Once more for everybody in the back.

One more poem inspired by that Starbucks in Philadelphia White Supremacy:

Weighted by Fear
(An erasure of Renée Graham’s excellent piece in The Boston Globe.)

To be Black
is to always be
in the wrong place at the wrong time
in America.
In America,
there is never
a right place for Black people.
For Black people,
this is what we live
every damn day.

Everything Black people do is weighted,
by irrational white fear.
It’s exhausting.
When you’re Black,
you just know.
You just know
not to do anything,
that would further escalate.

Nothing will ever change
until a majority of white people
stop perceiving Black existence as sinister,
Talking about racism
may hurt white people’s feelings,
but unchecked racism
continues to endanger Black lives.


Oh, I’m taking all kinds of liberties with this form now. It’s still wholly, uncomfortably unwieldy in my hands, however. Halfway through the month, and I still feel like I’m losing the greased pig contest.

It’s National Poetry Month! Every year, I choose a specific form and try to write a poem a day in that form. This year, I am trying erasure poems and I want to use news articles as my source texts. I’ve practiced a few times, and it’s already feeling difficult! We’ll see how it goes.

Here’s an edited version of the Wiki definition of this form:
Erasure Poetry: a form of found poetry created by erasing words from an existing text in prose or verse and framing the result on the page as a poem. Erasure is a way to give an existing piece of writing a new set of meanings, questions, or suggestions. It lessens the trace of authorship but requires purposeful decision making. What does one want done to the original text? Does a gesture celebrate, denigrate, subvert, or efface the source completely? One can erase intuitively by focusing on musical and thematic elements or systematically by following a specific process regardless of the outcome.
Also, Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest has some good points to add about ethics and plagiarism:
Quick note on ethics: There is a line to be drawn between erasure poems and plagiarism. If you’re not erasing more than 50% of the text, then I’d argue you’re not making enough critical decisions to create a new piece of art. Further, it’s always good form to credit the original source for your erasures.

Image result for national poetry month
Washington International School

Okay wait — let’s try a little thoughtfulness.

I’m still on about Hunger Games craziness.  No spoilers here, just a conversation I wish I could have with a few of the people whose reactions to the casting of Thresh, Rue and Cinna inspired Wednesday’s rant.

A couple of tweets struck me as leaving an open enough door for the possibility of conversation.

The idea that when we read we imagine that all of the characters look like us is benign enough on it’s face, right? It’s a way for us to relate to the people we’re reading about. That makes sense to me. Sort of.

I don’t always spend a lot of time worrying about what characters look like. As I read, an image develops, seemingly on its own. If an author makes a point of specifically describing someone, I pay attention because there has to be a reason for that especial description.

The comments on those tweets, however, interest me. Is it true that people assume every character they read in a book is their race?  So when these kids read, they imagine completely white worlds, worlds in which every person they encounter — even the ones that are specifically described as black — is defaulted to white. It would never have occurred to me that people read this way, imagined characters this way.  Even if I imagined that the protagonists I read looked like me, I know that I live in the actual world, in a place where not everyone looks the same.  I would never imagine that every single character was black.

My initial response to that second tweet was along the lines of, “Oh, check your hemline, dear. Your white privilege is showing.”  At the same time, I love the question of that tweet.  That shows me someone’s home, that there’s a person there, thinking, allowing herself to be pushed to wonder about something she’s never thought of before.  That’s a person I can talk to, a person who imagined Cinna as white and who might still wish he’d been cast white but who is open to being challenged to seeing him as a black man and letting that challenge make her think about (these mysterious, exotic) black people and not respond with “Eww,” or profanity. 

What’s that I hear?  Could it be … hope?