What has it meant to grow up white in American society? What does it still mean to be a person of color in America in particular times and places? The Gloucester Writers Center presents three celebrated poets, Martha Collins, Afaa M. Weaver and Sam Cornish, recognized in greater Boston and nationally for their engagement with communities and history and the connections they have made between poetry and the civic record.
Founder of the Creative Writing Program at UMass/Boston, Martha Collins served as Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College and is currently editor at large for Field Magazine. She will read from her latest book, White Papers (Pitt 2012) a captivating and disturbing, series of poems about being white in a multiracial society. These poems will stir memories – people will think of similar circumstances and recall comments that were heard while growing up. Sharp, unarguable facts, measured and probing lines, make visible what has become invisible. In White Paper #6 she writes, …and still we are drawing / lines and calling them borders // and coloring in and naming / people who shall not must / not cross, who live in the colored / sections of our white minds.
Afaa M. Weaver, Professor of English at Simmons College is a Cave Canem Elder. His relationship to nature, to his family, to music, and history, permeates much of his work. In Plum Flower Dance, selected poems from 1985 – 2005 (Pitt 2007), he begins “Self-Portrait” with these lines: I see myself in the shadows of a leaf / compressed to the green blades growing / to a point like the shards of miles of mirrors / falling and cracking to perfect gardens. The anguish of history appears in these pages. Weaver writes in “American Income” of black men: these feet that marched and ran and got cut off, these hearts / torn out of chests by nameless thieves, this thrashing / until the chaff is gone out and black men know the gold / of being the dead center of things, where pain is the gateway / to Jerusalems, Bodhi trees, places for meditation and howling…
The writings of Boston Poet Laureate, Sam Cornish, former faculty member at Emerson College, reflect his deep reverence and compassion for those who have suffered and struggled in this still fractured country. Folks Like Me (Zoland 1993) reveals the history of American lives – individual figures from his family, their extended communities and history speak their bold truths. Ancestral and collective knowledge has followed him north and he has left nothing behind. The poem “Claude McKay” explains: Truth / is the fire / of Banjo / like the Hebrew / Moses / staff and sword / breaking / through the darkness / like / a new morning. The following poem, “The Pictures of My Mother” appeared in Sam’s World (Decatur House 1978). the pictures of my mother / never look like me / they are my ancestors with / an apron full of / beans a mouth ready to sing…
The Gloucester Writers Center presents:
Let Nothing Slip By
Wednesday, November 14, 7:30 P.M.
Cultural Center at Rocky Neck
6 Wonson St., East Gloucester
An evening of poetry and close readings, of facts, personal, external and historical inquiry, of conversations, learning, reflection and dialog. Questions and conversations after the program.
Dorothy Shubow Nelson is a Board Member of the Gloucester Writers Center and can be contacted at Dorothyelsa@yahoo.com