Tyrone Williams | Genesis (page 3) »

My poetics, then, are very much a poetics of phenomenology at every level of language, from how I conceive of a book to how I conceive of a single letter’s relationship to other letters within and between words. This also means that the narrative drive of my work, like its lyrical effect, is stymied by the “drag” of my desire to write in four dimensions, to think in terms of vertical relations (metaphor as a palimpsest or magic writing pad, for example) as much as I do horizontal relations (metonym, collage, painterly perspective, etc.). My resistance to narrative and lyrical clarity (except in their mock-heroic forms, e.g., “I left my heart in the teeth of jumper cables”) is not driven by willful obscurantism, at least not in the normal sense of the word. What my poetics in these first three books was designed to resist is the normative “reading” of African Americans and their (our) history and culture. Such resistance demands an implicit, if not explicit, criticism of claritas and its derivatives. The complex that is irreducible to “the” African American experience demands, for me, a dialectical materialism without the premature or proleptic assertion of a thesis. At the same time I take seriously the claims by Albert Murray, Ralph Ellison and others that American culture is perforce African American culture and vice versa. I feel fortunate to have grown up under the tutelage of the Black Arts Movement and the models (and limits) provided by Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Ed Bullins and others which does not, could not, lessen the importance of Charles Olson, Frank O’Hara and even Robert Lowell (that “even” a sign of the spoils of war, so to speak). Thus I still require the peripatetic work of Nathaniel Mackey and Susan Howe as well as the grounded lyricism of Elizabeth Alexander and Edward Hirsch.

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