If you’re reading this you have supported me, it may be small, but it’s not insignificant. You’ve read my words which means you’ve acknowledged my existence, and with the world, we live in, you’ve rebelled against the natural choice.
This summer is me risking so much to move closer to my dreams, and I’m grateful you’ve become another reason to keep risking. I’ll be attending the inaugural Omnidawn Poetry Conference, Community of Writers fellowship, and Tin House fellowship this summer.
I’m attempting to write about memory, the body, the interior, love, loss, and all that makes my body my body.
August 7th, 1930 is not the first lynching in America and would not be the last, but it would be fatal to forget it. Marion, Indiana holds the title of being the inspiration behind the anti-lynching song ‘Strange Fruit,’ which rallied many against the brutal, but also the common practice of lynching. I am Black; I am an American; I am temporary, by temporary’s standards. I’m investigating the temporality of memory, Black interiority, and reasons we hide in language.
My working manuscript “Bitter Fruit: a suite of love poems” relies on the use of ekphrastic, contrapuntal, repetition, and redaction. I’m obsessed with how the Black interiority is expressed through the lens of contextualizing systemic racism, unearthing the commonplace mundane amongst acceptable brutality, and finding tenderness where tenderness was not made welcome. The poems function to unpack the connection of the past and present.
At the start of each day, I would focus on the famous Lawrence Beitler photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith and write poetry in response to the picture - and that’s how ‘Bitter Fruit’ began. I am interested in the intersections of love and violence. My life has been a balance of negotiating the act of self-harm and racial-harm. What will be the defining moment that I decided to take my own life and will I be murdered before my self-imposed leave? I’m obsessed with the ways love and tenderness have seen me through those negotiations. What did the boys think about in their last moments? If I were to leave a violent world violently, I would want to go on a sweet note. I am a depressive who's contemplated taking their own life in a world that also runs on my death. What responsibility do I have to my ancestors whose lives were cut short? Where does love belong in the body rejected?
In the contemporary Black interior, how have lynchings of the past made the space for depression to run its roots deep? How has tenderness both harmed and helped the Black person through their pain? What if something will carry us over to the side of some after - if that’s even possible? Poets like Vievee Francis, Jericho Brown, Ross Gay, Lucile Clifton, and Dianne Seuss have challenged my perception of memory, and it’s creation. Each poet lending one side of the conversation from the cruelty that inspired and the beauty that had to be created to balance the scale. I’m challenging the reader to question what they know and how they know, in hopes of realizing the cruelty never ends until it’s parts are made clear.
Free All Along: The Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Interviews | Smith, Stephen Drury ; Ellis, Catherine
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