POETRY IN COMMON,
& THE GREEN LINE CAFE
PRESENT: A Panel Discussion
with Sarah Blake, Angel Hogan &
on I’m Learning Nothing This Night
by Reginald Dwayne Betts
and Sound & Fury by Claudia Rankine
(The texts of the poems are below)
The Forum Will Include Discussion
Of The Poems And Their Relationship
To The Current Political Scene
An Audience Q & A Will Follow
TUESDAY, May 17, 2016 7-8:30 PM
45TH & LOCUST STREETS,
This Event Is Free
Sarah Blake is the author of Mr. West, an unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West. Her first chapbook is forthcoming from Banango Editions with an illustrated companion workbook. Her poems have appeared, or will soon, in the Kenyon Review, Poetry Northwest, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Threepenny Review, and others. She was awarded an NEA fellowship for poetry in 2013, and she is founder of Submittrs.
Angel Hogan has performed as part of the Black Women’s Arts Festival, Literary Death Match and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. She has acted as a Contributing Editor to Philadelphia Stories, a review panelist for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and a board member at The Hacktory. As a local teaching artist she is most interested in initiatives that use storytelling as a vehicle for tolerance, peace, and community building.
Sekai’afua Zankel has worked at the Church of the Advocate and has acted at Freedom Theater. She is the author of Behind These Eyes / Optical Poems which won the Frank Moore Poetry Prize in 2008 and was awarded a Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant in 2009. Her poems have been published in the CAP literary magazine and Apiary. She was born on the first day of spring.
Sound & Fury Claudia Rankine
Dispossessed despair, depression, despondent
dejection, the doom is the off-white of white. But wait,
white can’t know what white feels. Where’s the life in that?
Where’s the right in that? Where’s the white in that?
At the bone of bone white breathes the fear of seeing,
the frustration of being unequal to white. White-male portraits
on white walls were intended to mean ownership of all,
the privilege of all, even as white walls white in.
And this is understandable, yes,
understandable because the culture claims white
owns everything—the wealth
of no one anyone knows. Still the equation holds—
jobs and health and schools and better than
before and different from now and enough
and always and eventually mine.
This is what it means to wear a color and believe
the embrace of its touch. What white long expected
was to work its way into an upwardly mobile fit.
In the old days white included a life, even without luck
or chance of birth. The scaffolding had rungs
and legacy and the myth of meritocracy fixed in white.
Now white can’t hold itself distant from the day’s touch—
even as the touch holds so little white would own—
foreclosure vanished pensions school systems
in disrepair free trade rising unemployment unpaid
medical bills school debt car debt debt debt.
White is living its brick-and-mortar loss,
staving off more loss, exhaustion, aggrieved
exposure, a pale heart even as in daylight
white hardens its features. Eyes, which hold all
the light, harden. Jaws, which close down on nothing,
harden. Hands, which assembled, and packaged,
and built, harden into a fury that cannot call
power to account though it’s not untrue jobs were
outsourced and it’s not untrue an economic base
was cut out from under. It’s not untrue.
If people could just come clean about their pain,
the being at a loss when just being white
is not working. Who said there is no hierarchy
inside white walls? Who implied white owns
everything even as it owns nothing? But white
can’t strike its own structure. White can’t oust
its own system. All the loss is nothing
next to any other who can be thrown out.
In daylight this right to righteous rage doubles
down the supremacy of white in this way.
I'm Learning Nothing This Night Reginald Dwayne Betts
The magazine on my lap talks
about milk. Tells me that in America,
every farmer lost money on
every cow, every day of every month
of the year. Imagine that? To wake
up and know you're digging yourself
deeper into a hole you can't see
out of, even as your hands are wet
with what feeds you. That's how this
thing is, holding on & losing a little each
moment. I'm whispering an invented
history to myself tonight– because
letting go is the art of living fully
in the world your body creates
when you sleep. Say a prayer for
the insomniacs. They hunger &
demand the impossible. Pray for
the farmers, hands deep in loam-
body's weight believing what
the mind knows is ruin, they too
want the impossible, so accustomed
to the earth responding when they call.