These tulips were in full bloom the day it was announced that I was the 2o17 recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize. Good friend and Bed-Stuy neighbor, Alicia Bleghens and I walked about the garden on a day full of sun and full of people. Since then I feel as if much of my life is full of sun and full of people and filled with gifts, many insubstantial. I sit in my apartment which is also my studio looking at books and art with the fan whirring and my belly a bit too full from an overlarge breakfast and feeling deeply grateful for my personal rewards, and deeply disappointed in the current political environment.
The Fourth of July really is a complicated holiday for Black Americans. As someone whose family has been here several generations including the generation of enslavement, I so understand how necessary liberty and equality and justice is for full humanity and citizenship. All of the white nationalists carrying on about “their” country makes me simply want to vomit. But they are doing what their ancestors did: terrorize people and scar their own communities. Their own communities need to disown, dismiss and deeply disrupt their activities. Alas racism remains a think strand in the American tapestry and will take a while, a long while to undo.
I say this with some kinds of optimism in my heart. It could be that I just taught a workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA where I worked with white people who are working hard to know more about writers and cultures outside of their own. This is challenging work, but the work is being done and out of that comes more complicated, sophisticated poetics (I think). When I asked them to recommend poets they read, the list included many contemporary writers of color. I deeply admire the range.
Since May, I have made a number of difficult decisions, but ones that I needed to make. I will not teach comp next year. I do not want to do so. I am working on a new poetry manuscript as new poems written between 2015 and now keep arising from my mind and heart. I look forward to teaching at Adelphi University. I am grateful for the many blessings I have received this year and I am so pleased to share what I know and learn new things. It takes the sting from the ugliness, stupidity and bellicosity of the political environment. It makes me know that in America change happens, sometimes for those who already have too much, sometimes for the rest of us.
One of the joys of my time in Provincetown was joining Susan Bee and Charles Bernstein who have been summering on the Cape since they were young newly weds–that was like 30 something years ago. They heart heart heart the National Seashore and now so do I. The Atlantic Ocean is powerful and inexorable and thanks to President Kennedy we can see this place much like the pilgrims who alas cut own the many beeches and left the coast as dunes. Much is being done to hold off the erosion of the shore, but it’s beauty abides. The National Seashore is a true treasure. If you go to Cape Cod, you must see it.