Poetry & Race Roundtable         (page 3)

Evie Shockley (continued):

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On a different note, I’m thinking about the strategies poets might use for writing about race that will get us out of some of the dead ends that prevent poets who want to write about racial matters from doing so. To the poet who doesn’t want to bare his soul and place on view the ugly fears and stereotypes he hasn’t yet conquered, I suggest writing non-autobiographical poems. Write a list poem and leave the first-person pronouns outside the door. To the poet who doesn’t want to write about whiteness, but has no regular exposure to or real knowledge of other racial/ethnic cultures, I suggest writing a poem based on three racially colored news stories (pun intended) taking place in different places (in the country, in the world) and at different times (of day, of the year, in history), in which you assert or imply what they have in common or how they are connected. You may have to do some research. To the poet who is tired of poems about how people of color are victims of racism, I suggest writing about whiteness -- interrogate our assumptions about it. There is no glut of such poems out there. To the poet who feels like her aesthetic approach to poetry is not conducive to writing poems about race, I suggest experimenting with other aesthetics. Perhaps the poems should be outside one’s comfort zone in terms of form as well as content. (Perhaps the form and the content are inextricable from one another and that’s been the obstacle all along.) What other obstacles prevent poets who want to write about race from doing so? What can we suggest to help remove those obstacles?

More later, in a different (perhaps less obvious) vein....


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