while children nap or while waiting for a

work
of poems

batch of clerical

or blood samples to

certain kinds

are

come

flicker.

And

labor,

there

stolen

is

a difference

between the ordinary "free"

from exhausting family

that

sometimes arrive in

a life

though under extreme tension: perhaps

strains,

from alienating

being lived

we

at its

height

are waiting to initi-

we believe will catalyze change but whose outcome
we are facing personal or communal crisis
which everything unimportant seems to fall away and we are

ate

in

dampens the

from thought chained by material anxiety, and those other

moments

is

new

But only

amenable to these conditions. Some-

times the very knowledge of coming interruption

moments

in.

some

act

uncertain; perhaps

left

with our naked

such times

we may

lives,

the brevity of life

itself,

and words. At

experience a speeding-up of our imaginative

powers, images and voices rush together in a kind of inevitability,

what was

externally fragmented

is

internally reorganized,

and the hand can barely keep pace.

But such moments presuppose other
simply stare into the
bles in a glass

the

wood

of water

knowledge

as

when we

could

grain of a door, or the trace of bub-

long

that there

times:

as

we wanted

would be no

slowness, of purposelessness.

to, almost

interruption

secure in



times of

42

What

I

Often such time
be had,

Found There

Is

when

feels like a luxury, guiltily seized

fearfully taken

because

it

does not seem like work,

it

can
this

abeyance, but like "wasting time" in a society where personal

importance

—even job

security

—can

where the phrase "keeping busy"
there

for activists, so

is,

Most,

if

not

much

of the names

all,

freedom

in

cessity for



time

The

all.

that privilege

choices



and

to plant vegetables

idiom, where

North American

had some access to
is

actually a ne-

working day

in time.

weekend,

a

in

of some which

freedom

few hours or

common

we know
who have

struggle to Hmit the

struggle for the worker's
himself, for a

a

be done.

to

poetry are the names of people

is

hinge on acting busy,

To

feel herself

or

being with

as a free

later sit

a sacred

is

on the porch with

a

cold beer, to write poetry or build a fence or fish or play cards, to

walk without
late.

a

Ordinary

purpose, to

human

love in the daytime.

pleasures, the self s re-creation.

working generation has

many

make

to reclaim that

freedom

To

sleep

Yet every

in time,

are brutally thwarted in the effort. Capitalism

is

and

based on

the abridgment of that freedom.

some kind of pri-

Poets in the United States have either had

from people with

vate means, or help
full-time,

consuming jobs, or have chosen

ing, part-time sectors
gies for poetry,

to

work

in

money, where the

low-pay-

of the economy, saving their creative ener-

keeping their material wants simple.

where the

Hving,

private means, have held

art itself
artist

is

Interstitial

not expected to bring in

may move from

a clerical

time, temporary teaching to subsistence living

much

job to part-

on the land

to

waitressing or doing construction or translating, typesetting, or

ghostwriting. In the 1990s this kind of interstitial living
difficult, risky,

to

all

the

arts

and wearing than



as

much

as

it

has ever been, and this

the shrinkage of

arts

is
is

more
a loss

funding, the

censorship-by-clique, the censorship by the Right, the censorship

by

distribution.

The muralist
I

wish you would write

a

poem

consequence of the complete

thrown up

.

.

.

who,

addressed to those

failure

in

of the French Revolution, have

hopes of the ameUoration of mankind, and are sinking into

all

an almost epicurean selfishness, disguising the same under the

soft titles

of

domestic attachment and contempt for visionary philosophes.

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge
to

These were things which

were

what

to relate

gruesome
and their

narrative: stories

villages,

myself saw in

I

my childhood.

heard of in those years,

I

and

of men and

sold, or lost in

William Wordsworth (1799)

it

women

If,

would be

a

however,

I

much more

torn from their families

gambling, or exchanged for a couple

of hunting dogs, and then transported to some remote part of Russia for
the sake of creating a

new

of children taken from their parents and

estate;

sold to cruel or dissolute masters;

of flogging "in the stables" which
girl who found her only
man who had grown gray-haired

occurred every day with unheard-of cruelty; of a
salvation in

drowning

in his master's service,

window;

.

.

.

revolts

herself;

and

by

of an old

at last

serfs

.

.

flogging to death each tenth or
laying waste the village,

went begging
which

I

whose

.

hanged himself under

his master's

suppressed by Nicholas

fifth

man

I's

generals

by

taken out of the ranks, and by

inhabitants, after a military execution,

for bread in the neighboring provinces.

saw during our journeys

As

to the poverty

in certain villages, especially in

those

44

What

I

which belonged

Is

Found There

to the imperial family,

who

describe the misery to readers

To become

no words would be adequate

have not seen

was the constant dream of the

free

to

it.

serfs.

—Peter Kropotkin, Memoirs
of a Revolutionist (1899)

Tonight

I

makes her

on

art collectively,

"We

doing:

my

spoke with

have

all

friend the muralist,

who

says

who, unHke me,

of the work

she's currently

the poHtical elements there and agreed-

— I'm

still struggling to fmd a way to make it beautiful." She
mean simply harmonious or attractive, though she makes

doesn't
art that

people love to look

hoods,

art

means

beauty. She

the presently

beyond
tell

I

at as

they go through their neighbor-

they can recognize their hves
that the

known, but

work

that

it

her, I've

not be merely

shall radiate

the poHtical elements

"all

shall

in, the difficulty

.

.

.

and the

logical,

of

another dimension,

agreed-on."

been reading Trotsky on revolutionary

art. I'll

send you some passages.

Right

now

ent, parallel,

I

see

my

wooden

and myself walking out on

differ-

piers into darkness, star-mixed fog

above

friend

our heads, in the loneliness and community of our questions.
She,

whose monumental works, planned out and executed with

many

on walls, inside buildings, from San
Managua to East Jerusalem and the occupied territories. I, whose words come into permanence in slow soHtude,
whose poems begin on scraps of paper but whose images, Hke
hers, are mined from dreams, snatches of conversation, street
others, are visible

Francisco to

music, headlines, history, love, collective action.

Here

The

are

some of the

passages

from Trotsky

struggle for revolutionary ideas in art

with the struggle for

artistic truth,

I

sent her:

must begin once again

not in terms of any single


The muralist
school, but in terms of the immutable faith of the
inner self.

Without this there

is

no

art.

45

|

artist in his [sic]

"You shall not lie!"



own

that

is

the formula of salvation.

From

the point of view of an objective historical process, art

always a social servant and historically
essary

rhythm of words

for dark

utilitarian. It finds the

and murky moods,

brings

it

thought and feeling closer or contrasts them with each other,
enriches the spiritual experience of the individual and the

munity,

it

sive,

enlarges the

it

refines feeling,

makes

it

more

it

com-

more respon-

flexible,

volume of thought

is

nec-

advance and not

in

through the personal method of accumulation of experience,

it

educates the individual, the social group, the class and the nation.

And

does

it

independently of whether

this quite

it

appears in a

given case under the flag of a "pure" or of a frankly tendentious
art.

The

effort to set art free

unto

itself,

One

cannot approach

creation

has

its

is

devitalizes

and

own laws

to declare

one can

art as

idle

role

and

it

politics,

a craft sufficient

less

not because

something mystical

of development, and above

enormous

more

life,

kills art.

a religious rite or

creation an

slower,

from

is

all

.

.

.

artistic

but because

because in

it

artistic

played by subconscious processes

management and guid-

subjected to

ance, just because they are subconscious.

Amid
wanted

all

to

the public cheering over the "death of socialism"

I

go back to the revolutionary thinkers of the nine-

teenth and early twentieth centuries, to refresh

my mind

what they had envisioned, however the

were betrayed,

visions

as to

from within and from without, and whatever crimes had been

committed in sociaHsm's name. In

particular

I

wanted

to find out

46

What

I

how

those

of art,

how

Found There

Is

men and women
they beUeved

it

thought about

art

and the freedom

was interwoven with the creation of

woman and man,
woman and woman. was suspicious of the cartoons of "socialist
reaHsm" floating in my head. The figures of Ding Ling, of Mannew

between man and man,

relationships

I

delstam, exiled and doing forced labor for their words
these truly the harvest of sociaHsm?

did not want the current

I

times, with their images of faUing walls

world order,"

to

wash out

and slogans about

that for

Marx

himself.

than the means for freeing
fullest:

Communism

human

forces"

each and

its

I

many

nerves.

had never meant

I

less

persons to the

all

all

found voice.

itself,

stagnated,

You

Marx

of

arise as the creative currents

could say that the passion for

into the study of how Capital,

had suppressed the flow of human

internal laws,

and

permanence," "new passions and

would repeatedly

creativity forced

own

and

"new

he believed that the release of that very creativity would

froze; that in "revolution in

human

in so

creativity in

ensure that no revolution turned in on

new

a

me all continuity with revolutions

for

of the past and the hopes they had touched

knew

—were

by

activity

passions.

knew, yet needed

socialism

—and

had

more complex

a far

the

remind myself,

to

artists

of

that the old theorists

of responsiveness and responsibility

sense of the interplay

and society than have either the

arts

between the

artist

administrators of capitalism

or the Central Committees of Moscow or Beijing.

It is

one thing

to understand

and quite another

to assimilate

whole system of one's
expression for this

You

something and express

new

feelings,

it

it

logically,

organically, reconstructing the

and

to find a

new

kind of artistic

entity.

could derive from Trotsky's assertion, that an "engaged"

or "committed"

art,

an

art critical

of society, the kind of

art


The muralist
United

usually labeled "political" in the

bad) not because

when

enough:

it

it

States,

engaged, but because

is

what has been

express

tries to

is

47

|

bad (when

it

is

it is

not engaged

logically

under-

stood but not yet organically assimilated.

There

a

is

kind of political poetry that does not surprise the

which the poet

poet, in

opment according

poem

as

propaganda for

new

gram, for a

and controls the poem's devel-

foresees

to an ideology

of theme and even

style

revolt, for a specific revolutionary

kind of consciousness. Bertolt Brecht,

Dario, Pablo Neruda

all



the

pro-

Ruben

wrote such poems, and such poems can

be very good indeed: an example would be Thomas McGrath's

"Ordonnance":

During

war

a

war

the poets turn to

In praise of the merit of the death of the ball-turret gunner.
It is

well arranged: each in his best

One

bleeds,

who

After a war,
If sunrise

is

one blots

has

Easter,



as

they say,

news

noon

is

manner
it

has happened before.

for the poet?

winey

his

tree.

Evening

arrives like a postcard

And the

seasons shine and sing. Each has

In the song of the

The

ancient

As

his true country.
its

note

man in his room in his house remembering

airs. It is

That he should

from

rise

good. But

once to

his

is it

good

song on the fumes of blood

a ghost to his meat? Should rise so, once, in anger

And then no more? Now

the footsteps ring

The Lost Man of the century

is

on the stone

coming home from

his

work.

What

48

Found There

Is

I

"They

are fighting, fighting"

—Oh,

yes.

But somewhere

else.

In the dark.

The poet reads by

firelight as the nations burn.

Poets write against war, then in "peacetime" turn to their per-

working man

sonal themes and melodies; the struggle of the
(and, in this
invisible,

poem

poem

although

too, the
this

too

working woman) goes on unsung,

war burning the

a

is

What

hortatory, addressed to poets:

is

poems? (The poet

who

actually

wrote the

is

World War

pilots in

II

The

missing from your

poem
are

"The
whose

entitled

Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner" was Randall

poems about bomber

nations.

Jarrell,

powerful evo-

cations of the meaninglessness of war. Jarrell himself both served
in the

war and wrote about

who do

to the readers

it.)

But

it

also reaches

not grasp what

is

missing,

conventional definitions of "war" and "peace."
as a socialist
is

It

who

accept

could be read

manifesto about the proper themes for poetry. But

much more

than

this

drama of contrasts he
stanza,

beyond poets

it

thanks to McGrath's changes of tone, the

long run-on Hnes of the third

creates, the

which pour over

into the fourth, the different voices

arguing within the poem.

My friend the

muralist writes back to me: / have some thoughts

on the subject of beauty unlocking hate and fear.

Some
that

tell

work on
work is not

days, as

me

this

I

On other days, when
out a memo responding

be.

edit another

woman's

I

this

book,

I

hear voices from within

real activism, political

also

go to

to other

article

on

a

though

it

may

meeting, or write and mail

memos from

a collective,

or

coalition building for a grass-

roots journal, or drive to a nearby city to read in a political

The muralist

I

often

don't hear such voices.

when

reading

it,

powers rush together:

me

rarily releases

said

is its

own

When

the voices fade
it's

as if the

I'm writing poetry, and

away

as

the old integrative

process of poetry itself tempo-

into that realm of human

power which Marx

By "human power," he meant

end.

49

of a grass-roots pro-

benefit, or write to a foundation in support
ject,

|

the opposite

of possessive, exploitative power: the power to engender, to
create, to bring forth fuller Hfe.

me

early gave

even

as a child,

power.

And

flier,

a different

came

I

privileges

that,

to experience flashes

finally to thirst for

Working with
tribute a

Chances and

foothold in that realm, so

a

it

of birth

making poems,
of that kind of

everywhere.

others to plan a demonstration, draft and dis-

write a collective pamphlet, set up a conference,

mode of creation, and its purposes



is

to dispense infor-

mation, to dispel disinformation, to create a collective understanding of the meaning of events and facts



mode of language. Yet

underneath, and the

same need
tion or

There

same

thirst lies

a treadmill



is

imagina-

disintegrative, stifling, fmally brutaliz-

ineffectual.

is

a happiness in creation that

pain and struggle, a sensation that

feels

sometimes earthbound, sometimes
sometimes

like

like

There

is

—unfold even

own

sometimes buoyant and
Hghting

fires in

snow,

to separate issues

Levertov describes

how

it

of strategy, of materi-

as

a happiness in finding

neously with the discovery oi what

been reduced

its

untying knots in which you have been bound.

and, yes, of purpose

difficulties.

not without

is

New questions, new problems— of shape,
als,

require a different

for a taproot into the imagination. Politics

it is

—or

ing

the

you unlock present

what

works for,

will

work simulta-

which

has often

of "form" and "content." Denise

50

What

I

Found There

Is

in organic poetry the

present along with

.

.

form sense or
.

...

"traffic sense,"

fidelity to the revelations

is

The form sense is a sort of Stanislavsky of the imagination:
two

a chair

upstage

left,

Or it is

poem, taking
and

its

a

more

creatures

all

in the interest

of helicopter scout

a sort

aerial

slowly;

flying

little

of the

total

over the

photos and reporting on the

—or over

putting

knot of bystanders

getting this actor to raise his voice a

actress to enter
intuits.

downstage there, thickening

feet

ever

of meditation.

state

and that

form he

field

of the

of the forest

the sea to watch for the schools of

herring and direct the fishing fleet toward them.

This partnership of unconscious and conscious work can also

happen

knows

in collectivity.

itself as part

And the happiness

I'm speaking

which

of,

of a continually unfolding process, which can

never be complacent,

is

what

imagine true revolution would

I

look Uke: subjectivity and objectivity, vision and technology,
together inventing conditions for the spontaneous imaginative
hfe of all of us.

The

great sculptor

and printmaker Elizabeth

Catlett, speaking

fi-om the authority of her artistic development:

We work alone

but

we

also

work with and

expressed by two words: one

out of what

knowledge
create

is



in us,
all

is

from our innermost

of this combined

from "solidarity," which

selves that

for others,

"solitarity," in

is

and

which we

it is

create

feelings, ideas, emotions,

in other

elements

what we have

in

also;

we

also

our innermost

comes from what we have gotten from our sohdarity

with other people.

I

always feel that collective thought

is

better

than individual thought. There's the give-and-take and coming

The muralist

51

|

together and a separating that are very important in developing
ideas.

Among other things,

I

my sculpture

learned that

my prints

and

had to be based on the needs of people. These needs determine

what

Some

do.

I

what we do

You

must, as an

level

is.

Consciously

artist,

means

tioning in society

We

reflects

all live



Is

at least

two

Was

a classically

is.

the

By

"level"

artist's

I

posi-

woman

one of the

Where

great early

did the poet

fmd

grounded Catholic schooling

When did the child ever meet a living artist

work

as a

nude model

to pay for painting

mother wash other people's

floors?

And what

has any of these, or other, contingencies

on the

practice of

Did

his

eye, ear, perception that

is

the basis for

seen from any of these levels?
the poet,

But

know

lies

own

level

To

around you.

—what can
become

that

the

is

making

art?

What

can be

hidden? Does the

artist,

of responsiveness, of responsibility, to
say that a poet

mean? To me

artistically

is

means

responsive, responsithat she or

serious,

—not

he

is

free

and integrated

great questions of her, of his,

mind of the maker

demands of the time

it

most complex,

when most aware of the

When

What

to ask such a question?

also your

ble
to

level
first,

own

the art of his people's tradition disparaged or ac-

claimed? Did she
lessons?

what

own

things:

the poet a white male heir to

mitigate his poverty?

efl^ect

in his-

moment.

the sculptor an African- American

Is

poem? Did

or poet?

that

consciously determine where your

twentieth-century American fortunes?
first

moment

on in

are

access to educational privileges along with the assaults

of racism?

her

in a given

what level we

determine where your

[to]

believe Catlett

who had

say they express themselves: they just

environment.

reflect their

tory and

artists

own

time.

is

stretched to the fullest by the

fads,

vogues, cliques, chic, propa-

52

What

I

Found There

Is

ganda, but the deep messages of crisis, hope, despair, vision, the

anonymous
signs

human community as
a human

voices, that pulse through a

of imbalance, sickness, regeneration pulse through

body.

When

Catlett says You must, as an

where your own

level

is,

believe she

I

is

artist,

consciously determine

speaking on behalf of art.

Just as if she said You must, as a sculptor, consciously become aware of
the properties

and

difficulties

of many kinds of wood, of metals, kinds of

You must become

stone, clay.

responsive, responsible, to the

materials.

The

painter and poet Michele Gibbs expands

still

further

on

Catlett's "levels":

Choosing

to

be an

artist (ie a distiller

imitator, copyist, critic, or technician)

and creator rather than an
is, itself,

a level.

Then

arise

questions of:

you

i)

what

2)

what energy/action does your creation feed?

3)

what reach

4)

what counts

are

where

calling attention to?

will

you

are

your creations (voice/images) have;

directing their force?

for connection?

The more all-encompassing

one's consciousness, needless to say,

the greater the burden of intentionality and the

one

seeks.

The

&

of connection,

issue

ie,

more company

verifying the authenticity of

one's vision by the responses and parallel/complementary creation of others, implies the centrality o£ communality in the artistic
process.

This process of building community, of course, begins from
the self

outward

.

.

.

but culminates in

new

possibilities for the

personality only through intimate bonding (immersion) in the
great

movements of people

in one's time and a

commitment

to

The muralist
human beings

respond to the daily needs of those

"my

not just "the people," but

53

|

closest to us (ie,

Edna's son Che,") also

sister

caught in those movements.

With
most

specific reference to poetry ...

integrative social

performance.
follows

.

.

.

power contained

For me,

it is

on the contemplative

the

in

seems to

me

words

liberated in

is

that the

& spoken element which

activist

act

it

of composition which

is

most

capable of vitalizing folk.

Do

I

envy

my friend the muralist? On some

ine she, at least,

On others,
life

in

I

must

no

division

realize that the social

has itself been

my

feel

days, yes:

that

guage and images that could refute the

demanded evolution

me

falsely

to devise lan-

framed choices:

ivory tower or barricades, intuition or documentary

(Of course

search for beauty or the search for justice.

poetic methods means other kinds of change

When

I

can pull

together,

pull

means

of "inner" and "outer"

times that. But if we hope to

in

own

change in

soHtude surrounded by

community,

solitude that

Lillian Smith's

that soli-

vigilance, for the old defini-

lurk in

me

mend

and for the sake of poetry

life,

awake, in

our

still

of false choices wrenching

from

work

the

as well.)

and strangers pass through the membranes of

tude. This kind of worklife
tions

I

solitude in dialogue with

a

fact,

with collective work. The poetry and the actions of

alternates

fiiends

it

imag-

action.

fragmentation of poetry from

one of the materials

poetic methods, continually pushed at

community,

I

between her art and

me

and

sometimes

I

this

still

feel the

way, some-

the fragmentation of poetry
itself, it's

not enough to

lie

words, listening only to the sound of

heartbeat in the dark.

The hermit's scream
He

said

I

had

As one loves

this that

visible

As one loves one's
As one loves

that

own

be loved,

Of which

one

A unity that
So

that

one

is

could love,

which

And must

is

I

and responsive peace,

as

being,
is

the end

one loves

the

life

one

loves,

lives all the lives that

As the Hfe of the

that

a part as in a unity,

fatal

comprise

—Wallace
I

am

it

unity of war.

a failure then, as the

Stevens,

"Yellow Afternoon"

kind of revolutionary Anne-Marion and her

acquaintances were. (Though in fact she had heard of nothing
revolutionary this group had done, since she

Anne-Marion, she knew, had become
were about her two

a

left

them

ten

children, and the quahty of the light that

lake she owned.)



^Alice

I've

been haunted by

with

a ballad's

summers

a

ago.

well-known poet whose poems

poem, apparently

appeal of timelessness.

It's

as

fell

across a

Walker, Meridian

simple

as a ballad

and

by EKzabeth Bishop,

a

white North American with middle-class roots. Orphaned and

The hermit's scream
deracinated

Hving

she

as a child,

as a political

grew up

of her

a significant part

|

as a lesbian, a traveler-exile,

in Brazil. She's not thought

life

poet by most people

55

who

of

admire her; she's most

often praised as a poet of minute observation and description.

The poem

is

"Chemin de

called

Alone on the
I

Fer":

railroad track

walked with pounding

The

ties

maybe too

or

The

were too

heart.

close together

far apart.

scenery was impoverished:

scrub-pine and oak; beyond
its

mingled gray-green foliage
I

saw the

where the
lie like

little

pond

dirty hermit lives,

an old tear

holding onto

its

injuries

lucidly year after year.

The hermit

shot off his shot-gun

and the tree by

Over

the

The

his cabin

pond went

pet hen

shook.

a ripple.

went chook-chook.

"Love should be put

into action!"

screamed the old hermit.
Across the pond an echo
tried

Love might be put
In

what extremity?

and

tried to

into action

confirm

by

it.

firing a gun, yes



at

whom?

56

What

I

The gun

Found There

Is

in this

poem, Hke

a real

gun, might be fired out of

despair at love's inaction, passivity, inertness, abuses, neglect.

hermit"

a "dirty

w^ho screams

who

fires

no one

at

in particular the ethical imperative

should be put into action!"

It's

the shotgun at nothing in particular,

Someone long

"Love

isolate, outside

com-

who like the pond has been "holding onto [his] injuries/
And who is the other character in the

munity,
lucidly

year after year."

poem,

the narrator of

all

Someone

this?

alone,

pounding, walking the road of iron, the railroad




whose

heart

track, the

is

hobo

track
a child trying to run away from home? turned out from
home? someone, in any case, who still hasn't gotten far from
home, who has known this landscape the pond, the hermit's
cabin
year after year. Someone needing to get far away, some-



one whose eyes have

seen, perhaps, destruction of

preventable disintegration, a child of

tially, a

emigration, passive
yet,
is

gun, might be relief in

a

scene of enormous, unnameable tension

and impoverishment. But there

does

it

nothing lonelier-sounding or

is

than an echo, and the

futile

What

but poten-

a dirty hermit. A someone who
legion across
whom the hermit's scream, the shout of the shot-

hobo or

the globe. For

more

loss,

someone not

neglect, intrafamilial violations;

community,

poem

take for the walker

ends with this.*

on the

railroad track to

become not a hobo or a hermit, but an artist and/or an activist?
What would it mean to put love into action in the face of lovelessness, abandonment, or violation? Where do we find, in or
around

us,

love

futile firing

of


a

the imagination that can subvert despair or the

gun?

What

teaches us to convert lethal anger

into steady, serious attention to our
ers?

What,

in

North America

us ask these questions



own

lives

in the 1990s, are

and those of oth-

we

given to help

the language of therapy groups, of

*James Merrill comments that "to anyone
of ties grown unmanageable will suffice."

I

who

agree.

has

known

love the merest hint

The hermit's scream
twelve-Step programs, of bleached speech?
dirty hermit's

What
It's

is

scream and to want

political activism,

it

anyway?

to

I

continue to hear the

become

I've

57

|

a general cry.

been asking myself.

something both prepared for and spontaneous



like

mak-

ing poetry.

When we do and think and feel certain things privately and in
secret,

even

when

thousands of people are doing, thinking,

whispering these things privately and in secret, there

from which

general, collective understanding

We

takes her or his risks in isolation.

may

to

is still

move. Each

think of ourselves

individual rebels, and individual rebels can easily be shot

The

among

relationship

so

many

these thoughts and feelings, suppressed and stored-up

how

You

cannot

as

down.

feelings remains unclear.

pered, have an incendiary component.

no

But

and whis-

tell

where or

they will connect, spreading underground from rootlet to

rootlet

till

every grass blade

is

afire

from every

other. This

is

that

"spontaneity" which party "leaders," secret governments, and
closed systems dread. Poetry, in
sparks, because

it

its

own

way,

is

a carrier

of the

too comes out of silence, seeking connection

with unseen others.

I

think

at this

commitment

point of my friend Barbara Deming, her

life

of

to nonviolent political action, her active claiming

of her untimely death from cancer.

doubt with pounding

heart,

on an

Who walked "for peace," no
interracial

march through the

segregated South in 1964 and found herself in
peace, but about racism.

Who

walked with

jail

—not about

women

from the

Seneca Peace Encampment in 1983, fmding herself and the oth-

58

What

I

Found There

Is

mob—-jeered

confronted by a hostile

ers

peace or nuclear arms, but

as

not on grounds of

Jews/Communists/lesbians.

Who

spoke and wrote about nonviolence, named the repressed murderous anger within the nonviolence movement, made

room for

the revolutionary possibility of killing without hating, out of

though she

tragic necessity,

in

which

all

had the

permitted her to devote her

have used that freedom

many

strained, like so
desire, in the

human
was

great,

who
as

Who

life

differently.

whose anger

for years felt

con-

women,

her

tried to distinguish

at

those years of self-denial

between anger

as "affliction"

"the concentration of one's whole being in the

as

she herself was not simplistic.

I

elegant, erotic,

know

Who

others, to hide her love for

though the peace movement

I

that

though many might

to activism,

determination: This must change."

as

had an income

very movements calling for fundamental change in

relationships,

and anger

"blurred the vision" of a world

felt it

right to Uve.

she

think of her because,

I

knew

want

it

could be simplistic,

keep her lanky, earthy,

to

amused, keenly attentive presence in mind even

that if alive today she

would

perforce be stretching

the limits of her imagination, her definitions of peace, war, violence.

Because

committed

I

know

nections between love and action.



have been, not
have

it

—mere

as

it

all

others then

about the con-

The marches and sit-ins were,
decades would

later

eruptions of youthful excitement. As Barbara

the future in the present, treating hostile

beings like yourself, respecting

it,

was

some propaganda of

herself wrote of nonviolent direct action,

their minds.

many

that for Barbara, as for

to nonviolent direct action,

them even

way of living
adversaries as human

it

was

a

as

you

tried to

Each nonviolent demonstrator,

had to embody in her or

his

own

as

she

change

propounded

person the respect of one

being for another that "after the revolution" would become the
basis for

human

society. This

was

Hterally

one-on-one

commu-


The hermit's scream

gone limp, being dragged by poHce,

nication, the demonstrator

trying to keep eye contact, trying to hold on to

between the

role

needs.

mob

and the individuals within

But the preparation

it,

one another. The hope was

at

the

and unmet

was the creation of a group

for this

the love of justice and of the actual
the perceptions of those

Between

their fears

which the like-minded were bound with
attention to

a distinction

of the police enforcer or National Guardsman

or prison guard, and the person inside the uniform.
hostile

59

|

whom

ties

in

of love and of

that action

informed by

human being could change
the actions

were directed

could teach by example.
I

wrote "hope" but

in the sense

I

of religious

olence in action do so

Not

should say more accurately "faith."

though some

faith,

as

who

members of religious

in the dictionary's other sense

practice nonvi-

And

groups.

—of "unquestioning

not

belief" Bar-

bara herself was always questioning; she was one of the leading
critics

of the peace movement from within,

lesbian, as a
vists.

An

white person

activist's faith

stop responding to

who

learned

as a feminist, as a

much from

Black

acti-

can never be unquestioning, can never

"new

oversimplify, as believers

passions

and

and new forces," can never

activists are

often tempted or pres-

sured to do.

The Gulf War, which Barbara did not live

to see,

brought into

high relief certain reaHties that had been long in the making.

It

revealed the invasions of Grenada in 1983, of Panama in 1989, as
rehearsals,

war games, dressed

and the deposition of
sade against a

new

the arms trade)

a

in a rhetorical language

of rescue

monster. Manipulative images

monster,

—were used

a



a

cru-

"butcher" (recently our client in

to camouflage in 1991 the fact that

the invention, manufacture, and

sale,

not of nuclear arms but

of the most dazzlingly refmed "conventional" weapons, have

become

the lifeblood of global capitalism.

really the ancient race for the

The "arms

gold for which

men

race"

is

have always

6o
I

What

Found There

Is

killed each other: a false

arms

old and

economy based on amis production and

Arsenal building for profit, legal and

selling.

new nationalisms and ideologies,

sophisticated

weaponry allows both

military bases

bomb

ently laying

it

after

all,

A

"third

would seem. Cleaner,

it

unity that

is

the

life

way"

and

Nobel Peace

Prize,

social

between

instant nuclear devastation

more

—or

surgical wars?

bombing of Baghdad,

A

Swed-

the

reformer Alva Myrdal, accepting her

had connected the arms race and

excesses of armaments and

of violence

cult

has been found

one loves?

ish feminist

ominous

down of old
arms. These new

have the cumulative power

quicker, safer,

Less than a decade before the

less

more and more

to paralyze a city or a country without appar-

waste.

long-drawn-out ground war and
so

a

off

for the closing

and the reduction of nuclear

"conventional" weapons,

of a nuclear

while

illegal, plays

its

need-

aggressive rhetoric" with "an

contemporary

in

"its

were "in the process of being both

which

societies,"

militarized

and brutalized.

Because of the tremendous and needless proliferation of arms
through production and export, sophisticated weapons were

now
to

freely available

handguns and

role

on the domestic market

stilettoes.

.

.

.

And she

as well, right

singled out the powerful

of the mass media in promoting violence, most of all

the young," while "Western exporting of films and

grams worked

Third World
Barbara

in

tandem with the arms

in patterns

down

among

TV

pro-

trade to saturate the

of brutality."*

Deming sought

to effect change

by the most

grass-

*She might have traced these "patterns of brutahry," exported by the West back
to the slave trade

and coloniahsm, and the

films

and

TV

programs promoting

violence, to earlier Western cultural texts depicting people of color as apes,
sters,

subhuman, needing subjugation.

mon-

The hermit's scream
roots and personal means: a

6i

|

walk for disarmament through small

towns, dialogues with people met along the way, or in prison

handing out

cells,

arguing with comrades in the North

leaflets,

American peace and women's movements,
Alva Myrdal tried to use institutions
Organization and

UNESCO,

disobedience.

civil

Labor

like the International

her position

as

Sweden's ambassa-

dor to India, her contacts in the worlds of diplomacy and international poHtics, to achieve a rechanneling of global resources

from war into

men

social

and economic development. Her allies were

of power: Dag Hammarskjold, Nehru, and, in some ways,

her husband, Gunnar Myrdal.

Both Deming and Myrdal were
spectrum of

focus

on

a

had nuclear annihilation

social violence that

Deming

extreme. Barbara

chose toward the end of her

women's peace movement

with transnational violence by

wanted

to use her

money

it

provided

Nobel



that

prize

—both

as its

life

to

Alva Myrdal

the visibility and the

high-powered international

would hold

that

a

connected militarism

men against women.

to create a

movement

"antiviolence"

and saw along

feminists

to

account the

"propagandizers and profiteers of violence" and the use of violence for

power and

profit

throughout

social institutions, includ-

ing the family.

"Nonviolence," "antiviolence." The feebleness of the language, however passionate the determination,
thing.

Violence

is

what looks out

expressionless or grinning face
places.

War

"visible

is

goes on demanding

at

us

what we

its

Why do

I

go on

see,

as if poetry

it

What

mean,

I

have feared you hated you scuffed

on what

little

of you

I

some-

it

its

dis-

face has

to put love

has any answers to that

question?

Peace

us

phrases:

not what

"fatal unity."

and responsive peace"? What does

into action?

tells

from those

could bear near

me

dirt

What

6 2
I

Found There

Is

scorned you called you vicious names Every time

you have

settled

over an afternoon

a friendship a night
I

have lashed

free

my brow my

walk

sleep

of your desolate island

back to the familiar continent

Coward I have watched you buckle under
nightsticks

disgusted

and

me

fire

hoses

You have

slipping flowers into guns

holding hands with yourself singing to bullets

and dogs

Who can speak your language but

animals and saints

What

history records

your triumphs Over what centuries
have you reigned Miasma
of those

lists

In the land

who

Where

have died

where you

are loved

of the veterans of all against
will

I

clothe myself

will

I

teach

how

to find themselves

work of the

not

a real

or the author of the
the chronicles

do so
as


is

we

it,

is

my place

poet alive today, or for some time

past,

did even if he/she could, or Virgil

Chanson de Roland or

the glorification

the Shakespeare of

of war and conquest. The re-

precisely at the heart of poetic (and existential)

have come to understand

Hayden Carruth. For
took

Where

Suzanne Gardinier, "To Peace"

who would do what Homer

heroism

map of the world

belligerent in



fusal to

a

to respect

so seldom seen your face

your anarchic kingdom

is

on

what becomes

How
eat How

me Bloodless Outlaw Phantom what is

Tell

"There

I

my children whom

when I have

the

all

How will

are the stone

your name

in

it,"

writes the poet

centuries, people reading Fiomer's Iliad

along with the Fiebrew Bible

(also filled

with poetry and

The hermit's scream

63

|

scenes of battle) as a poetic starting gate, a point of origins for

Western

poem

civilization. In the

just quoted,

dinier speaks through the spirit of violence as

way through
as

history, not the violence

who

the violence of those

of power, "the veterans of all against

only

who

way

ever include them; or
is

the

The questions of the poem need concern
who condemn violence, who place themselves beyond

those

seductions.

About

the Iliad as a kind of cultural ancestry for citizens of the

Gardinier has written:

States,

content, the Iliad

is

as sacred vessels, as

battle. It

is

is

the interval

ancestors,

who

.

.

.

deeply value words

anything more than the

ritual

the epic of soldiers, and of the cultures

of connection to a universe that
peace

is

Whether

or not

this
it is

at

preludes to

whose

.

.

.

sense

whole has been broken, whose

between wars. As such,

whether we hold

at its point.

who

not the epic of slaves, nor of those

hold the earth sacred, nor of those
all,

"the belligerent" hat-

all,"

how it can

have grown up knowing that violent resistance

its

By

much

to stay alive.

all

United

of the powerful so

its

have fought and bled in the service

ing peace because unable to see
those

Suzanne Garhas thrashed

it

it is

clearly

one of our

country's sword of power or live
this

one among

whom we will pledge allegiance remains to be

all

the others to

seen.

She suggests other possible ancestors:

As

residents of the

Mayan

Popol Vuh, or

Western Hemisphere, we might claim the

some yet un-knit Nahuatl sequence

Delaware Big House Ceremony

set

down, or the

—or the

Mohawk Ritual

of Condolence, or the story of the peace made among the Five
Nations of the Iroquois. As residents of the United States,

—or sew together and claim the

might claim Leaves of Grass
tales

and songs with the story of the survival of slavery

in

we
folk

them,

as

64

What

I

the Finns
ants

Found There

Is

made

their Kalevala in the last century

In the nineteenth century
battles as spectators,
field glasses.

some people attended

watching hve war through telescopes and

on our

War

charges and routs in

And

television screens.

battle sites,

at

line dividing

and barrios of peacetime
that prisoners are

ing

rate, that the

na-

period military costume. Perhaps

full

end of the twentieth century there

no

as

history annually reenact old

knowledge

these theatrics can distract from, or console for, the
that at the

tech-

Revolution-

becalmed on the landscape

monuments, amateurs of

rized zone,

military

Today we view airbrushed images of war's

nological beauty
ary or Civil
tional

from what peas-

remember.

war from peace,

live

is

no demilita-

that the ghettos

under paramilitary occupation,

being taken and incarcerated
purchase of guns has

at

an accelerat-

become an overwhelmcom-

ing civilian response to perceived fractures in the social
pact.

Almost twenty years ago

was teaching

I

Harlem where many of my colleagues and
Walking up
classroom,

I

to

in a

pubHc

students

college in

were

Convent Avenue from Broadway, and

saw much

that

became

part of

my own

poets.
in the

education,

having to do with the daily struggle of poor African- Americans

and Puerto Ricans to

live and, if possible, to love and,

possible, to put love into action.

response to the turning-away

youth struck by

a city bus,

grief-stricken, bitter,

and

by

my

lyrical

a

Somewhere

where

in that time, in

Brooklyn hospital of a Black

colleague June Jordan wrote a

poem:

The hermit's scream

FOR MICHAEL ANGELO THOMPSON
(October 25, 1959-March 23, 1973)

So Brooklyn has become

a holy place

the streets have turned to

meadowland

where
wild
free

ponies
eat

among

the wild

free

flowers

growing there
Please

do not

forget.

A tiger does not fall or stumble
broken by an accident.

A tiger does not lose his stride or
clumsy
slip

and

slide to

tragedy

that buzzards feast upon.

Do not forget.
The Black prince Michael Black boy
our younger brother
has not "died"

he
has not "passed

away"

the Black prince Michael Black

boy

our younger brother

He was killed.
He did not die.
It

was the

city

(that city bus)

took him off

|

65

66
I

What

Is

Found There

and smashed him suddenly

to death

dehberate.

It

was the

city

took him off

the hospital
that turned

him down

the hospital

that turned

away from

so

much beauty

bleeding
bleeding
in

Black struggle
just to live.

It

was the

the casket

city

took him off

names and

of the hatred

faces

spirit

stripped the force the

laughter and the agile

power

of the child

He

did not die.

A tiger does not fall.
Do not forget.
The

streets

have turned to meadowland

where
wild
free

ponies
eat

among

the wild

free

flowers

growing there

The hermit's scream

67

|

and Brooklyn
has

It

took

me years

become

a holy place.

to hear the double-edge, the double- voiced-

of this poem, which sounded to

ness,

me

so apparently musical,

sorrowful, and courteous an admonition: Please do not forget.

read that admonition

as

community

than for the

being for me, for white readers, rather
to

which the poet and the dead

belonged. So Brooklyn has become

a holy place:

same tone at the beginning and end of the

I

heard

of the

first

become a holy place? the question
clear:

You're

telling

me?

me

between

and

full

I

the

after

heard the

question. So Brooklyn has

mark omitted but

these things just

wild free ponies of Black urban

child

this in

poem. Only

years of experience, politics, conversations, listening,
caustic engrained anger

I

happen

the subtext

naturally? that

youth just pass away? Race came

reading of the poem:

I

wanted

to believe

the poet was elegaic, not furious; she sets the "Please" in the

midst of the poem, which plays into

kind of "Please"

community who

at

all,

my reading.

rather the "Please" of the

strides into the

But

it

isn't that

member of the

church service where perhaps

the facts are about to be buried with the victim.

poem

become a requiem.
Having parsed the realities of Michael Angelo Thompson's
death, the poet's voice allows him his transcendence: his death
sacramentalizes the city that "took him off"; Brooklyn is made

By

the end of the

holy by and to him.

and

whereby

ritual

bitterness

class

resonant

The poem becomes both documentation
the

first lines

translate into the last Hnes,

and fury into recommitment.

"Peace"
urban

the same Hnes



is

not the issue here, but the violent structures of

and

racial

power. The

poem

is

a skin

—luminous and

stretched across a repetitive history of Black chil-

dren's deaths in the cities, in a country that offers

them

neither

What

68
I

hope nor

Found There

Is

of this violence, apparently so ac-

respite. In the face

ceptable and ordinary, poets are forced to remind us not to forget.

And Jordan

lyrical

herself

went on

to

become one of

the most

of activist poets.

The

difference

between poetry and rhetoric

being

is

ready to

kill

yourself
instead of your children.

I

am trapped on

and

a

of raw gunshot wounds

a desert

dead child dragging

his shattered

face off the

edge of my sleep

blood from

his

is

punctured cheeks and shoulders

the only liquid for miles and

chums

at the

black

imagined

my mouth splits into

taste

dry

my stomach

while

lips

without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the
as

it

wetness of his blood

sings into the whiteness

of the desert where

I

am lost

without imagery or magic
trying to

make power out of hatred and

trying to heal

destruction

my dying son with kisses

only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

The policeman who

shot

down

a lo-year-old in

Queens

stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood

and

a voice said

"Die you

Httle

motherfucker" and

there are tapes to prove that. At his

trial

The hermit's scream
this

policeman

said in his

|

69

own defense

"I didn't notice the size or nothing else

only the color." and
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today

that 37-year-old white

man with

of police forcing

13 years

has been set free

by

1 1

white

justice

men who

said they

were

satisfied

had been done

woman who

and one black

said

"They convinced me" meaning
they had dragged her

4' 10"

black

woman's frame

over the hot coals of four centuries of white male approval
until she let

go the

to

I

make

first real

power she ever had

own womb with cement

and lined her

a graveyard for

our children.

have not been able to touch the destruction within me.

But unless

I

learn to use

the difference

between poetry and rhetoric

my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie Ump and useless as an unconnected wdre
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect

it

to the nearest socket

raping an 8 5 -year-old white

woman

who is somebody's mother
and

as

I

beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed

a greek chorus will

"Poor

thing.

be singing

She never hurt a

and destructive

jury

rage.

An

soul.

What beasts

they are."

poem of documentation, of poverdict. It's also a poem about creative

Audre Lorde's "Power"
lice records, tapes, a

in 3/4 time

is

a

artist lostj without

imagery or magic in a

70

What

I

Found There

Is

power

desert of whiteness, of "an articulated

terms,"

is

an

that

is

not on your

driven against the wall. Lorde has said that she

artist

heard of the acquittal of the pohceman while driving,

and

I

decided to pull over and just jot some things

notebook
I

was so

to enable

sick

me

and so enraged.

came out without craft.
a student at

...

was just

I

was thinking

I

my

in

writing,

and

that

that the killer

poem

had been

John Jay [College of Criminal Justice, where Lorde

was then teaching] and
I

...

down

town without an accident because

to cross

might see him again.

that

I

might have seen him

What was

retribution?

in the hall, that

What

could have

woman on the jury. It could
What is my effective role?
the Black woman on the jury. What kind

been done? There was one Black
have been me.

Would

.

kill her.

I

.

.

Do

.

.



.

I

of strength did she, would
position.

.

structures

.

.

There

is

as

I,

have

the jury

—how do you take

you deal with things you
even

him?

kill

at the

point of deciding to take a

—white male power, white male
them?

a position against

believe, live

emotion, but right on the

line

them not

How

that

I

was

what had
to

no understanding

sense,

woman. And

that

to be

at the time,

done

at

that to put

not

as theory,

of action and effect and

change? All of those things were riding on that poem. But

no

do

I

had

of the connections, just
myself on the

any place and time was so

line to

difficult,

do

and not

do so was the most awful death. And putting yourself on the

line
kill,

is

like killing a piece

of yourself, in the sense that you have to

end, destroy something familiar and dependable, so that

And

that

sense of writing at the edge, out of urgency, not because

you

something

choose

it

new

can

come

in ourselves, in

but because you have to

what the poem

is

out

death over and over.

of, as



our world.

that sense

of survival



that's

well as the pain of my spiritual son's

Once you

live

opens you to a constant onslaught.

any piece of your vision

Of necessities,

it

of horrors, but


The hermit's scream
of wonders too, of possibilities
time,

An

.

like

meteor showers

may

ignite a

poem (which may

poem) but not because the poet

address that event. What's clear
draft

.

of "Power"

then be labeled

from Lorde's memory of the

a

recourse from harming herself or others

death terms that the

poem comes

raging,



poem

if it

begins to speak.

comes

as

poetry

How

others at

can I destroy what needs

random?

poems more

I

How

to die in

different than

as a

in Hfe-and-

so-called "poHti-

—from

fearful

How

me

without destroying

Two

"Chemin de Per" and "Power"
start to

and

do I put myself on the

think again of Bishop's hermit's cry.

hard to imagine. Until you

them.

A

at all

it is

deep and tangled questions within: in Lorde's case

do you deal with the things you believe?
line?

—and

of

news report

the radio, she pulls over and reaches for her notebook

cal"

first

that the event encapsulated great reaches

is

a

has "decided" to

her experience, open questions of her life. Hearing

on

the

all

bombardment, constant connections.

event

"protest"

.

71

|

are

Hsten back and forth between

A leak

I'm staying in
front
trees,

a

in

histor y

house in the Vermont countryside, shaded in

by three big sugar maples. Behind
and on

a hillside far

away

green in rich late-afternoon
scarlet; in late

I

it lies

Indians

down
knew

In

autumn

winter thaw the pale aqueous sap

to

its

this

of the same

can see another grove, glowing

light.

gathered and laboriously evaporated, in
cabins,

a grove

essence, a syrup

little

fme

as

the leaves turn

starts rising

and

is

steamy shacks and

honey. The Abnaki

process before the Yankees

came

to clear scat-

tered pools of land for grazing, leaving old forest lands in be-

tween. Taught by the Abnaki, the

Vermont in 1752.
Under snow, the sap shrinks

first

white

men made maple

sugar in

back. In early thaw, farmers

A leak

in history

73

|

woods to drill little taps
The sap used to be collected in
pails hung over the taps; more re-

trudge and horse-sledge through the
into the rough-barked trunks.

wooden

firkins,

then in

cently,

where

culture

formed around

tin

and weather allow,

terrain

plastic

tubing

is

used.

A

this labor-intensive harvesting, first ritual

of the northern spring, the culture of the sugarhouse with

its

ancient sprung castoff chairs, steaming evaporation trays, wet

snow and mud trodden

inside

coffee, pickles, frankfurters,

on heavy

from farm kitchens, eaten and drunk by
ing sap and stoking the
forty gallons

wood

fires.

men lugging and

Hard manual labor

down

—and

pour-

—about

to obtain

adept, sensitive calculation of the cy-

of thaw and freeze that make for the best sugaring-off;

ing for the

moment when

tongue amid

all

The

sour crispness of pickle on the

that sweaty sweetness.

too, at church suppers

and county

There

fairs,

a

is

summer culture

where "sugar on snow"



competes with cotton-candy machines and barbecue

of last winter's snow from icehouse, cemetery
sticky arabesques

will find

trees

pans

vault, or freezer,

of hot syrup poured on, served on paper

with the necessary pickle and doughnut on the

Maple

test-

the thin, faintly sweet sap has reached

the density of amber syrup.

still

down by women

of sap being collected and boiled

one gallon of syrup
cles

boots, doughnuts and

and beer brought

plates

side.

reproduce with energy: under any big tree you

dozens of seedlings crowding each other; in spring the

seeds, or keys,

blow

far afield

on

little

brown wings soon

after

new leaves uncurl. The root system of a full-grown maple is
many times the circumference of the great crown. In their earlythe

summer-evening green,

in the hectic flare

of their October

changing, in the strong, stripped upreaching of their winter
bareness, they are presences of enormous vitality
trees that yield

much

and generosity,

to the eye, to the tongue, to the

cash assets of farm families.

modest

74

What

I

Found There

Is

and road

said that acid rain

It's

dooming

are slowly

salt

the

sugar maples. Studying and testing the rings of mature trees,

have found that up

scientists

of chemical

and

trees

the

hill,

until 1955 they

since 1955 acidity has

stress;

them.

will eventually destroy

remember other trees

I

knew

look out

window;

the old trees just outside the

always been, without smirch or

I

at

all

on

the grove

seems

as

has

it

taint.

when

that stood in this landscape

common,

the wineglass elms. Every village

it:

show no evidence

been wearing into the

I

first

every road-

had them. Ulmus americanus, outspreading limbs sweeping

side,

up from
glass,

and slender trunk

a straight

in the

form of a true wine-

green in summer, golden in autumn, architecturally ele-

An

gant in nakedness.
Service,

found in

infested bark

and

fungus- carrying

England, elms

Now

drawer, implores cooperation in destroying

wood and protecting still-healthy trees. But the
elm bark beetle won out. Throughout New

fell

tered by winds.
precious.

a

old pamphlet from the State Agricultural

barren in summer, sick to death, easily splin-

Soon
it's

a living

elm

in leaf was

something

rare

and

hard to remember where they stood.

The poorer we become, the less we remember what we had.
Whenever I walk into this house after an absence, I drink, slowly
and

deliberately, a glass of pure cold

tap.

I

flavor.

no

And

savor;

the taste of bottled water

it

reminds

into this house does
cold.
also

water from the spring-fed

don't drink from most taps because

Of course

of water

in the side

I

it

me



in

tastes

drank

of nothing.
its

I

don't like their

ill

from the supermarket has

The

transparency,

spring water flowing

its

lucidity,

its

original

of this place, sharp with memories, but

as a child in

of a ravine where

I

the 1930s, from an iron pipe set

used to play.

It

seemed Hke the

saving, merciful drink of water in legends or poetry; through

it I

sensuously understood the beautiful, lip-smacking words "to

quench

a thirst."

This was not in the country, but in a

park in Baltimore. There was

a

wooded

stream there too, where

we

A leak
waded, and plunged our hands

in

history

75

|

in to the wrists,

and never got

sick.

Three thousand miles
much-traveled
is

hill

to the west,

Lombardi Spring.

trucks are almost always parked

Sensual vitaHty

—and

ple

as

balmed

And

is

it is

is

now, on

a



threatened
is

few

cars

and

lined

up

free.

as that.

a loss

in prescriptives,

A

held to be particularly

essential to the struggle for

you drink

the water

live

on the shoulder, people

because that water

bottles,

and good.

delicious

I

road winding eastward from the coast, there

a standing pipe called the

with jugs and

where

To

have no love for the

of vitality.

you

are

life. It's as

If

your appetite

weakened

sim-

taste
is

of

em-

for the struggle.

Under

the most crushing conditions of deprivation, people have

to

their stomachs, eat earth, eat plain starch, force

fill

down

watery and rancid soup, drink urine for survival. Yet there's
another story. In the newsletter produced by inmates in a

women's

facility,

among columns on

rent prison issues, there
for special

microwaved

from the prison

is

law, religion, politics, cur-

the "Konvict Kitchen," with recipes

dishes to be created

by combining items

store:

I

can Mixin' Chicken

1

Shrimp Noodle Cup

Jalapeno Peppers (optional)

Onions (optional)
Bell Peppers (optional)

2 Packages Margarine

Crush noodles and put

in large

water to cover them. Let

sit

micro-wave bowl with enough

for three minutes.

Take

bell peppers,

onions, and hot peppers and saute in micro- wave for
utes.

Take mixture

micro-wave

out, add noodles,

for approximately

stir

two min-

thoroughly and cook in

20-25 minutes, until noodles are

76

I

What

crisp. Stir

Found There

Is

every five minutes. Keep

lid lightly

on mixture but not

tightly closed. Serves 2.

—Gloria Bolden
Poetry being a major form of prison

poems

saying that there are

above, they

work within

literature,

is

prison not the Hilton

Heard we got
This

is

it

made

in here?

livin' at its finest?

Country clubs with kegs of beer?



Say
let

listen

me

tell

up

my fiiend

you what

to be livin' in the

flushed fiirther

This

is

you'll hear

we

it's

like

sewer

down

the pipe

.

.

.

prison not the Hilton

Election time
it

is

on

its

way

on the T.V.

should suffer every day

days of torture
nights of terror
feel

your heart's been torn

in shreds?

Say you're showered with asbestos,
drinking nitrate in your bed? ...

This

is

prison not the Hilton

care to change your place for mine?

Think
isn't

that 20 out

of 60

doing enough time?

Care to

goes without

the prison context but refuse to be

subdued:

This

it

in the newsletter. Like the recipe

try this life

of leisure?

A leak

history

in

77

|

Care to leave your folks behind?
This

and

is

its

prison not the Hilton
hell here

all

the time.

—composed by Jacqueline Dixon-Bey and Mary Glover,
inside Florence

Crane Women's Prison, Coldwater,

Michigan, Spring 1990; recipe and
Serving the

Women

poem from INSIGHT:

of Florence Crane Women's Facility

2d quarter

Sensual vitality

drink

as if filling

is

essential to the struggle for

themselves with

But what comes

emptiness.

after

dirt
is

life.

ed. (1990)

Many people

or starch: the filling of an

a greater emptiness. In the

Thomas, Kenneth

reputations of poets like Hart Crane, Dylan

Rexroth, James Wright, Richard Hugo, Delmore Schwartz,

Robert Lowell, EHzabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, drinking has

been romanticized

as part

of the "poetic



the "despondency and madness" of the poet

fate,"

as if bricklayers,

surgeons, housewives, miners, generals, salesmen haven't also

poured down

A

liquids to fire

up or numb

politician's wife confesses to

poHsh remover, in desperate

Whether done with
pear, this

But

is

interior spaces

of dread.

having drunk aftershave,

nail-

substitute for confiscated bottles.

nail-polish

remover or antique Hqueur of

self-poisoning.

there's a sensual vitality in drinking

in drinking pure water.

Both belong

wine and

to ancient

"spirits" as

human

rites

and

memories. People have fermented the apple, the grape, the
palm, hops and barley,

rice, berries,

the plum. Along with the

rising

fermentation of the grain, the
Universe,

may.

who

the potato, the dandeHon,

of the yeast in bread was the

fruit.

Blessed be the Spirit of the

created the fruit of the vine. For us to use

it

as

we

What

78

Found There

Is

I

That so many of us
an attempt to
general

fill

use, or

have used, the

communal

vitality

more than

ing in the fermentation process.
transaction

I

to

of emptiness

failure

of a

some inherent poison-

don't minimize the ultimate

between the individual and the

vidual's sense

of the vine in

fruit

our terrifying voids may point to the

reflects

—and

bottle.

But the

indi-

helps perpetuate



public emptiness.

When a vast,

stifling denial in the

individual yet there

being denied,

ament,

it

becomes

for each his or her

a daily struggle to act "as if"



a substitute for vital

collective
face

is felt

by every

no language, no depiction, of what

is

Alcohol, drugs offer a reprieve

but

public realm

memory and

own anxious predic-

everything were normal.

not ceremony or celebration,

bonds of community and friendship, for
responsibility.

Where

there

is

no public

of interdependence, ofjustice and mercy, where there

social

language for "picking up the pieces

what/where they
abuse can

work
by

when we

don't

is

no

know

anomie and amnesia, alcohol and drug

are,"

as social

controls and, because they appear "nor-

mal," can be more effective
rorization

is



—than

in a very large country

ter-

a secret police.

The danger lies

in forgetting

what we had. The flow between

generations becomes a trickle, grandchildren tape-recording
grandparents'
storytelling

memories on

jogged by

what with migrations,
work.

Or there

In 1979

is

a

daily

special occasions perhaps
life,

—no

casual

there being no shared daily Ufe

exiles, diasporas, rendings, the search for

shared daily Hfe riddled with holes of silence.

Helen Epstein published her book of interviews.

Chil-

dren of the Holocaust. In 1985 Judy Kaplan and Linn Shapiro ed-

ited

Red Diaper

scripts

Babies: Children of the Left, a compilation

of taped sessions

at

two conferences held

in 1982

of tran-

and 1983

A leak
by children of leftist and Communist
and

ties

There

forties.

in history

79

|

then in their thir-

families,

between the two

are haunting resonances

groups of testimony: the children's experience of knowing that
there was something of major weight at the center of their par-

something

ents' lives,

unspoken, unspeakable. (Epstein

secret,

refers to "that quiet, invisible

community,

that peer

group with-

out a sign.") Both groups of children knowing about things that

could not be discussed on the playground or with "strangers,"
that

were

A

home.

unmentionable even

at

neighbor's withdrawal.

A

to a greater or lesser degree

tattoo

on an

aunt's wrist.

A

mother's nightmares; a parent's terror

house or came

who

friends

home

late.

when

a child left the

A father in jail or underground.

Close

suddenly could not be mentioned. Certain newspa-

pers having to be hidden; jobs inexpUcably lost; children trained
that "the walls

have ears";

hours, one day every week,

a car

parked across the

two men

sitting inside.

no question of equalizing the events
silences.

Yet the passing on of living

dient of individual and
cases that continuity

communal

street for

There can be

that catalyzed these

history

is

two

an essential ingre-

self-knowledge, and in both

was breached. Forty years

is

of

a wilderness

silence.

The loss can be a leak in history or a
everyday

life.

shrinking in the vitality of

Fewer and fewer people

in this country entertain

each other with verbal games, recitations, charades, singing,

—people

playing

on instruments, doing anything

who

are

good

talk,

not pompously eloquent or didactic, but having a vivid

at

tongue, savoring turns of phrase


accordion, harmonica—

many

songs by heart

or whittle

wood

amateurs

as

something because they enjoy



To

be good

at

on key and know

to sing

to play fiddle, banjo, mandolin, flute,




to write long letters

with some amount of skill

and pleasingly well,

it.

in short, a variety

investment or disenabling awe



these

to

to

draw

pictures

do moderately

of things without solemn

were

common

talents

till

What

8o
I

Is

Found There

recently, crossing class

and

—memory,

equipment
eye



People used their

racial lines.

image making,

human

narrative, voice, hand,

unself-consciously, to engage with other people, and not

as specialists

or "artistes."

My father and his

mother both loved

He

to recite poetry learned long ago in school.

had Poe's "The

Raven" and "Annabel Lee" from memory, and he had won
school medal for his recitation of a long narrative

poem

a

called

"Lasca," which began:

I

want

And

I

free life

and

I

want

The crack of whips

air,

like shots in a battle.

The green below, and

And

fresh

sigh for the canter after the cattle,

the blue above.

dash, and danger, and

and love

life,

And Lasca.

And my grandmother still remembered
Vicksburg,

Mississippi —-Jewish

where there were no
recite,

poem

sent to a convent school

girl

was down

in the

at

the Switch":

Lehigh Valley,

At the bottom of the bottomless
I

reciters

ditch,

lived alone in a cabin.

And attended the

The

she'd learned in

secular schools. In her seventies she could

black eyes glowing, "Asleep

It

a

railway switch.

of these two poems could not have been in per-

son more unlike the "speaker" of each poem, and that was part

of the excitement: to see

and

different,

change

that allowed each to

perado to

a

known

his or

change back

my sedentary,

person become someone

new

her identity but within a framework
at

—from Texan

the end

scholarly father;

from negligent,

des-

solitary

A leak
switchman to

history

in

8i

|

my sheltered, precise grandmother. And such reci-

tations let a child feel that poetry (verse, really,

with

struc-

its

tured rhymes, meters, and ringingly fulfilled aural expectations)

was not just words on the page, but could
for decades, to

be

summoned up with

live in people's

minds

and verve, and

relish

that

poetry was not just literature, but embodied in voices.

For ordinary people to sing or whistle used to be
as

breathing.

I

remember men

as

common

whistling, briskly or hauntingly,

women humming with deep-enclosed chest tones. Where
go?

A

"boom

dios, portable

boxes," and cassette players, programmed

later largely alien to the

casual

it

technology of "canned" music available through car ra-

music piped into the workplace, has

and

did

left

people born in the 1950s

experience of hearing or joining in

music making. Knowing how to pitch your voice

privilege

of the conservatory; people used to learn

ing others casually, unself-consciously sing,

is

a

from hear-

they learned lan-

preserved in churches; rap, a spontaneous and

sophisticated expression of Black street

became

it

the

Now singing belongs to pro-

guage, accent, inflection in speech.
fessionals,

as

isn't

commodity on

television commercials.

picking up on local

youth

new

style for

(Yet rap goes on around the world,

griefs, local insurgencies.)

Part of the experience of casual singing

soaking up of

quickly

at first,

videotape, adapted as a

many

songs,

many

was the undeliberate

verses. Ballads,

hymns, work

songs, opera arias, folk songs, popular songs, labor songs, schoolchildren's playground songs.

And, of course, with the older

songs words changed over time,

new

generations of singers mis-

remembering or modifying. Tunes changed,
eled:

from England or Wales

to Appalachia,

too, as songs trav-

from Africa

to the

Sea Islands, France to Quebec, and across the continent.

To

ears

accustomed to high-technology amplification and re-

cording processes, the unampHfied

human

voice, the voice not

What

82

Is

Found There

I

may sound acoustically lacking, even perAnd so we're severed from a physical release

professionally trained,

haps embarrassing.



and pleasure, whether in solitude or community
breath to produce song. But breath

human connection

to the universe.

is

the use of

also Ruach, spirit, the

XII
Someone is
writing a poem
The

society

spectacle

is

whose modernization

characterized by the

has reached the stage of integrated

combined

effect

of five principal

incessant technological renewal, integration of state

generahzed secrecy, unanswerable

The

spectator

nothing. Those

is

who

and such must be the

are

and eternal present.

lies,

simply supposed to

factors:

and economy,

know

nothing and deserves

watching to see what happens next will never

act

spectator's condition.

—Guy Debord
In a political culture of managed spectacles and passive specta-

poetry appears

tors,

peculiar lapse, in the prevailing

as a rift, a

mode. The reading of a poem,
tacle,

nor can

cal currents

and

that

a

poetry reading,

be passively received.

through language

ill-prized

tion,

it

medium,

material



It's

that daily,

that instrument

thing,

that

knife,

is

not a spec-

an exchange of electri-

mundane, abused,

of deception and revelarag,

boat,

spoon/ reed

become drum/mud become clay flute/
conch shell become summons to freedom/old trousers and petticoats become iconography in appHque/rubber bands stretched

become

pipe/tree trunk

84

What

I

around

a

Is

Found There

box become

Diane Glancy:

lyre.

torque converterfor a jello mold.
ville, a

man who made
Take

in a

Chautauqua vaude-

wooden spoons with

his astonishing

found

that old, material utensil, language,

you, blank with

smeared with

familiarity,

means more than

into something that

made of is

once saw,

recognizably tonal music by manipulat-

ing a variety of sizes of
fmgers.

I

Poetry uses the hub of a

so old, so familiar, that

it's

daily use,

deavors (every

poem

poetry

it

is

it's

not

its first

en-

easy to forget that

just the words, but polyrhythmic sounds, speech in

about

and make

What

says.

it

all

breaks a silence that had to be overcome),

prismatic meanings Ht by each others' light, stained by each others'

shadows. In the wash of poetry the old, beaten, worn stones

of language take on colors

that disappear

up out of the streambed and

And

all this

has to travel

try to sort

when you

them

them

sieve

out.

from the nervous system of the poet,

preverbal, to the nervous system of the
reads, the active participant

without

one

whom

who Hstens, who
poem is never

the

finished.

I

can't write a

poem

to manipulate you;

it

will not succeed.

Perhaps you have read such poems and decided you don't care
for poetry;

something turned you away.

from dishonest motives;
like

an ill-made tool,

pose,

it

will

can't write a

things right,
will

it

will betray

a scissors, a drill,

I

its
it

can't write a

poem

shoddy provenance,

will not serve

its

pur-

come apart in your hands at the point of stress. I
poem simply from good intentions, wanting to set
make it all better; the energy will leak out of it, it

end by meaning

less

than

it

says.

Someone
I

can't write a

poem

is

writing

that transcends

me beyond
shown me how far out

poem

a

my own

limits,

85

|

though

poetry has often pushed

old horizons, and writing a

poem

a part

has

beyond the

rest.

me was walking
feel my limits as I

of

can expect a reader to

I

own landscape, to ask: But what has
poem? And this is not a simple
go to poetry because we beUeve it has

cannot, in terms of her or his
this to

do with me?

Do

or naive question.

something

to

I exist in this

We

do with

us.

We

also

experience of the not me, enter

go

a field

to poetry to receive the

of vision

we

could not

otherwise apprehend.

poem believes in a reader, in
poem. The "who" of that reader quivers like

Someone
that

writing a

Self-reference

is

that the reader

enough

always possible: that
is

my

That

of

a jellyfish.

my "I" is a universal "we,"

That sending

clone.

for attention to be paid.

readers,

letters to

myself

is

my chip of mirror contains

the world.

But most often someone writing

a

poem believes

in,

depends

on, a deUcate, vibrating range of difference, that an "I" can

become

mon

a

"we" without

language

exists to

extinguishing others, that a partly

which

A

heartbeat, memories, images.

from the

strangers can bring their

com-

own

language that itself has learned

heartbeat, memories, images of strangers.

Spectacles controlled and designed to manipulate mass opinion, mass

emotions depend increasingly on the ownership of vast

and expensive technologies and on the physical distance of the
spectators

studios

from the

spectacle.

(The bombing of Baghdad, the

where competing camera

and juxtaposed to project via

shots

satellite

were

selected

dazzling images of a clean,

nonbloody war.) I'm not claiming any kind of purity
only

its

own

particular

and edited

way of being. But

it's

for poetry,

notable that the

86
I

What

Is

making of and
technology.

Found There

participation in poetry

so independent of high

is

A good sound system at a reading
now

advantage. Poetry readings can

recorded on video. But poetry would get
technological performance scene.

is

of course

a great

be heard on tape, radio,

What

lost in

an immense

poetry can give has to

be given through language and voice, not through massive
fects

of lighting, sound, superimposed film images, nor

as a

ef-

mere

adjunct to spectacle.
I

need to make

technology

a crucial distinction here.

poet Luis

are, as the

The means of high

Rodriguez has

J.

said

of the

microchip, "surrounded by social relations and power mechanisms which arose out of another time, another period;
[they are] imprisoned

by capitalism." The

by these means carry the messages of those

power mechanisms:
domness

that

.

.

.

produced

spectacles

social relations

and

our conditions are inevitable, that ran-

prevails, that the

only possible response

is

passive ab-

sorption and identification.

But there

is

a different

renascence of poetry

formed

in alliance

as

kind of performance



an oral

art

at

the heart of the

the art of the griot, per-

with music and dance, to evoke and catalyze

community or communities

against passivity

to recall people to their spiritual

and

a

and victimization,

historic sources.

Such

art,

here and now, does not and cannot depend on huge economic

and technical resources, though in
relations
gies for

it

its

system of social

might well draw upon highly sophisticated technolo-

own

Someone
force field.

a different

is

ends without becoming dominated by them.

writing a poem.

It's as if the

Words

are

being

set

down

in a

words themselves have magnetic charges;

they veer together or in polarity, they swerve against each other.
Part of the force field, the charge,

is

the

working

history of the

Someone

how someone

words themselves,

doubted and rehed on them

among the words

writing

is

has

in a

belongs to sound

The

what

poem

theater of any

space and time

—how

is

are these

Part of the

movement

visceral, the

of decisions about

a collection

words

down-

on the page, with

to lie

what headlong motion, what phrasing, how can

pauses,

And

87

the guttural, the liquid, the

they meet the breath of the someone

them?

|

used them,

choppy, the drawn-out, the breathy, the
hght.

poem

known them,

life.



a

in part the field

is

who comes

charged by the

along to read

way images swim

into the brain through written language: swan,

kettle, icicle,

ashes, scab, tamarack, tractor, veil, slime, teeth, freckle.

Lynn Emanuel writes of a nuclear-bomb test watched on teleNevada desert by a single mother and daughter

vision in the
living

on

the edge in a motel:

THE PLANET KRYPTON
window

Outside the

sent a red dust

on the

the McGill smelter

down on

the smoking yards of copper,

railroad tracks' frayed ends disappeared

into the congestion of the afternoon. Ely lay dull

and scuffed: a miner's boot toe worn away and dim,
while

my mother knelt before the Philco

the detonation from the

Tonapah

Artillery

of the atom

of bees.

it

From

coax

the Las Vegas

and Gunnery Range the sound

bomb came biting like

a

swarm

We sat in the hot Nevada dark, delighted,

when the
up

static.

to

switch was tripped and the

its silky,

hooded,

hissed and

spit, it

bomb hoisted

glittering, uncoiling length;

sizzled like a

The bomb was no mind and

all

poker in a toddy.

body;

it

sent a fire

What

88
I

down

of static
of an

Found There

Is

the spine. In the dark

electric stove.

branch

until a

It

willow by

in the light

like the coils

stripped every leaf from every

a creek

of switches resinous, naked,

Bathed

glowed

it

was

bouquet

a

and

flexible,

fine.

of KDWN, Las Vegas,

my crouched mother looked radioactive, swampy,
glaucous, like something from the Planet Krypton.
In the suave, brilliant wattage of the

bomb, we were

not poor. In the atom's fizz and pop

we

heard possibility

uncorked. Taffeta wraps whispered on davenports.

A new planet bloomed above us; in its Hght
the stumps of cut pine

gleamed

The world was beginning

we

could have anything

all

we

dinner plates.

like

over again, fresh and hot;

wanted.

In the suave, brilliant wattage of the bomb,

you could

say,

without which

mean,

is

the political core of the

it

could not

as spectacle

the powerless,

all

of power promising

the falseness

tation of two cities, the

reservations —

-all

exist. All that

the

poem, the "meaning"
the

bomb was meant to

limitless possibilities to

of its promise, the original devas-

ongoing

way

we were/not poor. This,

communities,

fallout into local

to the Pacific Islands

ing impulse of the poem, the energy

it

rides.



this

Yet

is

the driv-

this

all

would

be mere "message" and forgettable without the poem's visual
fury,

its

extraordinary leaps of sound and image: Ely lay dull/and

scuffed: a miner's boot toe

worn away and dim.

whispered on

The

davenports.

planet, falling apart, the bits

to the hero; Earth has
toxic.

of rubble

become

.

Planet Krypton

its

it

own

.

.

is

Taffeta wraps

Superman's

flings to earth

dangerous

Planet Krypton

—auto-

Someone
At

a certain point, a

woman,

reckon the power of poetry
nuclear

bomb, of the

is

writing

writing

as distinct

this

a

poem

poem,

89

|

has had to

from the power of the

radioactive lesions of her planet, the

power

of poverty to reduce people to spectators of distantly conjured

She can't remain

events.

a spectator,

hypnotized by the gor-

geousness of a destructive force launched

She can

feel the

far

beyond her

control.

old primary appetites for destruction and cre-

ation within her; she chooses for creation and for language.
to

do

this

destructive

bomb's

she has to see clearly

power once seemed

silky,



and

to

make

as

that need, that destructiveness, in language,

is

the

enthrall a

they watched, two marginal

clinging to the edges of a speck in the desert.

her true power.

might

But

—how

how

to serve her needs,

hooded, glittering, uncoiling length

mother and daughter

visible

women,

Her handling of

how

she takes

on

XIII
Beginners

The two best-known
States

were

a strange

poets of the nineteenth-century United

uncoupled couple, moving together

dialectic that the twentieth

in a

century has only begun to decipher.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
were both "beginners"

in the sense

of Whitman's poem:

How they are provided for upon the earth (appearing at intervals)
How dear and dreadful they are to the earth.
How they inure to themselves as much as to any—what a paradox
appears their age.

How people respond to them, yet know them not,
How there is something relentless in their fate, all times.
How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward.

Beginners
And how the same inexorable price must

still

91

|

be paid for the same

great purchase.

Whitman's "beginners"

on

aren't starters-out

a

path others

have traveled. They are openers of new paths, those
the

first steps,

their place

who

to

seem

strange

echoed

also uses

long,"

as in:

All this

is

To

in the fmal line above).

"accustom yourself to something

Whitman

who

take

and "dreadful"

and time ("dear" can mean "beloved" but

"costly," a sense

means

therefore can

difficult

to

also

"inure"

and painful."

"inure" in the sense of "inhere" or "be-

thenceforth to be thought or done by you whoever you are,

or by anyone,

These inure, have inured,

shall inure, to the identities

from which

they sprang, or shall spring.

These "beginners" cost

weU

as to others, in

whom

difficulty

whom

and pain to themselves

as

they arouse strong feeUngs yet by



unknown their age feels paradoxical because of their presence in it. The appearance of the beginner is a
necessary, even a "relentless," event in human history, yet these
they remain

persons appear

as misfits, are

not what "the times" adulate and

reward. Both the person and the times pay a price for
the beginner

is

"provided for"



part of the longer

this,

yet

scheme of

things.

Whitman and Dickinson

shared this problematic status

as

white poets in a century of slavery, wars against the Indians,

westward expansion, the Civil War, and the creation of the
United
gins

States as

and

beyond white
tor,

an imperial power. In terms of their social ori-

their places in the social order, the
skin.

The woman

—daughter of

and treasurer of Amherst College,

two shared

little

a lawyer, legisla-

raised in a

home with

92

What

I

Found There

Is

Puritan roots and Irish servants, briefly attending a female seminary, dropping out to keep house for an

ill

mother, rarely leaving

the village of her birth or even her father's house

—might seem

the very type and product of the mid-nineteenth-century's dia-

gram

for patriarchally protected middle-class femininity, married

The man

or not.

—son

of

a

Puritan farmer-carpenter and a

Dutch- Welsh mother, educated

in the

Brooklyn pubHc schools,

turned traveling journalist, journeyman printer, war correspon-

dent and

field nurse,

rambler from Niagara to

might seem one paradigm of

"New World"

New

Orleans

mascuHnity, the

stock of explorers, pioneers, frontiersmen, allowed,

as a

male of

northern European/ Anglo origins, the free expression of his personality in an expansive era.

And

so they have

Emily and

come down

all-hailing, instinctual

ribbon, shaggy beard and
the private

to us, as reclusive,

life,

compressed

Walt, white dress and neck-

wide-brimmed

For Dickinson,

hat.

intense, domestic, microcosmic; for

the "kosmos," the "democratic

vistas"

Whitman,

of the urban panorama,

the open road, the middle range of the Nineteenth century

in the

New

World; a strange, unloosened, wondrous time. For Dickinson, a father's library, letters as

books

as

Hnk

to the world,

metaphors for and

poem

itself as "letter,"

lines into experience, life itself as

"Primer" to the "Book" of eternity:

He

ate

His

Spirit

And

and drank the precious Words

this

grew robust

.



A loosened
a

.

Bequest of Wings

Was but a book What

For Whitman,

.

Liberty

Spirit brings

world of newspapers and printshops,

derings, casual sexual encounters. Civil

War

city

hospitals,

wan-

and

al-

——



Beginners
ways

his suspicion

nary, the
tite

of

of printed

pubhshed history or biography.

literature, yet I find

myself trying

What

will never get in the books;

seems

to

of the

texts,

me more

than

all the

is it

it

that

all

/ cannot divest

to

be in

my

pages from first

to

last.

anonymously anthologized poems, the

in

appe-

real

war

your eyes?

It

my life. The poem as

identities

racy: Without yielding an inch the working-man

were

my

by Nature; The

you express

engendering the heroic

national product,

of the dictio-

failures

print I have read in

93

|

of a democ-

and working-woman

For Dickinson, several
rest

enclosed in

stitched into sequences stored in a

bedroom

man, the 1855 edition oi Leaves of

Grass,

chest.

letters,

For Whit-

no name on the

title

page, the poet's open-shirted likeness as frontispiece, his authorship revealed in the text of the poems. Dickinson: Renunciation
a piercing virtue;

man:
fleshly

No

is

the wildest

/ celebrate myself

and

.

.

.

word we consign

to

language.

one of the roughs, a kosmos/Disorderly

sensual, eating drinking

and

breeding.

For Dickinson:

On my volcano grows the Grass
A meditative spot
An acre for a Bird to choose
Would be the General thought

How red the Fire rocks below
How insecure the sod
Did

I

disclose

Would populate with awe my

solitude.

For Whitman:

Through me forbidden
Voices of sexes and

remove the

voices,

lusts,

voices veil'd, and

I

veil.

Voices indecent by

is

Whit-

me

clarified

and

transfigur'd.

94

I

What

Found There

Is

Didn't they seem to

their age, though, these "beginners"?

fit

Didn't they seem to act out precisely the chartered

roles, the

constructions of white, middle-class masculinity and femininity
that suited the times?

Were

they really "beginners," then, or just

polar incarnations of a nineteenth-century sexual dualism?

Both took on North America
vantage point: female.

New

as extremists.

She from her

England, eccentric within her

world, not the spinster servicing the community, but

ambitious

married to the privacy of her

spirit

vantage point: male within

art.

a violently

He from

his

spectrum that required some males

a

to be, like Dickinson's father, stiff-collared

wardens of society,

while allowing others to hanker, ramble on open roads. Both

showed masks

behind her acceptable persona of

to the world:

woman

gingerbread-baking self-effacement, a

artist

remaking

poetic language; the metaphysical and sensual adventures of her

poems; and what Muriel Rukeyser
thirst for

called "her unappeasable

fame."

I

tie

my Hat



crease

I

Life's little duties

As the very

Were





simulate

To

cover what

Too

precisely

least

infinite

To

From

my Shawl



do

Science

is

to

me



stinging

we

,

.

.

work

are

—and from Surgery

Telescopic Eyes

To bear on
For their

'Twould

us unshaded

—sake—not
start

for

Ours

them

We—could tremble
But since we got

a

Bomb—


Beginners

95

|

And held it in our Bosom
Nay Hold it it is calm





He, behind the persona of shape-changing omnipresence and
"personal force," socially vulnerable

as a

poet breaking with

Puritanism in a mercantile, materiaUstic nation

less

tury old, sexually vulnerable as a frankly desirous
to

than a cen-

man

attracted

men.
At the end of the twentieth century these two poets

hardly

known beyond the masks

those clapped

are

still

they created for themselves and

on them by the times and customs. Our

categories

have compressed the poetic energies of the white nineteenthcentury United States into a gendered opposition: a sensual,
free-ranging, boastful father and a reluctant, elusive, emotionally

closeted

mother

dren of the

knew who

—poetic progenitors neither of whom had
(Whitman boasted of

flesh.

or

if

his

chil-

but clearly never

they were; Dickinson remains an ostensible

daughter to the end.)

Yet
not):

woman and that man were beginners (we know them
woman choosing her inner life and language over in-

that

the

convenient domestic,

social,

and

literary claims; the

man

riding Puritan strictures against desire and insisting that

racy
is

is

over-

democ-

of the body, by the body, and for the body, that the body

multiple, diverse, untypic.

They were
carnal

and

a

wild

woman

and

a

wild man, writing their wild

ecstatic thoughts, self-censoring

empire of the United
the Caribbean.

He

States

as

the

cannot possibly have heard of her unless he

chanced to meet one of her rare sponsors

Hunt

and censored,

pushed into the Far West, Mexico,

Jackson, hater of the Empire,

(like

who

the novelist Helen

wrote

A

Century of

Dishonor about the white destruction of Indian cultures and, in a
letter, told

Dickinson:

"You

are a great poet"). She allowed only

96

What

I

Is

Found There

that she'd heard his

on

States,

crossroads,

poems were "immoral."

enormous continent, poetry

this

where poets often

hght and do not

But the wild

In the United

has been a strange

pass each other

by dawn or twi-

know who they are passing.
woman and the wild man are Americana now:

folded into textbooks, glossed in exhaustive scholarly editions.

And

Maxine Hong Kingston's extraordinary

the protagonist of

novel Tripmaster Monkey

named Wittman Ah

Sing,

a

young Chinese-American poet

who

reads poetry aloud to the passen-

is

gers in the buses of San Francisco.

Twenty-one

years after the death of Whitman, twenty-seven

years after the death of Dickinson, another poet

name

What happens when,
I,

bile,

contradiction-ridden, Jewish family?

a girl

is

first

book of poems

1934 around the world, and the
piloting manual)
is

moWhat happens when,

born into an urban, tempestuous, upwardly

twenty-one, her

book

bom. Her

the year before the outbreak of World

War
at

is

Muriel Rukeyser.

is

is

title

Theory of Flight'^

is

published, the year

is

of the book (derived from

When

the

first

a

poem of that

already big, assured, panoramic, accomplished, drawing

on techniques of film, yet unflinchingly personal? What happens

when

that

raised in

(I

young woman pushes
was expected

to

off^

the class ambitions she was

grow up and become

a golfer), breaks

with

her family, to move deeper into her country, her world, her
century? When, neither asexual nor self-diminutizing, she affirms herself as large in

body and

desire, ambitious, innovative;

travels to crucial poHtical scenes, in
as

working journahst and poet;

Spain and the United States,

learns to pilot a plane;

film; feels in her imagination the

excitement of the

lost

works

in

connec-


Beginners

When

between science and poetry?

tions

work

her

as a

poet



ques-

continuously addresses the largest questions of her time

of power, technology, gender

tions



many

in

documentary poems, epigrams,

odes, lyrics,

monologues, biographical

political

forms: elegies,

dramatic

ballads,

What happens when

narratives?

woman, drawing on every

97

|

and

women since Dickinson's death in 1886, assumes
of her own living to be at least as large as Whitman's?

gained by
scope

Add

to this that she writes three

a

breakthrough

social

major biographies



the

of

a Hfe

the "father of American physics," Willard Gibbs; another of the

EngHsh Renaissance

naturaHst, mathematician, navigator, as-

tronomer Thomas Hariot;
tial

book about

a

the 1940 U.S. presiden-

candidate and compromised visionary Wendell Willkie
translations

screenplays,

essays,

documentary

novel about sexuality

of

poetry;

and

ritual.

haunting

a

The Orgy; and

a

study of our national imagination. The Life of Poetry.

She

our twentieth-century Coleridge, our Neruda, and

is

more.

What

happens? She

between the

falls

cracks.

Her books do

not have to be burnt.
In The Traces of Thomas Hariot she wrote of her subject as a

man who was
great,

why

heresies

who

is

he

appears

is

great,

what

She describes Hariot

lost?

to fail at

every climax of his

She was

reputation, her

In an interview

One of the

me

if he

is

his greatness? If

as caught

.

.

of his time, scientific, political, philosophical, sexual

at these times.

own

And

great.

as a

she-poet

was broken

own

late in

attacks



touching

also

on

life.

a

He can

lost

he

is

.

in all the

.

.

.

a rebel

he seen to go deeper

fmger to the pulse of her

development.

Rukeyser

her

life,

me

for writing that Hariot

that

for a while

I

had no business

said:

to

book spoke of

be doing

this,

and

I

and looked out the window for awhile.

98

What

I

And
is

then

I am a she-poet. Anything I bring to this
am
woman.
And this is the thing that was left out of
I
a

I

because

Found There

Is

thought, yes,

Maybe,

the Elizabethan worid, the element that did not exist.

maybe, maybe

It is

by

When

a

that

what one can bring

long road of presumption that

one

is

a

woman, when one

drawn through
which

is

life.

come

to Willard Gibbs.

writing poems,

is

know

a passion to

I

to

when one

people today and the

web

is

in

they, suffering, find themselves, to learn the people, to

dissect the

know

web, one

deals with the processes themselves.

To

the processes and the machines of process: plane and dy-

namo, gun and dam. To

and declare the

see

full disaster that

the

people have brought on themselves by letting these processes sUp
out of the control of the people.

To

look for the sources of en-

ergy, sources that will enable us to find the strength for the leaps
that

must be made. To find sources,

living people.

And

roots: the infinite

its

gifts.

Of these

a

kinds

own

people, in the

made

main symptom of the
of knowledge

spirit,

were able

to

the unique

make

fall

is

their

complicated and specialized.

disease of our schools,

away

fi-om each other,

which

do; and our government.

It is

a disease

let

the

and waste knowl-

edge, and time, and people. All our training plays into
arts

two

to us to

few, some have been lost through waste and

carelessness. This carelessness

It is

our

anonymous bodies of the dead, and

few who, out of great wealth of

own

in

to be able to trace the gifts

this;

our

of organization,

it

makes more waste and war.
Presumption

it is

reasons Gibbs was

to call
lost,

it

a disease, to say that

it is

one of the

and the main reason he has not been

found.
Lost,

I

say,

and found; but he was never

lost. It

was

that

he has

Beginners
not reached
to

enough, and that

far

99

|

we have not reached far enough

meet him.

Rukeyser herself was never
was sometimes the
based on a

critic's

target

Uterally lost. In her hfetime, she

of extraordinary hostiHty and

ridicule,

failure to read her well or even try to under-

stand her methods: often, during the 1940s and 1950s especially,

because she was too complicated and independent to follow any
pohtical "line" or because she

life,

an idea of what

a

woman's poetry should look

Rukeyser lived and worked through
ical

sails

wit, an aesthetics of the private

vogue of poetic irony and
dle-class

would not trim her

a

discontent in the 1940s and 1950s

to a

midlike.

period of general polit-



disillusionment with

bUnd hatred of Marxism for some exCommunists, compounded by FBI and McCarthy Committee

StaUnism leading to

a

persecution of suspected

Communists and "fellow

travelers."

At

the same time, white and male middle-class poets, especially in
the northeastern United States, were being hired into the universities as writing teachers,
critics
ser's

were replacing poets

as

books were praised by

a

while university- trained scholar-

RukeyThrough her

the interpreters of poetry.

range of her peers.

mature Hfe she was recognized with those grants and honors that
she called "the toys of fame." But in the history of poetry and
ideas in the

narrow
ers

United

States

—always

difficult to grasp

definitions, cultural ghettos, the politics



the

she has not been seriously considered

group of

known

as

politically

of canon mak-

in the

conservative white

the Fugitives or the generation of

way

Her poetry not only

didn't

fit

thought to

S. Eliot,

Her thought remains unintegrated
poetic currents, the architectonic

that, say,

southern poets

men

—Ezra Pound, T.
Ham Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens— have been
have shaped "modern poetry"

because of

Wil-

considered.

into our understanding of the

shifts

of the twentieth century.

the critical labels, she actually

What

100
I

Found There

Is

defied the going classifications, declaring

them

part

of the "dis-

ease of our schools."

She was

a

woman who

wrote



sexual

as a

woman

Jew



the

work not just of men, but of Anglo-Saxons and

The

unapologetically.

chartings of

She never thought of herself as making an academic
its

fragmentation into periods or "fields" of

connect. So those

who

and

as a

modern poetry were

all

Christians.

career,

with

she sought to

may have had

think in such patterns

difficulty reading her.

She was never

literally lost,

but

we

have

still

How do we reach her? Most of her work
speak of her, but she

is

otherwise barely

is

to reach her.

out of print. Poets

known



least

of all for

her biographies, which in their visionary scholarship put to

shame the genre

as it's

generally practiced today. Included in a

major current college anthology, her poems are preceded by

"To be

patronizing and ignorant commentary:

absolutely con-

temporaneous was the aim of Muriel Rukeyser.

.

.

.

Her

first

volume. Theory of Flight (1935), displayed her knowledge of aviation.

.

.

.

Her poems seem

growths." Well,

and

ness

to arise

from her

Whitman and Dickinson have

cluelessness in popular anthologies,

like natural

suffered

Hke

silli-

both in terms of

commentary and of selection.
Rukeyser was immersed

in history, science, art,

ern poetic tradition. She revised her

How

memorable teacher of poets.
this

here?

Had

a

man of her

class

poems

should

it

and the West-

furiously,

was

a

be necessary to say

and background put forth

this

kind of Hfework in scholarship and theory along with poetry,

would

it

be so

difficult to

embrace

his

achievement, to reach

him?

We

reach her, of course,

as

we

reach

all

poetic resources

Beginners
blocked from us by mindless packaging and

We

|

loi

spiritless scholarship.

reach her by recognizing our need for her, by going to

libraries

and taking out volume

to the crossroads

—of

after

volume, by going,

finally,

poetry, politics, science, sexuality

meeting her there, where she

waits, reaching

toward

us.

—and

XIV
The

real,

not the calendar,
twenty-first century

The commander in chief for the Persian Gulf War
command. His memoirs have been purchased for over

August iggi
resigns his

.

$5 miUion. Already a paperback, Norman Schwarzkopf in His

Own

Words appears on the bookrack of my local market.

The

leading best-seller in "self-help" nonfiction this month,

according to the

with terminal
there's

a

New

illness.

notice

York Times,

a

book on

suicide for people
I

buy the

papers,

"WE HAVE THIS ON
NOW."

on the counter:

ORDER. SIGN UP FOR
I

is

bookshop where

In the

IT

think of Toni Morrison's Sula, of Shadrack, the traumatized

veteran of World

War I, returning to the poor Black community

from which he came:

The

twenty- first century

real

Shadrack began a struggle ... to order and focus experience.

It

way of controlling

it.

had to do with making a place for

He knew

the smell of death and

not anticipate

it. It

fear as a

was

terrified

if one

notion that
get

it

out of the

free. In this

of it, for he could

was not death or dying that frightened him, but

the unexpectedness of both. In sorting

manner he

it,

the rest of the year

kill

on the

everybody could
safe

and

Day.

he walked through the Bota cowbell

and

rope calling the people together. Telling them that
only chance to

hit

would be

instituted National Suicide

tom down Carpenter's Road with

he

out,

it all

day a year were devoted to

way and

On the third day of the new year,

a

hangman's

this

was

their

themselves or each other.

At the end of the novel, Shadrack,
still

103

|

"still

energetically

mad,"

is

alive.

But any of

us

would want

those with terminal

illness,

keep them technically

to

have the

vial

know how

alive, captive,

bed, with wires and tubing.

enemy,

to

to

do

it.

Not

just

dreading the power of the doctors to
staked like Gulliver to a

Any of us would want,

taken by the

of strychnine to crush under the tongue.

And who do we mean by

the

enemy?

After the sex manuals, the relationship manuals, the success

manuals

A
to



the suicide manuals?

society in depression with a fascination for violence wants

know how

to

do

it.

What

04

Found There

Is

At the end of the year 1989,

in the tumult

and

and symbols of the

State,

United

States press as to

the

first

year of the

first

year of the

the

of peoples

shift

down boundaries

pressing into the streets, across borders, tearing

arguments went back and forth in the

whether 1990 or 1991 would

actually

be

new decade, whether 2000 or 2001 would be
new century. As if numerical precision could

lend reassurance and order to that anarchy of the unexpected,

could save us from the mistake of untimely emotions, premature
celebrations, or

from arriving

late

and unready

Against that breaking up of Cold

saw

woman

a ghost: a

War

the

at

and

frontiers

with white hair and

a

new

hooked

era.

fixities,

I

nose, the

extraordinary profile of her youth, once framed in gleaming
black,

now

turned full-face and fleshy. She lived through 19 14,

191 7, Stalinist terror, the siege of Leningrad, her son's imprison-

ment,

and deportation of

killing

friends, censorship,

exile, provisional rehabilitation, the

attack at sixty-seven.

imposed on

a

trundled by an

me half-translucent, super-

black-and-white image of a cart of logs being

anonymous

old

woman

poem she was
"Poem without a Hero":

And

Cold War; dying of a heart

She appeared to

speaking from the
her

through snowy

terrible, stifling air

Lurked an incomprehensible rumble

But then

it

.

.

.

was barely audible.

scarcely reached the ear

And

it

sank into the snowdrifts by the Neva.

Just as in the mirror of a horrific night

A man is possessed and does not want
To

recognize himself.

streets,

writing to the end of her

ever-present in the freezing, prewar,

Lecherous,

It

banning,

life,




The

twenty- first century

real

105

|

Along the legendary embankment

The

real

—not the calendar

Twentieth Century draws near.

—Anna Akhmatova,
looking back to 19 14

But the Western dream of quantification expresses
anxiety about time
in

als set

as if manageable

months whose names

through numerals.

with mythic associations,

are rife

which

intimations of weather and seasonal cycles,
in other numerals signifying years

— "calendar"

on which we

Time
time

is

try to order individual

the fire in which

is

we

the school in which

we

learn,

burn.

are

embedded

years,

"school"

and centuries

years, "fiscal" years, ritual years, decades,

grid

itself in

Numer-



and collective time.

wrote Delmore Schwartz,

A new

the

that

engagement calendar can

set off feelings of anxiety, anticipation, melancholy, absurdity

that those neat headings

and

sent the currents of life in

power. Like Shadrack,

parallel squares

can possibly repre-

which the unforeseeable

we want

to fend off that

has so

much

power with

calendar time.

But underlying the names and numerals
ruary 19,

1942



of the

are the phases



15 Elul 5740, Feb-

moon and

tides,

the

and the phases of our incommensura-

planet's tilting in

its

ble inner

which we have no conscious dating and some-

times

life,

for

orbit,

no conscious memory. Yet the anniversary of

rape, a fire, a miscarriage, a betrayal, a
lation can year after year extrude

its

deep humiliation,

certain
life

self,

Ught or smell,

carries

apparently ongoing.

why

muti-

determined to oblit-

go on without looking back. Sometimes

the thing forward, recognize

a

spHnters, almost to the day,

into the scar tissue of the well-annealed
erate, to

a death, a

a certain

we

can bring

time of year, even a

such disturbance or blankness in a

We can come to respect the recurrence.

What

io6
I

meet

halfway, not

it

by which (Time

And,
loss,

is

interruption, but as the kind of repetition

the school)

we

surely,

as

we

learn.

can assume that episodes of collective,

civil

shame, betrayal dwell in the national psyche unacknowl-

edged,
the

Found There

Is

embedded Hke

body

politic?

shrapnel, leaving a deep, recurrent ache in

Not only

the trauma's victims are held in thrall

by the trauma.

When Maya

Lin's black granite wall, the

Vietnam War me-

morial, was unveiled during the third year of Reagan's "feel-

good" presidency,

it

aroused bitter

versive," "perverse," "degrading."

blackness in a city of white

was

hostility,

Some

monuments,

assailed as

critics
its

found

"subvery

its

lack of a graphic

chauvinism, especially offensive. Yet the Wall became a magnet
for citizens

the

war

of every generation,

—perhaps because

it is

class, race,

and relationship to

the only great public

that allows the anesthetized holes in the heart to

Somewhat

national grief

later,

the

AIDS

quilt

fill

monument
with

began to draw

thousands of citizens to gaze upon the evidence, to
different kind

of collective

ments: one, permanently
has

become

loss.

a truly

mourn

a

Two concrete and spiritual state-

set in the

midst of official Washington,

the repository of thousands of offerings and personal

messages; the other, stitched together in communities across the

country, from fragile materials,

names

still

must be added,

constantly in travel.

the silences of pubHc and private
ful

than

we

yet

know



having to be stitched

still

as a

life;

both perhaps more power-

communal

changing our conception of ourselves

been co-optable
Is it

for

as

Both countering

art
as a



can be powerful

in

people. Neither has

commercial ends.

in 1992 that the real, not the calendar, twenty-first cen-

tury will begin?



XV
clearing in

''A

the imagination

Misprision.

first

I

memorized

learned that

in school.

word

f)

in a Shakespeare sonnet

An Elizabethan word,

rarely used today.

I

It

means "mistakenness," "to have taken something wrong"
"misapprehension" or "misperception"
thy great

gift,

say today. So

upon misprision growing/Comes home again, on

judgment making. Misprision comes to
casts

we might

me

as

I

listen to early

better

news-

of the old-Hne "coup" against reforms in the Soviet Union.

Misprision of power; misprision of meanings, effects of
event; misprision of history.

Gulf War, thrashing

in the

The

experts, as in the telecasts

narrow tunnels of

this

of the

their expertise.

Misprision of power, misconduct or neglect of duty by a public
official.

To

to have

ill

have taken something wrongly, to have mis-taken,
used what was taken, what ought not to have been

What

io8
I

Found There

Is

taken, to misrepresent, misapply, divert to other

ought to have

its

own rhythm and

means what

purpose. Misprise: to value

wrongly.

To
since

value wrongly

upon

it all

same week

In the

of the United



the worst misconduct by a public official

grow

the others

like

molds.

the attempted Soviet coup, the president

as

States, signing a bill for the relief

of poverty but

declining to approve funding to implement the measure, says, in
this

way, he demonstrates

his

sympathy

for the poor.

In this time, a critic of poetry writes: The question for an American poet, living in relative personal and national peace and plenty,
to find the
ity,

how

imaginative interest in

to

life

is

how

without invoking a false theatrical-

how

be modest without being dull,

to be

moving without

being maudlin.

For an ever-growing spectrum of our people, the word "relative" in this sentence

must be heavily underscored. Images of

sub-Saharan famine, of fleeing Kurds massed

on mud

slopes,

of

disappearances and torture in Chile, Argentina, El Salvador,

Serbo-Croatia

and leave

it

suffering does

"To fmd

may

lead

at that,

our

or

some of us



perhaps

relative



to

count ourselves fortunate

to begin asking.

On

whose

peace and plenty depend?

the imaginative interest in Ufe" suggests a vigorous,

gray-headed, comfortably retired middle-class citizen considering the choice of a hobby or volunteer work: hardly the
the poet. For most people,

let

work of

alone most poets, the problem

not "finding an imaginative interest in

life,"

blows of the material and imaginative challenges of our time.
growing, perhaps predominant, number of poets write

and

as

they are able to

evaded, public

crises

—out of

fields

of

stress that

of neglect and violence.

is

but sustaining the

A

—when

cannot be


"A clearing
The freeway

Along

stretching next to concrete bulwarks or chain link fences.

the pavements, from

push laundry

my car,

see

I

hung with

carts

bags, clothing, newspapers,

109

|

by overpasses, narrow pavements

crisscrossed

is

imagination"

in the

more and more

They

walkers.

bags stuffed with sleeping

plastic

and strung around with smaller

bags.

They wear heavy clothes in the bright midwinter California sun.
They are slung with knapsacks, they carry shopping bags. They
are noticeable here

where few other

where they mingle with the foot
main avenues. They
color,

some with

pedestrians are seen; else-

traffic

on frontage roads and

men and women

are

children,

some with

of all ages, shades of

dogs. They,

who

other

people try not to notice, have to have keen eyes, have to notice

many

things

small

town

Ocean,

I

and useful

Last night

doors.

I

dreamed

was eating

I

me, bare of food or

I

had

I

about

this

about other people.

utensils, sat a

half a plate of pasta,

left

At

in a restaurant alone.

aged, with the ruddy-sheened skin of

when

things, truths

lying in apparent peace and plenty by the Pacific

truths

table near

don't, horrible

a

woman, middle-

someone who

was asking

for

out-

lives

my

check

"Do you mind if I give it to her?"
that the woman was homeless, was waiting

the waitress said,

then understood

for leftover food.

woman

I

"No," and

said,

over to the table where

going to have to

sit

I

was

at

windows where

I

I

moo

motioned the

realized that

I

was

my leftovers.

—not dream

sat in actual

saw poor people pausing,

scanning the posted menu, staring in
fried dumplings,

sitting.

there with her while she ate

Relative peace and plenty. I've
restaurants,

the waitress

at

my

or others' plates of

shu pork, moving on. I've

sat at

white-

clothed cafe tables; a few feet beyond the bright doorway,
carefully

spaced,

"Some money

a

figure,

throat, every gesture an

elderly,

monotone

please," a

economy.

I

thin,

extending an arm:

to save the muscles

have had to

let

of the

go of the

ignorant, the arrogant idea of my youth and middle age



that

I

WhatlsFoundThere

iio
I

would always be



the idea that has also

my own

speak truth to power in
everything you'd

still

powers, learning

human

A

character,

shits,

though

This

older

just



how

The

lost

I

see

they have capacities,

safely eaten,

judgment

for

which

cast-

which can give you the bad

good with

fried

onions on the

than

it

I

tell

once

myself

cris-

—perhaps never. But

did; there are

fangs

bared—

critic's task

is

it

more and more

evaluating the wares of the public

furiously

more and more younger women

dumpsters,

you

air.

home

women

know

a scientific

my territory yet,

isn't

feels closer to

if

rigorous eye for function and value,

smelling

still

pening autumn

take risks,

quick take on what will help get

a

through another night,

away sandwich can be

me

ways, the idea that

and

streets

lack.

I

let

have in mind the books you'd read.

people living on the

for

manage, somehow, anywhere, under

able to

any circumstances

for

whom

this

is

^you can get along.

not to try to deflate, shrink, and contain the

scope of poetry, but rather,

as

John Haines has

written, to pro-

vide "a space in which creation can take place, a clearing in the

imagination."

Haines

criticizing

is

North American poetry

and shallow response to things"



for

its

for

its

lack of ideas,

"sporadic

its

"casual,

happenstance character, the same self-limited frame of reference."

"What

the few?" This

is

such an

is

a

modesty without
Haines

is

art

beyond mere self-entertainment

dullness.

himself a poet

who

has looked

beyond North Amer-

ican "relative peace and plenty" to the cramping of

thought and

for

poet speaking who wants more of poetry than

spirit that

of not-human nature:

is

both cause and

effect

human

of the evisceration

——
"A clearing

imagination

in the

I

In the forest without leaves:

forest

The

of wires and twisted

steel

.

.

.

seasons are of rust

and renewal,
or there are no seasons at

all,

only shadows that lengthen

and grow small
sunlight

on

Nothing

the edge of a blade.

that thrives, but metal

feeding on

itself

cables for roots,
thickets

of knotted iron,

and hard knots of rivets
swelling in the rain.

Not

the shadows of leaves,

but shadows where the leaves might be

VII
Say

I

it

after

me:

believe in the decimal,

has divided me.

From my

tent of hair

and the gut-strings that held

it;

my floor of grass
and my roof of burning cloud.

from

.

.

.

What

12

Found There

Is

I

I

have looked back across

the waste of numerals

each tortured geometry

of township and

lot

to the

round and roadless

to the

wind-furrow

vista,

in the forest track,

when I had myself entire.

Say

after

me:

That freedom was weight and
I

am

well-parted from

it.

Each was too large
and the sky too

I

beUeve

in the

in

great.

my half-life,

cramped joy

of partitions,

and the space they enclose

VIII

Building with matches,
pulling at strings,

what games we had.

MonopoUes,

cartels,

careers in the wind,

so

many tradesmen of dust.

.

.

.

pain,





A clearing
Steam

in the

imagination"

in the kettles,

blades in the cotton
big wheels

And soon
but

lots

went round.

there

the world

chopped

Each piece had
and

a

was nothing

and corners,

a

to pieces.

name

number,

thrown

in a box:

games given

to children,

they too might learn
to play

grow old and crooked,

fitting the pieces,

pulling at strings.

IX
Those who write sorrow on the

who

earth,

are they?

Whose

erased beginnings

control us

still

—sentence

by sentence and phrase by phrase,

their cryptic notations vanish,

are written again

by the same elected hand.

Who are they?

|

113

What

Is

Found There

Remote under glass,

sealed

in their towers

and conference rooms

Who are they?
Agents and

clerks, masters

of sprawl
playful

men who

traffic in pain.

Buried in their paragraphs,

hidden in their signatures

Who are they?

X
Life

was not

why did we

a clock,

always measure

and cramp our days?

Why the chain and why
the lock,

and why the chainman's

tread,

marking acres and stony squares
out of the green
that

was given?

To see in a forest
so much lumber to mill,
so many ricks to bum;


A clearing

imagination"

in the

115

|

water into kilowatts,
soil into dust,

and

as

butcher cuts

flesh into

we

ourselves are

numbered, so many

factors

filed in a slot.

Say

after

me:

The key that winds

the clock

turns a lock
in the prison of days.

I

would rephrase

North American poet
public

—and maybe

turn away.

the

cri-tic's

how

is

to

sentence and

all



then,

about the necessity of rejecting

and about

say:

The

question for a

hear witness to a reaUtyfrom which the

part of the poet

Then and only

.

.

.

wants, or

when

is

this

persuaded
is

said,

false theatricaUty

it

wants,

can

we

to

talk

and maudlinity,

the other problems of creating an art rooted in

language, a social

an

art,

art that

is

not mere self-entertainment

for the few.

When

the landscape buckles and jerks around,

column of debris

rises

from the

on bodies

that could

history

awry and the

prayer,

fall

some

collapse

have been your own,

to poetry:

barrel

of time bursts

words

in the

when

a dust

of a block of buildings

when

the staves of

apart,

some

memory,

turn to

a stained

book

ii6
I

What

Is

Found There

carried close to the body, the

notebook scribbled by hand



center of gravity.

When you imagine

trumpet-faced musicians

blowing again inimitable jazz

no

art

can accuse or cannonadings hurt,

or coming out of your dreams of dirigibles
again see the unreasonable cripple

throwing

streak

his crutch

down

headlong

as the headlights

the torn street, as the three

go One, Two, Three on the

stake,

and not a sign of new worlds to

then stare into the lake

of sunset

boiling, over the west past

all

still

as

hammerers

triphammer poundings

it

the heart;

runs

control

rolUng and swamps the heartbeat and repeats
sea

beyond

think:

sea after unbearable suns;

poems

fixed this landscape: Blake,

Donne, Keats.

—Muriel Rukeyser
Or you might say: Senghor, Cesaire, Brathwaite, Walcott,
Brand. Or Dario, Neruda, Dalton, Paz. Or Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Mandelstam. Or Sor Juana de la Cruz, Mistral, Castellanos, Morejon. Or Hart Crane, Jeffers, Rukeyser. Or McKay,
Harper, Jordan, Lorde, Sanchez. Blake, Donne, and Keats are
magnificent, but they are not enough.

Or words on

a wall,

On a long voyage

I

anonymous:

travelled across the sea.

Feeding on wind and sleeping on dew,

Even though Su

And Rukeyser knev^ it.

I

tasted hardships.

Wu was detained among the barbarians, he would


"A clearing

imagination"

in the

|

117

one day return home.

When he

encountered a snow storm,

bygone

In days of old, heroes
I

am, in the end, a

Let

this

underwent many

man whose

goal

is

sighed, thinking of

ordeals.

unfulfilled.

be an expression of the torment which

Leave

this as a

Sadly,

I

memento

listen to the

The harsh laws

encourage fellow

to

fills

pile layer
I

upon

layer;

met with

how

can

I

surf.

dissipate

more miserable than owning only

—on

a flute in the marketplace

a different wall

En

el

bote del county

Con toda mi

loca pasion

Puse tu placa en

la

celda

Y con ese pensamiento
Estoy sufiiendo mi desgracia.

(In the

With
I

my crazy passion,

place your

And
I

county jail

all

with

suffer

name on

this

my hatred?

this calamity.

ofWu.

Or

my belly.

souls.

sounds of insects and angry

Drifting in as a traveller
It is

Wengong

years.

a cell wall

thought

my disgrace.)

XVI
What

an

is

American

life?

What

What

is

On

an American

Navaho

the

houses;

on

a

life?

houses

it?

reservation, hogans, trailers, small

back road near

Window Rock,

adobe

cardboard huts like

those in photographs of South African shantytowns or those that
cling to rusted fences

Bridge.

On

under the on-ramp of the Brooklyn

the high mesas,

Hopi adobes

at

the cHffs verge,

material poverty poised above transcendent blue space and
lence.

Back of the

tourist roads at the

Canyon, workers' dorms with
and broken

plastic chairs

rangers' cabins,

of the

office.

North

rusty barbecue

on the beaten

manicured Hke

a

Rim

si-

of the Grand

grills, plastic

toys,

dirt outside; the

park

mihtary base,

flag flying in front

Mormon cottages of gingerbread wood, small well-

What

American

an

is

watered lawns, rosebushes in

a

Utah town

life?

set at the foot

A

intransigent rock, mountains barren of vegetation.

hut with

a satellite dish, a

and

real

lived-in;

pen

for animals, a

119

|

of

Quonset

water tank. Tepees,

others fabricated as motel units,

"trading

posts." School buses driven in for migrant workers' shelter,

moored behind barbed wire

sites.

or

on

the flatbeds of trucks bearing

Low-crouched on

them

move

along

to construction

On the one real street of a village nested in a mountain pass,
untouched by the freeway,

left

in-home beauty

parlor

a hand-lettered sign for the

housed in someone's bungalow or half a

duplex: Casa de Beaute, Lila's Unisex
larger
tel

edge.

colorless prefab houses, some of which

the desert,

the road

at a ranch's

CHp and

towns everywhere, condominium

estates

and earth tones, sameness disguised

homes

dle-class struggle to afford.

weekend

bottom of the mid-

invisible, at the

ends of

private roads; the landing strips of private planes

unmarked

long,

is

Around

of relentless pas-

as variation,

for the well-to-do or domiciles the

Real wealth

Curl.

don't identify themselves.

"Theme
urban

flight seeks

less streets

never
pled

parks" proHferate, family farms go bankrupt, white

behind

its

a civic center

urbs,

own

artificial

electric gates,

or heartbeat.

from Harlem

to

peace and plenty,

And

in the stripped

Poems fix

Jimmy

this

landscape.

A

closets; children

go forth to

saw the

sewage and toxic-

to the ghettos.
full

Santiago Baca, housed in a

I

moon

rises

over the young

New Mexico prison:

moon at first one blue

twilight,

standing, blowing drops of breath into cold

standing in

and crip-

new waves

half-gutted schools; incinerators, landfills,

crammed next

urbs,

to Los Angeles,

Houston

of immigrant labor sleep in rented

waste plants are

silent spot-

suburbs that never knew an

my prison jacket,

4:30,

air,

What

120
I

compound,

in the

not a

Found There

Is

stir,

circled with high granite walls,

but glare of spotlights, the

silent

guard towers and stiff-coated guards above them

A big bloated desert moon,

all.

there,

how held up, such a big moon? Such a passionate tear!
How, against the velvety spaciousness of purple sky,
how does it hold itself up, and so close to me! To me!
Tell me!

What

should

it

mean,

moon Uke a wolfs yellow eye
my eye directly?
My finger, had I raised my arm,

that a

should stare into

could have punctured

sweet juice

drips,

I

it

like a

peach and on

could have pushed

my head

my finger in,

retrieved the seed of its soul, the stern hard pupil,

and placed

it

upon

my tongue,

of dreams! Dreams, for

how I howled inside,
away with
this,

steel

sucked

its

mighty power

how I needed them,

sweeping great portions of thoughts

blue blades of the hour,

the time of my imprisonment.

I

split

days open with red axes of my heart,

the days falling like trees
I

chopped up into each hour

and threw into the

I

I

soul's fire.

had not known the

power back

had not known the black-footed demons

pecking each lightray
I

desert's

had not known

could break

at

as if it

were

straw.

my dreams, diamond hard,

the silence of dragging winds;

then.

What

no, nor that a pebble could
a world, unlocking fear.

.

.

American

an

is

come

life?

|

12

mean

to

.

looked into that moon, amazed, never

I

moon

having seen a
gathering

so

much mine,

my plundered life into its

Moon! Moon! Moon!
on the

way

arms.

that twilight

morning,

to the kitchen to have some coffee,

thinking of my ten years to do in prison,

my jacket, my boots feeling good and firm,

bundled up in

walking on under the guard's eye, blinded and blank-eyed,
to

my escape, my fi-eedom just then,

the guard's ears clogged, deaf,

when
as all that

I

the

moon said, "You

are

fi-ee,

have, winds, mountains, you are

firee.

.

.

.

David Mura, third-generation Japanese-American poet:

What

does

it

mean when

ence to journalists, to
it

mean when we

the sole voice

us

It is

economists?

What

does

allow the "objectivity" of these disciplines to be

which speaks on events and

topics

of relevance to

all?

equal

a tragic time.

to living in a tragic land,

But time and place

tragic here for five
tragic,

poets surrender vast realms of experi-

political scientists,

it

was

hundred

vast, fertile,

it

became

Wallace Stevens,

are not separable.

Time

years; before that, the land

generous, dangerous,

of many forms of life. From the
claiming,

said

first

a tragic land. In

filling

invasion, the

all

to live in

has been

was not

the needs

first

arrogant

the explicit destructions,

What

122
I

all

Found There

the particular locations of the tragedy, this

diction, the
far

Is

more

is

the

knowledge Whitman couldn't bear or

explicit

and courageous about

sex)



fatal

contra-

utter (he

was

the great rip in the

imaginative fabric of the country-to-be: the extraordinary cruelty,

greed, and willful obliteration

was founded. Cruelty, greed,

on which the land of the

assassination

free

of cultures are part of

aU history. But we, here, have been staggering under the weight

of

a national fantasy that the history

of the conquest of the

Americas, the "westward movement," was different

—was

a his-

tory of bravery, enlightenment, righteous claiming, service to
religious values

What

can

and

this

civilizing spirit.

mean

for poetry?

It

hardly matters if the poet

has fled into expatriation, emigrated inwardly, looked toward

Europe or Asia

for models, written stubbornly

of the

terrible

labor conditions underpinning wealth, written from the mi-

crocosm of the private existence, written
as

lover or misanthrope:

all

as

convict or aristocrat,

our work has suffered from the de-

stabihzing national fantasy, the rupture of imagination implicit in

our

history.

But turn

it

around and say

spiritual rupture, a social
secrets,

it

compact

poetry becomes more

underground

on

Poets newly arriving here

built

on

fantasy

and collective

necessary than ever:

aquifers flowing;

through stone.

the other side: in a history of

it is



^by

it

keeps the

the liquid voice that can wear

boat or plane or bus, on foot or

hidden in the trunks of cars, from Cambodia, from Haiti, from
Central America, from Russia, from Africa, from Pakistan, from

Bosnia-Herzegovina, from wherever people, uprooted,

flee to

the land of the free, the goldene medina, the tragic promised

land

—they too

will

have to learn

all this.


What
What

can

it

mean

an

is

American
we

to say, in 1993, that

gency" situation here in North America,

life?

123

|

have no "emer-

that because this

not

is

Eastern Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, a poetry that
doesn't assume a matrix of normality

dramatic? In her
as

is

memoir of her husband's

inauthentic,

melo-

persecution and exile

an anti-Stalinist poet, Nadezhda Mandelstam charted not only

the methods of a particular system of state terrorism, but the

public psychology that accompanied

deception, the progressive
that everything
that

is

No

is

loss

going along as

it:

not only

fear,

of a sense of reality, the
should,

it

and

that

life

but

self-

need to

feel



continues

but

only because the trams are running.

one

who

loves

life

or poetry could envy the conditions

faced by any of the Eastern Europeans or Black South Africans
(for a

few examples

in this century)

whose

writings

were

taken in the face of solitary confinement, torture, exile,

very

least

at

the

proscription from publishing or reading aloud their

work except
envy

actions

in secret.

To envy

their circumstances

would be

their gifts, their courage, their stubborn belief in the

to

power

of the word and that such a belief was shared (even punitively).

And it would mean wanting to
cies for ours, as if poets

substitute their specific

lacked predicament

here in the United States.

—and

emergen-

challenge

XVII
((

Moment

of

Nadezhda Mandelstam

proof

says that in

when Anna Akhuncom-

1952,

matova's son was being held hostage, even that proud,

promising poet wrote

a

They were weak poems,

A poet in the United States

effect.

poems

in praise

A

mocracy."
as it

couple of "positive" poems to StaUn.
she says, and

of the President,

poet can write

is

anyway

didn't have

much

not under pressure to write

a victorious general,

as if everything

or "de-

were "going along

should," with, perhaps, a touch of ecological melancholy or

a vignette

of the homeless. But even

this

not demanded.

is

Kremlin officialdom, and the petty Hterary bureaucrats

hung

to

its

coattails,

dimly understood,

as

even some of our poets) don't, that poetry
tion's

The

who

our bureaucrats (and
is

where the imagina-

contraband physical and emotional imprintings are most

"Moment
concentrated, most portable



traceable

song or a joke

cannot

as

tion that

must be taken hostage, or

order for

a totalizing unitary

lives.

only

However

have grasped

a

is

on

a scrap

memory

of soap, able to be committed to



of proof"

as a

portable; that

125

|

of paper,

power of poetry

power

it's

the imagina-

to take control

they understood

it

of people's

oral cultures,

dying, thrashing state corporate
States has

thought

—on what Muriel Rukeyser

been able

still

much

very

power now

United

may

because of the residual

and other sovietized

in the Russian

power deriving from

bar

terrorized, or sterilized, in

stupidly and brutally the Soviet hierarchy

this,

a

novel or play

cultures, a
alive.

The

prevailing in the

—without giving

to rely

called "the fear

it

much

of poetry"

in a technologically advanced, corporate-driven society.

In a

poem

wryly entitled "Reading Time:

onds," she evokes

i

Minute 26 Sec-

it:

The

fear

fear:

mystery and fury of a midnight

of poetry

is

the
street

of windows whose low voluptuous voice
issues,

and

after that there

is

That round waiting moment

no peace.

in the

theatre: curtain rises, dies into the ceiling

and here

is

played the scene with the mother

bandaging a revealed son's head. The bandage
Curtain goes down.

And here

is

the

is

torn

moment of proof.

That climax when the brain acknowledges the world,
all

values extended into the blood awake.

Moment

of proof.

And

as

they say Brancusi did,

building his bird to extend through soaring
as

Kafka planned

stories that

through time extended.

And

draw

air,

to eternity

the climax strikes.

off.

What

126
I

Found There

Is

Love touches

so, that

months

after the

look of

blue stare of love, the footbeat on the heart
is

translated into the pure cry of birds

new

following air-cries, or poems, the

Moment
They

of proof. That

fear

They

it.

strikes

scene.

long after

act.

turn away, hand up palm out

fending off moment of proof, the straight look, poem.

The prolonged wound-consciousness
The prolonged love

after the

look

after the bullet's shot.

dead,

is

the yellow joy after the song of the sun.

The

first

gesture of fending off

much of my time

is

this

going

to

is

the implied question

take up?

The poem's

since a

poem might "take"

a lifetime.

How

answers

poem moves

with clocked, numerical precision. But the
its title,

title

against

Elsewhere Rukey-

ser writes:

I

remember

That

is

a

a psychologist wdth

good town

to

whom

talked in

I

produce an image of the

New

Haven.

split life:

it is

a

spUt town, part fierce industrial city, part college, very Httle
reconciled. ...

work and
enough

his

man who has made

spoke to a psychologist, a

I

theme the study of

fear,

and the

talk

his

went well

was mentioned. Then, with extreme vio-

until poetry

lence, a violence out of any keeping with

what had gone before,

the psychologist began to raise his voice and cut the air with his

hand

flat.

He

said, his

his life, that that

voice shaking, that he had cut poetry out of

was something he had not time

for, that

was

something out of his concern.

There

when

is

fear

of the experience that leaves

the brain

is

not

proof" against which

which Audre Lorde

split
all

other experience

has said:

a

mark, the

moment

from the blood, the "moment of
is

to

be

tested.

Of

"Moment
It

of proof"

forms the quality of the Ught within which

we

hopes and dreams toward survival and change,
language, then into idea, then into
the

way we help

The

give

farthest horizons

names

more

predicate our

cow

into
is

it

can be thought.

fears are

cobbled by our

poems, carved fi-om the rock experiences of our daily

Survival

made

first

tangible action. Poetry

to the nameless so

of our hopes and

127

|

lives.

and change. Nadezhda Mandelstam, writing in Mos-

in the late 1960s:

I heard someone say: "It is well known that everybody
who has ever tried to make people happy only brought total disaster on them." This was said by a young man who does not want to
see any changes now, in case they only bring new misfortune on

Recently

him and
adays

others.

There are large numbers of people

—among the more or

less well-off,

mostly young speciaUsts and

by the

State.

They

scientists

live in inherited

like

him now-

needless to say.

whose

They are

services are

needed

apartments of two (or even

three or four) rooms, or they can expect to get one fi-om the

organization in which they work.
fathers

They are

horrified at

what

their

have wrought, but they are even more horrified by the

thought of change. Their ideal

is

to pass their Uves quietly

work-

ing at their computers, not bothering their heads about the pur-

pose or

them

result,

and devoting

their free time to



wonder where they are now in
once-young people who, not bothering
I

or result, fitted so well

doomed
no one

whatever gives

pleasure.

and so

their
their

fifties, sixties

heads about

fatalistically as

.

.


.

those

purpose

cogs in a brutal

technocracy. But no one then guessed

it

and

was doomed;

then, after the Prague spring of 1968, could have told

them how shudderingly

it

would come

apart.

XVIII
((

stops
Historyy stop
fo

It

was not

no one''

r

natural.

And

she was the

first.

.

.

.

A poet can read. A poet can write.
A poet African in Africa, or Irish in Ireland, or French on the left
bank of Paris, or white in Wisconsin. A poet writes in her own language.
A poet writes of her own people, her own history, her own vision, her
is

own room,
one word

her

after

an image and

a

own

house where she

sits at

her

another word until she builds

meaning

that somersaults

all

own

a line

table quietly placing

and

a

movement and

of these into the singing, the

absolutely individual voice of the poet: at liberty.

A poet

is

somebody

A poet someone at home.
How should there be Black poets in America?

free.

is

—-June Jordan, "The Difficult Miracle
of Black Poetry in America"

Zi shemt zikh/Shc

is

ashamed

Zi shemt zikh

She has forgotten
altsfargesn

forgotten

it all.

"History stops for no one"

Whom can

I

129

speak to?

she wonders.

.

.

.

Mit vemen
ken ikh redn?

Whom can
di

I

speak to?

meysim farshteyen

mir

afile nit

even the ghosts

do not understand me.
In derfemd

among
iz hir

strangers

heym
is

her home.

"D/

-Irena Klepfisz,

rayze aheymj

The Journey Home"

To

have

as birthright a

you recognizes and
least, it lets

and

artist.

poetic tradition that everyone around

respects

is

one kind of

you know what you hold

Like

a

strong parent

in

At very

privilege.

your hands,

who both teaches

as

person

and browbeats,

can be learned from, stormed away from, forgiven, but whose
influence can never be denied. Like a family from which, even
in separation,

you bring away

ways of

certain gestures, tones,

looking: something taken for granted, perhaps

felt as

constric-

of departure.

tion, nonetheless a source, a point

Until recently. North American poetry has largely been the

province of people
tion

the



who

Greek and Latin

—or took on through educa-

possessed

a literary family tree

beginning with the King James Bible,

classics,

branching into the Renaissances of

Europe and England, and transported

to the colonies

by the

colonizers as part of their civilizing mission to the wilderness.

On

that mission, they violently disrupted the original poetry

of

130

this

What

I

Found There

Is

continent, inseparable as

determination to destroy
Later, the descendants

it

was and

tribal Ufe,

is

from Indian

Hfe. In the

poetry had to be desecrated.

of the desecraters collected, transcribed,

and printed surviving Indian songs and chants
"vanishing" people. Only in the

late

as artifacts

of

a

twentieth century, a renais-

sance of American Indian culture has produced a new^, written,

who, in the
"Not Vanishing."

poetic literature expressive of indigenous people

words of the poet Chrystos,

are emphatically

Africans carried poetry in contraband

Middle Passage

young

to create in slavery the

in slavery in Boston,

girl

Phillis

memory

Bradstreet, the second

published in

this

woman

A

Wheatley, mastered

Anglo-American metrics and conventions

Anne

across the

"Sorrow Songs."

to

(and the

become,

after

Black) poet

first

country. African-American poets have had to

invent and synthesize a language in which to be both African and

American, to "write

.

.

.

towards the personal truth" of being

African- American and create a poetics of that experience.

have above

all

They

created a musical language, jazz, which has incal-

culably affected the national poetic language.

Such writers

—men and women of

color, poets

born

to a

language other than English, lesbian and gay poets, poets writing
in the upsurge

twenty years

their cultures

ship to

of the women's poetry movement of the past

—have not

therefore living
I

as

culture, nonassimilating in spirit

and

of

self-

amid contradictions,

see the

the century

even though

have been ruptured and misprized. The relation-

more than one

creation.

started in cultural poverty

life

is

a constant act

of North American poetry

a pulsing, racing

at

convergence of



regional, ethnic, racial, social, sexual

that, rising

the end of

tributaries

from

lost

or

long-blocked springs, intersect and infuse each other while
reaching back to the strengths of their origins. (A metaphor,
perhaps, for a future society of which poetry, in

pect social condition,

is

the precursor.)

its

present sus-

"History stops for no one"

One

paradigm of

work of

poetry of cultural re-creation

this

Irena Klepfisz.

It

131

|

the

is

begins with a devastating exterior

event: the destruction of European Jewry in the Nazi period

known as the Holocaust or,

through the genocide
khurbn. "The Yiddish

Holocaust,

it

word was

important,

in Yiddish, der

unlike the term

for,

resonated with yidishe geshikte,] ewish. history, link-

ing the events of World

War II

with

und

der erste

tsveyster khurbn,

the First and Second Destruction (of the Temple)."
1

94 1 in the Warsaw Ghetto,

this

poet

is

community,

up the

culture, country,

in

unequivocally rooted in

the matrix of history. Beginning with almost total loss
ily,

Bom

and language



—of fam-

she has taken

of re-creating herself as Jew, woman, and writer by

task

facing and learning to articulate that destruction. If she had

stopped there, had become only the author of her early poems

and of

"Bashert,

" her work would have claimed

in the poetry that necessarily,

a

and stubbornly, came

unique place
after

Ausch-

witz.

But Klepfisz goes

—an

khurbn

further, not

impossibility for any

by way of leaving behind

Jew

or any other person

wants to understand living in the twentieth century
searching, through her poetry, for

where
as a

this

was

possible.

what

is

as a given).

as a

This poet cannot:

during the war

germans were known
to pick

by

up

infants

their feet

swing them through the

—but by

possible in a

Most poets emerge with

given (though not always with literacy

air

der

who

world

existence itself

given, literature

132

What

I

Found There

Is

and smash

their heads

against plaster walls

somehow
i

managed

to escape that fate.

Lines Hke

graffiti

existence itself

is

on

The

a wall.

consciousness that, precisely,

not to be taken for granted will impel her

journey.

What

does

survivors?

1945

it

The

mean

to be a Holocaust survivor or a child of

question has haunted Jewish

—through

ologizing, through a search for resonance.

United

States

it

worldwide since

life

denial and silence, through amnesia

has had

its

own

resonance. For Klepfisz this

is

and myth-

Certainly in the

reverberations and failures of

not just

a

question of present

meaning, but of lost, irreplaceable resources, cultural and emotional riches destroyed or scattered before she could

The
as a

question for her

Jew in

is,

then, also

woman,

can

know them.

mean

see their great

generation of Jewish children.

available, to the

an

single, childless, a lesbian,

community of survivors who

new

it

hope

What

is

grow up

for

grow

from

a

meaning in
is

poet located in these ways?

Before der khurhn, Yiddish poetry

uing heritage

artist

allowed, what



the tradition Klepfisz

might, "under other circumstances," have possessed

—was

largely written

called mame-loshen or

brant, vernacular, as

arship

to

the United States in the years after der khurhn; to

into a Jewish

a

what

by men yet

"mother tongue":

in the

contin-

language

vivid, emotionally vi-

opposed to Hebrew, the language of schol-

and religious study, reserved for

people's language, a

as a

men

only. Yiddish

was

a

women's language,

the language of the Ash-

The women

poets of this tradition

kenazic Jewish diaspora.

"History stops for no one"
(many of them

we

untranslated, so that

still

133

|

have but

few

a

Anna Margolin, Kadia Molodowsky,

names: CeHa Dropkin,

Malka Tussman among them) were known as
frank than the men; but even of them the Anglo-

Fradel Schtok,

more

sexually

phone reader knows only what's
to imagine

translated.

a

dead end to

what might have become of Yiddish poetry

Klepfisz as a poet



in a different history.

one we know, however imperfectly
tural

It's



movement was exterminated not

The only

that a great



history

try

or of

is

the

Western cul-

only under the Nazis, but

under Stalinism. Being "Western" didn't save

this

movement.

to the present day, many Europeans of both East and West,
many Americans of both North and South are unaware of, or

And,

indifferent to, this.

The

great flowering of Yiddish Uterature took place in the late

nineteenth and early twentieth centuries along with the

rise

of

Jewish secularism and the Jewish labor and sociaHst movements.

Out of these

traditions, history

ing her into a

In a time

community of survivors

when

personal history with

me

inseparable

some

from

and poetry,

triviahzing reduction of

commodities.

(or white) writes
as

New York.

It is

from

been displacing

touch on

I

this poet's

reluctance and only because

a serious

seen an obsession with intimate

are

in

speculative biography has

serious writing about poets

to

uprooted Irena Klepfisz, deposit-

details, scandals,

it

seems

We have

the clinical or

The biographies of poets
that when a poet who is not male

artists'

also true

reading of her work.

Hves.

direct experience, this poetry

mere documentary or polemicizing.

If

I

is

subsumed

speak here, then, of

experiences from which Klepfisz's poetry has been precipitated,
it's

because historical necessity has

made her the kind of poet

she

134

What

I

Found There

Is

neither a "universal" nor a "private" stance has been her

is:

luxury.

The

ghettos of the Nazi period were part of a deliberate plan

to destroy the Jewish people in their entirety.
land, thousands of Jews

were forced

Throughout Po-

to retreat into increasingly

densely populated areas enclosed by walls and barbed wire.

By

1940 nearly half a million Jews were locked, compressed, within
the

Warsaw Ghetto; by

1941, the year of Klepfisz's birth, the

penalty for attempting to escape was death.
all

Of course,

they were

under sentence of death: 83,000 Jews died from hunger and

disease within

twenty months in the Warsaw Ghetto alone. The

ghettos were holding pens for Jews destined for forced labor

camps and ultimate destruction



bases for selective deportation.

Throughout the ghettos Jews organized armed

resistance

movements. In Warsaw they constructed tunnels leading

to the

sewer system for escape and for bringing in arms and explosives.
In street-to-street and under-street fighting the Jews held out. In

April 1943 the Nazis decided to subdue the ghetto with an air
attack. In this battle

Michal Klepfisz, the poet's

father,

was

killed.

Because her mother had blue eyes and spoke fluent PoUsh, she

and her child were able to
ants.

PoUsh became

after the

Klepfisz's

war to Sweden, then

was eight years
Hving in

pass

a

old,

and were hidden by Polish peasfirst

to the

language.

United

where she learned English

world of spoken Yiddish:

a

They emigrated

States

when Klepfisz

in school

world of people

while

who had



carried the remains of their culture to another continent

in

and documents, archives

res-

their

memories,

in old snapshots

cued from conflagration, reconstituted
least, Klepfisz's

mother,

as a

institutions.

And, not

presence in her poems, embodies

continuity, endurance, and the oral tradition's access to the

lost.


"History stops for no one"

The

shattering of a culture

is

|

135

the shattering not only of artistic

and poHtical webs, but of the webs of family and community
within which these are
early

has

first

poems, unpublished

most intimately been

nurtured and transmitted.

till

lost:

These two:
half-orphan

survived and
in a

now resided

three-room apartment

with an ivy-covered

which

at

fire

escape

night

clutched like a skeleton
at the child's

bedroom

wall

.

.

.

The missing one
was surely
the most

important
link...

And when

the

two crowded

into the kitchen at night

he would press himself between them
pushing, thrusting, forcing them to remember,

even though he had made
had chosen

his

own way

.

his decision,
.

.

he would press himself between them
hero and betrayer
legend and deserter

what

the father-hero-martyr-deserter,

whose absence becomes enormous presence:

widow and

Two long

1990, deHneate the search for

136

What

I

Is

so

Found There
when they

down to

sat

eat

they could taste his ashes.

But the search

is

also for

all

"those

whom

I

would have known/

had circumstances been different." Had circumstances been
a terse, matter-of-fact
ble: history reversed

phrase behind which

lies all

and events"

become not

"common

things,

that Klepfisz invokes elsewhere, to

the chikl survivor

dren/who have perished," but
dren, in Jewish

the unprova-

or unwinding differently, the possibility of

having Hved "an ordinary Ufe," the Hfe of
gestures

different:

Warsaw,

Ugh ting candles "for
a

all

have

the chil-

child playing with other chil-

in the yidishe svive, in a

home peopled

with parents, extended family, worker-intellectuals.

But because "history
to write poetry

stops for

no one,"

of

gone on

of uncompromising complexity, clothed in ap-

parently simple, even spare, language
stage

Klepfisz has

a theater in

which

strict

—simple and bare

economies of means

as

the

release a

powerful concentrate of feeling.

There

women

is

extraordinary vitality in Klepfisz's early

light a neglected

dimension of the resistance to genocide: the

survival strategies, the visceral responses, of women.

and

poems on

in the Holocaust. Images and voices rush. They flood-

bristle

with urgency, contained within

crafted poetics.

when

they took us

the rebitsin

pubic hairs
the old rebe

to the

shower

her sagging breasts
i

knew

i

saw

sparse

and remembered

and turned

They bum

a disciplined

my eyes away

and

"History stops for no one"

i

could

still

hear

her advice

with a husband

when

coming

hard to the wall
i

am here

i

screamed

me

they dragged
i

distinct

my body

blood burst from

women's

flesh

i

into the

oven

my own flesh

i

watched
i

screamed

burned

and could

with the weight of the rebitsin

against

of me and
my stomach

the

and clear
i

me

my blood in her mouth

me

when i pressed through
was

rebitsin

her on top

and they flung
her hair burning

was sunny

as the

could smell

at first

them grunt

smelled

rebitsin

her nails in

beneath

slowly

i

and the advice you gave

into the wall

hear

it

gas

pressed myself

crying

cracking

her capsize

when

on the
at

with you

my lungs

woman

a scholar

they turned

first

it

a

137

|

i

could smell

chimney

my smoke

rose quiet

left

her

beneath

"death camp"

mains in our

a

is

nostrils.

poem
As

of death so

alive that

in other Klepfisz

its

smoke

re-

poems, control of tone

and image allow the wild and desperate quahty of experience to
be heard. In "perspectives on the second world war,"
ror"



the

woman

hiding with her child, her hallucinating pre-

science of worse possibilities

time

when

a "ter-

to speak



is

juxtaposed with a point

later in

of such things would be "too impolite" in

detached "conversations over brandy." These poems engage
physical and moral

immediacy

in

ways

that

make them continu-

ingly urgent. In them, Klepfisz takes the considerable risk of

trying to bear witness to this part of her history without

compro-

138

What

I

Is

Found There

mise and without melodrama. She succeeds because she
not only

''Bashert" (Yiddish for "fated," "predestined")
like

any other

I

(in the skin

young

is

a

poem un-

can think of in North American, includingjew-

ish-American, poetry.

ence

a poet,

is

a witness.

It

delineates not only the survivor experi-

of the mother "passing"

daughter), but

what happens



after survival

seems to go on but cannot persevere; the

with her

as gentile

life

the

life

go on,

that does

struggling with a vast alienation, in a state of "equidistance

two continents,"
American

home

first as

a student

alone at midnight.

The

ungrounded. Most of its surrounding

On

some,

all

sional fringes

evidence of previous

are

university seems an island
streets

life

have been emptied.

removed except

waiting for the emptiness to close in on

emptiness to be

at

On others, old buildings stiU stand, though these

hollow like caves, once of use and then abandoned.
is

for occa-

of rubbish that reveal vague outlines that hint

things that were.

thing

from

trying to fathom her place as a Jew in the larger

gentile world,

walking

that

filled in, for the

.

.

Every-

.

for the

itself,

emptiness to be swallowed and

forgotten.

A landscape that might be some blasted Jewish ghetto of postwar
Europe but
elite

is

actually the edges

American

I

university:

see the rubble of this

unbombed landscape,

the rest of this alien country,
a time zone,

rooted.

No

of a Black ghetto surrounding an

is

an era in which

see that the city, like

not simply a geographic place, but
I,

by

my

very presence in

am

A life obliterated around me, of those
A silent mass miCommon rubble in the streets.

and demanding a response.
I

it,

one simply passes through. History keeps unfolding

barely noticed.

A

life

gration. Relocation.

unmarked, unrecorded.

"History stops for no one"
This
is

is

not the mass-marketed immigrant experience.

not about fmding

stares

safety,

freedom,

a better Hfe in

The poem

America.

It

down the American myth that if you are just hardworking,

virtuous, motivated, tenacious enough, the
security,
less,

139

|

and happiness can be reaUzed. In

almost choral double dedication,

it

dream of freedom,

its

invokes the random and

various shapes of death and survival. "Bashert"

and the survivor

alike,

rhythmic, relent-

defying such ideas

mourns

as that

the

the dead

fittest

sur-

Moving between
poem where everything is made

vive or that victims "choose" their destiny.

poetry and blocks of prose in a

concrete and there are no cloudy generalities or abstract pro-

nouncements, Klepfisz has written one of the great "borderland" poems

—poems

emerge from the consciousness of

that

being of no one geography, time zone, or culture, of moving
inwardly
eras

well

as

of history;

as

outwardly between continents, landmasses,

or, as

Chicana poet Gloria Anzaldua expresses

in "a constant state of mental nepantilism, an Aztec

it,

word mean-

A consciousness that cannot be, and
refuses to be, assimilated. A consciousness that tries to claim all its
ing

torn between ways.''

legacies: courage,

endurance, vision, fierceness of

and

also the

tine

and violent deracination

"Bashert"

is

a
its

poem

its

yet, as the poetry

ingly a poetry written

moving between

inflict

on the

unlike any other,

form, in

on memory without

And

will,

underside of oppression, the distortions that quaran-

through: in
tence

human

I

heart.

mean

When

this

through and

verse and prose rhythms, in
nostalgia,

its

say that

I

its

insis-

refusal to let go.

of this continent has become increas-

by the

displaced,

by American Indians

the cities and the reservations, by African-

Americans, Caribbean-Americans, by the children of the intern-

ment camps

for

Japanese-Americans in World

War

II,

by the

children of Angel Island and the Chinese Revolution, by

Mexi-

can-Americans and Chicanos with roots on both

of the

sides

border, by political exiles from Latin America, "Bashert" takes

What

140
I

its

place

(as

Found There

Is

does Klepfisz's poetry

as a

whole) in

a multicultural

Hterature of discontinuity, migration, and difference.
this

new

working

hterary flowering

of

and

also lesbian or gay, feminist,

class.

Displacement invents

and

is

Much

styles,

its

poetics out of a mixture of traditions

out of the struggle to

able in the

name what

dominant European

traditions.

has

been unname-

(Yiddish

itself

has

been disparaged by the privileging of Hebrew on the one hand
and English on the other.)

It is

often a bilingual poetry, incor-

porating patois and languages other than English, not in allusion
to

Western or Asian high

1920s and

after,

Modernist poems of the

culture, as in

but because bilingualism

is

both created by the

experience of being migrant, immigrant, displaced, and expressive

of the divisions

fisz's

bilingual

as

well

as

poems do not

the resources of difference. Klep-

—and

this

is

significant

dish phrases in a cosy evocation of an idealized past,

bubbe and zayde, or as a kind ofJewish seasoning

tongue.
''Etlekhe

Poems such
verier

as

"Di

rayze

—drop Yidembodied

in

on an American

aheymlThe Journey Home,"

oyf mame-loshenj h few words in the mother

tongue," or "Fradel Schtok" painfully explore the world of a
writer located not only between landscapes, but also between
languages; the words of the

mother tongue

savored with extreme delicacy,
legacy. In "Fradel

change languages,
of countries.
feels

We

Schtok"
far

more

we

precious yet also tenuous

enter the

mind of a poet

trying to

internally rupturing than the

meet Fradel Schtok

at the

change

moment when

she

her native language fading. ''Di rayze aheym," in decep-

tively simple

and brief phrases, transposes

Lord's song in a strange land?

How

as a

and

are handled

shall I remember,

how



that ancient

How

shall I sing the

Jewish lament

shall I speak, in the language of



an

into

alien


"History stops for no one"

culture?

There

paradox here: Klepfisz uses the Anglo-

a

is

American language with enormous
and

art.

But these

guistic posture,

141

|

qualities

sensitivity, consciousness,

emerge not from

triumphant

a

lin-

but precisely from her refusal to pretend that

it is

the language of choice or the supremely expressively language.
In v^hite

North America, poetry has been

practical arts,

from

political

meaning, and

ment" and the accumulation of wealth
margins of

also



Klepfisz, inheriting an

life.

set apart

from the

from "entertain-

thus,

pushed

to the

entwined European-

Jewish-Socialist-Bundist political tradition and a Yiddish cultural tradition, naturally refuses

the refusal to segregate art

And

concern for her.

such "enclosures." In particular,

from

—demands

in

Adorno's

instance

this

it



a

renewed

stands

for

drastic statement that "after

poem is barbaric"
would mean

and work

surely the Holocaust itself

tradition ofyidishkayt

poetry,

daily life



is

as

a pressing

well

as

the

vision of what art

and

against.

Theodor

Auschwitz, to write a

has to be severely parsed. If taken at face value,

a further desolation

even than

we

have already

German Jew who lived for many years as a
refugee in the United States, may have forgotten the ancient role
of poetry in keeping memory and spiritual community alive. On
had to

face.

Adorno,

a

the other hand, his remark might be pondered by

too fluently

who

see

fmd language

human

for

all

poets

who

what they have not yet absorbed,

suffering as "material." Klepfisz's art resists such

temptations, both through the force and beauty of her work, and

by the ways

in

which she demands accountability of art.

Survivorhood
spite efforts

isn't a stasis;

the survivor isn't an artifact, de-

perhaps to reify or contain her, give her the lines

think she ought to speak. Klepfisz's

woman who

feels, acts,

poems

are the

and creates in Hving time:

we

work of

a

a feminist, a

What

142

Found There

Is

I

lesbian,

an

essayist

and editor

activist in the

women's movement

for

many years,

an

She writes sometimes from

as v^ell as a poet.

window box, a potted plant, a zoo, an arboretum
become "mnemonic devices" for the natural world and "water
cities

is

where

a

a rare sight

.

.

.

but

it

can/be reached"; sometimes from a

countryside or a shoreline where

she'd never before been forced to distinguish
herself from trees

vious that

her

From

own

when

it

and

or sand and sea

came

it

became ob

she could never prove

to rocks

distinctness.

the urban plant that sensualizes the apartment

women make

where two

love, or the fiercely generative tangle of narcissus

roots in a glass jar, to a garden of wildflowers transplanted with

uneven success

to the "inhospitable soil"

sudden wildness of a

city cat transplanted to the country,

things are charged in these

poems by

mental consciousness. There
the poet

is

a

a fresh

and

hving

totally unsenti-

tough and searching empathy;

not outside of nature, looking

is

of a former garage, the

participant, a different yet kindred

in:

being

she

who

is

observant and

instinctively re-

sponds to growth, deprivation, persistence, wildness, tameness.
Klepfisz

of her

art,

is

also

one of those

artists

who, within and by means

explores the material conditions by which the imagi-

native impulse,

which belongs

to

no gender,

be realized or obstructed. "Contexts"
for

race, or class,

can

places the child's passion

words alongside the seamstress-mother's recognition of how

bread must be put on the

table; the

bHnd

whom

the aging

scholar for

poet-proofreader along with

she works; the worker going

home wearily by subway with the beggar working the car.
"Work Sonnets" depict the crushing of dreamlife and imagination in those

who, because of class,

off by capitahsm and

its

need

race,

and gender, get written

for robots: they are not expected to

"History stops for no one"
dream. But the

poem

woman

clerical

who

worker

finally speaks in the

has a dreamlife, if a buried one, and has evolved her

—and even,

poem. These poems

ironically, in the

core without a single hortatory

political to the

own

her participation in the

strategies for survival, calculating closely

system

143

|

line.

are

Like their

author, they do not take their existence for granted.

Later

poems examine

identifies

the

the pain and necessity of a

with the Palestinians under

Warsaw Ghetto

Israeli

Jew who
From

occupation.

resistance to the intifada her trajectory

is

clear:

You move

All of us part.
direction.

The

rest

to the other Jerusalem.
I still

now

hear your voice.

It is
It is

I

night.

in the air

except sharper

with everything else

clearer.

in a separate

off

of us return

think of your relatives

your uncles and aunts
battered suitcases

I

see the familiar

cartons with strings

stuffed pillowcases

children sitting

on people's shoulders

children running to keep up

.

.

.

... If I forget thee

Oh Jerusalem
Ramallah
.

.

.

may

I

Jerusalem

Nablus

Hebron

Qattana

.

.

.

forget

my own past my pain
the depth of my sorrows.
Throughout,
uses of history.
history,

this

poetry asks fundamental questions about the

That

it

does so from

an unassimilated location,

is

one

a

rootedness in Jewish

part of its strength.

But

144

What

Is

Found There

I

history alone doesn't confer this strength; the poet's continuing

labor with Jewish

of

integrity

its

meaning

poetics.

when its

tensions even

voice, sometimes

A

does.

The

Klepfisz

texture

other part, of course,

poem

lives

is

may appear transparent. There

voices, in these

poems

that can often best

heard by reading aloud. Her sense of phrase, of line, of the

of tone

is

almost flawless. But perfection

fisz is after.

lessness,
lost,

A

tension

memory,

hunger

among many

politics, irony,

for a justice

crucial to the

new

1990s, to imagine.

still

to

is

the

amid complex
is

a

be

shift

not what Irena Klep-

forces

—language, speech-

compassion, hunger for what

be made

—makes

unfoldings of history that

we

this

is

poetry

begin, in the

XIX
The transgressor
mother

The

other night

VCR—a
States

I

watched Costa- Gavras's film Missing on the

political film

about the collaboration of the United

with right-wing coups in Latin America in the name of

protecting our business interests. But the story, the reason

watch,

is



the quest of a father

from upstate
try

we

a conservative Christian Scientist

New York—who

goes to a Latin American coun-

held in terror by a newly installed junta to find his errant son,

"missing" because the young

man has asked too many questions,

been too sympathetic with the wrong

side. It's the story

of a

loss

of innocence, of parent-child bonds stronger than ideology, of
the political education to

This

is

which

these lead.

a father/son story, in part a father/daughter-in-law

146

What

I

story (Jack

Is

Lemmon

Found There
and

the fmal shot, united at

Sissy

last

Spacek walking off arm in arm in

in grief and anger).

motivating force, the impulse transcending
tion,

is

life-style

and genera-

the father's determination to recover his son, in uneasy

with the

alliance

to

The fundamental

far less

fmd her husband.

can get attention that

acknowledgment and
spun about

in the

naive daughter-in-law's determination

made clear early on that the
the young woman cannot, can

It's

surface deference

older

man

elicit

male

even while he's being

webs of official collaboration with the death

squads.

The

father's passion for the

Abraham; mourning,

as

David

son
for

(tested, as

with

Isaac

Absalom) has been

and

a vali-

dated passion, involving not only love, but the transfer of

power and

privilege, initiation into

male identity and

ritual

the hunt, the whorehouse, sports, prayer, the field of war.

mother's passion for the son

of weakening, of binding, of

found

it

is

The

an accused passion: accused

castrating.

Feminists too have

problematic, seeing maternal pride and energy diverted

from daughters

in preference

mother sending her sons

to

for sons,

war for the

or the instrumental

State.

Accusations against

the mother, whatever her uses of her passions, proliferate in any
event, wherever social institutions

fall

short of human needs and

expectations.

Academy of American Poets awarded the Lamont Prize for a distinguished second book of poetry to a collection of poems charged by a lesbian mother's passion for her sons.
That is not its only impulse. It is charged as much by the poet's
In 1989, the

passion for

life,

a

woman's

out of innocence into

Hfe vaguely unfolding until shocked

politics,

much

as

Costa-Gavras's straight

The transgressor mother
American

father

is

shocked out of innocence into

pain of hving becomes

more than you can

ous interpretations of the world.
secrets

—what can be

It

147

|

politics: the

explain by your previ-

addresses also the question of

told in the face of fear

and shame, what can

get heard, if told: the secret spoken yet unreceived because

dissonant with the harmonies
suggests, this

is



as

work

reasons, a

of love poetry;
it

it is

title

rivers,

the mother's body, the
It

unsettles definitions

"natural" and definitions of criminality.

Minnie Bruce

poetry;

the

the natural world

literally,

mud,

creatures, seasons, shells, blood,

is

as

home-out-of-home, including

son's body, the bodies of same-sex lovers.

of what

And,

like to hear.

book about nature

a

resource and

as spiritual

we

Crime

Pratt's

against Nature

is,

for a

number of

extends the subject

at

the poetic crossroads.

it

extends the subject of feminist and lesbian

It

looks in several directions through the lens of a strong,

sensuous poetics, through that fusion of experience with imagination that
in the

is

the core of poetry, and through cadences founded

music of speech, tightened and drawn to an individual

pitch.

Pratt

emerged

as a

poet in the women's liberation

in the 1970s with a substantial
(1981),

and

later a first

(1985), published
talent has

been

by

volume.

We

Say

We

a lesbian-feminist press.

striking,

movement

chapbook. The Sound of One Fork
Love Each Other

From

the

first

her

her poems rooted in the landscape and

culture of the southeastern United States, in female thwartedness

and anger,

in the

ment was being

ferment of a time

when

the

women's move-

catalyzed out of the African- American, antiwar,

and other movements

for liberation.

The Sound of One Fork

poetry fresh with the release of long-repressed themes:

I

used to drive

down the

coast to sleep with her,

past the faded grey fields of sand

and houses

is

a

What

148
I

Is

Found There

closed up for the night. Sometimes there was a glow in the east

hke the
I

fires

of the paper mill

Riegelwood, but then

moon would flash orange,

and the
yellow

as

All the

way down

I

at

would curve suddenly where the land

her

hair,

rise

white and cool

the

was transparent with

as

moon shone
desire

swamp

and turn

her turned back.

through me.

and longing,

and ready to break under her look.

clear as glass

The moon shone down on my hands
right

flattened to

curled

around the steering wheel, shone down

into the ditch beside the road,

into the oiled water drifting there,
reflected black light

back into the

stars,

poured down again into the throats of the pitcher

plants,

onto the white arms of the bracted sedge, shone

down on the

teeth and hinged

of the Venus'

fly trap, its

open jaws

oval leaves like eyelids

fringed with green lashes,

its

leaves curved

together like clasped palms with fingers intertwined.

We

Say

We

Love Each Other takes

as a

given love and desire

between w^omen and explores the geography within which they



are enacted

a

geography in which

what had formerly gone
racial

women

violence continue, uprooted rural

to stay together. Pratt's love

or Utopian (the

^'Romance"



is

title

ironic).

which rape and

women, Black and

women

white, plant urban gardens, and two

tic

begin to speak of

into diaries, burned; in

lovers struggle

poems have never been roman-

of the

poem

Their power

of achingly erotic images and the

facts

I

is

quote from above
fused in a conjunction

of a world beyond: heli-

copter searchlights outside a window, the torn fabric of a

The transgressor mother
woman's

plaid shirt, an ice storm, a

smashed

149

|

bottle, a political

meeting, memories of women on a screened porch in the rural
South, the invasion of Grenada, or

.

.

.

the place of the Piscataway

and the Nanticoke, of fugitives, and runaway
built in the

low

places:

com patches,

in hand's reach, the children raised

maple seeds into wings

pigs, rockfish

under no owner,

fevers, the messages, plans for rebellion
.

.

homes

green grasshoppers, surmner

like

the sudden bloody raids

slaves: their

and freeing the land,

.

by

fall,

the brief grass shelters overrun

with catbrier, bullbrier, wild grape, and the struggle begun

somewhere

else, a river

lowland, the Mobile, the Tombigbee,

or in the river of grass, Pahokee, Okeefenokee, or north

along the Savannah, the Altamaha, the Cape Fear, the Mattaponi,
the Potomac.

Is this

lesbian poetry?

grounded

in

and

—and most

potently

insistent to grasp the poet's

Christian culture with
tradictions, the

Yes

its



^because

it is

own white southern

segregated history and legacy of con-

beauty and sorrow of

its

landscape,

sexual

its

codes and nightmares. She knows the region's living creatures,

how
exist;

they

move and

unfold,

how

wild country and gardens co-

she pays attention to people; she

failing that,

can stand in that heritage.

new way:
differently

tries to

"remember, and

invent" (Monique Wittig) where a white

the white

Is this

woman

"southern poetry?" Yes

turned outsider

with the white southern

and Fugitives, required reading

woman

as lesbian



in a

connects

literary tradition. Agrarians

in college, Allen Tate,

John

Crowe Ransom, their loyalties and affiliations with the Confederate dead. And she connects differently with her own ancestors.

What

I50
I

knows

Pratt

Found There

Is

Alabama

the soil of

where her people's land

whose

The

and privileges came from, and

poems

exphcit eroticism of the

knowledge



at



tangled always in the

has been appreciatively noted.

has received less attention, perhaps,

women

in these

poems

are activists

removed from what happens

is

that the sexual

whose bedroom

in the streets.

saying, but probably doesn't, that
in

while recognizing

cost.

search for mutual

What

rights

as a native,

no

It

is

never

far

should go without

lesbian or gay

bedroom

whatever gentrified neighborhood or tent pitched off the

Appalachian

trail



is

a safe

harbor from bigotry (and for some,

not only bigotry, but lethal violence). But, of course, we'd
to write

morning

our poems of lying before or
sun, 'Tl Pastor Fido" or

after love,

Nina Simone

naked

like

in late

in the back-

meadow or fire escape or tent roof dappled with reflected lake water. And sometimes we do, wishfully evoking a privacy we know is always
under siege, an innocence we can't really aflbrd. (I'm not speaking of AIDS now, which has given rise to a remarkable poetry of
ground, door innocently

its

balcony or

own.) But the energy of Pratt's erotic poetry derives not only

from

a

female sensuaHty only

poetry, but
act

ajar to

on

ence,

from the

now beginning to fmd its way into
of sensuality from politics. To

inseparability

a criminalized sensuality

many

demands, in

kinds of decriminaHzation

this poet's

—not only of

experi-

sexual acts,

but of poverty, skin, diflerence.

Crime

against Nature

goes to the heart of that experience: the

lesbian losing custody of her

two young sons because of her

sexual "crime" and her refusal to hide
tions

—her

it

rationed visita-

with them, their long-distance relationship, her

self-


The transgressor mother

|

151

accusations, the accusations of others, her struggle to maintain

both her integrity and her bonds with her children. Yet the
mother's passion holds with her sons; they are bound together by

beyond gender or

affmities

find

its

way

I

past the terms

Do you
Why didn't you

Nothing.

Women ask:

understand?

Their attachment has to

of accusation, the scenarios of guilt,

could do nothing.

And

I

didn't

?

Why didn't I? Why

ask myself:
I

run away with them?

in court?

Or face

Or
Ten years ago

The chance of absolute

Or:

did the best

I

I

No way for children to live.

answered myself:

I



they do of women who've been raped.

like

him

sexuality.

could.

It

loss.

Or:

was not

enough.

—"The

The

first

question

nor
in

is:

What do your children

No interest in the kudzu-green

think of you?

burial

Child Taken from the Mother"

of the

first

house

I

lived in,

in the whiskey, the heat, or the

people sweating

church under huge rotate hands in the

ceiling.

The question is never the Selma march, and me

breathing within thirty miles, or the sequence

of Dante

.

.

.

—"The

First

Question"

What

152
I

Found There

Is

and through memories of visitations,

the water, long car

trips to

drives in the dark,

live heat

changed

midnight speed to wind,

at

our mouths singing, drinking the humid
cool breath of trees, and yelling swift

blackness to

come home with

us, reckless

in the

deep night, carrying everything with

all life

and even death without

us,

a pause before us,

the sudden red-eyed possum, live eyes

dead, impossible but gone, our

cries,

and them questioning me, miles,

grief,

or perhaps this happened after the curve

we

hurtled and the

directly in the road,

low orange

This,

one can

say,

moon, huger than

a

world

moved our moves,

eye, high hot- white

when we

got home.

First

Question"

—"The

the "plot" of the book; but to say

is

it is

only a

beginning.

Crime

which

against Nature

Pratt has

is

in fact a

long poem, a form tow^ard

been working since "The Segregated Heart"

in

The Sound of One Fork or the "Waulking Songs" and "Reading

Maps" sequences
as a narrative

Or we

in

can read

it

as a

Say

We Love Each

Other.

We can read

it

sequence of love poems, of a kind

we

The agonist, the lover, is lesbian; her sexual
for women. The love in these poems, being love for

haven't seen before.

hungers are

We

poem, along the Hnes of the "plot" sketched above.


The transgressor mother
her sons,
gally

cross-gender but forbidden

is

and

"lesbian"

patriarchally,

mother," but because,

as

the

—not only

poems

reveal, this

is

it" variety.

your shield

Moreover, the mother speaks not only from

her love for her sons, but from her need to be, and for
see her, as she

The

is.

This

dedicatory

is

poem "For

My

Sons" places

itself against a

.

.

Coleridge

at

midnight,

Yeats' prayer that his daughter lack opinions,

son be high and mighty, think and act

.

.

.

When you were bom, my first, what I thought was
With you, my youngest, I did not
milk
.

.

.

.

.

.

Your father was then
the poet I'd ceased to be
It's

taken

.

.

me years to write

.

this to

you.
...

That you'll never ask for the weather,
angels,

women,

that you'll

I

can only pray:

earth,

or other lives to obey you;

remember me, who

crossed, recrossed

you,
as a

an

woman making slowly toward

unknown place where you could be with me,

like a

woman on foot,

The poems

are

to

the poetry of an undomesticated passion.

.

think

them

of paternal poetry:

tradition

his

"unfit

a subversive

maternality, hardly of the cookies-and-milk or "with

or on

153

because, le-

with

equated

is

|

in a long stepping out.

dug out of long

silence

A huge sound waits, bound in the ice,
in the icicle roots, in the

buds of snow

154

What

I

Found There

Is

on

fir

branches, in the falling silence

of snow, glittering in the sun





"Justice,

.

.

.

Come Down*'

not only the poet's, but created by lack of resonance.

a silence

Woman and Child,
Mother Pressing Infant to Her Face, Peasant Woman Holding Child,
Woman with Dead Child, Sleeping Woman with Child. But we lack
I

think of Kathe Kollwitz's images: Begging

the concept of a

mother whose children

Hving yet absent

are

the apparently childless mother. (Photographs of the Madres de
Plaza de

Mayo come

to

mind,

women

testifying to the disap-

women

pearance of their children.) Pratt conjures such images:
in a lesbian bar

... to

here
as

to enter

is

where

go

in

my own suffering exists

an almost unheard low note in the music,

amplified, almost unbearable,

of us

all,

which we speak of hardly
in the
lost,

dim privacy

tells

snapshot out of her

glanced

at

and grim

the dance

All the

a story

shown

ago, her words sliding
billfold,

faded outline

of grief.

The

elliptic,

flashes

oblique

of story

as strobe lights in the dark,
as

grimace, head thrown back in pain

women caught in flaring light,

in mystery:

woman

of her child

and away from, the story

to avoid the dangers
brilliant

at all, unless a

me

now or twenty years

like a

by the presence

reverberant pain, circular, endless,

The

glimpsed

red-lipped, red-fingertipped

who

dances by, sparkling like

four

girls

and a husband

she'll

fire, is

.

she here

woman

on the

never leave from

fear?

sly,

.

,

The transgressor mother
The butch in black denim,

|

elegant as ashes, her son

perhaps sent back, a winter of no heat, a woman's salary.

The

quiet

woman drinking gin,
wet

the baby wrinkled as

Loud music, hard

to talk,

thinking of being sixteen,

clothes, seen once, never again.

and we're careful what

A few words,

some

cryptic as the

mark gleaming on our hands,

some

gesture of our hands,

tattoo, the sign that admits us to this

we

bit

say.

of story

the ink

room, iridescent

in certain kinds of Ught, then vanishing, invisible.

—"All the Women Caught

in Flaring Light"

And:

A darkened room.
on

the screen.

and surge

Color film

stutters

We watch a crowd falter

at crossroads,

demanding water.

A dark woman talks about her children. We hear
the parched land, the deaths, the miles.

She

sits

locked in barracks,

steel,

not prison, off-hours fi-om a company job.

No children allowed, just hotplates,

cots.

A fiiend brings the children to her. At the gate
no one

in or out.

Guards see to

that.

She reaches her hands to them through the fence,
through an iron

grill,

to the heads of her children.

—"Seven Times Going,

Seven Times Coming Back"

155

156

What

I

Crime

Is

Found There

against Nature

might be read

woman's testimony

as a

her statement to the court, facing the judgment not only of

of the internal prosecutor

family, law, society, but

defense.

But

short. This

to read

is

it

so

to

is

sell its

the narrative of a



in brief, as a

emotional range and values

woman

self-described as

wilful, voluble,

lascivious, a thinker, a long walker,

unstruck transgressor, furious, shouting,
voluptuous, a lover, smeUer of blood,
milk, a



woman mean as

on her

insistent

poetry,

some

she can be

nights

—"Poem

on her

for

My Sons"

sexuality, but equally insistent

on her bonds with her

children. Just

Pratt breaks the silence

of sexual taboo, so here she breaks the

silence that

would

stifle

that other part

a system of thinking where

and

"fit"

women

"nonmothers" (by

or

as,

of her:

mother
is

to

a

are either

default

"unfit"), she reveals another possibility: a

meaning has

poems,

in her erotic

mother. Against

mothers

full

or because

time
ruled

motherhood whose

be constructed, invented, by the forbidden

in collusion with her children.

a poet, this invention

And, because the mother

must be made not only

in

life,

but in

poetry.
This, then,

is

the narrative of the transgressor mother.

necessity, the voice ranges

from

lyrical

mourning

to explosive

anger, rasping pain:

The

faint streak

of little

fish,

rocks heavy with quartz.
sift

the

Our

sand, brittle mussel shells.

close to the place

where

air,

And, of

dim bottom

fingers grope,

We can drift

land, water meet,

edge of the creek, and see on the damp margin

The transgressor mother
a squiggled

trail, infinite

|

157

small snail tracks,

no beginning or end, wrinkled, undeciphered,
words seen

a message left for us, mysterious

through the huge eye of the creek.

— "Dreaming

Few Minutes

a

in a Different

The long sweating
old, saying,

Element"

the twelve-year-

calls to

Hold on against the pain,

how I knew it from when I left,

the blame

inside, the splintered self, saying to
out,

remind the body you are

rain

is

alive,

him. Walk

even

if

fi-eezing in the thickets to clatter

like icy seeds,

even

if you are

plodding through the

drifts

the only one

of grainy snow.

—"Shame"
There

is

no sentimental

mother do not

They

suffer.

with mud,

are laden

energy

is

haze,

restless

no delusion

These are not
flint,

that children as well as

fluent, mellifluous

poems.

asphalt, blood, their field

and impatient of

of

resolutions, they traverse

switchbacks between past and present, the mother's childhood,

her children's emerging manhood:

There

on

it is:

the indelible mark, sketched

his belly, tattoo

of hair,

soft

of manhood, swirled

animal pelt, archaic design,

navel to hidden groin.

He

squints, reaches

for a shirt, stretches in the tender
light
like

line

high over me.

My shock

my young body, abdomen

and luxuriant with

is

morning
his belly

swollen pregnant

hair, a thick line

of fur.

158

What

I

Found There

Is

A

navel to cunt.

by him before

message written on

secret

his birth, faded, yet

now

me

surfaced

there with his body's heat, a physical thought,
a

my

remark on

strict

ideas about

—"At

men and women.

Fifteen, the Oldest

Comes

Son

to Visit"



The poet Pratt most makes me think of or maybe it's
other way around since I've been reading Pratt longer
Sharon Olds, whose erotic heterosexual poems,

me to

bian erotic poems, seem to
possible

and whose poems

her by force



are

the



is

like Pratt's les-

have only recently begun to be

to her children

—not severed from

of a comparable passion, the undomesticated

passion of the erotically alive mother.

Muriel Rukeyser once
brings

life

apart."



together

When

it's

said

of her

that

one

own work,

will not allow

an undomesticated

woman

done,

as Pratt

and Olds



as

Rukeyser



doing

are

it

one

to be torn

refuses to hide her

sexuality, abnegate her maternity, silence her

in her poetry, she creates

"It isn't that

hungers and angers

did, as

a force field

Audre Lorde

has

of extraordinary

energy.



In Crime against Nature

there

is

as

in Rukeyser's

work

overall

unevenness, patches where the struggle to explain sub-

merges the poetry. Sometimes Pratt deliberately breaks into colloquial prose, as if in despair with poetry. In part, this

need for

explanation derives from the very nature of her undertaking: the
desire,

having ruptured

heard, to communicate.
place

a social

web, broken

a silence, to

But the communication of poetry

beyond frameworks of explanation.

I

want

be

takes

Pratt to trust

The transgressor mother
the

power of her most

In an important essay,

diarist

She

if

Blood

Heart,"

woman (herself,
who has listened to

white southern

Mary Boykin Chestnut)

Black church music "as

(her words).

Skin

"Identity:

Pratt has written about the

Confederate

mouth"

cave's

159

most inspired im-

intense rhythms, her

from the

ages, to "slide stone

|

using Black people to

weep

for

me."

says:

Finally

I

understood that

and yet not confuse

ance for mine. / needed

could hear their songs

my own

do

to

responsibility myself, in

could feel sorrow during their music,

I

sorrows with mine, nor use their

their

my own

as a

So, too,

folk:

my sorrow and
my own actions. I

work: express

words, by

trumpet to me: a

were the

an awaken-

startling,

struggles

and resistance

but not take them as replacement for

my own work.

women

poets, at the

ing, a reminder, a challenge: as

of other

resist-

on the other

side:

we've

railed,

dead poets' society, the men's bull pen,

its

and self-centeredness, and we've been

extraordinary blinders

right.

But, without ac-

cepting the misogyny, the racism, the sentimentalism, the patriotic gore, the passive aestheticism, the clique-spirit,

new women poets

it

anew;

in the boat, and, certainly,

poets'

own new

work. Pratt

is

knows Ovid, Cato, Coleridge,



everything

use

believe the

can learn to use what they've sieved up from

the old river, combining

hand

I

it

it is

doesn't have to be a dead

no replacement

a classically

Yeats.

I

schooled

want

women
poet who

for

to say to her: Use

it all.

Like African-American, colonized, and working-class writers,
feminists

(who may be any or

tion to the processes

all

of the above) have paid atten-

by which imposed

silence,

speechlessness have broken into language. This
since Uteracy

is

muteness,

only natural,

and education have not been women's

historical

What

i6o
I

Found There

Is

prerogative, even in classes and cultures

men. And the

to

privilege of Hteracy

where they were open
and education doesn't

begin to open the doors of taboo against lesbian and feminist
authorship and authority.
liberation

It's

movement of the

an astonishing

Pratt's

Crime

by

Bereano's Firebrand Books.

At the award ceremonies

criti-

it.

small

a

women's

but presses, periodicals,

against Nature, like

publication

that the

1970s and 1980s generated not only

literary renaissance,

cism, a context to nourish

for

no coincidence

in

It

her

first

book, was accepted

lesbian-feminist

Nancy

press,

then received the Lamont Prize.

May

1989, under the auspices of the

Academy of American Poets, found myself, as often when I
used to live in New York during the 1960s and 1970s, at the
Guggenheim Museum waiting for a poetry reading to begin.
I

But never before had

I

seen there the convergence of two

worlds: the official poetry establishment and the feminist and
lesbian poetry

and publishing community, laced with

fhends. Clashes of style there were from the

tween what

Ira Sadoff, in the

first:

activist

the clash be-

American Poetry Review,

calls

"neo-

formalism," on the one hand, and "dynamic, unsettling poetry,"

on the

other;

between white North American

literary culture's

discomfiture with politics, on the one hand, and the sense of
politics

and culture

as

fused in the

women's movement or in

"second culture" or "parallel po//5,"

as

the

Vaclav Havel identified

it

Communist Eastern Europe, on the other. Reading Havel's
"The Power of the Powerless," I was indirectly reminded
of the scene at the Guggenheim that evening: two different

in

essay

cultural realities in

work.

What

I

one society where new

social forces are at

observed, in the fidgety-nervous or elaborately

The transgressor mother

i6i

|

condescending behaviors of the two Chancellors of the Acad-

emy on

the stage, faced with an undomesticated

from the other

was the reaction

culture,

woman

poet

to having a purlieu

invaded, a ritual space violated, the rules of

decorum broken.

Establishment good manners began to fray into

irritable gestures

(watch-consulting, note-passing during Pratt's reading). Selfcontrol was running thin.

Minnie Bruce

Pratt, raised as a polite



southerner, accepted her award graciously, seriously

hardly an

unleashed Fury. Perhaps, by the other culture's etiquette, she
accepted

it

too seriously, in the sense of affirming the context of

her work: she paid tribute to the women's and gay liberation

movements; she used the word
mother, the transgressor poet



"lesbian."

(in that

The

transgressor

she wrote of this at

all)

was

evidently an unsettling presence altogether.
I

want

heim

Academy of American

to say that the

enemy, despite

hostile twitchings

that night.

on

Poets

is

The Academy of American

not the

Guggen-

the stage of the

Poets hardly pos-

power of the Czechoslovak Communist party of 1975.
want to say that the real enemy is Jesse Helms and the lily-

sesses the
I

livered legislators, curators,

have marched to

his

and cohorts of arts foundations

words.

I

want

to say this, but

I

who

have to

Academy of American Poets, the
Poetry Society of America, the American Academy and Institute
of Arts and Letters have a heightened responsibility today. They
qualify

it.

Institutions like the

can be cautious, acquiescent, play

it

instability

and

make

work of repression much

the

radicalized



riskiness,

in their vision of

might be and

is

meanings of

control.

As

more

art,

of political

—attempts

Or

a truly

they can

become

American poetry

in their understanding

of the

and of how to use the resources they

a society in turmoil,

various

easier.

what

becoming, and

political

safe in a climate

throw away what power they have, and

we

are

going to see more

to simulate order

— and

through repression;

What

i62
I

and

art

is

Found There

Is

such

a historical target for

efforts.

A

distaste for the

poHtical dimensions of art, in this time and place,

is

a dangerous

luxury.

Havel

writes:

The profound crisis of human identity brought on by living within
a

a crisis

lie,

which

in turn

makes such

possesses a moral dimension as well;
things, as a deep moral

seduced by the consumer value system
in the order

.

own personal

The system depends on

who has been
who has no roots

person
.

and

this

survival,

neath the heavy

lid

is

a demoralized per-

demoralization, deepens

Elsewhere he names the "secret streamlet

of

it, it is

must happen: the

[that] trickles

on be-

and pseudo-events, slowly and

inertia

inconspicuously undercutting
it

other

of it into society.

in fact a projection

one day

among

of being, no sense of responsibility for anything

higher than his or her
son.

A
.

possible, certainly

life

appears,

it

in society.

crisis

a

it.

It

lid will

may be

a

long process, but

no longer hold and

will start

to crack."

These passages were written

The

Hd, here in capitaHst

structed of a different

own

moral

nomic

rifts,

crisis,

and 1975, respectively.
is

a different Hd,

amalgam of lies, and we

beyond the

crisis

of

are

con-

deep in our

civic infrastructure,

eco-

the aHenation of government from the people. That

secret streamlet to

neath the toxic
far

in 1978

North America,

which Havel

alludes flows here as well, be-

dumps of disinformation, and poets and artists

are

who try to keep its channel clear.
we who make any kind of claims for art that it is a

from being the only people

But

certainly



way of perceiving and knowing, that it deserves support in
human needs, that it is more than a
commodity need to be thinking seriously now about the Hes

vital
a

system that supports so few



within which

we

are asked to live.

That Crime

against Nature

The transgressor mother
received a

awarded
their

Lamont

Prize, that Pratt, Chrystos,

NEA writers'

grants are signs of the

|

163

and Lorde were

power not only of

work, but of the current of resistance running beneath the

inertia

United

and pseudo events
States for

came with

two

that

have constituted pubHc Hfe in the

decades. That the

a directive that they are

of art that "in the judgment of the

United

States.

art

is still

1990

also

not to be used for the making

NEA

obscene, including, but not limited

reminder that

NEA grants in

guilty until

to,

.

.

.

may be

considered

homoeroticism,"

proven innocent,

is

a

in these

XX
A communal poetr

One day in New York in the late 1980s, had lunch with a poet
I'd known for more than twenty years. Many of his poems
I

— —embedded

were

my

We

had read together

at

the

antiwar events of the Vietnam years. Then, for a long time,

we

are

in

life.

hardly met. As a friend, he had seemed to

fended in

a certain

was becoming
beauty, his

I

defmed

as

remembered him:
as

told another story.

how

withheld, de-

distant,

we

stiff,

On this day, he was as

I

shy perhaps.

long

it

The

I

had

conversation

talked about our experiences with teach-

ing poetry, which seemed a safe ground.

about

me

masculine and with which

in general impatient; yet often, in their painful

poems

stumbled along

way

was since

whole manner changed: You

last

we'd

disappeared!

I

made some remark

talked. Suddenly, his

You simply disappeared.

I

A communal poetry

of poetry to

some

much from his life as from a landscape
which he thought we both belonged and were in

meant not

realized he

so

sense loyal.

apparent,

more

visible



to

myself and to others

powerful magnet of the women's liberation

women's poetry movement

women

coffeehouses where

of feminist

a context

to

criticism;

pamphlets from the

as a

movement

—and

—had drawn me

released

it

of political

to

that published

articles

women's

and the beginnings

bookstores selling chapbooks and

new women's

women

workshops with



more
poet. The
feel

were reading new kinds of poems;

emerging "journals of liberation"

to

poems, often in

me

had made

If anything, those intervening years

the

165

|

presses; to a

in prison;

to

woman

poet's

meetings with other

women poets in Chinese restaurants, coffee shops, apartments,
where we talked not only of poetry, but of the conditions that
make it possible or impossible. It had never occurred to me that I
was disappearing rather, that was, along with other women
poets, beginning to appear. In fact, we were taking part in an



immense

My
this. It

human

shift in

old friend had,

hole.

consciousness.
believe, not

I

much

awareness of any of

was, for him, so off-to-the-edge, so out-of-the-way, per-

haps so dangerous,

we

I

Only

it

seemed

later, in a less

I

had sunk, or dived, into

a

black

constrained and happier meeting, were

able to speak of the different

ways

we had

perceived that

time.

He thought there had been a known, defined poetic landscape
and that as poetic contemporaries we simply shared it. But whatever poetic "generation"

mother, under

thirty,

I

belonged

to, in the

1950s

raising three small children.

I

then

as

yet

felt

there was

little

reality.

a

my

first

or no "appearance"

able to claim as a poet, against that other

unworded

was

Notwith-

standing the prize and the fellowship to Europe that

book of poems had won me,

I

profound and

What

66

One

Found There

Is

rainy day in the spring of i960, the San Francisco poet

Robert Duncan arrived
friend Denise Levertov.

the kitchen drinking
chair,

my

at

had

I

sometimes needing to

ing almost

as

soon

as

a sick child at

My

tea.

sit

son played

my

whence he

much

still

I

though occluded

were

in an-

Ustened:

I

I

had

difficulty

talked about:

knew he was

I

a significant

think his poetry truly serious and

in certain ways).

It

was

he inhab-

clear

world where poetry and poetry only took precedence,
that

curiously negated

was

My sharpest memory

possible.

between

my

is

of feeling

I

was, sim-

whom

sick child, for

a

comfort, and the continuously speaking poet with the

strangely imbalanced eyes, for
Later, driving

him back

to

whom

Boston

was running on empty. Nervously,
traffic

into a filling station.

record,

when

I

was, simply, an ear.

in the rain,
I

eased

the person doesn't

my car

realized

to talk, the

which can be

know what

I

out of rush-hour

it

Duncan continued

logue, perhaps, of a gifted talker,

I

spoke.

remember only vaguely what he

I

world where

ply,

speak-

the City Lights "Pocket Poets" edition of his

experimental poet (and

ited a

high

efforts w^ith the tea

poetry, the role of the poet, myth.

original

sat in

about him from Denise, had read, with

interest,

poems. But

home, and we
fretfully in his

my lap. Duncan began

in

other realm from the one

heard

our mutual

he entered the house, he never ceased

speaking; the fretful child,

and

me by

door, sent to

mono-

started up, like a

to say.

have thought since then that Duncan's deep attachment to

mythological Feminine and to his

made

it

chetypal a person
sick child.

But

own

him

to



meet

in

any

may have
so unar-

real sense

caring for a

actual

as

also,

childhood


struggHng woman poet
an

Duncan was

unlikely for

a

then trying to write

against

the poHtical and poetic tenor of the times, and through the

medieval-nostalgic

filter

of his

own

vision

—openly gay

poetry.

A communal poetry

|

167

Like Gertrude Stein, I'm sure he needed the veil of language,

and of

highly discursive personaHty, that could

a

at

switched off but that also could be used as protection.
using

my

woman,

times be
I

too was

poetic language as protection in those years, as a

angry, feeling herself evil, other.

tween two such poets was not

possible,

on

A

conversation be-

that rainy afternoon.

Duncan was the poet who had recently written, or
was about to write, "Working in words I am an escapist; as if I
could step out of my clothes and move naked as the wind in a

And

yet,

world of words. But
volved in

my

I

want every

part of the actual

world in-

escape," and

For

this is the

company of the

living

and the poet's voice speaks from no

between

crevice in the ground

mid-earth and underworld
breathing fiimes of what

news
and

larvae in

twists

is

deadly to know,

tombs

of time do feed upon,

but from the hearth stone, the lamp
the heart of the matter

house

is

A poet's education.

light,

where the

held

The San

Francisco Renaissance of the 1940s

and 1950, with which Duncan was

identified, the poetic voices

of the Black and antiwar movements of the 1960s had created
strong

mix of antiestabHshment

poetics in the United States.

a

But

the poetry of women's liberation in the 1970s was women's anti-

i68
I

What

Is

Found There

establishment poetry, challenging not just conventional puritanical

mores, but the hip "counterculture" and the male poetry

culture

itself.

From muses and

poetic

into

authors.

probed by the sharp,
in

girlfriends

women

types of the Feminine,

at

being

pens of poets like Marge Piercy and,

Canada, Margaret Atwood. Black

ing

romanticism was

Heterosexual

skillful

of poets, from arche-

were transforming themselves

women poets were explod-

two movements. Lesbian poets were

the intersection of

refusing to encode either their sexuality or their anger. Suddenly

women's poetry was burgeoning everywhere.
Certain

poems

are etched

City College bookstore, in
First Cities,

Audre Lorde's

Prima's Poets' Press, and

A

on

this era in

my

first

hands

a

my life.

I

stand in the

yellow chapbook. The

collection, published

by Diane

read:

I

FAMILY RESEMBLANCE

My sister has my hair my mouth my eyes
and

I

presume her

trustless.

When she was young

open

wearing gold

of fortune on her face

like a veil

to any fever

she waited through each rain
a

dream of light.

But the sun came up
burning our eyes

like crystal

bleaching the sky of promise and

my sister stood
Black

unblessed and unbelieving

shivering in the

first

cold

show

of love.

I

saw her gold become an arch

where nightmare hunted

di

A communal poetry

169

|

the porches of her restless nights.

Through echoes of denial
she walks
a bleached side

of reason

now

secret

my sister never waits
nor mourns the gold
that

wandered from her bed.

My sister has my tongue
and

all

my flesh

unanswered
and

presume her

I

trustless
as a stone.

I

was

knew

that

had found

I

also a colleague,

was

to

remarkable
I

might

go on for over twenty

between two people of vastly

different

tural premises, a conversation often

differences yet sustained

by our

forth,

drafts

a

con-

years, a conversation

temperaments and cul-

love for poetry and

most of those twenty-odd

of poems,

criticizing

we

and encouraging back and

not always taking each others' advice but listening to

closely.

We

also debated,

movement was a

Lying in bed with
to a long

different

unknown

to

'flu,

poem by

it

sometimes painfully, the politics we
we didn't share. The women's libera-

movement for each of us, but our

common passion for its possibiUties
terly,

Meet-

of which she struggled with cancer,

shared and the experiences
tion

poet and that she

balked and jolted by those

common

respect for each others' work. For
years, during fourteen

exchanged

new

actually talk with.

Campus of CCNY, we began

ing one day on the South
versation that

a

someone

opening

a

also

held us in dialogue.

new journal, Amazon

Quar-

a working-class CaHfornia poet then

me, Judy Grahn:

170

What

Found There

Is

I

A

WOMAN

TALKING TO DEATH

IS

One

Testimony

never got heard

in trials that

my lovers teeth are white geese flying above me
my lovers muscles are rope ladders under my hands
we were

home slow

driving

my lover and I,

across the long

Bay Bridge,

one February midnight, when midway
over the

far left lane,

I

saw

a strange scene:

one small young man standing by the
and in the lane
as if it

itself,

rail,

parked straight across

could stop anything, a large young

man upon

a stalled motorcycle, perfectly

relaxed as

if he'd

stopped

at a

he was wearing a peacoat and
he had

his

hamburger
levis,

was so

real.

"Look

at that fool,"

middle of the bridge

I

said,

and

you

head back, roaring,

could almost hear the laugh,

stand;

it

"in the

like that," a

very

womanly remark.

Then we heard
of metal on

the

meaning of the noise

a concrete bridge at 50

miles an hour, and the far
filled

up with

left

a big car that

motorcycle jammed on

lane

had

its fi-ont

a

bumper,

like

A communal poetry
whole thing would explode, the

the

sparks shot
into the

up bright orange
and the racket

air,

for

still

|

171

friction

many

feet

sets

my teeth on edge.

When the car stopped we stopped parallel
and

Wendy headed for the

callbox while

ducked across those 6 lanes
in the

bowUng

alley.

like a

I

mouse

"Are you hurt?"

I

said,

the middle-aged driver had the greyest black face,
*'I

couldn't stop,

I

couldn't stop, what happened?"

Then I remembered. "Somebody,"
the motorcycle."

I

engineered
stiff

wind

it

maybe

is

this

"was on

ran back,

one block? two blocks? the space

on the bridge

said,

I

8 inches,

1

for

walking

whoever

arrogance, in the dark

seemed

be pushed over the

I

would

rail,

would

fall

down

screaming onto the hard surface of
the bay, but

who
his

I

I

did not,

thought he

I

owned

found the

young man
now lying on

tall

the bridge,

stomach, head cradled in his broken arm.

read on: a narrative

poem of two

white, working-class lesbians,

driving without a Ucense, afraid to stay and witness, leaving a

Black

man

to the mercies

of the police.

I

read on:

Four

A Mock Interrogation

Have you ever committed any indecent

acts

with

women?

172

What

I

Yes, many.

my

Found There

Is

I

am

eyes or in

guilty

my

could do nothing,
knife to

my

would not

of allowing suicidal

under

ears or
I

am

sleep with her,

women

to die before

hands because

of leaving

guilty

friend's throat to

my

a prostitute

thought

I

who

we

keep us from leaving, because

we

thought she was old and

I

held a

fat

and

am guilty of not loving her who needed me; I regret all the
women I have not slept with or comforted, who pulled themselves away from me for lack of something I had not the courage
ugly;

I

to fight for, for us,

our

life,

our planet, our

city,

our meat and

potatoes, our love. These are indecent acts, lacking courage, lack-

ing a certain
fist,

fire

behind the eyes, which

is

the sharing of resources, the resistance that

starve for lack of the fat of us, our extra.
acts

of indecency with

women

them

bitterly.

omission.

A

I

regret

few weeks

later

Grahn came

hear her read in the Village. Later
etly.

I

have never heard

grief, anger,

no

false

the symbol, the raised

a

Yes

tells
I

death he will

have committed

and most of them were

to
I

New

York, and

I

acts

of

went

to

wrote: "She read very qui-

poem encompassing so much violence,

compassion, read so quietly. There was absolutely

performance."

This was in 1974. Something the

poem had unlocked

in

me

was the audacity of loving women, the audacity of claiming
stigmatized desire, the audacity to

don or betray or deny

"all

resist

a

the temptations to aban-

of our lovers"



those of whatever

whom we need to make common cause
"A Woman Is Talking to Death" was a
boundary-breaking poem for me: it exploded both desire and
sex, color, class

and

who need

politics.

with
us.

A communal poetry
And somewhere
Penn
flats, I

Station to

in those years, riding a

New

commuter

train

173

from

Brunswick, crossing the sulfurous reedy

reading Margaret Atwood's "Circe/Mud" poems,

recall

especially the

one beginning

Men with the heads of eagles
no longer interest me
or pig-men, or those who can fly
with the aid of wax and feathers

or those

who

take

off* their

clothes

to reveal other clothes

or those with skins of blue leather

or those golden and

flat as

a coat of arms

or those with claws, the stuffed ones

with glass eyes; or those
hierarchic as greaves and steam-engines.

All these

I

could create, manufacture,

or find easily: they

swoop and thunder

around

common as flies,

this island,

sparks flashing,

bumping

into each other,

on hot days you can watch them
as

they melt,

fall

come

apart,

into the ocean

like sick gulls,

I

|

dethronements, plane crashes.

search instead for the others,

the ones

left

the ones

who have

over,

escaped from these

174

What

I

Is

Found There

mythologies with barely their

lives;

they have real faces and hands, they think

of themselves

wrong somehow, they would

In the tradition of new poetry

and generation,

this

movements of every geography

movement founded

little

lished photo-offset chapbooks, broadsides,

Aphra,

Amazon

as

rather be trees.

Quarterly, Azalea, Heresies,

magazines, pub-

new

journals like

Moving Out, The

Sec-

A Journal of Liberation; anthologies of past and

ond Wave, Women:

contemporary women's poetry began to appear: Amazon

Poetry,

No More Masks!, The World Split Open, Mountain Moving Day.
The women-owned presses were starting up: Diana Press in
Baltimore; Shameless Hussy Press, the Oakland Women's Press
Collective, Kelsey Street Press, Effie's Press in the San Francisco

&

Bay Area; Out

Out Books in Brooklyn; Motherroot in Pittsburgh; the Iowa City Women's Press. The proliferating feminist
bookstores held poetry readings as regular community events. In
1974, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, there was a

week-long International Women's Poetry

Festival

with readings

and workshops indoors and out, some planned, others spontaneous.

And

politics

were taken

for granted as part

of our poetic

discussions.

A

partial

United
Alta,

roster

States

of

women

poets

becoming

active in the

by the mid-1970s would include Alice Walker,

Audre Lorde, Cherrie Moraga, Enid Dame, Fay Chiang,

Honor Moore,
Larkin,

Irena Klepfisz, Jan Clausen, Joan Gibbs, Joan

Judy Grahn, June Jordan, Karen Brodine, Kathleen

Fraser, Kitty Tsui,

Minnie Bruce

Linda Hogan, Marge Piercy, Marilyn Hacker,

Pratt, Nellie

Wong,

Pat Parker, Patricia Jones,

Rikki Lights, Robin Morgan, Sara Miles, Sharon Olds, Sonia
Sanchez, Stephanie Byrd, Susan Griffm, Susan Sherman, Teru

A communal poetry
Kanazawa, Toi Derricotte,

names from

these
gies,

my own

Wendy

new

definitive.)

new

movement.

poetic

Just as the

released

and the

a

women's

Rose, Willyce Kim.

women in the

spiraling out

New Left,

this

1970s.

The list is not

movement was

liberation

a

new

earlier poetic revolution

women's movement. That

a

force

for justice

women's poetry movement was

both firom the

the politics of the

drew

of American poetry,

from within the African- American struggle

sary unfolding,

(I

175

archive of Htde magazines, antholo-

chapbooks published by

Here was

|

a neces-

and from

the origins and

communal was an
important legacy from the poetics that Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, among others, had brought
nature of poetry are not just personal but

to

huge audiences

in the 1950s

and 1960s and from the Black

Arts

movement. The women's poetry movement had,

both

social

and poetic

roots,

separated. Significantly,

read and recognize
separables,

it

in

was

is

that they cannot

movement

this

"know

fact

that

be

began to re-

again") that great poet of in-

Muriel Rukeyser.

In 1978 four

American

(as

and the

thus,

young

New York

Patricia Jones,

City

women

poets (African-

Asian-American Fay Chiang, Euro-

American Sara Miles, and Latina Sandra Maria Esteves) edited
and published Ordinary Women:
York City

Women. The

of its kind

... a

white

women,

An

editors wrote: "This

woman's anthology
that

is

Anthology of Poetry by

that

is

is

.

.

.

the

first

New
book

not predominantly by

not a showcase for well-known writers.

The poems here are by city women in their 20's and 30's, ... of
many races and backgrounds, of diverse styles and aesthetics,
who come together to speak the truth about their own lives."

What

176
I

The

reality

Is

Found There

of being

women touches

our intention was to unite on the
in

an urban

reality, riding

racial

all

basis

and

class structures:

of womanhood

.

.

.

voices

subways, working in factories, restau-

buying groceries, changing

rants, offices, theatres, driving cabs,

diapers.

—Sandra Maria Esteves
I

want

works

this

in

it,

book, through the multiracial, multi-ethnic range of
to

we are beginning to feel:
women moving through this city, ev-

have an openness that

Black, white, Asian, Latin

eryday moving like

all

other

women, tough and mad.


I

write poems, songs, otherwise

away the

feelings

and

it,

it

taste

other, ordinary

and

but

spirits

it is

would be

I

which embody

Patricia Jones

crazy, rationalizing

my identity.

...

I

hold

given form and shared like a meal with

women living in the

city.

—Fay Chiang
This

is

doing
dream.

not a dream, and
is

at

It is

it's

once more

and more interesting than any

day-to-day, ordinary, complicated: the links

here are the bonds that

made,

not easy. But the reality of what we're

difficult

women

we make

speaking together have always

are ambivalent, fragile, hard.

—Sara Miles
As

I

was

a child

hearing timber
in forests

fall

of anarchy,

faltering spots

of

sunshine and injury,
spacing the beat

of time

as

I

wished.

A communal poetry
chasing lightning bugs,
as

was

I

magic

a child,

as

now
a thin cry
as

I lie

here,

feet in silver stirrups,

breasts

perched on the side

of a precipice,

my cunt favoring
then your

now

kiss,

arid as Badlands,

torpor of an empress.

my tears are only mine.

—Teru Kanazawa, "Aborting"
and when the center opened
I

saw myself

and

I

saw

my mother

Moon

the

walking to the white man's factory
so she could catch sunsets

on

the

1

8th floor

of the projects

—Sandra Maria Esteves, "Ahora"
a cold place

detention house

not

me

i'm glad not
i

said to

me

him

me
i'm glad not me
inside not

|

177

What

lyS

Found There

Is

I

but you are
said

he

you

are

—Sandra Maria
No backporch

in

Esteves, "Visiting"

my mind

but there was beauty: sun

Slow
i

thought

whose
from

on episcopal church

setting
it

cathedral, a castle

tropical tree

alley

peeked

from back

Gracing the gray

concrete

sinfril

block with rehef, recessed

between aging

buildings.

Our playcries melted
with fading day

Carhoms, hustlenoise muted
like thin

horn players

strain

for expression

Strain for expression

and

efficient.

.

.

of her window jungle,

wonder: was
calling

for

me

me,

.

small store

She peered between fronds

this like

(i

would

later

her home?)

softsmiling, smile

worn

alone, deep but small lap

soon outgrown, never outgrown,
large

bosom and

salt

hair thickbraided,

and pepper

bound toward

a knot.

Al/ways warm, comfort-fragrance

humming smoothe
Ringing

lullabies

cashregister

giving cookies talking
girl httle 'n

silly

banana brown

A communal poetry
oh! the sugarcane

179

|

mangoes

and bunbread oh! the caresshappiness
funnynames: tutums

Deep

times.

The nono' African

throat-

cluck, guidance gently, greatly indulging.

Growing

fierce, steelfaced granite

Strong: for the white

bill

creature

Cheated but never shortchanged

Old women Sundayscreeching

in

West

Indian church

he arose! he arose! he arose!
Defeated but victorious.

—Akua LezU-Hope, "To Every Birth
It
I



was

Its

Pain"

women's poetry and publishing movement

in the



that

many others
we were writing in. Because many workingwomen were active in the movement, many women of

and,

I

think,

began to perceive something

about the language
class

color (despite ongoing classism and racism there, as everywhere),
the spoken languages and intonations of diverse communities

were finding

their

way

into poems,

which were published

in

feminist and lesbian newspapers, magazines and anthologies,

heard aloud

at

group poetry readings, and thus found their way

might have separated poets and readers and

across Hues that

teners without the centripetal force of the
first

time

I

understood that

gUsh," whatever

my

poetic language wasn't

my inarguable debts to the English poets:

American, though
except that

my

I

had no

full

sense of what that might

voice belonged here. Later

from the American Indian writer

Leslie

lis-

movement. For the

I

found, in a

Marmon

"Enit

was

mean
letter

Silko to the

Ohio-born white poet James Wright, her vision of an American
poetic diction:

What

8o

Found There

Is

I

You

are fearless of the language

Some

I

think did not or do not fear

we seldom

so write an English

many who

then there are
"literary."

When
sense

.

I

.

but are afraid

"American" language

say

few

at

to think that

and

"poetic" or

isn't

need ever

to

mean

I

in the widest

it

which the great land and
have limited

might be

many of the members seemed

which speak the language.

life

we

to so

it

few

in the world.

so reluctant

.

.

.

I

.

.

.

as

it

loves

would

like

could see language more flexible and inclusive,

could begin to look for the passion and the expression

television speaks.

working

.

by rote
.

.

.

[TJhat

.

.

hideous, empty,

is

regional and

language

the result of the past 50 years of

community expression

ized" language, in a land as big and
this, certainly

fi-om



And

in

despite the

lesbian authorship



Reagan

seemed

to

ments back to the

its

now

also

it

nonstandardized women's
visibly in the

as

American English,

To have

a "standard-

geographically diverse as

seems ridiculous to me.

Women was

Ordinary

artificial

to eradicate regional usages, regional pronunciations,

always with the melting pot theory in mind.

rhetoric

it

that Jamaican poets are using an English language

instead of language

vision.

it

once loves the music of the language so much

the people and

we

spirit

visions of what there

Institute

acknowledge

which

No

peoples allow.

At the English

i.e.

it

but they do not love

.

sensibilities, so

that

love

it,

it.

hear outside the university; and

—with the expansiveness of

many

to

America speaks and you love

own way

this

surprising absence of identifiably

embodied

movement

years,

an embodiment of

even

as a

a sense

that

of the voices of a

was to emerge more

hideous, empty,

artificial

push feminism and other dissident move-

wall.

XXI
The distance
between language
and violence

She's calling from Hartford: another young dark-skinned
killed



shot by police in the head while lying on the ground.

riding the train

spraypainted:

But

this

is

up from

New

Herfriend,

"KKK— Kill Niggers. "It's Black History Month.

white history.

White hate

crimes, white hate speech.

in the vast encircling

quality of being

isn't

I

still

itself, its

utterly obsessional.

I

Race was

try to claim

the half of it.

presumption of whiteness

which knows

otherness that has to be dehumanized.

was

has been

York, has seen overpass after overpass

wasn't brought up to hate. But hate

that

man



I

I

grew up

that primary

passions, only against an

grew up
the

in white silence

theme whatever the

topic.

In the case of my kin the

word sprayed on

the overpasses was

What

i82
I

Is

Found There

unspeakable, part of a taboo vocabulary. That

language of "rednecks."

more
lence,

from such

a

A

white child growing into her powers of

few

five years old, her father sets her a

notebook

from vio-

as hatred.

language within white discourse. Every day,

into a ruled

the

"Negro,"

"les autres."

dissociate itself from lynching,

thing

poet's education.

word was

parents said "colored,"

often "They," even sometimes, in French,

Such language could

A

My

as a

when

lines

she

is

about

of poetry to copy

handwriting lesson:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Its

loveliness increases

.

.

.

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand
Could frame thy

She receives
lent,"

words

a written

word

or eye,

fearful

in her

symmetry?

notebook

as

grade: "Excel-

"Very good," "Good," "Fair," "Poor." The power of
is

enormous; the rhythmic power of

meshed with language,

verse,

rhythm

excites her to imitation. Later, she begins

reading in the books of poetry from which she copied her
sons. Blake, especially, she loves.

Keats, or any of the poets

from: poetry, for her,

is

is

aHve or dead, or where they wrote

now

cence" seem both strange and

When the
And

and here. The "Songs of Innofamiliar:

voices of children are heard

laughing

is

les-

She has no idea whether he, or

heard on the

hill,

on

the green

Distance between language and violence

183

|

My heart is at rest within my breast
And

everything else

is still.

And

My mother bore me in the southern wild.
And I am black,
White
But

poem

This

I

as

but O!

an angel

am black,

is

my soul is white;

the English child:

as if bereav'd

of Ught.

disturbs her faintly, not because

it

any way

in

contradicts the white discourse around her, but because
to

it

seems

approach the perilous, forbidden theme of color, the endless

undertone of that discourse.

She

not brought up to hate; she

is

is

brought up within the

circumference of white language and metaphor, a space that
looks and feels to her like freedom. Early on, she experiences
language, especially poetry, as power: an elemental force that
with her,

Uke the wind

Only much

later she

at

her back

as

she runs across a

begins to perceive, reluctantly, the rela-

tionships of power sketched in her imagination

she loves and works

in.

is

field.

How hard,

by the language

against others, that

wind can

blow.

White

child

growing into her whiteness. Tin shovel flung by

woman caring
soon after my sister's birth, my mother
hand

at

the dark-skinned

ill

tal.

A

half-effaced,

forehead.

I

am

shamed memory of

my

me, summer 1933,
and back in the hospi-

for

a

bleeding cut on her

reprimanded, made to say I'm sorry.

temper," for which I'm often punished; but

this

I

have "a

incident re-

mains vivid while others blur. The distance between language

184

What

I

Found There

Is

and violence has already shortened. Violence becomes
guage. If I flung words along with the shovel,

them. Then, years
lite

later,

word becomes

I

I

a lan-

remember

can't

do remember. Negro! Negro! The po-

epithet, stands in for the evil epithet, the

taboo word, the curse.

A
lated

white

child's

anger

at

her mother's absence, already trans-

(some kind of knowledge makes

this possible) into a racial

language. That They are to blame for whatever pain

This

is

the child

we needed and

notebook when I'm
oping

three.

deserved,

my

is felt.

mother writes

in a

My parents require a perfectly devel-

evidence of their intelligence and culture. I'm kept

child,

from school, taught

home

at

till

the age of nine.

My

mother,

once an aspiring pianist and composer who earned her living

—and must not—work

piano teacher, need not

for

money

as a

after

marriage. Within this bubble of class privilege, the child can be

educated

at

home, taught

to play

years old. She develops facial

tics,

elbows and knees, hay

She

lessons,

fever.

Mozart on the piano
eczema

at

in the creases

four

of her

prohibited confusion: her

is

accomplishments, must follow a clear trajectory. For her

parents she

is

living

proof

A Black woman cleans the apartment,

cooks, takes care of the child

when

the child isn't being "edu-

cated."
Mercifully,
dolls

I

and china

best times

were times

breath, loving

reading.

had time to imagine,
figurines, inventing

my

I

fantasize, play

and resolving

was ignored, could

with paper

their fates.

talk stories

improvised world almost

as

much

The

under
as

I

my

loved

Distance between language and violence

Popular culture entered

my

exactly

how

my

age and wrote

life as

who was

Temple,

Shirley

a letter in the

newspapers

her mother fixed spinach for her, with

185

|

telling

of butter.

lots

There were paper-doll books of her and of the Dionne Quintuplets



five identical girls

—and

bom

of the

of the famous dollhouse

ily

French-Canadian fam-

to a

actress

Moore, which contained every luxury conceivable

Colleen

in perfect

miniature, including a tiny phonograph that played Gershwin's

Rhapsody
girl

my

in Blue.

who

I

age

was impressed by Shirley Temple

had power: she could write

newspapers and have

it

printed in her

have seen her dancing with
Littlest

Rebel, but

I

own

a piece for the

handwriting.

had been

remember her

stolen; but she

—on

was

mugs and

glass

I

must

"Bojangles" Robinson in The

Bill

less as a

movie

star

presence, like President Roosevelt, or Lindbergh,

where

as a Httle

a Httle girl

in coloring

whose
books

as a

whose baby

face
as

than

was every-

well

as in

the

papers.

Other

figures

woman on

the

peopHng

my

childhood: the faceless, bonneted

Dutch Cleanser

can.

Aunt Jemima beaming on

the pancake box, "Rastus" the smiling Black chef on the

Cream

of Wheat box, the "Gold Dust Twins" capering black on orange

on soap boxes,

also in coloring

books given

as

premiums with

the soap powder. (The white obsession wasn't silent
vertising logos were concerned.)
falo,

The

where ad-

Indian chief and the buf-

"vanished" but preserved on the nickel. Characters in

books read aloud:

companying

Little

Black Sambo, Uncle

illustrations.

Hiawatha.

Remus

The Ten

—with

Little

ac-

Indians,

soon reduced to none, in the counting-backward rhyme.

What

i86
I

came

In 1939

cluding

Found There

Is

New

the

York World's

Our

Fair.

family, in-

my paternal grandmother, took the train from Baltimore

and stayed two or three nights
York, across the
Rockettes

at

the Hotel Pennsylvania in

from Pennsylvania

street

Radio City Music

at

Station.

We

New

saw the

Hall, spent a day in Flushing

Meadows at the Fair, with its Trylon and Perisphere of which
we had heard so much. We went to Atlantic City for a day,
chewed

saltwater taffy,

its

the boardwalk

(a

were pushed

days

—hard

our

portraits sketched in pastel

fathom

to

in

wicker chairs along

favorite tourist ride in Atlantic City in those
its

appeal to a child).

by

a

My sister and

boardwalk

artist.

I

had

Under her

picture he wrote, "Dad's Pride," and under mine, "Miss

Amer-

1949"

ica,

way

month war would
be declared in Europe; soon the Atlantic Ocean would be full of
convoys, submarines, and torpedoes; in Baltimore we would
have blackouts, and air-raid drills at school. I would become part
It

was going

of the

first

to

be

a

long

to 1949. In a

American "teenage" generation, while people

Europe were, unbeknownst

my age

me, being transported

east in

cattle cars, fighting as partisans, living in hiding, sleeping

under-

in

ground in cratered

cities.

Pearl

to

Harbor would

call

in the

wrath of

the United States.

was keeping

I

World's

Men

Fair:

and

Some

a

"The

women

"Line-A-Day"
greatest part

diary

and wrote of the

was the World of Tomorrow.

of Tomorrow appeared in the sky and sang."

early version

of big-screen vision and sound must have

been projected on the dome of the Perisphere, celebrating the

World of Tomorrow with

its

material goods, miracle conve-

niences, freeways, skyways, aerial transport.

no

Final Solution,

no Hiroshima. The men and

morrow marched with
they sang,

it

No World War
women

energetic and affirming tread.

wasn't the "Internationale"

—more

II,

of To-

Whatever

like a

hymn

to

Distance between language and violence
American technology and
still

free enterprise.

187

|

The Depression was

on, the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia only a few weeks

away. But the World of Tomorrow

who, decades

a nine-year-old girl,

other

moment from

the

New

fire, a

translucent blue-green, and

handed

it,

children,

last, I

was sent

born into other

wide range,

later,

inspired

remembers but one

perfect glass
it



Fair of 1939: a

pen and nib

in

over to her to keep, and

many years.

for

Mercifully, at

capitalist kitsch

York World's

glassblower blew, over live

she did keep



at a private

to school, to discover other, real

families, other kinds

school for white

of

Not

lives.

new

girls. Still, a

a

hori-

zon.
Mercifully,

I

discovered Modern Screen, Photoplay, Jsick Benny,

Sinatra, "The Romance of Helen
"Road of Life." The war was under way; I learned to
swing my hips to "Don't Sit under the Apple Tree," "Deep in
the Heart of Texas," "Mairzy Doats," "Don't Get Around

"Your Hit Parade," Frank

Trent,"

Much Anymore." loved Water Pidgeon and the singing of the
miners in How Green Was My Valley, Irene Dunne in The White
I

Cliffs

of Dover.

I

learned to pick out chords for

Your Eyes" and "As Time Goes By" on

"Smoke Gets

in

the keyboard devoted

to Mozart.

A poet's
years,

education.

when

poetry

written by white

Most of the poetry she

is

will read for

both sustenance and doorway,

men, but frames an

is

all-white world;

and metaphors are not "raceless," but rooted

many

not only

its

images

in an apartheid

of

I

What

88
I

Found There

Is

the imagination. In college, for a seminar in

modern American

poetry that includes no Black (and almost no

women)

reads

one of Allen Tate's "Sonnets

I

And I must

think a

I

Christmas":

at

love you rings to the wild sky

Ah, Christ,

When

was ten

I

little

of the

past:

told a stinking he

That got a black boy whipped; but

The going years, caught in an
Reverse

accurate glow.
baize

the round trumpets

blow

blind, with senses yet unfound,

untutored to the after- wit

I,

Of knowledge, knowing a nightmare
Therefore with
In late

idle

hands and head

December before

girl, this

no sound;

has

I sit

the fire's daze

Punished by crimes of which

This

at last

ancient crackle of the Christ's deep gaze.

Deafened and

Am

let

now

upon green

like balls englished

Let them return,

The

student, this poet

would be

I

is

quit.

only barely learning that

poetry occurs in "periods" and "movements." She
to read the

poets, she

way

she always has: in the here and

you shudder with

delight or trouble,

is still

trying

now, what makes

what keeps you reading,

what's boring? But she's hearing about a southern poetry (she

who grew up

in the city

of Edgar Allan Poe and Sidney Lanier)

that calls itself Fugitive, Agrarian.

these literary

history. Tate's

sonnet leaps out



to break, a silence

under the
ing

as

it

Nothing helps her

movements with southern
at

very

at

least

her because
it

it

to

connect

with her

own

breaks, or seems

seems to point to something

surface, the unspeakability
flickers

history,

of which her pulse

through the poem. She

is

is

studying in

track-

New

England, now, joking about her southern heritage, there are

few African-American students

(still

known

as

a

"Negroes") in

Distance between language and violence
her

classes,

she

knows now

that "segregation" (a

laws she grew up under) and "prejudice"

(a

name

retrograde; the freshman sister assigned to her

by the college

sisterly advice.

How

is

and

coffee,

is

sumption of whiteness? Some years

strained hair have

Tate's

poem

become

later,

a perplexing

this, in

she hears that this

face

and dark, back-

memory,

is

a suicide.

burden on white people, leading them to

Christmas Eve depression, and (more usefully) that

a

phrase like

"stinking lie" can effectively be inserted in an elegant

poem,
least,

Only

as part

porter of the

modem

years later will she learn that the writer of the

aristocrat

and

the pre-

teaches her nothing except the possibility that

race can be a guilty

sonnet.

se-

supposed to guide her

she equipped for

young woman, whose unsmiling ivory

is

Nobel

Negro. She takes her light-skinned,

rious "sister" out for lunches

with

for the

vaguer notion) are

the daughter of a famous international diplomat, later a
laureate: a distinguished

189

|

of the world of southern
of his

letters,

was,

at

literary politics, a segregationist

Ku Klux Klan.

the very

and sup-

XXII
Not how

to

write

poetry, but wherefore

Masters.

For

all

the poetry

I

grew up with



the Blake, the Keats,

the Swinburne and the Shelley, the EUzabeth Barrett Browning,
the

Whitman,

the domesticated versions of Dickinson

twenties a greater ocean

fell

open before me, with

tory currents and undertows. Frost,
shoreline tidal pools: out

beyond

WyHe,

its



in

my

contradic-

Millay seemed like

lay fogs, reefs, wrecks, floating

corpses, kelp forests, sargasso silences, moonlit swells, dolphins,
pelicans, icebergs, suckholes,
I

was searching, within the

words

to

match and name

Rilke's

hunting grounds. Young, hungry,

limits

of time and place and

desire.

poem, the antique marble

the passerby through

its

Lehen dndem, You have

torso of Apollo glinting at

pectorals like eyes, saying:

to

sex, for

change your

life.

Du

musst dein

Finding J. B. Leishman

Not how

write poetry, but wherefore

to

and Stephen Spender's
Harvard Square

(at first,

woman). Du musst
quite so directly.
sleepw^alking.

enough
be

as

translations

thinking

of Rilke in

this

At twenty-tw^o

called

it

bookstore in

Rainer Maria might be

No poem

dein Leben dndern.

a

191

|

had ever

said

a
it

me out of a kind of
me poetry w^asn't

knew^, even then, that for

I

something to be appreciated, finely fmgered:

a fierce, destabiHzing force, a vs^ave pulling

than you thought you v^anted to be. You have

to

you

could

it

further out

change your

life.

my first book of poems, published
in 195 1, W. H. Auden praised my "talent for versification" and
"craftsmanship," w^hile explaining to and of my poetic generaIn his editor's forev^ord to

tion:

Radical changes and significant novelty in

occur

when

there has

to require them.

The

been

a radical

artistic style

change in human

can only

sensibility

spectacular events of the present time [did

he mean the revelations of the Holocaust? the unleashing of nuclear

weapons? the dissolution of the old colonial empires?] must

not blind us to the fact that

we

are living not at the beginning but

in the middle of a historical epoch; they are not novel but repeti-

on

tions

a vastly enlarged scale

and

at a violently accelerated

tempo of events which took place long
Every poet under

fifty-five cherishes,

against Providence for not getting

If anything,

I

since.

him

I

suspect, a secret grudge

{sic\

bom earlier.

cherished a secret grudge against

because he didn't proclaim

me

a genius,

Auden

—not

but because he pro-

claimed so diminished a scope for poetry, including mine.
little

use for his beginnings and middles.

masters.

I

had read

his

much-quoted

I

had

Yet he was one of the

lines:

192

What

I

.

.

.

Found There

Is

poetry makes nothing happen;

In the valley of its saying

Would
From

never want to tamper;

Raw towns that we beheve

He ended
he was

it

flows south

a

and die

griefs.

in; it survives,

mouth.

written that in January 1939, elegizing

it

still

survives

ranches of isolation and the busy

A way of happening,
Auden had

it

where executives

with

a charge to living poets (or so

talking to Yeats):

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark.

And

the living nations wait.

Each sequestered

in

its

hate;

Intellectual disgrace

Stares

from every human

And the

seas

of pity

Locked and frozen

face.

lie

in

each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right

To

the

bottom of the

night.

With your unconstraining
Still

voice

persuade us to rejoice.

With

the farming of a verse

Make

a vineyard

of the curse.

Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart

Let the healing fountain

start.

I

W.

read

B. Yeats.
it;

maybe

Not how

write poetry, but wherefore

to

193

|

In the prison of his days

Teach the

But

was growing up

I

free

man how

to praise.

world where executives

in a postwar

were increasingly tampering with everything, not

least

the val-



And in that world or in the sector of it I could
both women and poetry were being redoperceive around me
of saying.

leys



mesticated.

my college years T.

Masters. In

poet. The Cocktail Party played

name and work were
luded to in courses.

I

S. Eliot

was the most talked-of

on Broadway

at that

time; his

already part of student conversations, al-

Hstened to lectures on The Waste Land, the

Four Quartets, earnestly taking notes, trying to grasp the greatness.

came

I

to Eliot's poetry

discovering the

came

I

to

Christianity

it

with the zeal of a young neophyte

new and

admired.

also as a

young person

utterly disaffected

and from organized religion

were wedded

to a

world

sionless respectability.

I

I

My experi-

in general.

ence of the suburban Protestant Church was that

whatsoever to do with changing one's

life. Its

it

from

had nothing

images and

rituals

was trying to escape, the world of pas-

wanted nothing more

to

do with

it.

But

how could an eighteeen-year-old girl from Baltimore critique the
fact that the greatest

to agree)

have,



The

High Church Anglican?

I

fmd: "This

= problem of a

^you can't accept

lecturer

preters,
as a

a

In

(as

was

who one

F.

it

unless

everyone seemed

my lecture notes, pen-

on the endpapers of the copy of Four

ciled

age

was

modern poet in English

Quartets that

Christian

poem

later, in a

Christian and a socialist.

He

still

in a secular

you accept Christian

O. Matthiessen, one of Eliot's

year

I

religion."

earliest inter-

suicide note, described himself

was

also a

homosexual.

194

What

I

Found There

Is

My Jewish father,

calling himself a Deist,

mother, secular by default

my

Protestant-bom

perhaps, married to a Christian,

(as,

she'd have been Christian, without strong convictions either

way), had sent

me

to

church for several years

as a

kind of social

validation, mainly as protection against anti-Semitism.

nothing there about
urgy found me,

was through the Book of

it

Common

mostly the poetry of the King James Bible contained in
to

walk home from church feeHng

that

if

I

would

feel

were

truly receptive,

I

I

—we were

was acting

all

must be

I

of a

social

world

I

my lips. What
enacted

already

Sometimes, having to pull away from

end up feeling you yourself
into an early

felt

knew

felt

I

Hke

a theo-

had to

I

was

Nor was
leave.

world of coldness, you

a

are cold.

used

at fault: surely,

in a pageant or a play.

this theater magical. Christianity as thus

logical version

Prayer,

it. I

"something" when the

wafer was given, the chalice touched to
that

learned

I

spiritual passion or social ethics. If the lit-

wrote

I

this disaffection

poem, "Air without Incense."

Christianity aside, there

was

for

me

a repulsive quality to

EHot's poetry: an aversion to ordinary Hfe and people.

have said that then.

tried for

I

some time

to admire

couldn't

I

the structure,

the learnedness, the cadences of the poems, but the voice overall

sounded dry and sad

know how much

his

to

me. Eliot was

and breakdown; nor was
Christianity,

reactionary politics.

ties

—of

What

I

I

alive,

He

I

had

aware

rejected,

was supposed

to

be

and

I

did not

I

felt

he was

that his

form of

was aHgned with

a

a master, but, as the

was, seeking possibilities

existence in poetry,

I

particularly

Hke the reUgion

young woman

still

poetry had been a struggle with self-hatred

—and

useless for

responsibili-

me.

lacked was even the idea of a twentieth-century tradi-

tion of radical or revolutionary poetics as a stream into

which

a

Not how

poetry, but wherefore

to write

young poet could

dip her

glass.

Among

195

|

William Carlos

elders,

Williams wrote from the landscape of ordinary urban, contemporary America, of ordinary poor and working people, and in

a

diction of everyday speech, plainspoken yet astonishingly musi-

and

cal

flexible.

But

I

don't recall being taken out of my skin by

any Williams poem, though

and ways of breaking
rics.

later

a line as a

I

would work with his phrasing

means of shedding formal met-

Muriel Rukeyser, the most truly experimental and integrat-

edly political poet of her time, was

her

name

in a

list

unknown

of former Yale Younger Poets.

the publication of The Life of Poetry in 1949.

or fellow student

me

to

—ever

said to

No

except by

don't recall

I

one



me that this was a book

professor

needed.

I

And not even the name of Thomas McGrath, the great midwestern working-class poet, was known to me. His chapbooks and
small-press editions

were not pubHshed or discussed by

the East; he was himself on the McCarthyite blacklist.
Left and

ing

it

Communist journals had

"difficult"

Rukeyser only
the

movement

in

did not read

I

was

to discover

and, soon after, with the rising

which she was,

McGrath

its

fact,

in the late 1960s with the poetry readings against

late in

her

until the 1980s,

and autobiographical "Letter
available in

the

trouble with his poetry, find-

and unorthodox. In

War

Vietnam

critics in

Even

life,

a

when

women's

powerful voice.
his

long historical

to an Imaginary Friend"

entirety. But, in

my

I

early twenties,

was

became

my

life

ready for Rukeyser and McGrath? Perhaps not. Yet each of

them was asking urgent
questions

I

I

had

as

yet

questions about the place of poetry,

no language

for.

was exceptionally well grounded

loved the

craft.

What

sense of vocation,

I

what

was groping
it

means

in formal technique,

for

was something

to live as a poet

and

I

larger, a

—not how

to

What

196

Found There

Is

I

write poetry, but wherefore. In
a

my early twenties

I

took

as

guide

poet of extreme division, an insurance executive possessed by

the imagination. But

my own

divisions,

could have made.

if I

was going to have

to write myself out

of

Wallace Stevens wasn't the worst choice

I

XXIII
''Rotted names''

A

few years ago,

writer, suitcase,

in the early California spring,

and

a

copy of Stevens's

I

Collected

put

my

type-

Poems into the

trunk of my car and drove to the town of Twentynine Palms,

Monument. The town

the edge of the Joshua Tree National

clung along

now,

base,

I

a

rough

strip,

believe, shut

supported largely by a Marine Corps

down. Off the main

bank of pines and oleanders,
courtyard with a

and

swimming

I

found

a Httle

route, behind a

motel

built

read.

hairy,

Daytimes

I

around

pool, banksia rose trees, and

My room had a kitchenette with a table where

trees.

at

I

a

palm

could type

among the
among gray and

drove and walked in the desert

mad-hermit shapes of the Joshua

trees, sat

gold rocks grizzled with lichen, against whose epochal scale tiny
lives

played out their dramas



lizards,

wasps, butterflies, bur-

198

What

I

Found There

Is

rowing bugs, red and

gilt flies.

silence.

stood

The Joshua

on the



patio

I

hadn't been writing

what was
future.

It

poems

still

strange and

good

as

cool in the desert

still

to the

—reading

for a while.

I

—my own

seemed

their

motel and

Stevens

straight

had never done before.

the end of a cycle, that were

poetry of the past

open

starting to

went back

I

empty

usually

I

was

It

through midday. Late afternoons

through, something

were

trees

creamy, almost shocking blooms.

sat

the edge of a lake bed,

at

bowl rimmed by mountains, brim-

waterless for centuries, a vast

ming with

I

past



that

unformed
a

had known

I

to write anything

time

as

I

I

was

at

would be

it

a

was unready to write

me, the poetry of the

in

any to come to terms with

Stevens.

much of him when

"I didn't think

I

read

him

in graduate

school," a younger friend of mine, a political activist and passionate reader of poetry,

commented

recently.

ing Stevens in college, but not really

"modern"

poets

"modernist")

as

I

encountered

as a

(later

I

they

me

live

and write. Never having been

was never compelled

to

explication of works that

called

read

would be

felt

"The Man with

went on, buying the

a

I

all

the

labeled
I

picked

thought could

graduate student,

I

spend hours and days fettered to the
deadening or alien to me.

another young poet, David Ferry,

poem

started readI

an apprentice, though a wayward one.

and chose with sublime pigheadedness what
help

had

student.

who

told

me

I

volumes

as

I

was

should read

the Blue Guitar," and

separate

It

from there

found them

a
I

in sec-

ondhand bookshops.

From

the

first

I

was both

attracted

and repelled by different

Stevens poems, sometimes by different parts of a single poem.

I

"Rotted names"
was

attracted

199

|

by the music, by the intense famiUarity yet

first

Hke

strangeness of Hnes

She sang beyond the genius of the sea

and
It

The sky

was her voice

acutest at

its

that

vanishing.

She measured to the hour
She was the single
In which she sang

its

artificer
.

.

made

soUtude.

of the world

.

Then we,
As we beheld her

Knew that there

striding there alone.

never was a world for her

Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

The

metrics and diction were familiar, that "high" tone at the

intersection of Victorian

offered me something absolutely
woman maker, singing and striding becreating her own music, separate from yet be-

Idea of Order at

new:

a

and modern poetic English. But "The

Key West"

conception of a

side the ocean,

stowing

its

wind. This

order

upon

the meaningless plunges of water

image entered me,

in the 1950s, an era

retrenchment and poetic diminishment,
tongue-tied desire that a woman's

amount

to

more than

life,

as

I

hives are heavy with the combs.

Before, before, before

my door.

my

work, should

saw around me.

Now grapes are plush upon the vines.
A soldier walks before my door.
The

the

of feminist

an image of

a poet's

the measured quantities

and

What

200
I

Is

And
And

Found There

seraphs cluster

on the domes,

saints are brilliant in fresh cloaks.

Before, before, before

The shadows

lessen

my door.

on

the walls.

The bareness of the house

An acid sunlight fills

returns.

the halls.

Before, before. Blood smears the oaks.

A soldier stalks before my door.
If

I

first

soundings

and

loved that



for

its

full

of honey to acid

for,

from the

there, only

first

walking

have lasted for

find

on



there

me

loved

later

it

for

its

death, the stripping

light, the figure

of the

down

soldier,

away you

couplet, so that right

by the end

past

many poems of Stevens

that

at first,

but

stalking

way.

in this

were others

irritating

I

concentrated fusion of fulfillment

its

the blood-smeared oaks. There are

And

sound,

autumn and war and

unaccounted

him

prescience,

its

disaster,

from combs

feel

poem

that,

from the

first, I

—and

found

still

and alienating in tone, mere virtuosity carrying

at great length, like

"The Comedian As

the Letter C,"

which

begins:

Nota:

man is

the intelligence of his

The sovereign

ghost.

soil.

As such, the Socrates

Of snails, musician of pears, principium
And lex. Sed quaeritur: is this same wig
Of things, this noncompated pedagogue.
Preceptor to the sea?

I

can allow that Stevens

woman,

—disappointed husband of

a beautiful

successful insurance lawyer, fugitive in the imagina-

.

"Rotted names"
tion

—was shoring up around him

wit, that his desperation
ity displayed in

a self-protective, intellectual

many of his poems. But

of the time, ending suddenly and

man

201

must have needed the excess of virtuosit's

straining against bleakness, renunciation,

each

|

a voice

of elegance

and truncation

bitterly:

So may

much

the relation of

be dipped.

young woman, impatiently skimming the poem, I
found passages that corresponded to my own moments of selfa

Still, as

What was

consciousness, of self-questioning:

/really doing as a

poet?

The book of moonlight is not written yet

Nor half begun,

but,

when it is,

For Crispin, fagot in the lunar

Who,

in the

leave

room

fire,

hubbub of his pilgrimage

Through sweating changes, never could
That wakefulness or meditating
In

which the sulky strophes

Bore up,

forget

sleep.

willingly

in time, the somnolent,

deep songs

.

.

.

How many poems he denied himself
In his observant progress, lesser things

Than

the relentless contact he desired

Of the modern

poets

Hberator. Yes: Stevens,

I

read in

whom

I

my

.

.

.

twenties, Stevens

was the

found so vexing and perplexing,

so given sometimes to cake-decoration, affectations in French,

yet also capable of shedding any predictable music to write

poems hke "Dry Loaf or "The Dwarf," which force you to
hear music of their own, or The skreak and skritter of evening gone
It

was Stevens

who

told

me,

in

"Of Modern

Poetry":

It

has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.

It

has to face the

men of the

time and to meet

What

202
I

Found There

Is

The women of the

And it has

I

took

to find

time.

what

has to think about

war

will suffice.

who said to me, Ourselves in
who told me that poetry must change,

this quite literally. It

poetry must take their place,

It

was he

our ideas of order, of the romantic, of language

itself

must

change:

Throw away the lights, the definitions
And say of what you see in the dark
That

this

it is

or

it is

that,

But do not use the rotted names.

The
I

last line

felt

were messages

these

going on pure

work

as a

in the Collected

desire;

I

left

A

new knowledge of reality.
along the trail for me. I was

Poems

is

had no means of fathoming

how life

and

woman poet would force me to rethink ideas of order
me and within me, ideas about scope and destiny,

surrounding

about the place of poetry in
aware, so conventional.

I

a Hfe

was

places neither of us could have
placable,

In the

still

so unrealized, so vaguely

to carry Stevens

foreknown, places

and

intricate as the desert at Joshua Tree.

last

days

I

coming down with

spent at Twentynine Palms,
'flu. I

ached,

felt

I

with
as

me

into

dense, im-

thought

I

was

chilled at night; the desert

my bed. Mornings, I'd stand a long
time in the hot shower, then make my instant coffee and sit on at

wind seemed

to

blow

across

the kitchenette table staring at the pines across the parking

lot,

hearing the United States flag whipping in the wind, an arrhythmic, riptide sound.

Some

days the desert was so dun, so coldly Ht

"Rotted names"

I

could hardly bear

influences

One

I

a glass

heart quailed and

expanded under

couldn't trace.

evening

I

drove to an

dinner, thinking to

and

My

it.

my

lift

Italian restaurant

spirits.

of ice-cold Chianti in

I

had

on the

strip to eat

and

lasagna, fries

over ears and necks,

slightly

longer on top).

They had

wine, seemed out for a good time, but depressed,

each other.

I

their physical strength

felt

—were

salad,

room otherwise occupied by a

a

of very young marines, teenagers, heads half-shaved

table

203

|



(close

at ease

ill

of

a bottle

with

young, unin-

a terribly

these kids descendants of

European

workers on the land, whose forefathers had been foot

soldiers in

formed strength

war

after

war? Generations without education or control over

the time and products of their labor?

The young

recruits

I

and

his family

that

weekend

white. At the motel, a
officer

saw

evening were
earlier,

Our

hosts

apparently

an African-American

had been swimming

carried drinks to the patio.

all

in the pool, later

had seemed to welcome

them, but they were soon gone. Almost everyone
hiking or rock climbing in the National

Monument

I

had seen

appeared to

a Mexican family at one campsite among the
Beyond the strip lay a kind of desert barrio of vaguely
marked dirt roads leading to earth-colored shacks.
More than ever in my Hfe I had been taking in the multivari-

be white except for
rocks.

ous shadings of

how
in

some



set

itself
rize,

human

life

in the

long whiteness had kept

is

places, noticing

its

American landscape. FeeHng

me from

lack



seeing that variety

—because whiteness—

as a

or,

mind-

bent only on distinguishing discrete bands of color from

That

is its

obsession



to distinguish, discriminate, catego-

exclude on the basis of clearly defmed color.

the function of being white?

The

iris

What

else

is

of actual Hght, the colors

seen in a desert shower or rainbow, or in the streets of a great
metropolis, speak for continuum, spectrum, inclusion as laws of
life.

What

204

I

Found There

Is

I

many

have come, through

turnings of life and through

willing and reluctant mentors, to understand that there

study of race

—only of

racism.

study, the study of racism.

It's

Race

And

no

itself

is

a meaningless category.

as w^hite,

over and against

human community.

for poetry?

Why,

was asking myself, was

I

that liberatory

warned Do

spokesman

that

"master" of

for the imagination, that

not use the rotted names, so attracted

old, racist configurations?

How,

his claims for

my

youth,

mentor who

and compelled by

given the sweep of his claims

which

for the imagination, for poetry as that
life,

is

a bitter, violent, nauseating

But people have defined themselves
darkness, with disastrous results for

many

gives sanction to

modernity, could he accept the stunting of his

own imagination by the

repetitions

of a mass imaginative

failure,

by nineteenth-century concepts of "civilized" and "savage," by
compulsive reiterations of the word "nigger"?

Why

does the

image and rhyming sound of the offensive word "negress" dominate

one poem ("The Virgin Carrying

no apparent

him

pelled

"darkies"
stract

reason, into

terlocutors in the
at

and

slide, for

poem "Two at Norfolk" to
And why should an ab"woollen massa" be summoned up as in-

to address the haunting

mowing

grass in a

"black man," a

"Nudity

a Lantern")

"The Auroras of Autumn"? What im-

two epigrams "Nudity

the Capitol"?

Aldon Nielsen

cemetery?

What

in the

Colonies" and

are these "frozen metaphors," as

calls

them, doing in

Reading Stevens

in other years

his
I

work?

had

tried to write off that

deliberately racial language as a painful but encapsulated lesion

on the imagination,
gence.

I

a

momentary

treated those figures

and Aunt Jemima



as

—not

collapse
that far

of the poet's

intelli-

removed from Rastus

happenstance, accidental. There in the


"Rotted names"
high desert

I

understood: This

finally

defend

try to extirpate, censor, or

it.

is

a key to the whole.

often Latin
stand

more

how

American and Caribbean
clearly the
self,

a "fairly substantial
is

understand

gift is

the deforming

lay figures

the emotionally



is

I,

under-

in the imagination

thus compelled to frustrate itself

named "Africanism"

to

unhappy white man with

income," the fugitive

—over



as a

whose imIt's

to grasp

or what Toni Morrison has

the imagination

poet, but of the collective poetry of

my place.

water-

meanings of North and South in Stevens's

power of racism

poetry in which

a

he places himself in

repeatedly turned back by a wall of mirrors,

mense poetic

is

and other dark-skinned figments of his mind

poetry, the riven

who

To

in his poetry.

relation to these

Don't

on one-di-

Stevens's reliance

mensional and abstract images of African- Americans

mark

205

|

—not only of

which he was

young woman, had been

this

a part, the

trying to take

XXIV
A poet's education

Diane Glancy: "The poet writes
stance and environment."

myself

as a

And

as [s]he

"I

.

found object." Glancy:

.

.

feel

written by circumI

must make use of

woman

a

Cherokee and poor white "Arkansas

is

of the

Plains,

of

backhill culture." Driving

hundreds of miles to teach poetry in the public schools of Arkansas

and Oklahoma, she keeps

tions

on

She has written one of the
this

a

kind ofjournal,

a series

of medita-

place, poetry, literacy, oral tradition, words, religion.

new

sourcebooks brought forth in

country today by poets for whose parents or grandparents

literacy or English

was not

a given. It's a lie that

poetry

read by or "speaks to" people in the universities or
tual circles; in

many

is

only

elite intellec-

such places, poetry barely speaks

at

all.

.

A poet's education
Poems

and absorbed,

are written

prairie kitchens,

battered

homeless

shelters,

HIV

need books. But books

libraries,

shelters, offices, a public

support group.

bom in a house with empty bookshelves.

will

in prisons,

urban basement workshops, branch

women's

hospital for disabled people, an

be

and aloud,

silently

207

|

A

poet can

Sooner or later,

s/he

on suspicion of murder

after

are not genes.

A poet's education.
Before

I

was eighteen,

I

was

arrested

refusing to explain a deep cut

speed

I

on

my

a holding facihty to await

trial.

There

I

With shocking

forearm.

found myself handcuffed to a chain gang

.

.

met men,

.

and bussed to

prisoners,

who

read aloud to each other the works of Neruda, Paz, Sabines,

Nemerov, and Hemingway. Never had
that dormitory.
alligators

.

.

.

While

I

I felt

listened to the

slumbered powerless in their

such freedom

as in

words of the poets, the

lairs.

Their language was

me from myself.
And when they closed the books, these Chicanos, and went
into their own Chicano language, they made barrio life come
alive for me in the fullness of its vitality. I began to learn my own
the magic that could liberate

.

.

.

language, the bilingual words and phrases explaining to

own place

in the universe.

.

.

me my

.

Two years passed. I was twenty now, and behind bars again.
One night on my third month in the county jail

.

.

tives

had kneed an old drunk and handcuffed him

bars.

His

shrill

screams raked

my

.

[sjome detec-

to the

booking

nerves like hacksaw on bone,

the desperate protest of his dignity against their inhumanity.

When

.

.

.

.

.

they went to the bathroom to pee and the desk attendant

walked to the

file

cabinet to pull the arrest record,

I

shot

my arm

What

208
I

Found There

Is

through the bars, grabbed one of the attendant's university textbooks, and tucked

in

it

my

overalls.

It

was the only way

had of

I

protesting.
It

was

when

late

my

returned to

I

cell.

Under my blanket

switched on a pen flashlight and opened the thick book

dom, scanning

the pages.

p-o-n-d, ri-pple.
find comfort.

.

.

me

scared

It

Slowly

.

that

had been reduced

I

at ran-

enunciated the words

I

I

.

.

.

to this to

always had thought reading a waste of time, that

I

nothing could be gained by

it.

Only by

action,

by moving out into

the world and confi-onting and challenging the obstacles, could

one learn anything worth knowing.

Even

became

as

I

tried to

so absorbed in

happiness,

I

forgot

overcame me,

mourned

how

where

as if

I

I

was merely curious,

me, and

the sounds created music in

was.

I

.

.

.

I

For a while, a deep sadness

had chanced on a long-lost fiiend and

the years of separation. But soon the heartache of hav-

ing missed so
child,

convince myself that

much of Ufe,

gave way,

as if a

grave

that

had numbed

illness

had

me

since

lifted itself firom

was cured, innocently beheving in the beauty of life
blingly repeated the author's

name

as

fell

I

was

I

me

again.

I

asleep, saying

and

a
I

stum-

it

over

and over in the dark: Words-worth,

Words- worth.
Days

later,

propped
words.

Jimmy
out of

a

.

that

moment,

disarticulated,

.

I

a

hunger

violently

to despise his

my teeth, I
wrote my first

whittled sharp with

knees and

for poetry possessed

as a birth into

unworded

own speech,

me.

the self

condition,

the

the male prisoner in a

run by men's rules and maintained by men's anger and

brutish will to survive,

act

.

Santiago Baca writes of poetry

a

.

.

Red Chief notebook on my

From

Chicano taught
world

.

with a stub pencil

of opening

forced to bury his feminine heart save in the

a letter or in

writing poems. Every poem

is

an infant

A poet's education
labored into birth

and I am drenched with sweating

pain and hurt of being a man,

poem

in the

effort.

209

|

Tiredfrom the

I transform myself into

woman. Released from the anguish of speechlessness {There was
nothing so humiliating as being unable
ticulateness increased

my

express myself,

to

my

and

sense ofjeopardy, of being endangered)

,

inar-

Baca

woman who has transcended the pain
who has actually given birth to words,
not to a living, crying, shitting child. But how balance the hard
labor of bearing a poem against the early depletion of uneducated women bearing children year after year? Or against the
effort for speech by a woman whose culture has determined that
women shall be silent?
transforms himself into a

and hurt of being female,

En boca cerrada
is

a saying

I

no entran moscas. "Flies don't enter a closed

kept hearing

be a gossip and a
well-bred

girls

liar,

when I was

to talk too

much. Muchachitas

don't answer back. Es una

back to one's mother or

father.

.

.

.

mouth"

a child. Ser hahladora

was

to

hien criadas,

f

alia de respeto to talk

Hocicona, repelona, chismosa,

having a big mouth, questioning, carrying

of

tales are all signs

my culture they are all words that are derogatory if applied to women
I've never heard them applied to men.

being mal

criada.

In



Gloria Anzaldua, disentangUng the heavy hanging strands
fringing the cave of mestiza consciousness, fmds speechlessness

compounded by
"queer," not a
tity is

by the

fact

of being

in her culture's eyes.

Her

sense of iden-

femaleness, and both

woman

more comphcated than

transform

many

layers

chingada, the Indian

eternally

Baca's because she's forced to

of negativity surrounding femaleness

—images of Malintzin,

self

alien,

the Indian

woman

as

woman

as betrayer,

the fucked-one, of

mourning, long-suffering mother

—and

la

it-

of

la

Llorona,

to confront the

"despot duality" of simplistic masculine/ feminine:

/,

like other

What

210

Found There

Is

I

queer people,

am

two

in

am

one body, both male and female. I

embodiment of the hierosgamos:

the

coming together of opposite

the

qualities

within.

A poet's education.
In the 1960s,

I

John Rechy,

a

read

my first Chicane novel.

gay Texan, son of a Scottish father and a Mexican

mother. For days

I

walked around

in

stunned amazement that a

Chicano could write and get published.
I

was surprised

When I

to see a bilingual

saw poetry written

in

I

vistas,

my



.

.

a

Chicano

for the

first

in print.

time, a feel-

.

read books by Chicanos or Mexicans,

Mexican movies I saw
of $1.00 a car

When I read I Am Joaquin

book by

Tex-Mex

ing of pure joy flashed through me.

Even before

was City of Night by

It

it

was the

—the Thursday night

at the drive-in

that gave

me

mother would

a sense

call

brothers, sister and cousins

special

of belonging. Vamonos

out and we'd

—squeeze

all



a las

grandmother,

We'd wolf

into the car.

down cheese and bologna white bread sandwiches while watching Pedro Infante in melodramatic tear-jerkers like Nosotros
pohres, the first "real"

Mexican movie

of European movies). ...

I

(that

remember

the singing type "west-

ems" ofJorge Negrete and Miguel Aceves
The whole time

I

Mejia.

was growing up, there was

.

.

.

norteno music,

sometimes called North Mexican border music, or Tex
music, or Chicano music, or cantina (bar) music.
ing to conjuntos, three- or four-piece bands
cians playing guitar, bajo sexto,

which Chicanos had borrowed

los

was not an imitation

I

grew up

Mex

listen-

made up of folk musi-

drums and button accordion,

fi-om the

German immigrants who

had come to Central Texas and Mexico to farm and build brewer-

A poet's education
remember

I

when

the hot, sultry evenings

corridos

love and death on the Texas-Mexican borderlands

211

|

— songs of

—reverberated

out of cheap amplifiers from the local cantinas and wafted in

through

my bedroom window.

Corridos first

became widely used along the South Texas/Mexi-

can border during the early conflict between Chicanos and Anglos.

The

cucaracha,"

and

his

about Mexican heroes

corridos are usually

iant deeds against the
is

Anglo oppressors. Pancho

val-

song

*'La

Kennedy

the most famous one. Corridos of John F.

death are

still

very popular in the Valley. Older Chicanos

remember Lydia Mendoza, one of the

who was

who do

Villa's

called

Gloria de Tejas.

la

during the Great Depression,

great border corrido singers

Her "El tango negro," sung

made her

The everpresent

corridos

history, bringing

news of events

a singer

of the people.

narrated one hundred years of border
as

well as entertainment. These

folk musicians and folk songs are our chief cultural

mythmakers,

and they made our hard Hves seem bearable.

A poet's education.
After the divorce,

land run

when

I

had new

a piece

territory,

Now the land &

about the prairie

ever mattered.

I

Oklahoma

& had to be

settled.

my husband,

the children

& house-

I

sky were open. That's what's fiightening

at first

always written, but

like the

of land was claimed

had spent years hiding behind
work.

much

\ its

now my

picked up

barrenness

&

sense of place

lack of shelter.

I

had

was defined by what-

my Indian heritage & began a journey

toward ani-yun-wiyu, translated from the Cherokee,

*real

peo-

ple.'
I

read journals

\

magazines. Poetry

feelings could be expressed in writing.

\

some

fiction.

I

saw

that

FeeUngs of be wilderment

WhatlsFoundThere

212
I

&

was

fear. Especially anger. It

pulley

surroundings of family.

The

selves.

had to find

saw

I

women's

a trend in

needed out of the separation

I

& isolation

women come

writing

the

\

without the

felt

I

to grips with

them-

vulnerability, the struggle, the agonizing choices.

I

dug

a

a

homestead within myself, or invent one.

I

potato cellar.

Family had covered the

ments

shards

\

\

writing were the land

A

poetry.

of what

done

it

I

struggle for survival.

was

my

\

without the other voices

as a person.

The

found that

I

I

land

\

estabUsh a sod house

rest will

v^dth

tory

in the cafes stare.

come. All

only a

was

map

there.

this

is

given to

It

was

'being' in

find the truth

could not have

I

& rain & soil for myself
&

the limitations

&
I

talk

about poetry in towns

relived the struggle to claim the

the fields

\

milk the cow. The

an internal land, of course.

me by

&

woman.

prairie storms

plow

\

fi'ag-

poems

found acceptance of myself \ the

strength to travel prairie roads

where farmers

to offer.

the sun

\

weathered the

the territory.

had

I

moved toward

I

had

I

pleasure of being a

I

come with

that

Now
My

My purpose was to

What

voice.

hfe.

territory offered.

cultivated.

I

my

fissures in

whatever the

other

women who

started late

I

said the terriI

had

which

my

a fertile landscape just inside the head.

only to load the wagon, hitch the horses.

A journey

mother never made before she folded up her camp.
I

learned to trust images.

I

could even experiment with words.

Put muffler, glass packs on the wagon.

have what

had
I

it

too

men

have had

\

liberty to

them on
for

instead of giving heart

them on the edge of the

The

find

arms

frontier

\

\

wright

my

The

of she-pleasure.

birth

\

wanted.

I

&

\

lungs away.

saw-edge

after

I

Now
\

sew

have use

saw-edge.

to say, 'the self

the shedding of invisibility.

SHEDONISM.

I

women

whatever.

severed limbs

glory of the plain self in search of words

the delight of it.
suit

&

\

flaps if

be myself Maybe

& I just never knew. Wrong

could throw out the ice cubes

Mud

/

The pur-

A poet's education
The themes \ form \ experimental
shed

&

outbuildings on the land.

&

courage

their trend

\

rocks.

the ani-yun-wiyu.

Words

as

213

house

&

cessation of

my separate parts to dry on low
women who influenced my work. Their
toward revelation. I am on the journey to

pounding myself \ hanging
branches

forms.

The urgency. The

|

It's

XXV
To invent
what we desire

What

does a poet need to

—That poetry can
fierce, precarious

tion, or
sire,

know?

occur, not just as a

charge in the imagina-

an almost physical wave of de-

but

as

something written down,

Not everyone who
this

charge,

this

feels

desire,

feels licensed to write.

that remains, so regardless

stance

you can turn back

of circum-

to that fierce

charge, that desire.

—That you

yourself,

through recombi-

nations and permutations of the lan-

Not everyone who

guages you already know, can re-create

poet

feels

her

or

is

a
his

To invent what we desire
that fierce charge, for yourself
ers,

on

a page,

and oth-

down

something written

own

languages are good

enough.

that remains.

—That

this in itself

a

means of

"Poetry

not a luxury"

is

(Audre Lorde). Poetry

saving your

—That

can be

life.

activity

this in itself

and

is

survival.

can be an activity of

keenest joy.

—That no

culture, language, caste can

claim superiority; across enormous social,

national, geographic tracts, poetry

lifts its

Wherever, w^henever, you
hve, this belongs to you.

head and looks you in the eye.

—That

in

have been

all

ages and cultures, poets

lost

before they could be

found and encouraged



^lost

in child-

Much
been

birth, lost to grinding toil, in massacres,

we know

pogroms, genocides,

ments.

lost to

hatred of the

you need

has

The poems

that

that

lost.

are

merely frag-

messages they bore, that could not be
received.

—That
own

to mis- take, to mis-prize,

life

and

its

that poetry belongs

by

right to others (of

another culture, gender,

class,

and not to you, means

falling

into silence
in struggle



of

century)



if

not

into language others found

with their

Then you become
lives

your

landscapes, to imagine

others,

a

own

conditions.

mouthpiece

you

inhabit

for the
their

rhythms, their vocabularies, you lose

We

must use what

have to invent what
desire.

we
we

What

2i6
I

track of

own

your

Found There

Is

desire in an

adopted

style.

—That

the poetries of men and

unHke you

women
of

are a great polyglot city

resources, in

whose

streets

you need

wander, whose sounds you need to
ten to, without feeling

you must

We
to

lis-

tion,

cannot work

in isola-

or in fear of other

voices.

live

there.

—That
your
task.

your own desire, in
own language, is not an isolated
You yourself are marked by family,
to track

gender, caste, landscape, the struggle to

Finding

make

face of universal struggle"

a living,

struggle.

The

or the absence of such a
rich

and the poor are

equally marked. Poetry
these markings even
be.

Look

is

when

into the images.

never free of
it

appears to

"the

(June Jordan).

intimate

XXVI
Format and form

Long before

the invention of the "sound byte," the anarchist

poet, essayist, and activist Paul

what he

called "format"

Format.



n.

i

.

Goodman

the shape and size of a

number of times

described the effects of

on pubHc language:
book

gins, etc. 3.

They

determined by the

the original sheet has been folded to form the

leaves. 2. the general physical appearance

newspaper, such

as

of a book, magazine, or

as the type face, binding, quality

of paper, mar-

the organization, plan, style, or type of something:

tailored their script to a half-hour format.

allowed for topical and

controversial gags. 4.

organization of disposition of symbols

on

The format of the show

Computer Technol, the
a magnetic tape,

punch

2

What

8

I

I

Found There

Is

card, or the like, in accordance with the input requirement of a

computer, card-sort machine,

Format has no
power.

It is

because

I

power";

many

I

etc.

.

.

,

power, and

it

destroys Uterary

common

standard

me

power"

said "poetic

power

think of poetic

the text

on

powers of the powerful

instead of "liter-

abroad in the world in

as

the page merely.

in

sometimes empowers

it

mat on speech because

is

again:

that tries to obliterate speech,

and so

tells lies.
it

important.

it

speech colonized, broken-spirited.

by format, even without

not like

.

.

trying,

it

can

kill feeling,

memory,

The
But

learn-

grammar, or any other

fac-

of free writing.

forms

Poetic



meters,

rhyming

patterns,

the

shaping of

into symmetrical blocks of lines called couplets or stan-

—have
easily

existed since poetry

become

was an

format, of course,

experience and desire are forced to

have no

fit

oral activity.

Such forms

where the dynamics of
a pattern to

which they

organic relationship. People are often taught in school

to confuse closed poetic forms (or formulas) with poetry

the lifeblood of the
series

.

modem society cannot lie much.

ing, observation, imagination, logic,

poems

And it is

Rather, authority imposes for-

needs speech, but not autonomous

government of a compHcated

ulty

power" sug-

in recognizing the

recognized one of the terrible

also

by making

propaganda that simply

is

But

advanced capitalism. Here he

Format is not like censorship

speech. Format

style,

and takes the heart out of it.

power of format Goodman

can

it

kinds of speech and writing, while "literary

gests to

zas

finally

especially disastrous to the

co-opts

Goodman had

wish that

ary

it

literary

poem. Or,

that a

poem

of sentences broken (formatted) into short

"free verse."

But

a closed

form

itself,

consists merely in

a

lines called

like the sestina, the sonnet, the


Format and form
villanelle

the

219

remains inert formula or format unless the "triggering

Hugo

subject," as Richard

make

|

called

it,

acts

on the imagination

form evolve, become responsive, or

resistance to the form.

a struggle

It's

not to

vv^orks

let

to

almost in

the form take

over, lapse into format, assimilate the poetry; and that very strug-

can produce a movement, a music, of its own.

gle
I

Manley Hopkins's "sprung"

think of Gerard

sonnets, his

wrestling not just with diction and grammar, end rhymes and

own

meters, but with his

No worst,

there

More pangs

is

will,

rebellious heart:

none. Pitched past pitch of grief,

schooled

Comforter, where, where

at forepangs,
is

Mary, mother of us, where

wilder wring.

your comforting:

is

your

relief?

My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main,
Woe,

a chief

world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing

Then lull, then leave
ering! Let

me be fell:

off.

Fury had shrieked 'No ling-

force

I

must be brief.

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer,

May who

ne'er

no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap

hung

Durance deal with

there.

Nor does long our

Wretch, under

a

Life death does

end and each day

And
more

I

comfort served in a whirlwind:

McKay,

meter and diction, of the 19 19

of Black urban uprisings across the United
If we

must

die, let

it

all

dies with sleep.

think of the Jamaican poet Claude

traditional

small

that steep or deep. Here! creep,

writing, in

"Red Summer"

States:

not be like hogs

Hunted and permed in an inglorious

spot.

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs.

What

220
I

Making
If we

So

their

must

that

Found There

Is

mock

die,

our accursed

at

lot.

O let us nobly die,

our precious blood

may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters
Shall be constrained to

we

defy

honor us though dead!

O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show

us brave.

And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack.
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

McKay's

lines

hearken back to Shakespeare

to the sonnets, but to the battle speech
difference:

McKay

nizer and turns
turns

it

it

however,

not,

takes the traditional poetic

a

form of the colo-

into a rebellion cry, takes the poetics of war and

into a poetics of resistance.

More

than sixty years

bursts the sonnet while

breaks



from Henry Fand with

it

open

to his

later, St.

Lucian poet Derek Walcott

keeping (and adding

own

to) its

resonance,

purposes, a Caribbean poet's con-

frontation with the contradictions of his middle-class Anglo-

Europeanized education, the barbarisms of that

civilization as

revealed in the slave trade and the Holocaust:

The camps hold
that coils like

their distance

barbed wire. The profit in

Brown pigeons

guilt continues.

goose-step, squirrels pile up acorns like

and moss, voiceless
like

—brown chestnuts and gray smoke

as

smoke, hushes the peeled bodies

abandoned kindling. In the

clear pools, fat

trout rising to lures bubble in umlauts.

my island childhood, I felt that
gift of poetry had made me one of the chosen.

Forty years gone, in
the

little

shoes,

Format and form
that

all

Now
their

I

experience was kindling to the

autumn on

see her in

nut-brown

that pine

gold

ideal, in

fire

the spirit of autumn to every

Hans and

on her white bodice,

Fritz

when

the stubble fields

sits,

lederhosen,

the blood drops of poppies embroidered

whose gaze raked

of the Muse.

bench where she

and

plaits

221

|

the

smoky

cries

of rooks were nearly human. They placed their cause in
her comsilk crown, her cornflower

winnower of chaff for
in skeletal harvests.

that the fi-onds

whom the

But had

this

swastikas flash

known then

of my island were harrows,

of the distant camps, would
because

I

iris,

I

have broken

century's pastorals

its

sand the ash

my pen

were being written

by the chimneys of Dachau, of Auschwitz, of Sachsenhausen?

In the early 1940s, even
fire

of the Muse" on

his island,

Rukeyser was writing her

Jew into
tics:

a

the child Walcott was feeling "the

as

own

the

young woman Muriel

contradictions as an

womanhood, and

long sequence exploring war,

The

"Letter to the Front."

American

first draft

poli-

of one section was

written in the open, long-lined form of most of the other sections

of "Letter to the Front."

the poet's ideas



It

reads like a

working through of

loose and sometimes explanatory

(And

in

America, we Jews are hostages/in a nation of hostages; we vouch for

freedom /if we are free,
,

Hzed into fourteen

all

may

lines, a

be free).

To be a Jew in the
Is

to

be offered a

Wishing

spirit,

Accepting, take

is

final version

a

you

refiise,

you choose

the stone insanity.

full life. Full

is

crystal-

kind of prophesying:

twentieth century

gift. If

to be invisible,

Death of the

The

sonnet that

agonies:

What

222
I

Found There

Is

Your evening deep
Reduced

The

fail,

torment.

and

resist;

among

to a hostage

gift is

blood

in labyrinthine

Of those who resist,

hostages.

Not alone

the

still

Torture, isolation; or torture of the

That may come

The whole and

also.

and God

flesh.

But the accepting wish,
guarantee

fertile spirit as

For every human freedom, suffering to be

Daring to

live for the impossible.

June Jordan has an

essay called

"The

Poetry in America: Something Like
ley." (This

is

free,

Difficult Miracle

of Black

Sonnet for PhiUis Wheat-

a

the single most cogent, eloquent, compressed piece

of writing about the conditions of North American poetry that

know.) Poetic, not pedantic,

world Wheatley
tradition to

it

talks

age of seven, and the Western literary

lost at the

which she was introduced

an African child bought in the
couple on a shopping

I

about the African cultural

whim

trip for slaves

via the auction block, as

of pity by

and

a liberal

Boston

early recognized as a

precocious, a "special" child.

Jordan

talks

situation ("It

when

slave? Phillis
trate desire,

in

a

first

this

white man's Uterature of England,

else did the things that
this

is

turned

have to be done.")

What

the only poetic language available to a

Wheatley was

forcibly turned

—to

herself-

which she acquitted

the

vocabulary and imagery of the poet's

was written,

while someone

happens

about

a

—and

formulaic language and poetics

herself so well that she

African- American poet.

then, in frus-

Even

is

now known

as

in so doing, Jordan shows,

she kept alive the subversive pulse in her work.

Jordan then writes

a

sonnet for Wheatley,

a

sonnet in ringing

Format and form
and

of Wheadey

all

223

sonnet impeccably end-rhymed,

relentless dactylic meter, a

that says

|

she could not have said with

hope

for

publication:

Giri

from the realm of birds

florid

flying full feather in far or near

and

fleet

weather

Who fell to a dollar lust coffled like meat
Captured by avarice and hate

spit

Trembling asthmatic alone on the
built

by

slave block

by carriage

a savagery travelling

viewed Uke a species of flaw

together

in the livestock

A child without safety of mother or marriage
Chosen by whimsy but

They taught you

bom to

to read but

surprise

you learned how

to write

Begging the universe into your eyes:

They dressed you

From Africa
Your early

in light but

you dreamed with the

night.

singing ofjustice and grace,

verse sweetens the fame of our Race.

Francisco X. Alarcon writes his poHtical love sonnets

(DeAmor

Oscuro/Of Dark Love) to a young farm worker, using fourteen
hnes without end-rhymes though with the inherent internal

rhyming of Spanish, impossible

to capture in English translation:

IV

IV

tus

manos son dos

martillos

que

your hands are two hammers that
joyfiiUy

clavan

y desclavan alegres

la

manana,

tiemos punos desdoblados de
tierra,

dulces pencas de platanos pequenos

nail

down and

tender

fists

pry up the morning,

that unfold

from

earth,

sweet bunches of small bananas

What

24

2

manos huelen

tus

Found There

Is

your hands smell of the

a las

blackberries

zarzatnoras

que cosechas en

campos que

los

you harvest

roban

steal

your sweat

tu sudor a dos dolares el bote,

son duras,

in the fields that

tibias,

jovenes y sabias

at

two

dollars a bucket,

they are hard, warm, young and

wise

azadones que traen pan a
oscuras piedras que

al

mesas,

las

chocar dan

hoes that bring bread to the
dark stones that give light

mundo

pleasure, support, anchor of the

world

entero
las

venero como

porque como

me

when

struck,

luz,

gozo, sosten, ancla del

yo

tables,

relicarios

I

me

consuelan,

alagran,

worship them

as reliquaries

because like nesting sea

gaviotas anidadas,

me

gulls,

they console, delight, defend

me

defienden

XIV

XIV
icomo consolar
de

al

como

la tierra?

^como llamar

hombre mas
aliviar su

solo

pena?

a su puerta

how
on

how

al

oido embocado de

la

guerra ya ha

todos, por fin, salimos

vencedores:

goza

los

campos

liberados:
la

through

his

bolted

his

ear:

"brother, the war

explotacion es cosa del pasado"?

is

now

over:

terminado:

sal,

to call

man

to relieve his pain?

and have one's soul speak to

alma:

"hermano,

how

door

atrancada

y decirle

to console the loneliest

earth?

all

of us in the end emerged
victors:

go forth and enjoy the

liberated

fields:

exploitation

is

a thing

of the past"?

Format and form
what

^que hacer cuando regrese

225

do when he

to

returns,

wounded

malherido

con alambre de puas entre

with barbed wire between his

las

piemas?

legs?

^como encarar

sus ojos

how

que

to face his eyes accusing:

denuncian:

"hermano,

el

mundo

"brother, the world goes on the

sigue

same:

igual:

los

we

pobres todavia somos presa

amor,

no

si

es

de todos, no

if it isn't

Here, too, the "high" European form

new

from

all, is

just not

enough"?

basta"?

of a

easy prey:

still

love,

facil:

el

the poor are

is

turned to the purposes

poetry: "dark" in the sense of hidden, forbidden, ho-

mosexual; "dark" in the sense of the love between dark people.
In

all

lesser,
is

of these examples, variations on form

but what really matters

is

may be

not line lengths or the

greater or

way meter

handled, but the poet's voice and concerns refusing to be

circumscribed or colonized by the tradition, the tradition being
just a point

become

of takeoff. In each case the poet refuses to

format, pushes

at

it,

stretches the

materials, claims a personal space

remains

flat,

rigid,

its

web,

rejects

let

form

imposed

and time and voice. Format

concerns not language, but quantifiable

organization, containment, preordained limits: control.

Goodman
The

writes:

deliberate response to format

devotes

itself, at least

is

avatit garde

—writing which

in part, to flouting the standard style, to

What

226
I

Found There

Is

offending the audience.

not that the writer

it is

making an

effort to

be

.

is

.

.

If a

work is

to be "experimental,"

felt

new but

doing something

different, to

be not

In any period, powerful artists are likely to

become incomprehensible. They abide by
to

make it as

that

.

.

go way out and

On hindsight,

.

[sic] is

the artistic imperative

clear as possible, but they are not deterred

that the audience doesn't catch on.

he

traditional.

by the

fact

the incom-

prehensibility of genius almost always turns out to be in the main-

stream of tradition, because the
granted, he

[sic]

worked on

artist

took the current

the boundary of what he

style for

knew, and

he did something just more than he knew.

Avant garde
disgusts them.

want

to upset

do not take the current

artists

They do not
it.

.

.

.

style for granted;

it

care about the present audience; they

Avant garde tends to be capricious, impatient,

fragmentary, ill-tempered. Yet, except by raging and denying, a
writer might not be able to stay alive at
avant garde
ety.

.

.

An

is

an hypothesis that something

ultimate step

of format

well.

is

a writer.

As

a style,

very wrong in soci-

.

always Dada, the use of

is

existence of meaning.

But

all as

A

step after the last

itself to giant size,

in a

is

art to

deny the

to puff up examples

Pop.

confused society, avant garde does not flourish very

What is done

be co-opted

as

"something

is

in order to be idiotic can easily

the idiotic standard.

"Avant-garde" may well be
very

wrong in society."

It

sively square, exclusive,

nomic,

merely one dish on
that

of

dominant
But,

with sexual, eco-

as

a buffet table

no one item can dominate.

TV

art allied

against a perva-

Goodman saw well, in an age of
and co-optation, "avant-garde" may become

racial repression.

disinformation

a declararion that

may be a true "Howl"

of "entertainment" so arranged

It

may be

drafted into the service

commercials, or videos for executives on

retreat. Its at-

Format and form
tempts to shatter structures of meaning
plicit

with

pends on the existence of

for

com-

lives as

or, at best, unserious.

"Avant-garde," anyway,

art

very well be

system that depends on our viewing our

a

random and meaningless

trenched

may

227

|

a

and movement

a style

is

powerful,

that de-

and en-

if dessicated,

world, where grants are awarded, paintings selected

museum

purchase, reputations polished.

What

is its

signifi-

cance in a society of immigrants and survivors of genocide, the

meeting place of many colonized
ists,

far

styles, are

men

sterilities

art-

and

trying to repossess and revalue

has historically

white

whose emerging

their peoples' traditions

cultures,

from being disgusted with

meant

the rebellions of

(and a few

of older

men

women)
of their

many

groups of younger

against the complacencies

own

culture.

energy in Western Europe, the United
in Russia, at the turn

them? "Avant-garde"

new

It

was

a

and

powerful

States, and, for a while,

of this century. But

among

poets, at least,

or most of the early twentieth-century avant-garde, the

"great modernists," were privileged by gender and class and

were defenders of privilege.

The poetry of emerging groups

—women, people of
men—poetry

working-class radicals, lesbians and gay

nonassimilationist, difficult to co-opt, draws

color,
that

is

on many formal

sources (ballad, blues, corrido, reggae, sonnet, chant, cuentos,
sestina,

sermon, calypso, for

But

a few).

abandon meaning or what Goodman
tive to

make

it

as clear as possible."

it

As

doesn't pretend to

"the

artistic

impera-

possible.

Those

poetries

calls

can be highly complex, layered with tones and allusions, but
they are also concerned with making

because too

much

it

"as clear as possible"

already has been buried, mystified, or written

of necessity in code.

V^ XXVII
Tourism and
promised lands

Tourism. Can be

a trap for poets, especially poets

of North

who may elect to be escapist, breezy, about our empire,
sands we are lying on.

America
the

Poems decorated with

colored flowers, fronds,

brilliantly

views from the cabana or through louvered shutters, dark
houettes gutting

fish,

bearing

White poetry of the
and living there,
part

who

The

exotic



ture as escape
lives



that

no clue

resistance.

on

from our

movements,

The people of

a simplified

way of viewing

a trap for poets.

their heads.

that there are poets,

are building literary

of an anticolonial

realm: abstract figures

mounds of fruit on

islands:

sil-

born

who

are

the fabulous

ground.
a landscape,

people, a cul-

carefully constructed selves,

our "real"

Tourism and promised lands

In

my

Europe

twenties, soon after

like that.

The

dollar

World War

II, I

229

|

viewed Western

was high, and college students from

the United States could travel and study abroad with a sense of

being on cultural holiday.

our unblasted

we

cities,

Coming from our unscorched

earth,

sought not the European present,

traumatized and hectically rebuilding, but the European past of

our schoolbooks. Being mostly white,
as

the ancestor of ours:

awe
ity.

we

own

of our

national superior-

In essence, Europe's glorious past had been saved

Many
tourism.

which

us: a

of the poems in
It

was

my

Town,"

I

anywhere

tried to place

setting forth

deflecting the

my own

myself

as

called
I

Italian

life,

from

landscape

"The Tourist and

was, alongside an ac-

town was

as

"ordinary"

as

taken compulsively, a

collecting, framing the ruins, the exotic

the half-naked vending child,

under her colorful burden.

A

the

means of

meanings of the place, the meaning of the

tourist's presence, in a

a

poem

like travel snapshots

the sacred rocks,

become

in a

that life in the foreign

Poems of tourism:
street,

time in

else.

means of capturing,

woman

second book were poems of such

poems about English or

and architecture. Only once,

knowledgment

from bar-

huge outdoor museum.

a difficult, conflicted

gladly fled into

I

culture

romanticized that ancestry, half in

at its artifacts, half convinced

barism by us and for

the

we saw European

world economy in which tourism has

major industry for poor countries and in which a

different kind

of

travel

—immigration

in search

of work



is

the only option facing a majority of the inhabitants of those
countries.

June Jordan turns
darity."

this

genre inside out in

a

poem called

"Soli-

She balances the spoken word "terrorist" against the

230

What

Is

Found There

I

unspoken word

"tourist."

of color visiting

Paris:

But the

tourists

here are four

Even then
in the attenuated

hght

of the Church of le Sacre Coeur
(early

evening and folk songs

on the mausoleum

steps)

and armed
only with 2 instamatic cameras

among

(not a terrorist

us)

even there
in that Parisian

downpour

four

Black

women

(2

of Asian 2

of African descent)
could not catch a taxi

and
I

wondered what umbrella

would be big enough

to stop

the shivering

of our collective impotence

up
against such negligent
assault

And I wondered

who would build that shelter
who will build and lift it
high and wide

above
such loneliness

women

Tourism and promised lands

Poems of
long way

artists'

poems about

colony:

grass

being cut

a

poetry of vacation rather than vocation, poems

on retreat,

written
as

the

off,

231

like

poems written

at court, treating

the court

the world.

This

is

rather the

not to deplore the existence of

artists'

colonies, but

way they exist in a society where the general maldistri-

bution of opportunity (basic needs) extends to the opportunity
need) to

(basic

make

art.

Most of

the people

who end up

at

colonies, given this maldistribution, are relatively well

artists'

educated, have had at least the privilege of thinking that they

might create

were

art.

Imagine

integral elements

society in which,
as part

of her or

upon

his

a society in

which strong arts programs

of a free pubUc education. Imagine

worker's benefits, to attend free

arts

shops, classes, retreats, both near the workplace and at

or

summer camps. The

embodied

values

icy are oppositional to any such vision.

produced

ony

few can become

with the circumstances of

and more disturbing

Who
that

work-

weekend

in existing public pol-

One

result

is

that art

in an exceptional, rarefied situation like an artists' col-

for the

richer,

a

leaving school, any worker was ehgible,

is

to dictate

rarefied, self-reflecting, complicit

making, cut off from

its

a larger,

life.

what may be written about and how?

what everybody fears



the prescriptive, the

Isn't

demand that we

write out of certain materials, avoid others?

No

one

is

published in
tensity,

to dictate.
this

But

if

many, many poems written and

country are shallow, bland, fluent without in-

timorous, and docile in their undertakings, must

we

as-

232

What

I

sume

that

it's

Found There

Is

only natural?

something

Isn't there

that points a

finger in the direction of blandness, of fluency, something that

rewards those qualities?

What
critics

is it

many

that allows

poets in the United States, their

and readers, to accept the view of poetry

(Audre Lorde's term) rather than

and

senses,

food for

a

food of memory and hope?

audiences,

as if

food for the heart

Why do poets ever fawn

work when reading

or clown or archly undercut their

own

embarrassed by their

poetry's function as witness?

all,

luxury

as a

Why

before

claims to be heard,

do some adopt

scious snake-oil shamanism, as if the electrical thread

human being through poem
enough?

Why are

human

to other

Uterary journals

full

by

a self-con-

from

beings weren't

of poems that sound

as if

written by committee in a department of comparative literature,

or by people

make

it

cohere

whine?
outrage

still



a

rehearsing Ezra Pound's long-ago groan I cannot

groan

many

that, after so

becomes

a

Why do so many poems full of liberal or radical hope and
fail

to

lift

which

off the ground, for

rather than a failure of poetic nerve?

United

repetitions,

States

(I

"politics"

Why

is

blamed

have poets in the

include myself) so often accepted that so

was being asked of us? asked so

The reviewer of

a recent

little

little

of each other and ourselves?

anthology of Los Angeles poets

comments:
This book

is

not a response to public

life,

although

the despair and helplessness of the 1990's,

helped

crystallize.

sonal isolation into

who

No: The burning here

it

does share

which the

riots

have

originates in the per-

which these poets have plunged themselves,

appear to choose loneliness and self-pity

their individual pain.

.

.

.

wounds

[Sjuch

sion,

but in uneasy confessions.

little

more than photograph

.

.

.

as

result not in

Predictably,

frustration

guides through

any explo-

some poems do

and numbness.

A

poetry

Tourism and promised lands
of therapy,

speaks of art as mere self-

of stunned

realizations,

disclosure:

We tell about our troubles, and we feel better.

Isn't there

something that points

mere

self-disclosure, telling

From

television talk

it

233

|

a finger in the direction

our troubles,

as

an end in

itself?

shows to the earnest confessions of political
and

candidates, isn't there a shunting off of any collective vitality

movement

might

that

who

with

a

lary,

we

from

rise

then worse again,

better,

the people

we go

understand

these disclosures?

all

we do

"communicate,"

not trouble the waters

common

The reviewer
that

this attitude

But even

a life

toward the

of resigned

and

make

herself like that,

Emily Dickinson, yet she

moment and on eternity.
own authority

embracing her

linguistic strangeness, or she'd

fluent female singers of her

wanted more

have joined the ranks of sad,

North American century. She

for poetry than that.

More

for herself

In a time of great and mostly terrible uprootings,
ised land"

is

a land for poetry.

rounded by her
fmal haven. In

hastily

its

little

interiority.

turned her lens both on her personal
to

pull

materials: a "lackadai-

poem may evoke

a highly crafted

Interiority was the material for

She had

—we

poetry.

goes on to criticize the nervelessness of form

accompanies

sical" craft.

more than

away from

vocabu-

to "dialogue," to "share," to

"heal" in the holding patterns of capitalistic self-help
further and further

We feel

back to the therapeutic group,

us,

language that exceeds the prescribed
try to

of

no "prom-

For Poetry the Immigrant, sur-

crammed

bags and baskets, there

is

no

mixture of the ancient and the unthought-of,

the well-loved and the unthinkable,

its

strange tension

between

234

What

I

Is

Found There

conservation and radical excavation, poetry

between

roots, the

its

continually torn

is

bones of the ancestors, and

its

bent beyond

the found, tov^^ard the future.

Raya Dunayevskaya wrote of revolution

that while "great

divides in epochs, in cognition, in personality, are crucial,"

need

to understand the

the pattern



moment of discontinuity

itself as part

turning point in

human

of

a continuity, for



it

to

alongside other kinds of human endeavor. But



to

memory,

become

a

history.

Poetry wrenches around our ideas about our Hves

ourselves

we

the break in

it

as it

grows

also recalls us to

association, forgotten or forbidden lan-

guages.

Poetry will not

fly across

the sea, against the storms, to any

"new world," any "promised
sing.

Poetry

is

what might otherwise
found

land," and then fold

its

wings and

not a resting on the given, but a questing toward
be.

It

will always pick a quarrel

with the

place, the refuge, the sanctuary, the revolution that

is

momentum. Even though the poet, human being with
many anxious fears, might want just to rest, accHmate, adjust,
become naturalized, learn to write in a new landscape, a new

losing

language. Poetry will go
it is

driven away.

on

harassing the poet until, and unless,

XXVIII
What
When there
there
a

is

is

history

no metaphor;

bhnd nation

mauls

no

if

its

own

in storm

harbors

sperm whale, Indian, black,
belted in these ruins.

—Michael

S.

Harper, "Song:

The economy of the

Want

I

a

Witness"

nation, the empire of business

within the republic, both include in their basic

premise the concept of perpetual warfare.
history of the idea of war that
histories.

another

.

.

.

the

it is

Hke desert-water kept from the surface

like the old

desert-answer needing

channels, the blessings of much
to act

It is

beneath our other

But around and under and above

reality;

and the seed,

is

work

and make flower. This history

before

is

it

its

arrives

the history of

possibiHty.

—Muriel Rukeyser, The

Life of Poetry

We must constantly encourage ourselves and each
other to attempt the heretical actions that our dreams
imply, and so

many of our

old ideas disparage. In the

236

What

I

Is

forefront of our

poetry to hint

at

Found There

move toward change,
possibiHty made real.

—Audre Lorde, "Poetry

Is

there

Not

a

is

only

Luxury"

To be revolutionary is to be original, to know where
we came from, to validate what is ours and help it to
flourish, the best

of what

is

ours, of our beginnings,

our principles, and to leave behind what no longer
serves us.



Ines Hernandez,

"An Open
to

Labor Day weekend, iggz. 167,000 jobs
the

month of August. An

electoral

between twentieth-century
century
to

starts

show

Letter

Chicanas ..."

lost in the

United

campaign

is

politicians,

States in

being waged

while the twenty-first

pushing the hood back from her face and turning

herself:

an eyebrow, a cheekbone, the Hne of a

mouth

out of shadow.

The

country's uniqueness

Among

the civilized

[sic]

no longer

resides in

nations of the world

extraordinarily difficult relations

between the

its
it

prosperity.

exists in the

races

and certain

ethnic groups, in the extent and range of the nation's impover-

ished classes, in the manifestly archaic quality of its criminal justice

system, in the inadequacy of

facilities for

its

public health and medical

tens of millions of uninsured, in the burned-out and

deserted slum areas of dozens of cities where public safety

known,

in the bizarre conditions that exist in too

nation's elementary and secondary schools, that
wall
.

.

.

is

un-

many of the

some pretend

be quickly remedied by something called "privatization."
[T]he prison population of this country

any other civilized democracy in the world

law system

is

a disgrace, recognized to

is

greater than that of

[T]he

US criminal

be that by jurists and law-

What

237

if?
I

yers throughout the world. That situation did not suddenly arise

because of a jury decision in Los Angeles

1992

is

[sic]

in 1992.

the five-hundredth year of the white "civilizing" pres-

ence in the Americas. There are commemorative stamps, scholarly conferences, reenactments,

of Columbus's

to the invaders, repHcas

An enormous

ships, official theatrics.

countermovement has
tions. It uses

homages

demonstrations, murals, theater, poetry readings,

history, storytelling, banners, postcards, music,

publishes collections of essays and poems;

it

will listen, but the primary voices are those
tic,

and

grass-roots

risen in resistance to these official celebra-

intellectual

speaks to

of the

movements of American

americans, mestizos and mestizas,

and dance;

it

whomever

political, artis-

Indians,

Meso-

Chicana/os, Mexicana/os,

Puerto Riquenos, Puerto Riqueiias, movements building since
the 1960s, through

all

the years

when

the Left was being pro-

nounced defunct. This indigenous peoples' response
Quincentennial

is

an educational movement, a

cultural self-definition

and for the

future.

And

to

the

movement for
a movement

it's

of peoples who, despite wars of extermination, enslavements,
the theft of their lands, children, and cultures, have never ceased

form of power.

to recognize poetry as a

The Mexican poet Octavio Paz reads the history of poetry in
the modern age as "nothing but the history of its relations to
[the] myth" of Revolution
revolution thingified with that
capital R that usually marks an icon to be shot down. The Revolution of absolute, monolithic State power is dead now, he says,



with the "deaths" of

Communism

Europe and the Soviet Union. The
been pulled down (and,

as

and socialism

statues

in Eastern

of Lenin have indeed

one unreconstructed Marxist

said to

238

I

What

me recently,

Found There

Is

even Lenin would have been glad of that); the press

no longer

has reported former dissident writers as saying they

know what

to write about. Paz beHeves that the long association

of poetry with revolution (and

many

allows for

continuing revolution)

"Other Voice"
called

at

is

that speaks

using the small

an end.

are

still

He

on poetry

calls

as

the

now
known as

state

capitaHsm

unanswered, that the "market econ-

cannot answer them, must

destruct.)

He

Romantic

era,

also

states

that

itself

undergo change or

"for the

has appeared

of the women's

and indigenous and mestiza/o poetry movements in
Americas, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands,

mention Europe and

Australia, not to
is

a

self-

time since the

first

no poetic movement of major scope

in thirty years," thus betraying a banal ignorance

though banal,

that

r

can address. (Paz does acknowledge that the ques-

by Marx

tions asked

am

I

of what neither the capitalism

"market economy" nor the

Communism
omy"

now

revolutions, parallel and converging, and for

New

the

all

Zealand,

Africa. This ignorance,

profound disadvantage for someone trying

pronounce on the present and future

relationship of poetry

to

and

revolution.

Poetry and revolution: poems and changes of consciousness,

poems and
ergy.

On

actions. Invisible, unquantifiable

a wall, in

an exhibit of paintings

rows") by Michele Gibbs,

I

read

two

exchanges of en-

("New World

Fur-

from the

poet

lines

Seamus Heaney:

What looks
The

future

the strongest has outlived

lies

its

term;

with what's affirmed from under.

Irish

Wh a

239

if?

t

I

In Heaney's original

pear

poem,

these lines are italicized: they ap-

the slogan of a revolutionary

as

tion has

been disappointed. The

hope

in

which

genera-

his

poem recognizes a new genera-

tion rejecting the passivity of disillusionment and ends with a
different hope:

to

know there

from

one among us

all his instincts

whose boat

Heaney's

is

poem

will

lift

told

him was

when

belongs, in

its

who never swerved
right action

.

.

images, to Ireland and the long,

tortuous path of Irish revolutionary politics.

It

also voices a

what

general, passive desire for change, easily resigned to
hberal's

.

the cloudburst happens.

dead end. The couplet from Heaney's text

is,

more

is:

the

however,

transformed in radical juxtaposition with Gibbs's paintings.

The

iambic pentameter of Shakespeare or Milton or Yeats

here

broken up into short phrases, inscribed
these Irish

ages



one

words hang

shell

or

of im-

Homecomingfor Mandela and

called Phoenix Rising, the latter an African

out of a

and

in blood-red ink,

in an African-Caribbean system

specifically a painting entitled

is

woman

reborn

bowl of flames. And they stand along with words

from Henry Dumas, Margaret Walker, Aime Cesaire. Whatever
irony

Heaney means

us to hear in these lines

is

de-ironized,

on

returned to a hving principle, in Gibbs's visual meditations
history:

it's

more than hope or

As poetry,

in that context

faith; it is a

caUing-into-being.

of words and images, the

transmuted. Perhaps they spur

me

lines are

on, by and through the light

and shadows of the painting, to move more surely in

my contests

with the old, dying powers within and outside myself
Perhaps they have been scribbled into the notebook of a student

who may

or

may

will always associate

not ever read the whole

poem

but

who

them with those images. Judging from

the

240

What

I

Found There

Is

whole of the poem,

don't think

I

Heaney would

feel

misappro-

priated.

As

I've

been writing

this

book, poems and the words of poets

my hands, onto my table. As often, the work of

have flowed into

searching becomes a magnetic field toward which, Hke iron
ings,

needed resources

history,

when

fly.

At the worst time

in this continent's

indeed the old, dying forces seem to have pitched

us into an irreversible, irremediable disaster spin
earth,

and

embryo

fire

is still



air,

water,

horribly contaminated, the blood pulse in the

already

choking the
art

fil-

marked

inlets

for sickness,

of the mind



sewage of public verbiage

an abundance of revolutionary

emerging.

Here

soot

is

to give

you

Today

it is all I

have

My stores of honey and com

and fresh water and even sand are empty

Here With

this

you can hold the

city's

every comer under your fingernails

ground into the

soles

of your shoes riding

the pulses of your lungs' fragile chambers
traveling

from your eye's edge

of your hand Here
of the

city

is

of fire and

of consequences

body over the

It

to the

back

soot signature
its

web

has spread

its

burned

river filmed the slick

dark heads of the cormorants as they plunge
to eat

It

has settled

between pavements

and the clothes of those
It testifies

who

to the lost integrity

sleep

on them

What

24

if?
I

of forests of the

earth's buried black veins

of tenements of poison sealed in drums
against flesh circles of pointed tents

who would not obey

of the bodies of those
or

who slept
memory smearing the

on park benches unheeding

It is

sunsets

to attract our shattered attention each

mote

a crippled survivor voiceless haunting

our eyes and throats trying to find a way in

—Suzanne Gardinier,
"To

the City of Fire"

A revolutionary poem will not tell you who

or

when

to

kill,

what and when to bum, or even how to theorize. It reminds you
(for you have known, somehow, all along, maybe lost track)

where and when and how you
wick of desire.
dreams,

lists,

It

love

may do
letters,

its

Hving and might Hve

are

work

prison

in the language



it is

a

and images of

letters, chants, filmic

jump

cuts,

meditations, cries of pain, documentary fragments, blues, late-

night long-distance

calls. It is

not programmatic:

it

searches for

words amid the jamming of unfree, free-market idiom,
ages that will

bum

true outside the emotional

theme

for

im-

parks.

A

poem is written out of one individual's confrontaher/his own longings (including all that s/he is ex-

revolutionary
tion with

pected to deny) in the belief that
old,

unending sense of

open

the people)

its

readers or hearers (in that

deserve an

art as

complex,

as

to contradictions as themselves.

Any

truly revolutionary art

is

an alchemy through which

waste, greed, brutality, frozen indifference,

"bUnd sorrow," and

anger are transmuted into some drenching recognition of the

What



if?

the possible.

What

if-



?



the

first

revolutionary

242

What

I

Found There

Is

know how

question, the question the dying forces don't

The theme of revolutionary

may of necessity be

art

to ask.

prevailing

conditions, yet the art signals other ways and means. In depicting
lives ordinarily

downpressed, shredded, erased,

through fierce attention their innate and

this art reveals

latent vitality

and

beauty. In portraying alienated and exploited labor with delicate,
steady concern for the faces and bodies of the laborers,

mind

work

that

have to be

a

is

human

it calls

to

blessing, that alienation does not

inseparable companion. In figuring the hunted,

its

whether Indians or

slaves or migrants or

landscape where

might be

all

women,

it calls

up

a

free to travel unmolested. In the

work by Sue Coe, in the haunting
meditative strokes of Michele Gibbs's work on pressed fig-tree
bark, in the organic historical vision of a canvas by Jacob Lawferocious composition of a

rence, there

is

—thanks

to beauty

of form and color, anarchic

precision of forms and spaces



where human

become

unenforced

as

is

its

between the

conjuring of a possible space
as

complementary and

the Hnes, colors, forms of the pictures themselves.

Revolutionary
This

relationships

a

art dwells,

by

its

nature,

on

edges.

power: the tension between subject and means,
is

and what can be. Edges between ruin and cele-

Naming and mourning damage, keeping pain vocal so it
cannot become normalized and acceptable. Yet, through that
burning gauze in a poem which flickers over words and images,
through the energy of desire, summoning a different reality.
Kamau Brathwaite on the assassination of Walter Rodney,

bration.

Guyanese

scholar, activist,

to be

and

leader:

blown into fragments,

like the islands that
like the seawall that

your

flesh

you loved
you wished

to heal

What

if?
I

& justice to the brothers

bringing equal rights

cumfa mashramani

a feariess

to the sisters whispering their free/zon

that grandee nanny's histories

fleches

be listened to with

all

their ancient

of respect

up the poor of the church

until they are the steps

up from the
until they

axe adze

floor

of the

become

that fathers

light

243

would

hill/ slide

the roar of the nation

at last settle into

if not oil well,

what they own

torch

of mackenzie

that those

who have

all

these generations

bone

bitten us bare to the

gnawing our knuckles to their stone

price fix price rise

rachman

& rat/chet squeeze

how bread is hard to buy how rice is
muddy water where

it

scarcer than the

rides

how bonny baby bellies grow doom-laden dungeon grounded down
to groaning in their

hunger

grow

wailer voiced

& red eyed in their anger

to be

blown

into fragments,

like the islands that
like the seawall that

your death

you loved
you wished

to heal

.

.

.

244

I

What

bringing equal rights
that children

Found There

Is

above

& justice to the bredren

all

would be

others

like the sun.

over the rupununi over the hazy morne de

any where or word where there

where

past

means present

love there

is

the sky

& its blue free

it

may some day end

powis on the essequibo

drifting like miracles or

dream

or like that lonely fishing engine slowly losing us

but real like your wrist with
acles

over kilimanjaro

struggle

towards vlissengens where

distant like

is

Castries

its

tick

its

of blood around

sound

its

man

of bone

but real like the long marches the court steps of tryall

the sudden sodden night journeys

up the the pomeroon

& try

holed up in a different safe house every morning
ing to guess from the heat of the hand

shake

&

if the

stranger

was stranger or cobra or

fiiend

the urgent steel of the kis

kadee glittering

its

qqurl

down

the steepest

bend

in the breeze

& the leaves
ticking

breath,

& learning to live with the
his cigarette ash

his footsteps into

smell of rum on the skull's

on the smudge of your

your houses

fingers

What

if?

I

245

& having to say it over & over & over again
with your

soft ringing patience

of wit.

lash

though the edges must have been curling with pain

but the certainty clearer

that

it is

with your black

& clearer & clearer again

too simple to hit/too hurt

not to remember

that

it

must not become an easy slogan or

too torn too defaced too devalued

that

when men gather govern

target

down in redemption market

other manner

they should be honest in a world of hornets

that bleed into their heads like lice

corruption that cockroaches like a dirty kitchen sink

that politics should

be

like

understanding of the floor

boards of your house

swept clean each morning,
the

wind

built

by hands

that

know

& tide & language

from the loops within the ridges of the koker
to the rusty tinnin fences of your yard

so that each

man on his cramped restless

on backdam of his land
where berbice

takes

up

his

in forest clearing

struggles against slushy

bed

& walks

island

by the broeken

ground

river

246

What

I

in the

Found There

Is

& the reggae of his soul/stice

power

from the crippled brambled pathways of his vision
to the certain limpen

knowledge of his nam

message that the dreadren

this is the

groundation of the soul with

that

when he spoke

since

was natural

it

like the

the world
to

him

way he walked,

for being

all

these things

& careless of
he was cut

it

drift

was

will deliver

of mustard seed

fluter

on

like the water,

one

a

his

breeze

like the

way he

listened

dem ital brothers who had grace

& carefiil of

it

too

too

down plantation cane

& growing/ green
because he was that slender reed & there were machetes sharp

because he dared to grow

enough
to hasten

because

him

to bleed,

his bridge

meant doom

he was blown

from man to

to prisons of a

men
we

world

meant wracking out the weeds

down

never made

that kill

our yampe vine

& so the bomb
fragmenting islands
letting

like the land

back darkness in

you loved

What
but there are
soft

stars that

247

if?

bum that murders do not know

diamonds behind the blown to

that trackers could not find that

that scavengers will never hide

bits

bombers could not see

away

the Caribbean bleeds near georgetown prison

a

widow

rushes out

But the imagining of

& hauls her children firee
a different reality requires telling

retelling the terrible true story: a poetry that narrates
nesses.

in the

Muskogee Creek Joy Harjo implants
gloss she provides for her poem:

this in

her

and

and wittitle

FOR ANNA MAE PICTOU AQUASH, WHOSE SPIRIT
PRESENT HERE AND IN THE DAPPLED STARS (fOR
WE REMEMBER THE STORY AND MUST TELL IT
AGAIN so WE MAY ALL LIVE)

and

IS

Beneath a sky blurred with mist and wind,
I

heads of crocuses erupt firom the

am amazed as I watch the violet

stiff earth

after
as

I

have watched

dying for a season,

my own dark head
appear each morning after entering

the next world
to

come back to

this

one,

amazed.

248

It is

What

I

the

way in

Found There

Is

the natural world to understand the place
the ghost dancers

named

after the heart/breaking destruction.

Anna Mae,
everything and nothing
changes.

You

are the

shimmering young

woman
who found

when you were warned
from you

to be silent, or have

her voice,

your body cut away

an elegant weed.

like

You

are the

one whose

spirit is

present in the dappled

stars.

who stay with us
cities. And I have seen them

(They prance and lope Uke colored horses
through the

streets

of these

steely

nuzzling the frozen bodies of tattered drunks

on the comer.)
This morning

when the last star is dimming
and the buses grind toward

the middle of the city,

I

know it is

ten years since they buried

you

the second time in Lakota, a language that could
free you.
I

heard about

in

it

Oklahoma, or

how

the

New Mexico,

wind howled and pulled everything down

in a righteous anger.
(It

was the

the ripe

women who told me)

and

we

understood wordlessly

meaning of your murder.

As

I

understand ten years later after the slow changing

of the seasons
that

we have just begun

to touch

the dazzling whirlwind of our anger,

we have just begun

to perceive the

entered
crazily, beautifully.

amazed world the ghost dancers

What

249

if?
I

In February 1976, an unidentified

body of a young woman was found on the
The official autopsy attributed

Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

death to exposure.

The FBI agent

present at the autopsy ordered her hands

severed and sent to Washington for fingerprinting. John Truedell rightly
called this mutilation an act of war. Her unnamed body was buried. When
Anna Mae Aquash, a young Micmac woman who was an active American
Indian Movement member, was discovered missing by her fiiends and
relatives, a

second autopsy was demanded.

been

by

killed

was then discovered she had

It

a bullet fired at close range to the

back of her head. Her

killer

or killers have yet to be identified.

What

represented

is

the figure of its

own

medium and through
medium,

a

love

as

intolerable

as



as

—becomes

crushing

transformation, through the beauty of the
the

deep

artist's

uncompromised love

not in opposition.

In another place, not here, a

woman might touch

something between beauty and nowhere, back there

own

and here, might pass hand over hand her
trembling

life,

bleeding, a

but

girl's

I

have

glance

I

gurgling like a bird's.

have
I

imagine a sea not

tried to

fiiU as a verse, a

growing old and never crying
black boy's murder.

keep

of bones and

in this foliage

of a

my throat

have listened to the hard

hum mud and feathers

tried to

woman

to a radio hissing

tried to

gossip of race that inhabits this road.

have

rain.

I

Even
and

in this

sit

I

peacefiiUy

have chewed a few

votive leaves here, their taste already disenchanting

my mothers.
even

I

have

as its lines

tried to write this thing calmly

burn to

a close.

I

have come to

know

something simple. Each sentence realised or

dreamed jumps
side.

What

I

for that

the love of freedom. These loves are

as

like a pulse

with history and takes

say in any language

is

told in faultless

a

250

What

I

Found There

Is

knowledge of skin,
told as a

in

drunkenness and weeping,

woman without matches

words and

words and

in

in

and

tinder, not in

words learned by

told in secret and not in secret,

and

listen,

heart,

does not

bum out or waste and is plenty and pitiless and loves.

—Dionne Brand, No Language

Forms,

colors,

sensuous

relationships,

tones, transmutations of energy,

all

Is

Neutral

rhythms,

textures,

belong to the natural world.

Before humans arrived, their power was there; they were nameless

To

yet not powerless.

name them: whorl,

touch their power, humans had to

branch,

rift,

stipple, crust,

cone, striation,

froth, sponge, flake, fringe, gully, rut, tuft, grain,
scale, spine, streak, globe.

cultures,
art:

Over

humans have reached

so

many

bunch, slime,

into preexisting nature

to celebrate, to drive off evil, to nourish

many
and made

millennia, so

memory,

to conjure

the desired visitation.

The

revolutionary

artist,

the relayer of possibility, draws

such powers, in opposition to

a technocratic society's hatred

on
of

multiformity, hatred of the natural world, hatred of the body,

hatred of darkness and

women,

hatred of disobedience.

The

revolutionary poet loves people, rivers, other creatures, stones,
trees inseparably

from

and for them conjures
ing, terrifying,

art, is

a

not ashamed of any of these loves,

language that

and beloved.

is

pubHc, intimate, invit-

Notes
Woman and bird

I.

Page 6:

"moving from each

ser (191

3-1979)

is

to each

plored, and, in her work,

Page

7;

and through our hves." Muriel Rukey-

North American poet who most

the

embodied

intuited, ex-

this triangulation.

"instructed her to write." Beth Brant,

Mohawk

Trail (Ithaca,

N.Y.:

Firebrand, 1985), p. 96.

Voices from the air

II.

Page 9; "

'Who am

I?' it

asked.

.

."

.

John Webster,

Tragedies

(London:

Vision Press, 1946), p. 149.
Page 10:

"The house was

of Wallace Stevens

III.

"What would we

Page 14:

"it's like

quiet

.

.

.

."

Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems

(New York: Knopf,

1954), p. 358.

create?"

being sick

.

.

Karen Brodine, "June 78," in

."

.

Assembly (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hanging Loose Press, 1980),
Page

i4."

"I imagine this message

Union,"

in

Aime

.

.

.

."

Aime

Cesaire,

Cesaire: Collected Poetry, trans,

man and Annette Smith

"On

Illegal

p. 58.

the State of the

and ed. Clayton Eshle-

(Berkeley: University of California Press,

1983), pp. 342-43-

Page 13: "Yet this
Selected

Poems

is still

my country

.

.

.

."

(New York: Atheneum,

W.

S.

Merwin, "Caesar,"

in his

1988), p. 121.

Page ig: "the military cadets were reading his poems."

Nazim Hikmet,

Notes

2 5 2
I

Randy

Selected Poetry, trans.

Persea, 1986), p.

Mudu Konuk (New

Biasing and

York:

8.

my On Lies, Secrets, and Silence:
(New York: Norton, 1979), pp. 116-119, and

Page ig: "dangerous state criminals." See
Selected Prose

igdd-igyS

Beyond

Irina Ratushinskaya,

Brent and Carol

J.

Poems, trans. Frances Padorr

the Limit:

Avins (Evanston,

Northwestern University

111.:

Press, 1987), p. xiii.

Com-

Page ig: "pursued for five years by the INS." See Margaret Randall,
ing

Home:

INS

1990), for a detailed history of the

Page ig: "set apart from the practical

Maya Angelou,

sion of a poet,
a

West End

Peace without Complacency (Albuquerque:

arts,

a

case against Randall.

from

meaning." The inclu-

civic

was

in the 1993 presidential inauguration

symbolic gesture (augmented by the

American and

Press,

woman). But

Angelou

fact that

a captive

symbol,

also African-

is

like ritual,

becomes

a

true resource only if it can connect with a larger consciousness in every-

day

IV.

life.

Dearest Arturo

new

Page 23: "bottom of every

The

villainy." Eli Evans,

Personal History ofJews in the South

Provincials:

(New York: Athenaeum,

A

1976), p.

65.

Page 24: "scheming within a group:

World Dictionary of

the

as,

office politics."

New

Webster's

American Language (Cleveland and

New

York:

World, 1964).
Page 26: "with envy and admiration." Arturo

Islas,

"On

the Bridge,

at

the

Border: Migrants and Immigrants," Fifth Annual Ernesto Galarza

Commemorative

Lecture,

Stanford Center for Chicano Research

(Stanford: Stanford University, 1990), p.

Page 26: " 'identify' with them."

V. "Those
Page 2g:

shelves,

down

there"

lack of the

means

to distribute

two

"The

referring to a specific
virtually

poor

3.

Ibid., p. 5.

.

.

.

."

Nadine Gordimer

South African context: "the

is

fact that there are

no bookshops whatever and very, very few and very, very

libraries in

black townships.

The

nopoly of distribution

which means

.

that Louis

.

.

that hasn't

Lamour

.

.

.

on books

tax

of the great problems of local publishers

is

any
[is]

is

high

.

.

.

the fact that there
interest in

quaUty

and one
is

a

mo-

literature,

available while 'commercial'

Notes

253

I

consideration censorship operates against other, quality work." (Per-

communication

sonal

United

to

Stephen CHngman, April

1993) In the

2,

obtain in impoverished inner-city

States, similar conditions

while in consumption-driven suburban malls chain bookstores

areas,

market commodities called books but do not provide

accessibility to

hterature.

Page ji: "patterns of distribution and availability." See Stan Luxenberg,

Books

tional Writers

might

Union,

also ask

out front

New

13 Astor Place,

why books on community

empowerment, and

VII.

Na-

Chains: Chain Bookstores and Marketplace Censorship. (1991;

in

among

York,

NY

10003).

You

organizing, poor people's

movements

strategies for grass-roots

are not

found

(or instead of) guides to personal self-improvement.

The space for poetry

Page 34:

"PABLO CHILE TE RECUERDA

the inscriptions
ed., Pablo

.

.

.

."

For photographs of

on the fence below Neruda's house,

see Luis Poirot,

(New York: Norton,

Neruda: Absence and Presence

1990),

pp. 64-75.

The McCarran- Walter Immigration

Page 37: "McCarran- Walter Act."

and Nationality Act was passed in 1952 by a McCarthyite Congress
over President Truman's veto.
clusion or expulsion of aliens

amy, mental
ist

illness,

It

listed thirty-three provisions for

from the United

States,

ex-

including polyg-

homosexuality, membership in communist, social-

or anarchist organizations or association with

members of such

groups, and writing, speaking, or disseminating opinions that dissent

from

official

government views. Some 50,000 people have been denied

visas to enter the

Coming Home:

United

States

Peace without

under

this act.

See Margaret Randall,

Complacency (Albuquerque:

West End

Press, 1990).

Page 37:

"And Rip

Hart Crane, ed.

forgot the office hours

.

.

.

."

Hart Crane, The Poems of

Marc Simon (New York and London:

Liveright, 1986),

PP- 55-56.

Page 39: "profit, marketing, consumerism." Poetry Flash, published in the

Bay Area,

is

a

monthly

tabloid-style calendar

related events chiefly taking place

scope;

it

also offers vivid

and

eclectic reviews

poetics. In the January 1993 issue,

Gioia's

Can

of poetry readings and

on the West Coast but
Richard

Poetry Matter?, refutes the notion

and

articles

Silberg,

national in

on poetry and

reviewing Dana

of the poetry reading

as a

Notes

2 5 4

I

campus phenomenon, pointing

to the increase in

ings across the country: festivals,

open

which poets read before judges), and readings

tions in

He

feehouses.

rightly calls the

Like grass-roots

in bars

and cof-

Bay Area "an endemic poetry

festival."

poetry tends to be ignored by the

politics, grass-roots

communications media of corporate
paper Hke Poetry Flash (P.O.

VIII.

nonacademic read-

readings, poetry slams (competi-

Box

interests

—hence,

the value of a

CA 94704).

4172, Berkeley,

How DOES A POET PUT BREAD ON THE TABLE?

Page 42: "translating, typesetting, or ghostwriting." For a concrete, detailed

account of one such

Autobiography," in

Michigan

IX.

hfe, see

Hayden Carruth, "Fragments of

andjazzers (Ann Arbor: University of

his Suicides

Press, 1993), pp. 70-75.

The muralist

Page 43:

The

''\

wish you would write

Letters of

Samuel Taylor

York: Oxford University

a

poem

Page 44:

"The

.

."

.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge,

(New

Coleridge, ed. E. L. Griggs, 6 vols.

Press, 1956),

Page 4j: "These were things which

Memoirs of a Revolutionist

.

I

p. 527.

I,

myself saw

.

.

."

.

Peter Kropotkin,

(New York: Doubleday/ Anchor,

struggle for revolutionary ideas

(New

Revolution, ed. Paul V. Siegel

.

1962), p. 47.

Leon Trotsky, Art and

."

.

.

York: Pathfinder

Press,

1992),

pp. 23-24.

Page 43:

"From

the point of view of an objective historical process

."
.

.

.

Ibid., p. 30.

Page 43:

"The

effort to set art free

Page 45:

"One

cannot approach

Page 46: "It

is

one thing

.

.

.

art

.

.

." Ibid., p. 39.
.

to understand

." Ibid.,
pp.

something

Page 47: "During a war the poets turn to war
Selected

.

76-77.

.

.

.

.

.

." Ibid., p. 66.

."

Thomas McGrath,

Poems 1938-1988 (Port Townsend, Wash.: Copper Canyon

Press, 1988), p. 105.

Page 48: "unlocking hate and fear." Miranda Bergman,
Page 30: "in organic poetry the form sense

Notes on Organic Form,"

in

The Poet

.

.

.

."

in the

letter,

1991.

"Some
(New York: New

Denise Levertov,
World

Directions, 1973), p. 12.

Page 30:

"We work alone

pubhshcd

.

.

.

in collaboration

."

Samella Lewis, The Art of Elizabeth

with the

Museum

Catlett,

of African American Art,

Los Angeles (Claremont, Calif: Hancraft Studios, 1984), pp. 93, 94.

Notes

255

I

Page 32: "Choosing to be an

November

nication,

artist

.

.

."

.

Michele Gibbs, personal

Page 5j; "the sound of our

own

A

heartbeat in the dark." Lillian Smith, The

Winner Names

the

Michelle Cliff

(New York: Norton,

Lillian

Age:

Collection of Writings by Lillian Smith, ed.

Rose Gladney, have been pubHshed by
(Chapel

X.

What does
"He

Page 54:

I

had

am

Page 34: "I

on

Page 53: "Alone

How Am

title

.

."

.

I to

of

Be Heard?

David Kalstone, Becoming

all

1954), p. 236.

.

.

."

.

.

."

Alice

Ehzabeth Bishop, The Complete

&

Giroux, 1979),

p. 8.

will suffice." James Merrill, Afterword,

Farrar, Straus

had the right to

Cannot Live without Our Lives

.

1976), pp. 200-1.

Marianne Moore

a Poet: Elizabeth Bishop with

(New York:

Page 38: "a world in which

.

Farrar, Straus

grown unmanageable

Wallace Stevens, The

kind of revolutionary

(New York: Pocket Books,

(New York:

and Robert Lowell

.

(New York: Knopf,

the railroad track

Poems igij-igjg
Page 36: "ties

letters

edited by Margaret

the University of North Caro-

could love

I

a failure then, as the

Walker, Meridian

in

this that

Poems of Wallace Stevens

Collected

activist,

mean, to put love into action?

it

said

under the

Hill, 1993)

The

1978), epigraph.

Smith, white antiracist writer and

lina Press

commu-

17, 1992.

&

Giroux, 1989),

live." Barbara

p. 253.

Deming, We

(New York: Viking-Grossman,

1974),

pp. 36-52.

Page 38: "This must change."
Page 60: "saturate the Third

A

Alva Myrdal:

Ibid., p. 45.

World

Daughter's

in patterns of brutaHty." Sissela

Bok,

Memoir (Reading, Mass.: Addison- Wesley,

1991), pp. 345-46.

Page

61

:

"women's movements,

civil

disobedience." See Barbara Deming,

Could Not Hold: Prison Notes ig64-Seneca 1984 (San Fran-

Prisons That

cisco: Spinsters Ink, 1985).

Page 61

:

"social

and economic development." Bok,

Page 61: "social institutions, including the family."

p. 287.

Ibid., p.

352.

Page 61: "visible and responsive peace." Stevens, p. 236.

Page 61 "Peace
:

The

New

I

have feared

.

.

.

."

Suzanne Gardinier, "To Peace,"

World (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993),

Page 62: "heroism

as

we

have come to understand

personal communication, April 6, 1992.

Pound,

poem

who

in his later years

it."

"Sestina: Altaforte" praising war,

on

a

p. 3

1

Hayden Carruth,

Donald Hall

wished to suppress

in her

his

tells

about Ezra

reading of the

recording in the Harvard

Notes

256

I

Poetry

Room, on

the grounds that

(Donald Hall, Their Ancient

[New York: Ticknor &:

Poets

"By

Page 6j:

"Two

content, the Iliad

Cities:

On

'The

"War

...

Glittering Eyes:

is

no longer

—amusing"

Remembering Poets and More

Fields, 1992], p. 207).

is

Iliad,'

not the epic

.

.

.

."

Suzanne Gardinier,

" The Kenyon Review 14, no. 2 (Spring

1992): 6.

Thompson." June Jordan,

Page 63: "For Michael Angelo
in the

Dark: Selected Poems

Do

Things That I

(New York: Random House,

1977), pp.

121-23.
Page 68:

"The

difference

"Power,"

in

between poetry and rhetoric

.

.

.

."

Audre Lorde,

(New York: Norton,

her The Black Unicorn

1978),

pp. 108-9.

Page 70: "and

decided to pull over and just jot some things

I

Audre Lorde,

Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Sister

down

(Freedom,

."
.

.

.

Calif.:

Crossing Press, 1984), pp. 107-8.
XI.

A LEAK IN

HISTORY

Page 72: "maple sugar in

Vermont

of Vermont, Vermont:

Houghton

in 1752." Federal Writers Project,

Guide

to the

WPA

Green Mountain State (Boston:

Mifflin, 1937), p. 371.

Page 78: "don't
the Pieces

A

know what/where

When We

Don't

they are." Irena Klepfisz, "Picking up

Know What/Where They

Are," speech

given for the Jewish Feminist Lecture Series, University of California

at

Santa Cruz, June 22, 1991.

Page 78: Children of the Holocaust. Helen Epstein, Children of the Holocaust:
Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors

(New York: Bantam,

1979).

Page 78: Red Diaper Babies: Children of the
Shapiro, eds..

Red Diaper

Red Diaper Productions,

Judy Kaplan and Linn

Left.

Babies: Children of the Left (Somerville, Mass.:

1985).

Page 79: "peer group without a sign." Epstein, p.
XII.

Someone

Page 8j:

"The

is

writing a poem

society

Nancy

Guy Debord, quoted in
What Happens Next," in War after
Lights Review no. 5 (San Francisco:

whose modernization

Thyrza Goodeve, "Watching
War, ed.

7.

J.

.

.

.

."

for

Peters, City

City Lights Books, 1992).
Page 84: "torque converter for a jello mold." Diane Glancy, Claiming
Breath (Lincoln and

London: University of Nebraska

Press, 1992), p. 75.

Notes

257

I

Page 86: "imprisoned by capitalism."

Interview with Luis
1993):

Page 8y:

Ed

Oasa, "Speaking the Changes:

An

Rodriguez," Poetry Flash no. 240 (March-April

J.

4-

"The

Planet Krypton."

Lynn Emanuel, "The

Planet Krypton," in

her book The Dig (Urbana and Chicago: University of lUinois Press,
1992), pp. 4-5.

XIIL Beginners
Page go:

"How they are provided for
(New York:

and Collected Prose
Page gi: "All

this

is

thenceforth

Page gz: "unloosen'd,
Page gz:

"He

ate

.

.

.

Walt Whitman, Complete

."

.

Poetry

Library of America, 1982), p. 171.
.

.

." Ibid., p. 502.

wondrous time."

69on.

Ihid., p.

and drank the precious Words



.

.

.

."

Emily Dickinson,

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas Johnson (Boston

and

New York:

Page gj: "trying

Brown,

Little

it all

i960), no. 1587, p. 418.

by Nature." Whitman,

Page gj: "never get in the books."
Page 93;

"all

the print

I

Ibid., p.

my

have read in

p. 925.

778.

life."

Whitman, Song

of Myself

no. 13.

Page gj:

"my pages from

Page gj: "Renunciation
Page gj:

"we

first

Whitman, Complete

to last."

a piercing virtue."

is

Poetry, p. 668.

Dickinson, no. 745,

p. 365.

consign to language." Emily Dickinson, The Collected

of Emily Dickinson, ed.

Thomas Johnson (Cambridge,

Letters

Mass.: Harvard

University Press, 1952), no. 562, p. 617.

Whitman, Complete Po-

Page gj: "sensual, eating drinking and breeding."
etry, p. 50.

"On my

Page gj:

volcano grows

.

.

."

.

Dickinson, Poems, no. 1677,

p. 685.

Page gj:

"Through me forbidden voices

.

.

.

."

Whitman, Complete

Poetry,

p. 211.

Page g4: "her unappeasable
Poetry

(New York:

Page g4: "I

tie

my

thirst for

A. A.

Hat



I

Wyn,

crease

fame." Muriel Rukeyser, The

Life of

1949), p. 93.

my

Shawl



.

.

.

."

Dickinson, Poems,

no. 443, p. 212.

Page g6:

"become

a golfer."

Janet Stemburg, ed.. The Writer on Her Work

(New York: Norton, 1980), pp. 219-20.
Page gj: "why is he lost?" Muriel Rukeyser, The
(New York: Random House, 1970), p. 3.

Traces of

Thomas Hariot

Notes

258

I

Page gy: "deeper

The

these times." Ibid., pp. 3— 4.

at

"One of the

Page gy:

attacks

on me

for writing

"New

Poet's Craft: Interviews from the

Paragon, 1987),
Page g8: "It

is

by

.

.

.

."

William Packard,

ed.,

(New York:

York Quarterly"

p. 136.

a

long road of presumption

.

.

."

.

Muriel Rukeyser,

Willard Gibbs : American Genius (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran,

1942), p. 12.

woman's poetry should look

Page gg: "what a

Randall Jarrell, Poetry and
66; R.S.P.,

no.

the

like." See, for

Age (New York: Knopf,

"Grandeur and Misery of a Poster

example,

1953), pp. 163-

Girl," Partisan Review 10,

(September/October 1943): 471-73.

5

Page gg: "the toys of fame." Rukeyser, Gibbs, p. 433.
Page 100: "Anglo-Saxons and Christians."

"The

Agrarians

the history of their inherited European culture.

name had
Sally

had

a

.

.

.

reaffirmed

name, but the

of course, Christendom" (Andrew

fallen into disuse. It was,

Foreword, The Southern Mandarins:

Lytle,

It

Gordon

Letters of Caroline

Wood [Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,

1984], p. 4).

Page 100: "Uke natural growths." Richard Ellman and Robert
eds..

The Norton Anthology of Modern

A

1988), p. 880.

Poetry,

2d

ed.

O' Clair,

(New York: Norton,

Muriel Rukeyser Reader, edited by Jan

be published by Norton

to

HeUer

Levi, will

in 1994.

XIV. The real, not the calendar, twenty-first century
Page 103: "Shadrack began a struggle

York: Bantam, 1973),
Page 104:

"And

.

.

.

."

Toni Morrison, Sula (New

p. 12.

ever-present in the freezing, prewar

.

.

.

."

Anna Akh-

matova, The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, ed. Roberta Reeder,
trans.

Judith Hemschemeyer, 2 vols. (Somerville, Mass.: Zephyr Press,

I990),II, p. 437-

Page 103: "fire in which

(New York: New

we bum." Delmore

Schwartz, Selected Poems

Directions, 1967), p. 67.

Page 106: "graphic chauvinism, especially offensive." Reese Williams, ed.,

Unwinding

the

Vietnam War: From

Press, 1987), pp.

XV. "A clearing

War

into Peace (Seatde:

Real

Comet

265-66.

in

the imagination"

Page 107: "better judgment making." William Shakespeare, Sonnet 87, in

The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974),

p. 1765-

Notes

259

I

"A

Page 108: "without being maudlin." Helen Vendler,

Dissonaiit Triad,"

Parnassus: Poetry in Review 16, no. 2 (1991): 391.

"The Hole

Page no: "self-entertainment for the few?": John Haines,
the Bucket,"
sity

of Michigan

in

Donald Hall (Ann Arbor: Univer-

in Claims for Poetry, ed.

Press, 1987), pp. 131-40.

Page 111: "In the forest without leaves

without Leaves," in

New

his

.

.

.

."John Haines, "In the Forest

Poems: igSo-igSS (Brownsville, Ore.:

Story Line Press, 1990), pp. 79-93-

"When you

Page 116:

imagine trumpet-faced musicians

.

.

.

."

Muriel

"Homage to Literature," in her The Collected Poems of Muriel
Rukeyser (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978), p. 109.
." Poem no. 57, in Him Mark Lai, Genny
Page 116: "On a long voyage
Rukeyser,

Angel

Island: Poetry

1910-1940

Island,

.

.

.

Lim, and Judy Yung,

(Seattle:

and History of Chinese Immigrants on

University of Washington Press, 1991),

p. 122.

Page 117: "Sadly,

"Angel

from

Alcatraz,

." Poem no. 18, ibid., p. 56.
listen to the sounds
now an idyllic state park out in San Francisco Bay not far
I

Island,

.

was the point of entry

Modelled

after

New

.

for the majority

who came

175,000 Chinese immigrants
1940.

.

York's

to

of approximately

America between 19 10the

Ellis Island,

site

was used

as

the

immigration detention headquarters for Chinese awaiting jurisdiction

on
was

the outcomes of medical examinations and immigration papers.
also the

to the motherland.

indelible

It

holding grounds for deportees awaiting transportation back

mark

in

The

ordeal of immigration and detention

the minds of many Chinese,

wrote poetry on the barrack
voyage to America,

at

left

number of

walls, recording the impressions

their longing for families

outrage and humiliation

a

an

whom

of

their

back home, and their

the treatment America accorded

them"

(p. 8).

Page 117:

"En

La Vida

el

Loca,

bote del county

Gang Days

in

.

.

.

."

Luis J. Rodriguez, Always Running:

L.A. (Willimantic, Conn.: Curbstone Press,

1993). PP- 189-90. "From the age of 13 on, I ended up in cells Hke
places like Pomona, Temple City,
those of the San Gabriel jail house



East L.A.,

Monterey Park,

L.A. county
the
I

War

in

jail

East Lake's juvenile detention hall and the

system following the [Chicano] Moratorium [against

Vietnam, August 29, 1970].

.

.

.

[T]his time, at 17 years old,

filled

with the warrior's

art.

.

.

.

Smoked

The

cell walls

were

outlines of women's faces

were

faced a serious charge of attempted murder.

.

.

.

Notes

2 6 o
I

burned onto the painted

There were love messages

brick.

.

.

.

—and

poetry."

XVI.

What

Paj^e iig:

New

is

an American

Robert

F.

Kennedy,

York Times (August 15, 1992),

moon

Page iig: "I saw the

in his Immigrants in

and Dennis Rivera, "Pollution's Chief Vic-

Jr.,

The Poor," New

tims:

life?

"crammed next to the ghettos." Lester Sloan, "Dumping: A
Form of Genocide?" Emerge 3, no. 4 (February 1992): 19-22;

at first

.

.

Op-Ed

page.

."Jimmy Santiago Baca, "Against,"

.

New Directions,

Our Own Land (New York:

1982),

pp. 41-42.

Page 121:

"What

"Notes

for a

does

New

it

mean when

poets surrender

Poem," unpub.

essay,

.

.

.

."

David Mura,

quoted by permission of the

author.

Page 121

:

"to live in a tragic time." Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems of

(New York: Knopf,

Wallace Stevens

1954), p. 199.

Page 122: "fled into expatriation, emigrated inwardly." See

Arendt,

Men

1968), p. 19:

"During

phenomenon known
phenomenon.

Hannah

Dark Times (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,

in

It

.

.

.

[1933-1938] in

as 'inner

signified

on

Germany

there existed the

emigration' ... a curiously ambiguous
the

one hand

that there

were persons

inside Germany who behaved as if they no longer belonged to the
country, who felt like emigrants; and on the other hand it indicated that

they had not in reality emigrated, but had withdrawn to an interior
realm, into the invisibility of thinking and feeling.

.

[I]n the darkest

from the world and

its

to be' or as

One

it

once upon

a time

white and working-class poet

life,

to

be and

who

feel a failure in the

poem "What Thou

refused any kind of "inner

Making

Certain

It

is

almost entirely about

"land of equal opportunity."

Lovest Well Remains American"

the smell of failure and the need to blame

people rather than on the

failure

it

is all

on one's own

about

class

or

of the national fantasy (Richard Hugo,

Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo

York: Norton, 1984]).

or

'as it

had been."

emigration" was Richard Hugo. His poetry

what it means

of

particularly

public space to an interior

simply to ignore that world in favor of an imaginary world

ought

His

.

and outside Germany the temptation was

times, inside
strong, to shift
else

.

[New

Notes

261
I

Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope

Page i2j: "the trams are running."

Hope (New York: Atheneum,
XVII.

Moment

against

1970), pp. 160-216.

of proof

much

Page 124: "didn't have

Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope

effect."

Hope (New York: Atheneum, 1970),

p. 153. In 1937,

had forced himself to write an "Ode

to StaUn,"

against

Osip Mandelstam

hoping

to save his

own

life.

"The

Page 123:

of poetry

fear

Page i26; "I

remember

(New

Poetry

is

the

.

.

Muriel Rukeyser, The

."

.

(New York: McGraw-Hill,

Poems of Muriel Rukeyser

a psychologist

Wyn,

York: A. A.

.

.

.

.

.

Audre Lorde, "Poetry

."

in her Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

:

Page 127: "Recently

I

is

ashamed

aheym jThe Journey Home," in her

first

.

.

p. 253.

."June Jordan, "The

.

.

A

.

.

."

Irena Klepfisz,

Few Words

"D/

rayze

Mother Tongue:

in the

216-24.

"Not Vanishing."

Gang

Publishers, 1989).

Page ijo:

"Sorrow Songs."

rpt.

the

Mandelstam,

and New, ig7i-iggo (Portland, Ore.: Eighth Mountain

Press, 1990), pp.

Page ijo:

."

.

Essays (London: Virago, 1989), p. 162.

Page 128: ''Zi shemt zikhjShG

Selected

.

of Black Poetry in America," in her Moving towards

Difficult Miracle

Poems

.

no one"
And she was

Page 128: "It was not natural.

Political

Is

(Freedom,

1984), p. 37.

heard someone say

XVIII. "History stops for

Home:

Life of

1949), p- 12.

Page 127: "It forms the quaHty of the light

Not a Luxury,"
Cahf Crossing Press,

Muriel Rukeyser, The

."

.

Collected

1978), pp. 160-61.

New York:

Chrystos, Not Vanishing (Vancouver: Press

W.

E. B.

Du Bois,

The Souls of Black Folk (1903;

Fawcett, 1969). "These songs are the articulate message

of the slave to the world.

.

.

.

The

ten master songs

I

have mentioned

tell

word and music of trouble and exile, of strife and hiding; they grope
Through all
toward some unseen power and sigh for rest in the End.

in

.

the sorrow of the

Sorrow Songs there breathes

ultimate justice of things.
to

hope

.



.

a faith in the

The minor cadences of despair change

triumph and calm confidence. Sometimes

a faith in death,

a

it is

faith in Hfe,

often

sometimes

sometimes assurance of boundless justice in some

world beyond. But whichever
sometime, somewhere,

men

the

meaning

judge

men by

it is,

will

is

always

fair

clear: that

their souls

and not

Notes

262
I

by

their skin.

Is

such

hope justified?

a

Do

Sorrow Songs

the

sing true?"

(pp. 183-89).

Page

"Destruction (of the Temple)." Irena Klepfisz, "Secular Jewish

ijfi:

America,"

Identity: Yidishkayt in

Dreams of an Insomniac: Jewish

in her

Feminist Essays, Speeches and Diatribes (Portland, Ore.: Eighth

Mountain

Press, 1990).

Page iji: "during the war

Page IJ3: "These two:

.

.

.

.

.

." Klepfisz,

A Few

Page ij6: "had circumstances been different."
Page

"common

ij6:

Words, p. 43.

." Ibid., p. 37.
Ibid., p. 30.

and events." Klepfisz, Dreams,

gestures

things,

pp. 132-35-

Page ij6:

"who have

perished." Klepfisz,

Page ij6: "history stops for no one."
Page ij6:

"when

they took us

.

Page ijy: "conversations over brandy."
Page ij8: "walking

home

alone

.

Few Words,

p. 37.

236.

." Ibid., p. 47.

.

.

A

Ibid., p.

.

pp. 49-50.

Ibid.,

." Ibid.,

.

pp. 190-93.

Page i^g: "torn between ways." Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera:

The

New

Mestiza (San Francisco: Spinsters/ Aunt Lute Books, 1987),

p. 78.

Page 142: "she'd never before been forced

.

.

A

." Klepfisz,

.

Few Words,

p. 76.

XIX. The transgressor mother
Page 147: "Crime against Nature." Minnie Bruce Pratt, Crime against Nature
(Ithaca,

N.Y.: Firebrand, 1990).

Page 147: "I used to drive

"Romance,"
Heron Press,
Page I4g:

".

.

.

in her

down

the coast

.

.

.

Minnie Bruce

."

Pratt,

The Sound of One Fork (Durham, N.C.: Night

1981), pp. 23-24.

the place of the Piscataway

"Reading Maps: Three,"

in her

We

.

.

.

."

We

Say

Minnie Bruce

Pratt,

Love Each Other (San

Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute Books, 1985), p. 96.

Page i^g: "Finally

Minnie Bruce

I

understood that

Pratt,

I

could

sorrow

feel

and Barbara Smith, Yours

Perspectives on Anti-Semitism

.

.

.

." Elly

in Struggle:

Bulkin,

Three Feminist

and Racism (1984; Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand,

1989), p. 41.

Page 160: "a context to nourish

it."

Oddly enough,

nonfeminist hterary journals and periodicals,
nist

and lesbian writing would seem to be

this

if you

search through

groundswell of femi-

invisible:

it is

never men-

Notes

263
I

tioned

movement,

as a literary

famous, never alluded

Formalism:

A

to.

its

writers, save for a

A striking case

in point

Dangerous Nostalgia," American

few of the most

Ira Sadoff' s

represents, finally, a truncated version

of the

state

and lesbian poets, among poets of communities of color,
seeking:

is

surprising connections

ument and
Page 160:
clav

&

"poems

make engaged,

that

between the

I

self and the social

a

i

agree but

of American

home, among feminist,

poets and poetry today. There are, close to

what Sadoff

"Neo-

Poetry Review 19, no.

much of which

(January-February 1990), an essay with

which

is

gay,

profusion of

dramatized, and

world, the

mon-

history."

"Communist

Havel: Living

Eastern Europe, on the other." Vaclav Havel, Va-

in Truth, ed.

Jan Vladislav (London and Boston: Faber

Faber, 1990), p. loi. Havel attributes the concept of a "second cul-

ture" to Ivanjirous.

Page j6i

;

"an unsettling presence altogether." The prize had been awarded

by an independent jury of two
Alfred

Com,

men and one woman (Marvin Bell,
who described the book as

and Sandra McPherson),

"forceful" and "masterful"



meant

adjectives clearly

teresting in terms of the poUtics

in praise but in-

of language.

Page 161: "marched to his words." Pratt, along with Black lesbian poet

Audre Lorde and American Indian

lesbian poet Chrystos, received a

$20,000 creative-writing grant from the National Foundation for the
Arts in the spring of 1990.
arts blacklist to

Page 162:

Helms

sent their names,

among others, on an

the comptroller general of the United States.

"The profound

Page 162: "start to crack."

crisis

of human identity

.

.

.

."

Havel,

p. 62.

Ihid., p. 28.

XX. A COMMUNAL POETRY
Page 167:

"Working

Bending the
Page 168:

"A

in

words

I

Bow (New York:

am

an escapist

New Directions,

.

.

.

."

Robert Duncan,

1968), pp. v, 9.

Family Resemblance." Audre Lorde,

"A

Family Resem-

blance," in her Undersong: Chosen Poems Old and New, rev. ed.

(New

York: Norton, 1992), pp. 40-41.
Page 170:

"A Woman

Is

Cahf: Crossing
Page

17;):

"A Woman Is
Common Woman (Freedom,

Talking to Death." Judy Grahn,

Talking to Death," in her The Work of a
Press, 1978), pp. 11 3-31.

"Men with

the heads of eagles

Happy (New York: Harper

& Row,

.

.

.

."

Margaret Atwood, You Are

1974), p. 47.

264

Notes

I

Page 175: "that great poet of inseparables, Muriel Rukeyser."

Dame

Enid

"You

writes:

movement]

Beat rebel poetry of the '50s and

in the

tainly true in

my case.

women's movement and

affected

my own

That's cer-

New Left, and the emerg-

encouragement of

its

growth and work

people in those days,

'60s.

Allen Ginsberg's poetry, especially 'Kaddish,' the

culture of the East Village, the politics of the

ing

The poet

[women's poetry

locate the roots of the

I

as a

women

artists all

many

poet. Significantly, Hke

belonged to several

'small groups'



a

women's

CR group, a Jewish CR group (men and women) and later best of
leaderless,

and pubHshed an anthology.)

lasted four years

comment

women

that

our movement provided



poets

I

know

they're

all,

a

Women's CoUage. (We

all-women's poetry workshop, the
I

was

.

.

touched by your

.

'background' for younger

a

out there, writing poems, editing

still

magazines, even, perhaps, 'speaking of revolution' in these increasingly
perilous times" (personal communication, February

Page 176:

"The

reality

ogy of Poetry by

of being

New

women

.

."

.

.

Ordinary

i,

1992).

Women: An Anthol-

York City Women, ed. Sara Miles, Patricia Jones,

Sandra Maria Esteves, and Fay Chiang, intro. Adrienne Rich

York: Ordinary
Page 180:

"You

Women Books,

are fearless of the language

James Wright, The DeUcacy and

Graywolf Press,

Paul:

(St.

(New

1978), pp. 11-13, 45, 85, 107.
.

.

.

."

Leshe

Marmon

Strength of Lace: Letters, ed.

Silko and

Anne Wright

1985), pp. 81-82.

XXI. The distance between language and violence
Page 182:

"A

thing of beauty

is

a

joy forever

.

.

.

."John Keats, "Endym-

ion," in The Poetical Works ofJohn Keats, 2 vols. (Boston: Little
1899),

I,

Brown,

p. 85.

Page 182: "Tyger, Tyger, burning bright

.

.

.

."All passages from William

Blake are from The Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David Erdman

(New York: Doubleday/ Anchor,
Page 188: "Ah, Christ,

The

love

.

.

.

."

1970).

Allen Tate, "Sonnets

at

Christmas," in

Voice That Is Great within Us: American Poetry of the Twentieth

tury, ed.

XXII.

I

Hayden Carruth (New York: Bantam,

Not how to

Page igo:

"You have

Cen-

1970), p. 221.

write poetry but wherefore
to

change your

life."

Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed.

and

Rainer Maria Rilke, The
trans.

Stephen Mitchell

Selected

(New

Notes

265
I

Random

York:

change your

life"

House/ Vintage, 1986), pp. 60-61. "You have to
is my American rendering of the Hne.

Page igi: "Radical changes and significant novelty

Foreword, in Adrienne Rich,
University Press, 195 1), p-

Page igz:

".

.

House, 1945),

W.

H. Auden,

(New Haven:

Change of World

poetry makes nothing happen

.

."

.

Yale

8.

of W. B. Yeats," in

Memory

A

.

.

his Collected

.

.

W.

."

.

H. Auden, "In

(New York: Random

Poems

p. 50.

Page i 92; "In the nightmare of the dark

.

.

." Ibid., p. 51.

.

Page 194: "Air without Incense." Adrienne Rich, Collected Early Poems

(New York: Norton,

igso-igjo

on her Jewish

essay

temple

identity,

services: "I think that

1993), p. 15. Muriel Rukeyser, in an

wrote of her childhood experience of

many people brought up

reformed

in

Judaism must go starving for two phases of religion: poetry and politics"
(see

"Poet

.

.

.

Woman

Jewish Feminists and

Page ig3: "

'difficult'

.

.

.

American

Our Friends

i,

no.

i

.

.

.Jew,"

Bridges:

A Journal for

(Spring 1990): 23-29.

and unorthodox." Reginald Gibbons and Terrence

DesPres, eds., Thomas McGrath: Life and the Poem (Urbana and Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 1992), pp. 120-21.

XXIII. "Rotted names"
Page igg: "She sang beyond the genius of the sea

The

Collected

Poems of Wallace Stevens

.

.

.

."

Wallace Stevens,

(New York: Knopf,

195 5).

pp. 128-30.

Page igg:

"Now grapes are plush upon the vines

Page 200: "Nota:
Page 201

:

man

is

.

the intelligence of his soil

Stevens's

program

has failed to

Page 202:

.

.

"The book of moonlight is not written yet

Page 201: "It has to be living, to learn the speech
for

modem poetry implies

do these very

"Throw away

.

.

.

.

.

266.

." Void., p. 27.
.

." Ibid.,
pp.

." Ibid.,

a tradition

33-34.

pp. 239-40.

of poetry that

things.

the lights, the definitions

Page 204: "frozen metaphors." Aldon

American Poets and

.

." Ibid., p.

.

.

Lynn

.

.

.

." Ibid., p. 183.

Nielsen, Reading Race: White

the Racial Discourse in the Twentieth

and London: University of Georgia

Century (Athens

Press, 1988), p. 9. Marjorie Perloff

notes, in Stevens's letters written during

World War

II,

his dismissive

labeling of various literary intellectuals, even those he admired, as "a

Notes

266
I

Jew and

Communist,"

a

a

long

his attempt, in the

"Jew and an

a

Supreme

Fiction,"

(1941-1942), to construct "an elaborate and daunting rhetoric

designed to convince both poet and reader

and radio

lines

ism

New

[London and

ed., Wallace Stevens:

The

.

.

.

head-

that, despite the daily

bulletins, the real action takes place in the

metaphor" (Albert J. Gelpi,

and

anti-Fascist," "a Catholic,"

poem "Notes toward

country of

Poetics of Modem-

York: Cambridge University

Press,

1985],

pp. 41-52).

Page 203: "fairly substantial income." Wallace Stevens, Letters of Wallace
Stevens, ed.

(New York: Knopf, 1966), p. 321.
am using the term 'Africanism' for the

Holly Stevens

Page 205: "Africanism." "I

tive and connotative blackness that African peoples have
signify, as

well

and misreadings
ples.

to

as the entire range of views, assumptions, readings,

that

accompany Eurocentric learning about

these peo-

... As a disabhng virus within Hterary discourse, Africanism has

become,
both

denota-

come

a

American education

in the Eurocentric tradition that

favors,

way of talking about and a way of poHcing matters of class,

sexual

hcense, and repression, formations and exercises of power, and meditations

on

ethics

and accountabiHty" (Toni Morrison, Playing

in the

Whiteness and the Literary Imagination [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard

Dark:

Uni-

versity Press, 1992], pp. 6-7).

XXIV. A

poet's

education

Page 206: "written by circumstance and environment." Diane Glancy,
Claiming Breath (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), p. 85.
Page 206: "use of myself as a found object."
Page 206: "Arkansas backhill culture."
Page 207: "Before

I

was eighteen,

Dark: Reflections of a Poet of

.

Ibid., p. 23.

Ibid., p. 22.

."Jimmy Santiago Baca, Working in

.

the Barrio (Santa Fe:

the

Red Crane Books,

1992), pp. 4-6.

Page 208: "in a world
Page 208: "Every

.

poem

.

.

is

run by men's rules
an infant

.

.

.

.

Page 2og: "There was nothing so humiliating

Page 2og: "En boca cerrada no entran moscas
lands/La Frontera: The

Books, 1987),

New Mestiza

." Ibid., p. 65.

.

.

." Ibid., p. 66.

.

.

.

.

.

.

." Ibid., p. 4.

." Gloria Anzaldua, Border-

(San Francisco: Spinsters/ Aunt Lute

p. 54.

Page 210: "the coming together of opposite qualities within."

Ibid., p. 19.

Notes

267
I

Page 210: "In the 1960s,

my

read

I

Chicano novel

first

.

.

."

.

Ibid.,

pp. 59-61.

Page 211: "After the divorce,

XXV. To

INVENT

Page 2iy. "Poetry

WHAT WE

I

had

new

territory

.

.

.

."

Glancy, pp. 86-87.

DESIRE

not a luxury." Audre Lorde, "Poetry

is

Not

Is

a

Lux-

ury," in her Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Freedom, Calif: Cross-

ing Press, 1984), p. 36.
Page 216: "the intimate face of universal struggle." June Jordan, Civil Wars
(Boston:

Beacon

Press, 198 1), p. xi.

XXVI. Format and form
n. ..."
Page 217: "Format:



Defence of Poetry

Page 218: "Format

Goodman,

Paul

(New York: Random
not like censorship

is

.

House, 1971), pp. 200-1.
.

.

." Ihid.,

pp. 202-3.

Page 2ig: "works almost in resistance to the form." Richard
Triggering

Toum:

Lectures

Norton, 1979), pp.

and Essays on Poetry and Writing

Hugo, The

(New York:

5 ff.

"No worst, there is none

Page 2ig:

A

Speaking and Language:

.

.

.

."

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Poems of

W.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. Robert Bridges and

H. Gardner (Lon-

don: Oxford University Press, 1952), pp. 106-7.
Page 2ig: "If we must die,
Selected

let it

not be like hogs

.

.

.

."

In Claude

1981), p. 36.

McKay's sonnet, written out by hand, was found

aftermath of the assault by state troopers on the state prison

New York,
tions

the

on September

had staged

poem

to

21, 1971,

a rebellion.

one of the

where

A reporter for

prisoners:

Bobby

pretending to be

at

prisoners protesting condi-

X

chapel or engaged in intramural athletics.

written by an

would-be heroic

Malcolm

writers as

and held secret poHtical meetings

cells,

passed around clandestine writings of their

poem

self-styled revolution-

prisons because of their mili-

transferred to Attica

Seale into their

in the

at Attica,

Time ascribed authorship of

"Many of the

from other

tancy—smuggled banned books by such
aries

McKay,

Poems of Claude McKay (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,

unknown

[September 27, 1971],

own; among them was

prisoner, crude but touching in

style" (a cut followed

McKay's sonnet copied

with the

first

p. 20.)

A member of the

a

its

four lines of

in a clearly printed handwriting). (See

Guild recalled that McKay's

and

when
They

Time

Oakland Black Writers

poem was found on

the

body of an

.

Notes

268
I

World War

African- American soldier killed in

(Michelle

II

per-

Cliff,

sonal communication, 1992).

"The camps hold

Page 220:

their distance

Midsummer (New York:

in his

Page 221: "if we are free,

.

.

."

Derek Walcott, "XLI,"

&

Giroux, 1984).

.

Farrar, Straus

may be

all



free." This draft

Manuscript

in the

is

Division of the Library of Congress.

"To be a Jew

Page 221:

The

Collected

in the twentieth century

.

.

."

.

Muriel Rukeyser,

(New York: McGraw-Hill,

Poems of Muriel Rukeyser

1978), p. 239.

Page 22^: "Girl from the realm of birds florid and fleet

.

.

.

."June Jordan,

Moving towards Home: Political Essays (London: Virago, 1 989) pp. 1 6 1-7 1
,

Page 22J

manos son dos

"tus

:

Alarcon,

martillos

De amoroscuro: Of Dark Love

que clavan

.

(Santa Cruz,

.

.

."

Francisco X.

CaHf Moving
:

Parts

Press, 1991), n.p.

"The

Page 225:

Goodman, pp. 215-17.
"The Essential Gesture,"
of some modern writers, im-

deliberate response to format

.

.

.

."

Page 227: "defenders of privilege." In her essay

Nadine Gordimer speaks of the
by

pelled
style."

a sense

She

is

of

efforts

social responsibihty, to "transform the

poets as well: "This was and

is

something

that

writer's essential gesture in countries such as

gua, but

has had

it

world by

chiefly considering novehsts, but her remarks apply to

its

where complacency,

possibilities

could not serve

and sometimes proves

indifference, accidie,

as

the

South Africa and Nicara-

and not

its

validity

conflict, threaten

To

transform the world by style was the iconoclastic

essential gesture tried

out by the Symbolists and Dadaists; but whatever

the

human

spirit.

social transformation (in

shaping

a

new

consciousness) they might have

served in breaking old forms was horribly superseded by different

means: Europe, the Far, Middle and Near East, Asia, Latin America and
Africa overturned

by wars; miUions of human beings wandering with-

out the basic structure of a roof" (Nadine Gordimer, The Essential
Gesture: Writing, Politics and Places, ed.

[New York: Knopf,

and

Stephen Clingman

intro.

1988], p. 296).

XXVII. Tourism and promised lands
Page 2jo:

"Even then

Destiny:

New

and

"June Jordan, "SoHdarity,"
Selected

Poems

in her

Naming Our

(New York: Thunder's Mouth

Press,

1989), p. 171.

Page 2J2: "This

book

is

not

a

response to public Hfe

.

.

.

."

Thomas

Larsen,

Notes

269
I

"Uneasy Confessions," review of Truth and

Hersheym (Concord,

Los Angeles Poets, ed. Connie
Press, 1992), in Poetry Flash no.

232

human

Page 2J4: "a turning point in

Lies That Press for Life: Sixty

(July 1992):

history." Marxist- Humanism:

Century of Its World Development, XII: Guide
Collection; ed.

Mass.: Artifact

i.

Raya Dunayevskaya

Half

Wayne

State

Uni-

on microfilm from Wayne

State

(Detroit, Mich.:

versity Library, 1986), p. 59. Available

A

Raya Dunayevskaya

to the

University Library.

XXVIII.

What IF?

Page 255;

"When there is no

history

.

a Witness (Pittsburgh: University

Page 235:
Poetry

Page 233:

"The economy of the

(New York:

"We

"Poetry

Is

A. A.

Not

a

Without Discovery:

Page 236:

.

.

.

."

S.

Broken

"The

A

i.

Muriel Rukeyser, The

.

.

Life of

Audre Lorde,

."

.

Sister Outsider: Essays

and Speeches

Press, 1984), pp. 38-39.

to

be original

.

.

.

." Ines

on the Power and

Native Response

Moon

Harper, Song: I Want

Press, 1972), p.

1949), p. 61.

Luxury," in her

Letter to Chicanas

(Seatde:

Michael

must constantly encourage ourselves

"To be revolutionary is

Open

."

.

nation

Wyn,

(Freedom, Calif: Crossing
Page 236:

.

of Pittsburgh

to

Hernandez,

"An

Politics

of Origin," in

Columbus, ed.

Ray Gonzalez

Press, 1992), p. 161.

country's uniqueness

no longer

resides

.

.

.

."

These

are not

the words of a writer in the left-wing press; they were written by

Stephen Graubard, editor oi Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of
Arts and Sciences, an academic-intellectual publication sponsored

by an

ehte institution (sec "Political Pharmacology: Thinking about Drugs,"

Daedalus

[Summer

1992]: vi-vii).

Page 237: "an icon to be shot

down." Octavio

York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990),
Page 2j8: "undergo change or self-destruct."
Page 2j8: "has appeared in thirty years."

movements,
Page 2j8:

Ibid., p. 156.

the

work of

these poetic

see the Selected Bibliography.

"What

looks the strongest

Canton of Expectation,"

Noonday

(New

Ibid., p. 119.

some of

Page 2j8: "Europe and Africa." For

Paz, The Other Voice

p. 65.

.

.

.

."

in his Selected

Seamus Heaney, "From the

Poems ig66-ig87

(New York:

Press, 1990), p. 258.

Page 2jg: "radical juxtaposition with Gibbs's paintings." "Radical juxtaposition"

is

Gibbs's phrase.

2

Notes

70
I

Page 240: "Here

is

soot

Today

(Pittsburgh: University

Page 241

:

Page 242:
his

"bhnd sorrow."

"How

.

.

.

."

Suzanne Gardinier, The

of Pittsburgh

New

World

Press, 1993), p. 55.

Ibid.

Europe Underdeveloped Africa." Kamau Brathwaite,

in

(New York: New Directions, 1993), pp. 43-48.
"For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash
."Joy Harjo, In Mad Love and

Middle Passages

Page 247:

.

.

.

War (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1990), pp. 7-8.
." Dionne Brand, No Language Is
Page 24g: "In another place, not here
Neutral (Toronto: Coach House Press, 1990), p. 34.
.

.

.

Selected Bibliography

I

want

There

to emphasize "selected."

are

many

poetry and of prose that could be cited here,
short

list

for readers

have made

this

who want to follow up on the work of poets

whose words appear
other poets

I

other books of

in the text

and are cited in the notes, or on

whose words do not appear here but might have

done.

Anthologies
Brant, Beth, ed.

Women.

A

Gathering of Spirit:

A

Collection by

(1984). Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand

Bruchac, Joseph, ed. Breaking

Silence:

An

North American Indian

Books, 1988.

Anthology of Contemporary Asian

American Poets. Greenfield Center, N.Y.: Greenfield

Review

Press,

1983.
.

Songs from This Earth on Turtle's Back: Contemporary American In-

dian Poetry. Greenfield Center, N.Y.: Greenfield

Bulkin, Elly, and Joan Larkin, eds. Lesbian Poetry:

town, Mass.: Persephone
Chin, Marilyn, and David
rary

Press, 198

Wong Louie,

Review

An

Press, 1983.

Anthology. Water-

1.

eds. Dissident Song:

A

Contempo-

Asian American Anthology. Santa Cruz: Quarry West, 1991.

Feinstein, Sascha,

and Yusuf Komunyakaa,

Bloomington: Indiana University

eds.

The Jazz Poetry Anthology.

Press, 1991.

Selected Bibliography

272

I

Gonzalez, Ray, ed. After Atzlan: Latino Poets of the Nineties. Boston: David

R. Godine, 1992.

We

Hahn, Kimiko, Gale Jackson, and Susan Sherman.
Three

Hongo,

Women,

New York: I-KON, 1988.
New York:

Their Vision, Their Poems.

Garrett, ed. The

Open

Our Ground:

Stand

Boat: Poems from Asian America.

Doubleday/ Anchor, 1993.
Klein, Michael, ed.. Poets for Life: Seventy-six Poets Respond

to

AIDS.

New

York: Crown, 1989.

Gay and

Larkin, Joan, and Carl Morse, eds.

Anthology.

New York:

St.

Majzels, Robert, ed. The Guerilla
Poetry. Ontario:
Phillips, J. J.,

Before

Lesbian Poetry in

Our Time: An

Martin's Press, 1988.
Is

An

Like a Poet:

Cormorant Books,

Anthology of Filipino

1988.

Shawn Wong,

Ishmael Reed, Gundars Strads, and

Columbus Foundation Poetry Anthology.

New

eds.

The

York: Norton,

1992.
Piercy, Marge, ed. Early Ripening: American

York and London: Pandora,
Saint, Assoto, ed.

The Road

Women's

Poetry

Now.

New

1987.

before

Us: 100

Gay

New

Black Poets.

York:

Galiens Press, 1991.

Waldman, Anne,

ed.

Out of

This World: The Poetry Project of St. Mark's

Church-in- the- Bowery, ig66-iggi.

Yamada, Mitsuye, and
Multi-cultural

Sarie Sachie

Women.

New York:

Crown,

Hylkema. Sowing Ti

1991.

Leaves: Writings by

Irvine, Calif.: Multi-cultural Writers

of Orange

County, 1990.

Further Works by Poets Cited
Alarcon, Francisco X. Snake Poems:

An

Aztec Incantation. San Francisco:

Chronicle Books, 1992.

No Golden Gate for Us. Santa Fe: Pennywhisde Press,
Jimmy Santiago. Black Mesa Poems. New York: New
.

Baca,

1993.
Directions,

1989.

Brand, Dionne. Primitive Offensive. Toronto: Williams- Wallace, 1982.
.

Winter Epigrams and Epigrams for Ernesto Cardenal

in

Defense of

Claudia. Toronto: Williams- Wallace, 1983.

Brant, Beth. Food and Spirits Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1991.
.

Brodine, Karen.
Seattle:

Red

Woman

Sitting at the

Letter Press, 1990.

Machine, Thinking: Poems igjS-igSj.

Selected Bibliography
Carmth, Hayden.

Shorter Poems,

Selected

273

|

Port Townsend,

ig46-iggi.

Wash.: Copper Canyon Press, 1992.
and Jazzers.

Suicides

.

Ann

Arbor: University of Michigan Press,

1992.
.

and Related

Sitting In: Selected Writing on Jazz, Blues,

Topics.

Iowa

City: University of Iowa Press, (1986), 1993.

Duncan, Robert. Bending
.

Ground Work

II:

the

New York: New Directions, 1968.
New York: New Directions, 1987.

Bow.

In the Dark.

Esteves, Sandra Maria. Bluestown Mockingbird

Uco

Mambo. Houston: Arte Pub-

Press, 1990.

Gardinier, Suzanne. Usahn: Twelve Poems and a Story.

New

York: Grand

Street, 1990.

Glancy, Diane. Iron Woman.
.

New York: New Rivers Press,

Lone Dog's Winter Count. Albuquerque: West

Goodman,

Draunng

Paul.

the

Line:

A

Pamphlet.

End

New

1990.
Press, 1991.

York:

Random

House, 1962.
.

Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth

New York:
.

.

in the

Organized System.

Vintage, 1962

The Lordly Hudson.
Utopian Essays and

New York:

Macmillan, 1962.

Practical Proposals.

New York: Random House,

1962.

— Hawkweed. New York:
.

Vintage, 1967.

Haines, John. News from the Glacier: Selected Poems 1960-1980. Middletown,

Conn.: Wesleyan University
Harjo, Joy. She

Had Some

Press, 1982.

Horses.

New

York: Thunder's

Mouth

Press,

1988.

Harper, Michael. Dear John, Dear Coltrane. Pittsburgh: University of Pitts-

burgh
.

Press, 1970.

History

Is

Your

Own Heartbeat.

Urbana: University of Illinois Press,

1972.
.

Debridement.

New York:

Hikmet, Nazim. Rubaiyat,

trans.

Doubleday, 1973.

Randy Biasing and Mutlu Konuk.

Provi-

dence, R.I.: Copper Beech Press, 1985.

Hugo, Richard. Making

Certain

It

Goes On: Collected Poems.

New

York:

Norton, 1984.
Jordan, June. Technical
Union.

Difficulties: African

New York:

Pantheon, 1992.

American Notes on

the State of the

Selected Bibliography

274

I

-.

New

Haruko/Love Poems:

High Risk Books/Serpent's
What

Kinnell, Galway.

a

and

Selected

New

Love Poems.

York:

Tail, 1994.

Kingdom

Was. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,

It

i960.
.

The Book of Nightmares Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.

.

The

.

.

Past.

Boston:

When One Has

Houghton

Mifflin, 1985.

Lived for a Long Time Alone.

New

York: Knopf,

1990.

Levertov, Denise. The Poet

in the

World.

New

New

York:

Directions,

1973-

New York: New Directions, 1983.
Poems 1968-1972. New York: New Directions, 1987.
New and Selected Essays. New York: New Directions, 1992.
Lorde, Audre. Undersong. New York: Norton, 1992.
The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance New York: Norton, 1993.
.

Poems 1960-1967.

.

.

.

.

McGrath, Thomas.
Swallow
.

Letter to an Imaginary Friend, Parts I

and U. Chicago:

Press, 1970.

Letter to an Imaginary Friend, Parts III

and IV, Port Townsend,

Wash.: Copper Canyon Press, 1985.

Mura, David.
Pratt,

After

We Lost Our Way. New York:

Minnie Bruce.

Dutton, 1989.

Rebellion: Essays 1980-1991, Ithaca,

N.Y.: Firebrand

Books, 1991.

Other Works
Agosin, Marjorie. Zones of Pain/Las Zonas

del Dolor.

New

York: White

Pine Press, 1988.
.

Circles of

White Pine

Madness: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Fredonia, N.Y.:

Press, 1992.

Agiieros, Jack. Correspondence between the Stonehaulers

Hanging Loose
Aguilar, Mila D.

A

.

Brooklyn, N.Y.:

Press, 1991.

Comrade

Is

As

Precious

Kitchen Table/Women of Color

As

a Rice Seedling.

Press, 1987.

Latham, N.Y.:

With an introduction

by Audre Lorde.
Allison,

Dorothy. The Women

Who

Hate Me: Poetry 1980-1990. Ithaca,

N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1991.
Arteaga, Alfred. Cantos. San Jose:
Ashanti, Baron James. Nova.

Chusma House,

New York:

1991.

Harlem River

Press, 1990.

Selected Bibliography
Aime.

Cesaire,

Review

New York and London:

Discourse on Colonialism.

275

|

Monthly

Press, 1972.

My

Cisneros, Sandra.

Wicked, Wicked Ways.

New York: Turtle Bay Books,

1992.

Cooper, Jane.

Gardiner, Maine: Tilbury House, 1993.

Scaffolding.

Green Notebook, Winter Road. Gardiner, Maine: Tilbury House,

.

1994.

Derricotte, Toi. Captivity. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989.

Doubiago, Sharon. Hard Country. MinneapoUs: West End
The Book of Seeing with One's

.

Own

Eyes. St. Paul:

Press, 1982.

Graywolf Press,

1988.

Dumas, Henry. Knees

New

of a Natural

York: Thunder's

Hamill, Sam.

A

Selected Poetry of Henry

Dumas,

Press, 1989.

Work: The Other Side of Poetry. Seatde: Broken

Poet's

Moon Press,

Man: The

Mouth

1990.

Hemphill, Essex. Ceremonies: Prose and

Poetry.

New York: Penguin/Plume,

1992.

Hogan, Linda. Red Clay: Poems and
Greenfield

Review

Ignatow, David.

New and

Collected Poems,

Wesleyan University
.

The One

Greenfield Center, N.Y.:

igyo-igSy Middletown, Conn.:

Press, 1986.

A

Many:

in the

Wesleyan University
Islas,

Stories.

Press, 1991.

Poet's Memoirs.

Middletown, Conn.:

Press, 1988.

Arturo. The Rain God:

A

Desert Tale. Palo Alto: Alexandrian Press,

1984.
.

Migrant Souls:

A

Novel.

Joseph, Lawrence. Shouting

at

New York: WiUiam Morrow,

No

1990.

One. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh

Press, 1983.
.

Curriculum Vitae. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988.

Komunyakaa, Yusuf Bien Cai Dau. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.
.

Magic City. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press,

1992.

BOA Editions, 1990.
BOA Editions, 1986.
Brockport, N.Y.: BOA

Laux, Dorianne. A.wake. Brockport, N.Y.:
Lee, Li-Young. Rose. Brockport, N.Y.:
.

The City

1990.

in

Which

I

Love You.

Editions,

Selected Bibliography

276

I

Levine, Philip.
.

New and Selected Poems. New York:

What Work

Merwin, W.

Is.

New York:

Writings for an

S.

Knopf, 1991.

Knopf, 1991.

Unfinished Accompaniment.

New

York:

Knopf, 1973.
.

Travels.

New York:

Mphalele, Ezekiel.

Knopf, 1993.

Voices in the Whirlwind.

New

York: HiU and Wang,

1972.
Paley, Grace.

New

and Collected Poems. Gardiner, Maine: Tilbury House,

1992.

Randall, Margaret. Risking a Somersault

guan
.

Writers.

Gathering Rage: The Failure of Twentieth Century Revolutions

Develop a Feminist Agenda.

Rodriguez, Luis J. Poems
Sanchez, Sonia.

Mouth
.

Home

New York:

across the

Girls

to

Monthly Review

Press, 1993.

Chucha

Press, 1989.

Pavement. Chicago:

and Hand Grenades.

New

York: Thunder's

Press, 1984.

Under a Soprano Sky. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World

Whiteman, Roberta

Wong,

in the Air: Conversations with Nicara-

San Francisco: Solidarity Publications, 1984.

Nellie.

Hill. Star Quilt.

Dreams

in

Duluth: Holy

Cow!

Press, 1987.

Press, 1984.

Harrison Railroad Park. Berkeley, Calif: Kelsey

Street Press, 1978.
.

The Death of Long Steam Lady. Albuquerque, N.M.: West End

Press, 1986.

Many

of the small-press editions mentioned here can be ob-

tained through Small Press Distribution Inc., 18 14 San Pablo

Avenue, Berkeley
issues

a

presses,

CA

94702 (telephone: 510-549-3336).

semiannual catalogue of the

much

of

it

new work from

poetry, with reviews-in-brief.

SPD
small

Acknowledgments

I

am

deeply in debt to the poets whose words appear in

book, and to the many others whose work
cause

it

me

has given

is

here in

this

spirit

courage and hope. In particular,

I

be-

am

indebted to two pieces of witness by poets: Muriel Rukeyser's

The

Life of Poetry,

World War

II,

written in the

These are

written

women's

as alive as

reads, or writes,

at

mid-century soon

liberation

after the

end of

Not a Luxury,"
movement of the 1970s.

and Audre Lorde's "Poetry

Is

ever and deserve to be read by anyone

poems, or

who

Hstens for voices

from the

who
past

that can speak to the future.
I

am

grateful to Elly Bulkin,

and Minnie Bruce
drafts

of this book.

Hayden Carruth, Jane Cooper,

Pratt for their critical
I

and

sensitive readings

of

thank Miranda Bergman, Enid Dame, Mi-

chele Gibbs, and Helen Smelser for

work

shared and for their

responses to parts of the manuscript. Ellen Farmer and Dianna

Williamson, always generous and

flexible,

turned

my typescripts

into fmal copy.
I

have had three fme editors

the late John Benedict,

who

at

gave

W. W. Norton & Company:
his blessing to

an early draft of

278

this

I

Acknowledgments

book; the

late

and gifted editing

who

has carried

During

Barry K. Wade, whose finely tuned sensibility
I

knew

on with

all

too briefly; and Julia A. Reidhead,

care and

my many years

skill.

with Norton

I

have been fortunate to

depend on Carol Flechner's keen mind and high standards of
editing in preparing

my manuscripts for publication.
fme book

equally fortunate in Antonina Krass's

Morton Hoyt's

elegant jackets, and

Andrew

lous attention to every detail of production.

and sorrowful period of Barry Wade's

I

have been

designs,

Debra

Marasia's meticu-

And,

illness

in the difficult

and

after,

Anna

Karvellas has been a steady and active editorial liaison.
I

thank here the

who

many

help build the

people,

movements

known and unknown to me,
open new space for the

that

imagination.
Finally, this

book and

I

owe much

to seventeen years

of con-

versation with Michelle Cliff.

—A.R.

Permissions

Acknowledgments
Anna Akhmatova: The
Akhmatova,

translated

selection

from "Poem without

by Judith Hemschemeyer,

is

a

Hero" by Anna

reprinted from The

Complete Poems ofAnna Akhmatova (second edition, 1992) with the permission of Zephyr Press and

Canongate

Press. Translations

copyright

©

1990,

1992 by Judith Hemschemeyer.

Francisco X. Alarcon: Sonnets "IV" and "XIV" by Francisco X. Alar-

De amor

©

con.

From

cisco

X. Alarcon. Reprinted by permission of Moving Parts

his

oscuro/Of Dark Love. Copyright

Gloria Anzaldua: From

Borderlands/La Frontera: The

1991 by FranPress.

New

Mestiza.

©

1987 by Gloria Anzaldua. Reprinted with permission from Aunt Lute

Books.

Margaret Atwood: From "Circe/Mud Poems,"
by Margaret Atwood. Copyright

©

Selected

Poems 1 963-1 g73

1976 by Margaret Atwood. Reprinted

rights reserved. From You Are
Atwood 1974. Reprinted by permission of Oxford
University Press Canada. From You Are Happy, copyright © 1974 by Margaret Atwood. By permission of Harper & Row Publishers.

by permission of Houghton Mifflin Co. All

Happy

©

Margaret

W. H. Auden: From W. H.

Auden:

Collected

Poems by

W. H. Auden,

Edward Mendelson. Copyright 1940 and renewed 1968 by
W. H. Auden. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc. From
Collected Poems by W. H. Auden, edited by Edward Mendelson. Reprinted
edited by

Permissions Acknowledgments

28o
I

by permission of Faber

&

Faber.

From

A

Change of World by Adrienne

Rich, 195 1. Reprinted by permission of Adrienne Rich.

Jimmy Santiago Baca: From
1982 by
tions

Jimmy

Immigrants

PubHshing Corporation. From Working

Poet of the Barrio

©

Our Own Land, copyright

in

Santiago Baca. Reprinted by permission of

New

Direc-

Dark: Reflections of a

in the

Red Crane

by Jimmy Santiago Baca, pubHshed by

Books.

Reprinted by permission of Red Crane Books.

Miranda Bergman:

Excerpt, letter to Adrienne Rich, reprinted by per-

mission of Miranda Bergman.

Elizabeth Bishop: "Chemin de Fer" from The Complete Poems 1927-1979

by Elizabeth Bishop. Copyright

©

Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux,

William Blake: From The

Helen Methfessel.

1979, 1983 by Alice

Inc.

Poetry and Prose of William Blake, edited

by

David Erdman, pubHshed by Doubleday- Anchor, 1970.

DiONNE Brand:
Neutral

©

1990 Dionne Brand. Reprinted from

by permission of Coach House

Kamau Brathwaite:
from Middle

Passages

Is

Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd

Illegal

by permission of Hanging Loose

Hayden Carruth:

Language

by Kamau Brathwaite (Bloodaxe Books, 1992).

Karen Brodine: Reprinted from
dine,

No

Press.

Assembly

©

1980 by Karen Bro-

Press.

Excerpt, letter from

Hayden Carruth

to

Adrienne

Rich, 6 April 1992. Permission to reprint granted by Hayden Carruth.

Aime Cesaire: From "On

the State of the

Union"

in

Aime

Cesaire: Col-

The University of
lected
University of
The
Regents
of
California Press. Copyright © 1983 The
Press.
of
CaHfomia
University
California. Reprinted by permission of The
Poetry, trans./ed. by Eshleman, Smith, published by

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: From The
edited by

E. L. Griggs, 1956, vol.

I.

By

Letters of

Samuel Taylor Coleridge,

permission of Oxford University

Press.

Hart Crane: The lines from "Van Winkle"

are reprinted

from The Poems

of Hart Crane, edited by Marc Simon, by permission of Liveright Publish-

ing Corporation. Copyright

©

1986 by Marc Simon.

Permissions Acknowledgments
Emily Dickinson: From The Complete Poems

281

|

of Emily Dickinson, edited

by

Thomas H.Johnson. Copyright 1929 by Martha Dickinson Bianchi; copyright © renewed 1957 by Mary L. Hampson. By permission of Little,
Brown and Company.
Robert Duncan: From

Bending the Bow, copyright

©

1968 by Robert

Duncan. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Florence Crane Women's Prison: From INSIGHT:
of Florence Crane

Women's

Facility,

Dixon-Bey and Mary Glover.

Lynn Emanuel: From "The
uel,

Konuict Kitchen excerpt

Krypton" was

first

The

Illinois Press,

University of

copyright

Illinois Press.

Lynn Eman-

©

1992.

"The

is

reprinted from The

New

World, by

Suzanne Gardinier, by permission of the University of Pittsburgh
1993 hy Suzanne Gardinier.

The

poem sequence entitled
New World, by Suzanne

Pittsburgh Press.

©

©

Gardinier, by permission of the University of

1993 by Suzanne Gardinier.
Breath

permission of the University of Nebraska Press.

©

by Diane Glancy, by
1992 by the University

Press.

Paul Goodman: Excerpts from
by Paul Goodman,
Sally

Press.

The poem beginning "Here is Soot" is from
"To the City of Fires" and is reprinted from

Diane Glancy: Reprinted from Claiming
of Nebraska

Re-

Planet

published in the Kenyon Review.

Suzanne Gardinier: "To Peace"

the

Women

by Gloria Bolden.

Planet Krypton" in The Dig by

published by the University of

printed by permission of

Serving the

reprinted by permission of Jacqueline

Random

Speaking and Language:

A

Defence of Poetry

House, 1971. Reprinted by permission of

Goodman.

Nadine Gordimer:

Selections

by Nadine Gordimer reprinted by permis-

sion of Nadine Gordimer.

Judy Grahn: "A Woman Is Talking to Death" from The Work of a Common Woman, Copyright 1978 by Judy Grahn, published by The Crossing
Press,

Freedom, California.

John Haines: Reprinted with permission of
Forest

without

PP- 79-93-

Leaves,

New

Poems:

ig8o-88.

the pubHsher from In the

Story

Line

Press,

1990,

Permissions Acknowledgments

282
I

Joy Harjo: Reprinted from In Mad Love and War, © 1990 by Joy Harjo,
Wesleyan University Press. By permission of University Press of New
England.

Michael

"When

Harper: The poem beginning

S.

Want

reprinted from Song: I

a Witness,

by Michael

sion of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Seamus Heaney: From The Haw
by permission of Faber

&

©

is

no

history"

is

Harper, by permis-

1972 by Michael

Lantern by

Faber. Excerpt

there
S.

Harper.

S.

Seamus Heaney. Reprinted

from "From the Canton of Ex-

pectation" from Selected Poems 1966-1987 by Seamus Heaney. Copyright

©

1990 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and
Giroux, Inc.

June Jordan: From Things That I Do
Wars, reprinted by permission of the

in the

Dark: Selected Poems and Civil

poet, June Jordan.

Naming Our Destiny by June Jordan. Copyright

©

From

the book.

1989 by June Jordan.

the publisher, Thunder's Mouth Press; United
Kingdom and British Columbia rights granted by the poet, June Jordan.
From Moving towards Home by June Jordan, copyright © by June Jordan,

Used by permission of

198 1, 1985, 1989. Published by Virago Press Ltd. 1989.

Galway

Kinnell: Excerpt from "The Bear," from Body Rags by Galway

Kinnell. Copyright

©

1965, 1966, 1967 by

Galway

Kinnell. Reprinted

by

permission of Houghton Mifflin Co. All rights reserved.

Irena Klepfisz: From Dreams of an Insomniac: Jewish Feminist Essays,
Speeches and Diatribes
tain Press,

1990);

by Irena Klepfisz (Portland, Ore.: The Eighth Moun-

©

by Irena

author and publisher.
Selected

New

and

Mountain

From

Klepfisz; reprinted

A

Few Words

in

the

by permission of the
Mother Tongue: Poems

igyi-iggo by Irena Klepfisz (Portland, Ore.:

Press, 1990);

The Eighth

© by Irena Klepfisz; reprinted by permission of the

author and publisher.

Him Mark

Lai,

Genny

Lim,

and Judy Young: From

Island: Poetry

History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, igio-1940, edited

Mark

Lai,

Genny Lim, and Judy Yung,

Washington

Press, copyright

©

by

and

Him

published by the University of

1991. Reprinted

by permission of the

University of Washington Press.

Audre Lorde:
Sister Outsider,

©

1984 by Audre Lorde, from "Poetry

published by

The Crossing

Press,

Is

Not a Luxury"

Freedom,

CA

in

95019.

Permissions Acknowledgments

283

|

Reprinted by permission of The Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency.
Family Resemblance"

is

"A

reprinted from Undersong: Chosen Poems Old and

New, Revised Edition, by Audre Lorde, by permission of W.

W. Norton
Company, Inc. Copyright © 1992, 1982, 1976, 1974, 1973, 1970, 1968
by Audre Lorde. "Power" is reprinted from The Black Unicorn: Poems by
Audre Lorde, by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. and The

&

Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. Copyright

Copyright

Norton

&

©

1978 by Audre Lorde.

©

1993 The Estate of Audre Lorde. First published by W. W.
Company, 1992. By permission of Virago Press Ltd.

Thomas McGrath:

Selections

©

igj8-ig88. Copyright

Copper Canyon

Press,

Claude McKay: By

from "Ordonnance" from

1988 by

P.O.

Selected Poems,

Thomas McGrath. Used by permission of

Box

271, Port

Townsend,

WA 98368.
McKay,

permission of Archives of Claude

Cowl, Administrator. From

Selected

Carl

Poems of Claude McKay (Harcourt

Brace Jovanovich, 198 1).

W.
in

Merwin:

S.

The

Lice.

©

1967 by

W.

S.

Merwin. From "Caesar" which appears

Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt,

David Mura: From "Notes

for a

New

Poem," which

Inc.

first

appeared in

Boston Review April 1989. Copyright David Mura. Reprinted
sion of David

Ordinary Women:
nary

by permis-

Mura.
Selections

Women Books,

from Ordinary Women, published by Ordi-

1978. Reprinted by permission of Sara Miles.

Minnie Bruce Pratt:

Selections

from "For

My

Sons," "Justice,

Come

Down," "The Child Taken from the Mother," "The First Question,"
"Dreaming a Few Minutes in a Different Element," "Shame," "At Fifteen, the Oldest Son Comes to Visit," "All the Women Caught in Flaring
Light," and "Seven Times Going, Seven Times Coming Back" from
Crime

against Nature

Ithaca,

New

by Minnie Bruce

York. Copyright

©

Pratt,

pubHshed by Firebrand Books,

1990 by Minnie Bruce

Pratt.

Reprinted

by permission of Firebrand Books. Selections from "Reading Maps:
Three" from We Say We Love Each Otherhy Minnie Bruce Pratt, published
by Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1985. Reprinted by permission of Firebrand
Books, Ithaca,

New

York.

"Romance" by Minnie Bruce

Sound of One Fork, copyright 1981 by Minnie Bruce
permission of Minnie Bruce Pratt.

Pratt.

Pratt

from The

Reprinted by

284

Permissions Acknowledgments

I

Muriel Rukeyser: From

Bow

Press,

©

Willard Gibbs,

Muriel Rukeyser, 1988,

Rukeyser. From "Letter to the Front" ("To Be
ser,

a Jew")

L.

Rukeyser. "Reading Time:

i

age to Literature" from Collected Poems, igyS, McGraw-Hill,

Wallace

Stevens:

From The

Collected

Illinois,

Minute 26 Seconds" and

© Muriel Rukeyser, by permission of William L.

L.

by Muriel Rukey-

from Out of Silence, 1992, TriQuarterly Books, Evanston,

William

Ox

Woodbridge, Connecticut, by permission of William

©

"Hom-

New

York,

Rukeyser.

Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace

Stevens. Reprinted by permission of Faber

&

Faber.

From

Collected

Poems

by Wallace Stevens, copyright 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Reprinted by
permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Allen Tate: Excerpt from "Sonnets
igig-igyd by Allen Tate. Copyright
permission of Farrar, Straus

&

Press.

Christmas" from Collected Poems

1977 by Allen Tate. Reprinted by

Giroux, Inc.

Leon Trotsky: From Art and
1970 by Pathfinder

at

©

Revolution

by Leon Trotsky, copyright

Reprinted by permission of Pathfinder

©

Press.

Derek Walcott: From Midsummer by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Faber &: Faber. "XLI" from Midsummer by Derek Walcott.
Copyright © 1984 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar,
Straus

and Giroux,

Inc.

William Carlos Williams: From The
Williams, igjg-ig62, vol.
liams.

II.

Copyright

Reprinted by permission of

tion and Carcanet Press Limited.

New

Collected

©

Poems of William Carlos

1962 by William Carlos Wil-

Directions Publishing Corpora-

Ind e X

"Aborting" (Kanazawa), 176-77

as visual artists,

Academy of American

see also

Poets, 160-63

activism, 20-21, 42, 48-49, 57
see also

African-Americans

50—53, 242

racism

African culture,

222

7,

Africanism, 205, 264

Adorno, Theodor, 141

"Against" (Baca),

African-Americans

Agrarians, 149, 188

as activists, 24, 59, 68,

daily life of, 64, 102-3,

"Ahora"

167
1

19, 203,

229-30
justice for, 17,

19-21

(Esteves), 177

AIDS
Poets for Life (anthology), 3

64-70

as poets, 38, 68, 86,

quilt,

128-30, 168,

173, 219-20, 222-23,

racism against, 6o«, 64

ff.,

239
181-85,

187-89

and

1

rap, 81

violence against, 15, 17, 67-68,
171, 181-82

106

"Air without Incense" (Rich), 194

Akhmatova, Anna,

"Poem without

116, 124
a

Hero," 104-5

Alarcon, Francisco X.,

De Amor

Oscuro/Of Dark Love, ii^-is
alcohol, 77-78

Algarin, Miguel, 37-38

1

2

1

Index

86

"All of us part.

You move

off in a

arsenals for profit,

separate ..." (Klepfisz), 143

Women

"All the

Light"
"All this

Caught

(Pratt),

in Flaring

art

.

."

.

levels in,

Alta, 174

Alva Myrdal:

A

Daughter's

Memoir

artists'

Quarterly (journal), 174

Art of Elizabeth Catlett, The (Lewis),

American

Institute

Indians, 63, 72,

1

colonies, 23

of

18-19,

254
"Asleep

at

the Switch" (poem), 80

"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"
(Williams), ix

179
nuclear fallout and, 89

"As Time Goes By"

poetry and, 129-30, 139, 206, 237,

"At

political, artistic,

and
of,

intellectual

237, 247-248

7-8

American

hfe,

Atwood, Margaret, 168

209

118-23

forgot the office

hours ..." (Crane), 37
Island,

"Auroras of Autumn, The"
(Stevens), 204

avant-garde, 225-27, 265

Azalea (journal), 174

258
Baca, Jimmy Santiago

Angelou, Maya, 252

"Annabel Lee" (Poe), 80

"Against," 11 9-21

antiestablishment poetry, 167-68

Working

Anzaldua, Gloria, Borderlands/La
Frontera:

The

139, 209-11,

Aphra

New Mestiza,
260

(journal), 174

Mae Pictou, 247-48
Hannah, Men in Dark Times,

in the

"Bashert" (Klepfisz), 138-40

"Bear,

The"

(Kinnell), xi

Arendt,

Bell,

race,

see also

59—61

war

207-9

Baldwin, James, 25

Beat poetry, 262

259

Dark: Reflections of a

Poet of the Barrio,

Aquash, Anna

arms

B. Yeats,"

192-93, 263

American language, 179-80

"And Rip

W. H., 191
Memory of W.

Auden,
"In

247-48
as betrayer,

157-58

Attica prison revolt, 265

"Circe/Mud," 173-74

violence against, 15, 91, 95,

woman

Son Comes

to Visit" (Pratt),

movements
spirituality,

(song), 187

Fifteen, the Oldest

238, 247-48

Angel

86

in, 52,

51-52

revolution and, 44-47

Arts and Letters, 161

and

207, 23

Poetry (anthology), 174

American Academy and

and

,

Art and Revolution (Trotsky), 44-47

(Bok), 254

Amazon
Amazon

1

51

community

(Whitman), 91

5

committed and engaged, 46-47,

or done by you whoever you
are

60-61

war

background and,

154-55

thenceforth to be thought

is

see also

Marvin, 261

Bending the

Bow (Duncan),

Benny, Jack, 187
Bercano, Nancy, 160

167, 261

Ind
Bergman, Miranda, 254
Berryman, John, 77
Best Loved Poems of the American
Poems

the Limit:

poem on

Kamau, 116
assasination of Walter

Rodney, 242-47
Brecht, Bertolt, 47

People (book), 30

Beyond

Brathwaite,

Bridge,

(Ratushinskaya), 251-52

The (Crane), 37

Brodine, Karen, 174

bilingual poetry, 140-41

"June 78," 14
Browning, Elizabeth

biographies

Bruining,

Bible, 62-63, 129, 194

Mi Ok,

by Rukeyser, 97—99

brutality, patterns of,

of poets, 133

Burgos, Bruce

Whitman

Byrd, Stephanie, 174

on, 93

L.,

Barrett, 190

38

60

38

Bishop, Elizabeth, 77

"Chemin de

"Caesar" (Merwin), 15

Fer," 55-56

Blacks. See African-Americans

"The camps hold

Blake, William, 116, 190

distance

182-83

220-21, 265

canned music, 81

"Tyger, Tyger, burning
.

.

.

," 182,

262

Bly, Robert, Selected Poems, 30

Bok,

Sissela,

Aha

Myrdal:

A

Bolden, Gloria, 75-76

format and, 218

kitsch and, 187

194

is

not

lies

and, 162

market economy and, xv, 238

written yet ..." (Stevens),

power

201

self-help and, 233

in

Chains: Chain Bookstores and

Marketplace Censorship

(Luxenberg), 252

253

Borderlands/La Frontera: The

New

Mestiza (Anzaldua), 139,
,

260

Is

Neutral,

Brant, Beth, 7-8, 251

Castellanos, Rosario, 116

Cadett, Ehzabeth, 50-52

Cato, 159
censorship, 18-20

Anne, 130
Brand, Dionne, 116
Bradstreet,

Language

economics

"Fragments of Autobiography,"

borderland poems, 139

1

technology and, 86

weapons and, 59—61
see also

border history, 211

209-1

and, 218

Carruth, Hayden, 62

bookstores, 30-31, 36, 252

No

Poetry Matter? (Gioia), 253

imagination and, 18, 39, 86, 125

bomb testing, 87-89
Book of Common Prayer,
"The book of moonlight

Can

capitalism, xiv-xv, 42

abridgment of freedom and, 42

Daughter's Memoir, 254

Books

chestnuts

and gray smoke" (Walcott),

"Songs of Innocence,"

bright

their

—brown

in distribution, 28-31,

249

252

format and, 218

of poets, 18-19, 34-35, 253

1

1

,

Index

288

censorship

Clarke, Cheryl, 38

(cont'd)

in Soviet

Union,

19,

124-25

classics,

A

Century of Dishonor,

"On

1-29.

255

Chff, Michelle, 254, 265

(Jackson),

Clingman, Stephen, 252

95-96

Aime,

Cesaire,

62-63,

Clausen, Jan, 174

see also individual countries

the State of the Union," 14,

Coe, Sue, 242

17

Cold War,

A

xiii-xiv

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 43, 159,

chain bookstores, 28-31, 252

Change of World,

The (EUot), 193

Cocktail Party,

116, 239

(Rich), 263

253

Chekhov, Anton, Sakhalin Journals

Collected

Poems of Wallace Stevens

(Stevens), 30, 121-22,

25

"Chemin de Fer" (Bishop), 55-56
Mary Boykin, 159

collective repression, 106

Chiang, Fay, 174

collectivity in art, 44,

Chestnut,

Ordinary

Women: An Anthology

Poetry by

New

of

York City

I

97-202

Women, 175-80

(Stevens),

Coming Home:

Chicanos, 26, 207-1

of Communist

families,

78-79

committed

art,

of Holocaust survivors, 78-79

commodities,

with lesbian mothers, 146-47,

communal

mothers and sons, 145-46

on

history to,

with Sons and Daughters of
Survivors (Epstein),

and, 130, 228, 237

women's movement

Children of the Holocaust: Conversations

78-79

"Child Taken from the Mother,

Christianity, 100, 193-94, 257

Chrystos, 163, 261

Not Vanishing, 130, 260

"Circe/Mud" (Atwood), 173-74

Wars (Jordan), 216, 264

Claiming Breath (Glancy), 84, 206,

211-13, 256, 264

of, 15

Communism, 46, 237
Communist families, 78-79
Complete Poetry and Collected Prose

(Whitman), 93, 256
consumerism,

39, 162

see also capitalism

"Contexts"

(Klepfisz), 142

Corn, Alfred, 261
corporate power, fear of poetry and,

City of Night (Rechy), 210

disobedience, 57-59, 61

and, 167-80

communications, control

(Pratt), 151

Chile, censorship in, 19, 34-35, 253

Civil

poetry, 164-65

indigenous people's movements

78-82

violence and, 15

The"

46-47

16, 29, 133, 162

Gibbs on, 53

150-63

civil

200

Peace without

Complacency (Randall), 252

children

passing

49-51

Columbus, Christopher, 237
"Comedian As the Letter C, The"

125
corridos,

210-1

Crane, Hart, 77, 116

"And Rip

forgot the office

hours ..." (Crane), 37

Index
"On my

creation

happiness
space for,

Crime

in,
1

10

.

.

,"

93

of Black Poetry

in

America, The" (Jordan), 128,

222-23

150-63

Dionne Quintuplets, 185

116

war

cultural ancestry,

epics

as,

63

di

Prima, Diane, 168

"Di rayze aheym"

European, 229

culture,

.

"Difficult Miracle

against Nature (Pratt), 147,

critic, task of,

volcano grows the

Grass

49-50

289

(Klepfisz), 128-29,

140
Dalton, Roque, 116

disarmament, 57-61

Dame, Enid, 174, 262
Dario, Ruben, 47, 116
De Amor Oscuro (Alarcon), 223-25
"death camp" (Klepfisz), 136-37

see also

Qarrell),

252

Dixon-Bey, Jacqueline,

48

is

of Texas"

in the Heart

la

Cruz, Sor Juana Ines,

1

16

Anymore"

Delicacy and Strength of Lace, The:

Prison

Lives,

as

public emptiness



Shawl —
.

.

.

See alcohol

(Stevens), 201
E. B.,

The Souls of Black

260

Duchess ofMalfy (Webster), 9-10

"Du

(Sloan), 119, 258

musst dein Leben dndern"
(Rilke), 190-91

and drank the precious

Hat

in a

Dumas, Henry, 239
"Dumping: A New Form of

Final Harvest, 30

my

Much

fate.

Genocide?"

Words

.

.

,"

92

crease

I

.

,"

my

94-95

69

(song), 187

Few Minutes

poetic

Folk,

Dickinson, Emily, 90—96, 233

"I tie

of, 21,

Dropkin, Celia, 133

Press, 174

ate

a

"Dry Loaf

uncovered by poems, 12-13

"He

,"

under the Apple Tree"

Du Bois, W.

131-33

despair, national, 15-18, 162
see also

.

157

Derricotte, Toi, 175

Diana

.

Different Element" (Pratt),

254

desires

Sit

drinking

Cannot Live without Our

.

(song), 187

"Dreaming

Notes, 25, 255

der khurbn,

"Don't

and Wright),

179-80, 262

We

poetry

fact,

Donne, John, 1 16
"Don't Get Around

63

Deming, Barbara, 57-61
Prisons That Could Not Hold:

"This

76-77

Delaware Big House Ceremony,

Letters (Silko

et al.,

prison not the Hilton

documentary

(song), 187

de

(Vendler),

distribution, censorship in, 28-31,

Debord, Guy, 83

"Deep

A"

108, 257

"Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner,

The"

war

"Dissonant Triad,

Dunayevskaya, Raya, 234
Duncan, Robert, 166-67
Bending the Bow, 167, 261

Dunne,

Irene, 187

1

Index

290

"during the war

.

." (Klepfisz),

.

131-32

"The Dwarf"

Ehot, T.

99, 194

S.,

Cocktail Party, IJie, 193

Four Quartets, 193

(Stevens), 201

Waste Land, The, 193

Ellman, Richard, The Norton

economics
and the arms

Anthology of Modern Poetry,

race, 59

and commoditizing,

18,

100, 257
Emanuel, Lynn, "The Planet

29

and conversion of wealth,

Krypton," 87-89

xiii-xiv, 61

and corporate power, xv,

39, 125,

253
creativity and, 40-41, 42, 46, 51,

emigration, inner, 122, 259

"Endymion" (Keats), 182, 262
."
"En el bote del county
.

English

labor and, 48, 203, 242

Epstein, Helen, Children of the

and, 23

marketing and,

18, 36,

Holocaust: Conversations with

39

Sons and Daughters of

mass production and, 29

means of production and, 98
"new world order" and, 46
of distribution and,

31,

Esteves, Sandra Maria

"Ahora," 177

89, 108, 109-10,

Ordinary

profits

Women: An Anthology of

Poetry by

236

and

The"

(Gordimer), 265-66

231,252
and poverty,

78-79

Survivors,

"Essential Gesture,

objective discipline, 121

patterns

American language,

vs.

179-80

maldistribution of opportunity

as

.

(Rodriguez), 117, 258

142-43

New

York City

Women, 175-80

from violence, 61

"Visiting," 177-78

and technocracy, 250

''Etlekhe verter oyf mame-loshenj h.

tourism and, 228-34

of U.S., concept of perpetual war

words

in the

(Klepfisz), 140

and, 235

and wealth, 119, 122

European

and working-class poets, 169, 171,

Evans, EH, The Provincials:

culture,

229

A

Personal

History ofJews in the South,

195,207-13

"World of Tomorrow"

few

mother tongue"

23, 252

(1939)

and, 186-87
see also capitalism; socialism;

time

"Family Resemblance,

of Anzaldua, 209-11

Fanon, Frantz, 25

of Baca, 207-9

fantasies, national, 122,

of Glancy, 211-13

feehngs

of Rich, 182-96

Feriinghetti,

EfFie's Press,

174

A"

(Lorde),

168-69

education, 32-33

as

259

commodities,

xiv, 16

Lawrence, 175

Ferry, David, 198

Index

29
I

A

Few Words,
"few words

A"

(Klepfisz),

in the

131-38

mother tongue,

(Klepfisz),

Gibbs, Willard, biography

97-99

of,

Ginsberg, Allen, 175

"Kaddish," 262

140

Can

Final Harvest (Dickinson), 30

Gioia, Dana,

Firebrand Books, 160

"Girl from the realm of birds florid

First Cities,

The (Lorde), 168-69

"First Question,

The"

(Harjo),

Pictou Aquash"

247-48

format and form, 49-50, 217-27

"For Michael Angelo Thompson"
(Jordan),

"For

My Sons"

Four Quartets

64-68
(Pratt),

.

is

prison

,"

76-77

.

Gold Dust Twins, 185
Goodeve, Thyrza, "Watching

for

What Happens Next," 256
Goodman, Paul, Speaking and

A

Defence of Poetry,

Gorbanevskaya, Natalya, persecution
of,

"The

Fraser, Kathleen, 174

19

Essential Gesture,"

265-66

government

Frederick, Charles, 38

"free" enterprise, poetry and, 18

censorship by, 18-20, 34-35,

124-25

see also capitalism

suppression by, 161-63

218

Canton of Expectation"

(Heaney), 238-40, 266-67
Frost,

.

Gordimer, Nadine, 28, 252

(Carruth), 253

the

"This

et al.,

not the Hilton

217-18, 225-27

"Fragments of Autobiography"

"From

Glover, Mary,

Language:

153

(Eliot), 193

"Fradel Schtok" (Klepfisz), 140-41

free verse,

..." (Jordan), 223

206, 211-13, 256, 264

151-52

Mae

fleet

Glancy, Diane, Claiming Breath, 84,

(Pratt),

Five Nations of the Iroquois, 63

"For Anna

and

Poetry Matter? 253

Robert, 190

values in, 108

Grahn,Judy, 174
"Woman Is Talking to Death, A,"
169-72

frozen metaphors, 204, 263

Graubard, Stephen, 236-37, 266

Fugitives, 149, 188

Gray, Dorothy Randall, 38
Gardinier, Suzanne

"To
"To

Greece, censorship

the City of Fire," 240-41
"

"Two

Cities:

On

'The

in,

19

Grenada invasion, 59

Peace," 61-63

Iliad,'

63-64, 255

Griffin, Susan, 174

Guido de Vries, Rachel, 38
Gulf War. See Persian Gulf War

gay poetry, 37-38, 167

Germany, inner emigration

in,

259

Gibbs,Joan, 174
Gibbs, Michele, 52-53, 242

Homecoming for Mandela, 239
"New World Furrows," 238-39
Phoenix Rising, 239

Hacker, Marilyn, 174
Haines, John

"Hole

in the Bucket,

The," no,

257
"In the Forest without Leaves,"

111-15

Index

292

Hall,

Donald, 255

see also Klepfisz, Irena; Klepfisz,

Hammarskjold, Dag, 61

Michal

Thomas, biography

Hariot,

of,

"Homage

Anna Mae

Harjo,Joy, "For

Pictou

Harper, Michael

Hope

116

S.,

Want a Witness," 235
"The Power of the

I

homeless people, 109-10

Homer,

Aquash," 247-48
"Song:

Havel, Vaclav,

past pitch

"The house was

— ..."

(Dickinson),

92

to

.

.

,"

219

picture), 187

220

the earth (appearing at

Ines,

intervals) ..."

"An Open

Chicanas on the Power
Politics

(Whitman),

90-91

Letter

Hugo, Richard, 77

of Origin," 236

Town:

Tlie Triggering

Hikmet, Nazim, 18-19

Lectures

and

Essays on Poetry and Writing,

219, 264

history

"What Thou

border, 211

displacement and, 140-41
loss

.

"How they are provided for upon

Ernest, 207

K (Shakespeare),

and

of grief

quiet and the world

How Am I to Be Heard? (Smith), 254
How Green Was My Valley (motion

Heresies (journal), 174

Hernandez,

"No

none. Pitched

10-12

and drank the precious

Helms, Jesse, 161, 261
Henry

is

was calm ..." (Stevens),

266-67

Hemingway,

127,259

worst, there

of Expectation," 238-40,

Words

62-63

Hope (Mandelstam),

123, 124,

Heaney, Seamus, "From the Canton

ate

Iliad,

against

Hopkins, Gerald Manley,

Powerless," 160, 162

"He

to Literature" (Rukeyser),

116

97-98

of continuity

in,

78-82

Lovest

WeU

Remains American," 259
human power (Marx), 49

national fantasies and, 122

Am Joaquin

(book), 210

poetry and, 141-44

I

of Warsaw Ghetto, 134-36

"Idea of Order

Whitman

on, 93

See also Holocaust

Hogan, Linda, 174
"Hole in the Bucket, The"

(Pratt),

(Haines),

children of survivors, 78-79

women

in,

1

3

8—42

136-38

Blood

159

/-KON (journal),
Iliad

Holocaust, 131-33

survivors of,

Key West, The"

Skin

"Identity:

no, 257

poetry and, 141, 220-22

at

(Stevens), 199

38

(Homer), 62-64

imagination
failure of, 16, 17

repression of, 125

immigrants
at

Angel

Island,

258

Heart"

Index
persecution

of, 19, 37,

Jewish history, 134, 143-44

253

227

as poets, 122,

American Indians

in

in South, 23

In Love and Trouble (Walker),

in

Warsaw Ghetto, 134

"Jewish Question, the," 23

30

Memory

of W. B. Yeats"

Jirous, Ivan, 261

(Auden), 192-93, 263

Jones, Patricia, 174

inner emigration, 122, 259

INSIGHT:

Ordinary

Women
Crane Women

Serving the

Florence

Women's

International

Festival,

77

Poetry

Women, 175-80
Civil Wars, 216,

in

174

"Journey

22-27

"I tie

and

fleet

.

.

Home, The"

at

the Border:

Judaism, 221-22, 263

"June 78" (Brodine), 14
"Justice,

216

Come Down"

(Pratt),

153-54


my
— ..." (Dickinson),
I

223

(Klepfisz),

252

143

,"

128-29, 140

the Bridge,

my Hat

.

229-30

Migrants and Immigrants,"

isolation, 57,
Israel,

florid

"Solidarity,"

Arturo

"On

Thompson," 64-68
"Girl from the realm of birds

Lim, and Yung),

116-17, 258

letter to,

of Black Poetry

America, The," 128,

"For Michael Angelo

and History of Chinese

Immigrants on Angel Island
(Lai,

264

222-23

(Haines), 11 1-15
Press,

crease

"Kaddish" (Ginsberg), 262

Shawl

Kalevala, The, 64

94-95

Kanazawa, Teru, 174
"Aborting," 176-77

Jackson, Helen Hunt,

A

Century of

Kaplan, Judy, Red Diaper Babies:

Dishonor, 95-96

"The Death of the

Jarrell,

Randall,

Jeffers,

Robinson, 116

Ball-Turret Gunner," 48

Jemima, Aunt,

185, 204

of

York City

Jordan, June, 116, 174

"In the Forest without Leaves"

Island: Poetry

New

"Difficult Miracle

174

Iowa City Women's

Women: An Anthology

Poetry by

of

's

Facility (newsletter),

Islas,

life

America, 138-40, 221-22

Holocaust and, 131-33, 136-38

210

inherited wealth, 41

"In

Yiddish

Jewish

(Williams), 30

Infante, Pedro,

Holocaust; Judaism;

see also

Immortal Poems of the English Language

Indians. See

293

Children of the Left,

Keats, John, 116, 190

"Endymion,"

182, 262

Kelsey Street Press, 174
khurbn,

der,

131-33

78-79

h

,

Index

294

Kim, Willyce, 175
Kingston, Maxine Hong,

Lai,

Him

Monkey, 96
xi

separate

You move
.

.

,"

.

Lamont

Prize,

off in a

English

vs.

American, 179-80

standardized, 180

violence and, 181-84

"death camp," 136-37

Yiddish, 131-34, 140-41

"Di rayze aheymlThe Journey
128-29, 140
.

.

Larkin,Joan, 174

131-32

,"

.

Lanier, Sidney, 188

Larsen,

in the

mother

tongue," 140

"Picking up the Pieces

Uterature, 26

Leaves of Grass (Whitman), 63, 93

When We

Know What/Where

They Are,"

American

Lawrence, Jacob, 242

"Fradel Schtok," 140-41

Don't

"Lasca" (poem), 80
Latin

Few Words, A, 131-38

Thomas, "Uneasy
Confessions," 232-33, 266

"'Etlekhe verier oyf mame-loshenj

few words

16-17, 258

names and, 5-7

143

"Bashert," 138-40

Home,"

1

160-63

"Contexts," 142

"during the war

Leishman,J. B., 190-91

Lemmon,Jack, 146
lesbian mothers, 146-47, 150-63

78, 255

lesbian poetry, 146-53, 168

"Secular Jewish Identity:

Yidishkayt in America," 131,

erasure of, 261

260

mainstream and, 160-63

"These two:

"when

.

.

,"

reading

135-36

they took us to the shower

isaw

"Work

.

.

.

.

,"

"Letter to an Imaginary Friend"

(McGrath), 195

knowledge needed by

poets,

214-16

and Child, 154

Mother Pressing Infant

to

Her

Face,

Levertov, Denise, 166

"Some Notes on Organic Form,"
49-50, 254

154

Woman Holding Child, 154
Sleeping Woman with Child, 154
Woman with Dead Child, 154
Peasant

"Konvict Kitchen" (newsletter
column), 75-76
Kropotkin, Peter, Memoirs of a
Revolutionist,

Ku KluxKlan,

"Letter to the Front" (Rukeyser),

221-22

Kollwitz, Kathe

Woman

of, 3 7-3 8

Letters of Wallace Stevens (Stevens)

205, 264

136-37

Sonnets," 142-43

Klepfisz, Michal, 134

Begging

and

language

Klepfisz, Irena, 174

"All of us part.

Island: Poetry

on Angel Island,

"The Bear,"

Kinnell, Galway,

Mark,

History of Chinese Immigrants

Tripmaster

43-44

181, 189

Levi, Jan Heller,

A

Muriel Rukeyser

Reader, 100, 257

Lewis, SameUa, The Art of Elizabeth
Catlett,

254

Lezli-Hope, Akua,
Its

"To Every

Birth

Pain," 178-79

Life of Poetry,

The (Rukeyser),

xi, 97,

126, 195, 235, 256, 259

Index
Lights, Rikki, 174

Lim, Genny,

mall bookstores, 28-31, 252

Island: Poetry

managed

and

History of Chinese Immigrants

on Angel Island,
Lin,

1

"Ode

Rebel The (motion picture),

to Stalin," 124, 259

persecution

of,

19

manipulation in poetry, 33, 84-85

185

Lorde, Audre, 116, 158, 163, 174,

"Man

with the Blue Guitar, The"

261

(Stevens), 198

works of

Margolin, Anna, 133

market economy. See capitalism

"Family Resemblance, A,"

168-69

Marx,
The, 168-69

First Cities,

"Poetry

Is

Not

a

Luxury,"

Karl, 46, 49, 238

mass markets, 20, 29, 36
xi,

mass media, violence and, 15, 60

126-27, 215, 232, 236-37,

Matthiessen,

259

Mejia, Miguel Aceves, 210

"Power," 68-71

Speeches,

F.

O., 193

Memoirs of a Revolutionist

Essays and

Sister Outsider:

lost poets,

(Kropotkin), 43-44

Mendoza, Lydia, 211

255

Men

215

love

in

Dark Times (Arendt), 259

Meridian (Walker), 54

activism and, 55-68

Merrill, James, 56n,

politics and, 23

Merwin,

W.

S.,

254

"Caesar," 15

Lowell, Robert, 77

metaphors, frozen, 204, 263

Luxemburg, Rosa, 25

Mexicans, 210-11

Luxenberg, Stan, Books

in

Chains:

Chain Bookstores and
Marketplace Censorship, 252
Lytel,

against

Hope, 123, 124, 127, 259

Mandelstam, Osip, 116

Black Sambo, 185

Littlest

83-86

spectacles,

Mandelstam, Nadezhda, Hope

16-17, 258

Maya, 106

Little

295

as

migrants, 25-26

Miles, Sara, 174

Ordinary

Andrew, 257

McCarran- Walter Immigration and
Nationality Act, 37, 253

McGrath, Thomas
"Letter to an Imaginary Friend,"

McKay, Claude,

116, 219-20, 265

McPherson, Sandra, 261
"Mairzy Doats"

Malcolm X,

Millay,

(song), 187

25, 265

Malintzin, 209

New

York City

Women, 175-80
Edna St. Vincent, 190

misprision, 107-8

Missing (motion picture), 145-46
Mistral, Gabriela, 116

Modern

195

"Ordonnance," 47-48

Women: An Anthology of

Poetry by

Screen (magazine), 187

Mohawk

Ritual of Condolence, 63

Molodowsky, Kadia, 133
Moore, Colleen, 185
Moore, Honor, 174
Moraga, Cherrie, 174

Morejon, Nancy, 116

Index

296

Morgan, Robin, 174

Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry,

The (Ellman and O' Clair),

Morrison, Toni, 205, 264
Sula, 102-3

Motherroot

100, 257

Nosotros

(publisher), 174

mothers

pobres

"Notes toward

apparently childless, 154
lesbian, 146-47,

150-63

(motion picture),

Supreme Fiction"

Not Vanishing (Chrystos), 130, 260

"Now grapes are

subversive, 153

Mountain Moving Day (anthology),

plush

upon

the

vines. ..." (Stevens),

199-200

174

Moving Out

a

(Stevens), 263

sons and, 145-46
as

los

210

"No

(journal), 174

worst, there

Mura, David, 121
Muriel Rukeyser Reader,

past pitch

A

is

none. Pitched

of grief

."
.

.

(Hopkins), 219

(Levi),

nuclear arms, 60

100, 257

bomb

Myrdal, Alva, 60-61

nuclear

Myrdal, Gunnar, 61

"Nudity

names, 5-7, 140

"Nudity

at

test,

87-89

the Capitol" (Stevens),

204
in the Colonies" (Stevens),

204

national fantasies, 122, 259

Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 37-39, 40

needs
in poetry, 39

uncovered by poems, 12-13
Negrete, Jorge, 210

Oakland Black Writers Guild, 265
Oakland Women's Press Collective,

Nehru, Jaw^aharlal, 61

174

Nemerov, Howard, 207
"Neo-Formahsm: A Dangerous

Oasa, Ed, "Speaking the Changes:

An

O' Clair, Robert, The Norton

261

Anthology of Modern Poetry,

nepantilism, 139

Neruda, Pablo, 116, 207

100, 257

censorship of, 19, 34-35, 253

revolutionary

New Left,

poems

of,

Furrows"

"Ode

(art exhibit),

Of Dark Love (Alarcon), 223-25
"Of Modem Poetry" (Stevens),
201-2

238-39

New York World's Fair,

186-87

Aldon Lynn, 204, 263

No Language Is Neutral (Brand), 249
No More Masks! (anthology), 174
nonviolent direct action. See
disobedience

to Stalin" (Mandelstam), 124,

259

47

262

"New World

Nielsen,

Interview with Luis

Rodriguez," 256

Nostalgia" (Sadoff), 160,

civil

Olds, Sharon, 158, 174

"On

a

long voyage

I

travelled across

the sea. ..." (anonymous),

116-17

One Hundred and One Famous Poems
(book), 30

Index
On

and

Lies, Secrets,

Silence: Selected

Prose ig66-i978 (Rich), 251

"On my volcano

Migrants and Immigrants"

"On

as

managed

revelations from,

Union"

Marge, 168, 174

"Planet Krypton,

on the

Letter to Chicanas

Power and

An"
Ordinary

PoUtics of Origin,

Women: An Anthology

Women

New

of

York City

(Jones,

Poe, Edgar Allan, 188

"Annabel Lee," 80

"Raven, The," 80

(Hernandez), 236

Poetry by

"Poem for My Sons" (Pratt),
"Poem without a Hero"
drinking

poetic

175-80

Poetry Flash (journal), 253

fate,

"Poetry

Orgy, The (Rukeyser), 97

Out Books

Is

Not

a

as,

Luxury" (Lorde),

259
poetry readings, 35-39, 86, 253

(pubhsher),

Poetry Society of America, 161

174

Poet's Craft: Interviews from the

Ovid, 159

York Quarterly,
Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence

Packard, William, The Poet's Craft:
Interviews from the

"New

Quarterly, " 97-98,

York

"New

The

Poet's Press, 168
Poirot, Luis, Pablo Neruda: Absence

and
political

invasion, 59

Presence,

253

poetry

contempt

for,

1

and engagement, 46-47

Parker, Pat, 174
Paz, Octavio, 116, 207
Voice,

237-38

peace and plenty, 108-10
as interval

'

(Packard), 97-98, 257

257

Palestinians, 143

The Other

'

Poets for Life (anthology), 30

(Poirot), 253

Panama

77

126-27, 215, 232, 236-37,

xi,

Other Voice, The (Paz), 237-38

&

156

(Akhmatova), 104-5

Chiang,

Miles, and Esteves),

"Ordonnance" (McGrath), 47-48

Out

The" (Emanuel),

87-89

(Cesaire), 14, 17

"Open

59—60

Pidgeon, Walter, 187
Piercy,

252

the State of the

spectacle, 85

Photoplay (magazine), 187

the Bridge, at the Border:

(Islas),

Persian Gulf War

profit from, 16, 102

grows the

Grass ..." (Dickinson), 93

"On

297

between wars, 63

as

propaganda, 47

sources

of,

71

pohtics
definitions of,

23-25

peace dividend, xiii-xiv

desire and, 100, 172

peace movement, 58-61

and finding relationship with

Peasant

Woman

Holding Child

(Kollwitz), 154

poetry, 21, 22

love and, 23

24-25

Perloff, Marjorie, 263

in 1960s,

permanence of poetry, 214

poetry, science, and, 6-7

Index

298

"Poem

politics (cont'd)

see also activism;

Cold War;

Persian Gulf War; racism;

United

My Sons,"

156

women's
movement

"Romance," 147-48
"Segregated Heart, The," 152

"Seven Times Going, Seven

Popol Vuh, 63

Times Coming Back," 155

Pound, Ezra, 99, 232

"Shame," 157
Sound of One Fork, The, 147-48,

"Sestina: Altaforte," 255

power, 63, 185
corporate, 125

152

demoralizing, xv, 6

"Waulking Songs," 152

establishment and, 227

We

human, 49
mass media and,

15, 20,

1

of revolutionary

Could Not Hold: Prison

Notes (Deming), 25, 255

249-50

art,

propaganda
format and, 218

242

poems

237

89, 191,

"Power" (Lorde), 68-71
"Power of the Powerless, The"

protest

of, 47
poems, 71

Provincials,

(Havel), 160, 162

The:

Jews

Minnie Bruce, 174, 261
Lamont Prize awarded to, 160-63

works of

A

in the

Personal History of

South (Evans), 23,

252

Pratt,

"All the

Love Each Other,

19-21, 207

Prisons That

and nuclear bomb, 88-89

as,

We

prison, poetry in, 76-77, 117,

35-36, 85

misprision of, 107

poetry

Say

147-49, 152

of language, 182-83, 218

in nature,

149,

261

States;

liberation

for

"Reading Maps," 152
"Reading Maps: Three,"

religion and, 194

pubHc emptiness, 78
see also despair, national

Women

Caught

pubHc space

in

for poetry,

36-39

Flanng Light," 154-55

"At

Fifteen, the Oldest

Comes

to Visit,"

Son

racism

157-58

at

end of twentieth century,

"Child Taken from the

64

Mother, The," 151

imagery

Crime against Nature, 147, 150-63

"Dreaming

a

Few Minutes

in a

Different Element," 157
"First Question,

"For

My

The," 151-52

Sons," 153

"Identity: Skin

Blood Heart,"

"Justice,

metaphor and, 204-5
segregation and,

1

89

slavery and, 130, 260
as

white history, 181-82

Come Down,"

153-54

6o«, 185

language and, 183-84

see also

159

of,

imagination and, 188, 204-5

African-Americans;

whiteness
radio,

9-12

17,

Ind
"Tourist and the

Randall, Margaret, 19, 38

Coming Home: Peace without

change your

190—91

life,"

Ritsos, Yannis, 19

Rastus, 185, 204

"Road of Life"

Ratushinskaya, Irina, 19
Poems, 251-52

the Limit:

(Pratt),

Robinson,

(radio show), 187

"Bojangles," 185

Bill

Rodney, Walter, 242-47

(Poe), 80

"Reading Maps: Three"

Rodriguez, Luis J., 86

152
(Pratt), 149,

"En

261

el

bote del county

.

.

.

,"

1

17,

258

"Reading Time:

i

"Romance" (Pratt), 147-48
"Romance of Helen Trent, The"

Minute 26

Seconds" (Rukeyser),
125-26

(radio show), 187

Rose, Wendy, 175
Rukeyser, Muriel

Rechy, John, City of Night, 210
reciting poetry, 80-8

Red Diaper

musst dein

Lehen dndernjYon have to

rap, 81

"Reading Maps"

"Dm

Rilke, Rainer Maria,

Complacency, 252

"Raven, The"

Town, The,"

229

Ransom, John Crowe, 149

Beyond

299

Babies: Children of the Left

(Kaplan and Shapiro), 78-79
religion

on bringing life together, 158
on Dickinson, 94
as

Christianity, 100, 193-94, 257

poetry and politics

as

phase

of,

reformed Judaism, 263

263

experimental, 195

on Judaism, 263
on kinds of poetry,

21

Hfe of, 96-101

Remus, Uncle, 185

rediscovery

repression of imagination, 125

and triangulation of poetry,

See also censorship
responsibility, levels of,

of,

science,

51-52

and

politics,

251

works of

"Homage

revolution

175

to Literature," 116

American, 17

"Letter to the Front," 221-22

and, 44-47
Dunayevskaya on, 234
Paz on, 237-38

Life of Poetry, The, xi, 97, 126,

art

poetics of,

238-50

195,235,256,259
Orgy, The, 97

"Reading Time:

tragic necessity in, 58

Rexroth, Kenneth, 77, 175
Rich, Adrienne

Minute 26

Theory of Flight, 96, 100
Traces of

Thomas

Hariot, The,

97

Willard Gibbs: American Genius,

"Air without Incense," 194

Change of World, A, 263
On Lies, Secrets, and Silence:

i

Seconds," 125-26

poetry and, 43, 238

257
"Sadly,

I

Usten to the sounds of

and angry

Selected Prose 1966-1978,

insects

251-52

(anonymous),

1

surf.

17

..."

Index

300
Sadoff, Ira,

"Neo-Fomialism:

A

Sherman, Susan,

Dangerous Nostalgia," i6o,

38, 174

"She sang beyond the genius of the

261

sea" (Stevens), 199

Sakhalin Journals (Chekhov), 25

Silberg, Richard, 253

Sanchez, Sonia, 116, 174

Silko, Leshe

Marmon, The

San Francisco Renaissance, 167

and Strength of Lace:

schools

179-80, 262

classifications in,
failure of,

poetry

100

Sinatra, Frank,

207, 218

87

Sister Outsider: Essays

Schtok, Fradel, 133, 140-41

and Speeches

(Lorde), 255

Schwartz, Delmore, 77
Selected

Letters,

singing, 81-82

32-33, 98, 236

in, 35,

1

Delicacy

"Sorrow Songs"
"Dumping: A New

slave songs. See

Poems, 105, 257

Sloan, Lester,

Schwarzkopf, Norman, 102

Form of Genocide?"

science

258

names

Smith,

Second Wave, The (journal), 174

(Klepfisz), 131,

(Pratt),

152

racism

"death of," 45, 237

Poems

Selected

Poems (Schwartz), 105, 257

(Bly),

30

(Levertov), 49-50, 254

"Song:

"Sestina: Altaforte" (Pound), 255

"Seven Times Going, Seven Times

Coming Back"

(Pratt),

155

I

Want

a

Witness" (Harper),

235

Song o/My5e//" (Whitman), 93, 256

"Songs of Innocence" (Blake),

Sexton, Anne, 77

182-83

sexual crimes, 147, 150-63

"Sonnets

157

Shameless Hussy Press, 174
et al..

at

Christmas" (Tate),

188-89

Shakespeare, William, 30, 107, 220
(Pratt),

50

"Sohdarity" (Jordan), 229-30

"Some Notes on Organic Form"

30-31

Senghor, Leopold-Sedar, 116

Shapiro, Linn,

240—50

revolution

solidarity,

Seneca Peace Encampment, 58

"Shame"

art of,

original visions of, 45

see also

Selected

self-help books,

(song),

theories of art and, 44-45, 46, 47

segregation, 189
see also

Your Eyes"

socialism

emergent

260
"Segregated Heart, The"

in

187

"Secular Jewish Identity: Yidishkayt

America"

254

Lillian, 53,

"Smoke Gets

Bobby, 265

in

19,

Small Press Distribution, 273

in, 5

poetry, politics, and, 6-7, 96-97
Seale,

1

"Sorrow Songs,"

130,

Souls of Black Folk,

Red Diaper

260

Babies: Children of the Left,

sound

78-79

Sound of One Fork, The

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 190

260

The (Du Bois),

in poetry, 87

147-48, 152

(Pratt),

Index

Letters of Wallace Stevens, 205,

South, Jews in the, 23

264

South Africa
Black writers

in,

in,

252

censorship

in,

19

libraries in,

"Man with

123

bookshops

"Notes toward

"Now

124-25

A

Speaking and Language:

Defence of

(Goodman), 217-18,

.

,"

upon

199-200

at

"Nudity

in the Colonies," 204

the Capitol," 204

"Of Modem

Poetry," 201-2

"She sang beyond the genius of
the sea," 199

"Throw away

An

Interview with Luis J.

definitions

"Two

Rodriguez" (Oasa), 256
spectacles, managed, 83-86

.

.

,"

202

Norfolk," 204

The," 204

"Yellow Afternoon," 54
storyteUing, 78-82

spontaneity, of the masses, 25, 57

poems

at

the lights, the

.

"Virgin Carrying a Lantern,

Spender, Stephen, 191

124-25

to,

suicide

stardom, 39

National Suicide

248

state terrorism, 123,

Stein, Gertrude, 167

self-help

Stemburg, Janet, The Writer on Her

Day

and, 103

books on, 102-3

violence and, 103
Sula (Morrison), 102-3

Work, 96, 256

suppression. See censorship

Stevens, Wallace, 11, 99, 196,

Swinburne, Algernon, 190

197-202, 263
configurations

204-5

in,

works of

"tango negro," 211

"Auroras of Autumn, The," 204

"The book of moonlight
written yet
Collected

.

.

"Nudity

225-27
"Speaking the Changes:

racist

grapes are plush

the vines.

in, 19,

Spacek, Sissy, 146

Joseph,

Supreme

a

Fiction," 263

252

Soviet Union, censorship

Poetry

the Blue Guitar,

The," 198

southern poetry, 149-50

Stalin,

301

.

.

.

,"

is

not

"Sonnets

at

Poems of Wallace
121-22, 197-202
the Letter C,

television, violence and,

Temple,

terrorism, state, 123, 248

music, 210

Theory of Flight (Rukeyser), 96, 100

"Dry Loaf," 201
"Dwarf, The," 201

"These two:

"The house was

"This

quiet and the

world was calm.

The," 199

1

Shirley, 185

Tex-Mex

The," 200

"Idea of Order

Christmas," 188-89

technology, poetry and, 86

201

Stevens, 30,

"Comedian As

Tate, Allen, 149

at

.

.

.

,"

10-12

Key West,

.

.

." (Klepfisz),

135-36

prison not the Hilton ..."

is

(Dixon-Bey and Glover),
76-77

Thomas, Dylan, 77

,

3

Index

02

"Through me forbidden

voices

.

.

.

(Whitman), 93

"Throw away

.

.

(Blake), 182, 262

the Hghts, the

definitions ..." (Stevens),

"Uneasy Confessions"

(Larsen),

232-33, 266

202
Till,

."

"Tyger, Tyger, burning bright

Emmett, murder

of,

United

17

States

censorship in, 19—20, 161—63

time
anxiety about, 105—6

Cesaire on, 14

calendars and, 105

and collective amnesia and denial,

capitalism and, 42
as

criminal justice system of, 236

place and, 121-22

as

125-26

for poetry, 41-42,

Birth

for,

in, xiii

diverse cultures of, 130

42

homeless people

Pain"

Its

housing

(Lezli-Hope), 178-79

"To Peace" (Gardinier), 61-63
"To the City of Fire" (Gardinier),

1

in,

109-10

18-19

idea of poetry as powerless in, xiv,
18
for justice in, 20,

24-25, 48-49, 57, 167, 180

tourism, 228-34

"Tourist and the

in,

movements

240—41

Town, The"

(Rich), 229

national imagination in, 97
as

Traces of Thomas Harlot,

5

in, 35, 36, 53, 83,

96, 115, 125-25, 128-30,

,

Town, The:

native land,

poets and poetry

The

(Rukeyser) 97
Lectures

and

Essays on Poetry and Writing

(Hugo), 219, 264

160-63, 222, 228-29,

232-33,253
as tragic

land, 14, 121—22

values, 16, 108

Trinidad, David, 38
Tripmaster

15, 21

despair and, forms of, 16-18,78, 103

workers' struggle

Triggering

democracy,

demoralization

wasting, 42

"To Every

106

17, 78,

luxury, 41-42

Monkey (Kingston), 96

Trotsky, Leon, Art and Revolution,

violence

in, 15, 35, 64,

103

women's poetry movement
Unwinding

Truedell, John, 248

the

Vietnam War: From

Truman, Harry, 253

War into

Tsui, Kitty, 174

106,

Peace (Williams)

257

Tsvetaeva, Marina Ivanova, 116

Turkey, censorship

in,

18-19

twenty-first century, 102—6
at

On the

"A

Dissonant

Triad," 108, 257

Norfolk" (Stevens), 204

Cities:

values, 16, 108, 162, 231

Vendler, Helen,

Tussman, Malka, 133

"Two
"Two

in,

165, 167-80, 211-13, 262

44-47

"
'Iliad'

(Gardinier), 63-64, 255

Vermont:

A

Guide

Mountain

to the

Green

State (Federal

Writers Project), 255

Index
Vietnam War memorial, 106
Villa,

weapons, 59-61

Pancho, 211

see also

war

Webster, John, Duchess ofMalfy,

violence

9-10

against Blacks, 17
cult of,

60

depressiveness and,

spirit of,

We

Cannot Live without Our Lives

We

Say

(Deming), 254

1

language and, 61, 181-89

Love Each Other

"What Thou

(Pratt),

Wheatley,

62

"Virgin Carrying a Lantern,
(Stevens),

The"

"when

Phillis, 130,

they took us

shower

204

"Visiting" (Esteves),

Lovest Well Remains

American" (Hugo), 259

war

see also state terrorism;

177-78

i

White

Cliffs

222-23
to the

saw ..."
136-37

(Klepfisz),

Walcott, Derek, 116

of Dover, The (motion

picture), 187

"The camps hold their
brown chestnuts
distance



and gray smoke," 220-21,

whiteness

language and, 181-89
as

location for reading poetry, 67,

as

mind-set, 203-4

99-100, 141, 204, 263

265

Walker, Alice, 174
In Love

We

147-49, 152

63

suicide and, 103

Virgil,

303

and Trouble, 30

presumption

189

of, 182,

spirituality and, 7

Meridian, 54

Walker, Margaret, 239

violence and, 17, 69—70

war

Western supremacism and, 24
and white man's Uterature, 222

attraction of, 64
as failure

of imagination, 16

glorification of,

historical distortions of, 93

managed spectacle,
monuments to, 106

85

poetry and, 47-48

60

Waste Land, The

(Eliot), 193

What Happens

Next" (Goodeve), 256
"Waulking Songs"

.

.

.

,"

91

93,256

intervals)

Warsaw Ghetto, 134-36

152

thenceforth to be

the earth (appearing

spectators of, 64

for

is

thought or done by you

"How they are provided for upon

profit from, 102

"Watching

"All this

Complete Poetry and Collected Prose,

mothers and, 146

surgical,

racism

Whitman, Walt, 90-96, 190

62—63

as

see also

(Pratt),

.

.

.

,"

at

90-91

Leaves of Grass, 63, 93

Song of Myself, 93, 256

"Through me forbidden
voices

.

.

.

,"

93

Willard Gibbs: American Genius

(Rukeyser), 257

Index

304

Williams, Oscar, Immortal Poems of
the English

Working

Language, 30

207-9

Williams, Reese, Ununnding the

Vietnam War: From
Peace, 106,

War into

"Work

Williams, William Carlos, 99, 195

World

"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,"

Is

(Cliff),

186-87

Open, The (anthology),

174

A

Writer on

Her Work, The (Sternburg),

96, 256

254

Talking to Death,

179-80, 262

Letters,

Collection of Writings by Lillian

Smith

Fair,

Split

Wright, James, 77
Delicacy and Strength of Lace, The:

ix

"Woman

Sonnets" (Klepfisz), 142-43

World's

257

WiUkie, Wendell, 97
Winner Names the Age, The:

Dark: Reflections of a

in the

Poet of the Barrio (Baca),

A"

WyHe, Ehnor, 190

25

Yeats,

(Grahn), 169-72

"Woman Question, The," 23,
Women: A Journal of Liberation,
liberation

movement,

130,

142, 160, 165, 167-80,

NeUie, 174

Woods, Donald,

(Stevens), 54

to

change your Hfe"

(Rilke), 190-91
(radio show),

187

Yung, Judy,

38

Wordsworth, William,
253

"You have

"Your Hit Parade"

262

Wong,

B., 159, 192

Yiddish, 131-34, 140-41

174

women's

W.

"Yellow Afternoon"

letter to, 43,

Island: Poetry

and History

of Chinese Immigrants on Angel
Island,

1

16-17, 258

One
poets,

1929.
1951,

of our country's most distinguished
Adrienne Rich was born in Baltimore in
She graduated from Radcliffe College in
when her first book of poems was selected

by W. H. Auden

for the distinguished Yale Series

of Younger Poets. Over the next forty

years, she

published more than fifteen volumes of poetry,

two

of essays and speeches, and a femstudy of motherhood. Rich's work has

collections

inist

achieved international recognition and has been

German, Spanish, Swedish,
Dutch, Hebrew, Greek, Italian, and Japanese.
She has received numerous awards, fellowships,
and prizes, including two Guggenheim Fellowtranslated into

Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the
Lenore M^rshsiW/ Nation Prize for Poetry, the
ships, the

Fund for Human Dignity Award of the National
Gay Task Force, the Common Wealth Award in
Literature, the Lambda Book Award, the Los
Angeles Times

Book Award,

Book Prize for Poetry,

the National

Medal of the Poetry Society of America, the Elmer Holmes
Bobst Award of New York University, and the
the Frost Silver

Poet's Prize. Since 1984, she has lived in
California.

Printed in the United States oJ'Ai

Praise for

What Is Found There

^'Adrienne Rich's extraordinary
itations

on the

ture reveals to us the

engaged

new collection of prose med-

essential place of poetry in our lives

power of the convergence of the

political life, the

unwavering conscience, and the

— David

impassioned poetic imagination."

"A

and cul-

prose work, but written in a poet's prose

St.

John

Simultane-

ously poetry anthology, exercise in reflection, social and cultural diagnosis, poet's
It

will be a different

creed

book

nant with each rereading

.

.

book of wisdom
each reader
and more reso-

.

this is a



for

Evocative and moving."

— Wendy
in the

Stallard Flory

New

York Times

Book Review

''The clear-eyed depth and the visionary stretch of these
notes bespeak an irresistible, prophetic intelligence and a

huge heart wrestling with the transformative power of poetry

up against the needs of an emerging new world."

— June Jordan

''What Is Found There will challenge, provoke, and illuminate anyone

who cares

about American culture."



Alicia Ostriker

"In her vision of warning and her celebration of
Adrienne Rich

is

the Blake of

American

life,

letters."

— Nadine Gordimer
W-W-NORTON

NEW YORK LONDON


ISBN 0-393-03565-4

90000

780393"035650"

>

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