We engage from within our bodies

Metta Sáma’s powerful blog post last week began:

This morning I opened the door to a man whose name I did not know.

Metta concluded this post with a link to her words on a project in which Harvey L. Hix “asked poets to respond to a quote by Adorno and one by Auden.” Metta writes:

I sat with these quotes for weeks, wondering if this was a battle I wanted to fight. I did. & I did.

Her rumination resonates even more this morning:

                       …I say in service of themselves to indicate the ways in which the founding of the United States un- humanized de-humanized women un-humanized de- humanized indigenous peoples un-humanized de-humanized enslaved Africans

I encourage you to immerse yourself in her writing this morning. Simmer in the truth of her grandmother and how Metta identifies the poetry in that moment. This morning I think of Baltimore and everyone and everything leading up to Baltimore and the senseless murder of Freddie Gray. I think of the essay “On Language, Race, and the Black Writer” by James Baldwin, an essay I just read last week. Baldwin writes:

I am a witness to and a survivor of the latest slave rebellion, or what American newspapers erroneously term the civil rights movement. I put it that way because Malcolm X and I met many years ago when Malcolm was debating a very young sit-in student on a radio station which had asked me to moderate the discussion. Malcolm asked the student a question which I now present to you: ‘If you are a citizen, why do you have to fight for your civil rights? If you are fighting for your civil rights, then that means you are not a citizen.’ Indeed, the ‘legalisms’ of this country have never had anything to do with its former slaves. We are still governed by the slave codes.

Baldwin also writes in this essay:

Writers are obliged, at some point, to realize that they are involved in a language which they must change.

Look at what mass media and the Baltimore government are calling “riots.” We need to subvert this language. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about riots and language at Grosse Point High School on March 14, 1968:

But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

In “Poetry is Not a Luxury” Audre Lorde wrote:

I speak here of poetry as the revelation or distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean — in order to cover their desperate wish for imagination without insight. For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.

As Metta Sáma affirms:

Art places us inside our bodies…we enter in our body and engage from within our bodies.

How will you engage? — Thank you to Metta Sáma for allowing me to reblog this here. Thank you for broadening my world view, my language, and for your always kindness and words that sustain.

Baltimore schools are closed today. The following are providing food for school-aged youth while school is closed: http://operationhelporhush.org & https://redemmas.org. Per Kate Khatib with Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse: “You can make a financial contribution by sending PayPal donations to info@redemmas.org. Any money that doesn’t go towards food will go to other organizations doing on the ground support work.” 

You can also donate to Donate to the Maryland Food Bank: https://www.mdfoodbank.org/locations/baltimore-office/ or aid the local Boys & Girls Club: http://boysandgirlsclubmb.publishpath.com/ or contribute water: https://www.detroitwaterproject.org/baltimore.

And one last note: This Thursday, April 30th is Poem in Your Pocket Day. I’ll be carrying Ross Gay’s “A Small Needful Fact.”


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