“Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors.
You’ve been holed-up too long
in your closed worlds….”
“Poetry is the ultimate inner refuge.
Poems are lumina, emitting light.”- Lawrence Ferlinghetti
“My responsibility as a poet, as an artist, is to not look away.” – Nikky Finney
Nikky Finney’s 2011 National Book Award in Poetry acceptance speech :
https://youtu.be/BFSiKx-hzks (Start at 4:50)
Happy 20th annual national Poetry month!
Watching Nikky Finney’s acceptance speech for winning the National Book Award in Poetry, I am reminded why I feel even the word Poetry deserves to be capitalized when it is delivered to us from the midwives of devotion. I must admit I had never heard of this Kentucky poet before Julia shared an NPR link with me. So many vital things are like Poetry, tucked away at the back of society’s store. Ms. Finney starts her speech citing a South Carolina law, which prohibits anyone teaching a slave to read or write. This cruelty was, “determined to control what can never be controlled: the will of the human heart to speak its own mind*.” With the soft shaking voice of the survivor’s victory, Finney invoked those who suffered indignities and death to be able express themselves. She described them as they moved around the room, sitting now where they liked; in finery, in dignity, bold, and shivering.
Yesterday I was talking to my friend Drake Powe, whose very presence is Poetry. Drake said that he still has to battle innate fears of being attacked. This is someone who is well over six feet tall with an obvious strength within and without; someone who generates a deep-seated and infectious calm. Nikky Finney’s professor told her, “Black people were the only people in the United States ever explicitly forbidden to become literate.”
There is legacy that results from that. We have the most eloquent, well-read, intelligent President in office right now. President Obama has endured with dignity, grace, good will and humor, continuous demeaning slander that has welled up from a fury that the old South Carolina laws have proved to be sand-castles dutifully washed away by the tide.
Here is an excerpt from Drake Powe’s blog:
“No matter where we start, or how difficult the situation, we can achieve a state of rest, of contentment and peace… Once as a child I fell into a swimming pool. I was alone, fully clothed and did not know how to swim. I sank like a rock to the bottom of the pool, and knew that it was not where I wanted to be. I pushed off, and shot right back to the top. …you can get to where you want to be from where you are…Stay positive, be open and love your life, as it is. Love is always the best starting point.”
May you play in the tide that sweeps the beach clean of your heart’s barriers.
Love you, Ira
PS- Check out my good friend Rick Lupert, a wonderfully funny and poignant Poet!
*- from Nikky Finney’s acceptance speech