Poets are accepted in Canada as practically nowhere else in the West because of their place in an officially supported and popularly endorsed Canadian culture. Yet, they are still bitter and argumentative, as poets elsewhere are, because they have no audience as such, only a sanctioned role in the cultural scheme of things.
When you grow up in an extended family, or in a stable neighborhood with two or three generations of families who live there, you feel seen. Not just the good things you’ve done, the stuff you put on your resume. You know they’ve seen you in your dark times, when you’ve messed up – but they’re still there.
Black people comprehend the South. We understand its weight. It has rested on our backs… I knew that my heart would break if ever I put my foot down on that soil, moist, still, with old hurts. I had to face the fear/loathing at its source or it would consume me whole.
It’s still scary every time I go back to the past. Each morning, my heart catches. When I get there, I remember how the light was, where the draft was coming from, what odors were in the air. When I write, I get all the weeping out.
I think my very best work came out when I was about 60, not when I was 20. I was publishing all the time when I was in my 20s, and some of those poems I still like. And there were a few after 60, and in my 70s, that I like. But they became fewer and fewer.
But I still don’t have a clear idea of what my voice is.
For me, the real earth is that chosen part of the universe, still almost universally dispersed and in course of gradual segregation, but which is little by little taking on body and form in Christ.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives; who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves?
Because wherever I am today, I still owe it to God and I owe it to two men – the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X and of course, two very special women, my mother and my wife.
I swear to the Lord, I still can’t see, why Democracy means, everybody but me.