Black Poet, White Poet #BlackLivesMatter LaWanda Walters

#iNeedFeminismBecause # intersectionality #maleprivilege

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A white woman poet using a black poet’s invention… No actual reflection done by the poet, so the problem with *using* is still there. But that can be changed! Both poems are beautiful in different ways.

This is the striking original:

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.
            We real cool. We
            Left school. We

.

            Lurk late. We
            Strike straight. We

.

            Sing sin. We
            Thin gin. We

.

            Jazz June. We
            Die soon.
 .
.

White poet: “What right did I have, though, to use a form invented by an African American poet to write my “Goodness in Mississippi,” a poem about anorexia nervosa, which has been called “a white girl’s disease”? What right did I have to use the “we real cool” to “we die soon” template to speak of my friend Barbie’s death, years after I knew her, of complications from the disease? But something about the form—perhaps how it acknowledges its debts—gave me the courage to write about a particular “we,” two friends from “school,” one of whom did “die soon.” It allowed me to finish a poem I’d worked on for twenty years.”

Goodness in Mississippi

After Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool,”
with thanks to Terrance Hayes

My friend said I wasn’t fat but she was, and we
would go on that way, back and forth. She was my first real

friend, the kind who changes everything. Her mother was so cool,
didn’t shave down there for the country club pool where we

sat beside her. I saw a gleam of her secret, silver hair and was left
dreaming of lime floating in a clear drink. I started saying hi at school

and people smiled back. Smile first, my friend said, and we
were a team. The cheerleaders who would always lurk

by the field, showing off their muscled legs—of late
I’d hardly noticed them. We talked about art, we

attended science camp in Gulfport. That’s where her mother got struck
by a car the next year. She must have thrown the new baby straight

as a football to save her. Their family was on vacation, and we
found out at Sunday School, waiting for the choir to sing.

She was so good she comforted me. People saying, “It’s just a sin,”
her mom like Snow White under glass, red lipstick, platinum hair we

knew was genetic. You’ll still look young, I said. I think you’re thin.
We’d skip lunch, drink Sego (“good for your ego”). Last year I drank gin

and called her ex. “She passed,” he drawled, like it was the weather. We
tried powdered donuts with the Sego, sweated to the Beatles and jazz.

Her whole life was beginning. We moved away from there one June,
Mississippi tight-mouthed as a lid on fig preserves. And we—

we white girls—knew nothing. The fire-bombed store, the owner who died
for paying his friends’ poll taxes. Anorexia would be famous soon.

(The Georgia Review, Winter 2013)

  1. Walters states the poem she uses. That is acknowledgment of using.
  2. Walters writes in Mississippi Haze about the background of her poem, civil rights era, but does not show the poem she used. Poem is erased, hidden. The poem she used is easy to find, but you have to want to be aware of appropriation to look for it. Most people won’t look. “Showing” is the poetess’s responsibility towards a black poet.
  3. Walters does not reflect on her *use*, only states there is a question whether it is right.
  4. You can use someone’s idea, sure, the poem came out great, but if it comes from someone oppressed, erased, someone part of a group kept under white people’s boots/books, she has to give back.
  5. How do you give back?
  6. Make room for black poets in the places you get published.
  7. Ask your publishers to print new black poets, as a personal favour to you, a white person, ask them to publish great poems, because it is not a given when you are a great black poet.

LaWanda Walters has work to do. And a white male poet needs to use his cred to support her in doing that.

It is more tiring to face racism every day, than to work your privilege in fighting racism.

LaWanda Walters discusses the psychology of civil-rights era Mississippi—drawing parallels between the injustices of segregation and a childhood friend’s illness from anorexia nervosa—and her use of a form of poetry called “the golden shovel” in her Winter 2013 poem “Goodness in Mississippi.”

http://garev.uga.edu/wordpress/index.php/2014/04/mississippi-daze/

Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1963 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Gwendolyn Brooks.

 

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Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

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Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920.

15. The Cow in Apple Time

SOMETHING inspires the only cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools.
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit, 5
She scores a pasture withering to the root.
She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten
The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten.
She leaves them bitten when she has to fly.
[…]

Velden

On peaceful fields‘(1950) by Andrei Mylnikov,  State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg.

14. A Time to Talk

WHEN a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

 

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
[…]

Every land is the holy land– Watch where the branches of the willows bend! And some haikus… Black Elk, Le Guin, Issa on Friday!

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Every land is the holy land by Ursula K. Le Guin (November 2006)

From a saying of Black Elk
Watch where the branches of the willows bend
See where the waters of the rivers tend
Graves in the rock, cradles in the sand
Every land is the holy land
Here was the battle to the bitter end
Here’s where the enemy killed the friend
Blood on the rock, tears on the sand
Every land is the holy land
Willow by the water bending in the wind
Bent till it’s broken and it will not stand
Listen to the word the messengers send
Life like the broken rock, death like the sand
Every land is the holy land

.

.
And some haikus for Friday by Issa:

The distant mountains
are reflected in the eye
of the dragonfly

Frog and I,
eyeball
to eyeball.

A sheet of rain.
Only one man remains among
cherry blossom shadows

What good luck!
Bitten by
this year’s mosquitoes too.

To sit quietly beside a friend

To sit quietly beside a friend

I would like to come to all my friends
– well, also those who are not my friends-
And ask: Love me the way I am
and don’t make demands. See I can’t
entertain you with lively chat, can’t be
quick-witted, witty nor share confidences
about myself or speak my deepest thoughts.
Should we so wear out ourselves – one for the other?

Let me sit next to you without words, quietly,
wrapped up in our own work, our own thoughts
Or- if you’d like to talk- do speak to me
I will listen– if you good-humouredly
with light chat would keep me company,
I will laugh at your banter and your drollery
I will watch you with an earnest face if loftily, or deeply
or idly you speak of much too serious a thing.

But when I sit quietly like this, and listen
to your words- or to the ticking of the clock-
Or, if I let the silence rustle around us,
-it does whisper so delightfully when folks are still-
When I feel glad to be around you,
then I would like to ask, and break the silence

or with my question interrupt our talk:
Say, are you glad also, that I sit here beside you
And if you say yes, then I will say me too.

And that would be all I wished to know
and all that you would need to know of me.

Jacqueline E. van der Waals

Ik zou tot al mijn vrienden willen gaan
-Ook wel tot hen,die niet mijn vrienden zijn-
En vragen:Heb mij lief,gelijk ik ben
En stel aan mij geen eischen.Zie ik kan
niet onderhoudend praten,niet gevat
Of geestig zijn,en niet vertrouwelijk
vertellen van mijzelf of van mijn ziel…..
Wat zouden we ons vermoeien voor elkaar?

Laat mij maar zwijgend naast U zitten.stil
Verdiept in eigen werk,eigen gedachten.
Of-als gij praten wilt-spreek gij tot mij.
k zal wel luisteren,als gij vriendelijk
Met lichten kout mij onderhouden wilt,
Wel lachen om de grappen.die ge zegt,
Wel ernstig kijken,als ge hoog, of diep,
Of ijdel praat van al te diepe dingen…..

Maar als ik dan zo zwijgend zit,en luister
Naar uw gesprek-of naar het klokgetik-
Of , k laat de stilte ruischen om ons heen,-
-Die ruischt zoo prettig,als de mensen zwijgen-
Als ‘ k mij dan blij in uw nabijheid voel,
Dan zou ik willen vragen, en de stilte

-Of ons gesprek-verbreken met mijn vraag:
,,Zeg. zijt ge ook blij,dat ik hier naast u zit?”
Spraakt gij dan,,Ja”, dan zei ik zacht: Ik ook”

En dat was alles,wat ik weten wou
En al, wat gij van mij behoeft te weten.