Category Archives: Poetry

The M(N)STRY: Phillis Wheatley and Fugitive Imagination


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What happens when an enslaved person is given the tools to express her desire for freedom after being captured? When a young child taken from Senegal to Boston and renamed after the slave ship on which she was brought is then taught to read and write in not her own language and history, but in the language and history of Europeans? You get what the first black person to publish a book of poetry in America, Phillis Wheatley, wrote in “On Imagination.” Written a few years before she was granted her freedom, her poem, filled with allusions to Greek mythology and personifying Imagination as if it is a goddess of fertile creativity, is reminiscent of Fred Moten’s concept of the “fantasy in the hold.” This dream or possibility of movement while still in bondage, while still held back where you currently are. But also the tensions between exploration in a ship (whether on water or space) to other places and being shipped as a commodity. Is it the awe of coming to a new world, or is it violent abduction? Maybe both, like being raptured by a god common in Greco-Roman myths.

Wheatley’s poem portrays Imagination as a powerfully creative guiding spirit that breaks boundaries and hybridizes a particular experience of the world with the alien world it encounters to discover new meaning. Her use of Winter throughout the poem clearly shows her awareness of oppression of her mobility as an enslaved person and imagination is her muse for liberation. At a time (she wrote it in 1773) when Enlightenment principles taught that reason, often attributes to white, hetero-masculine power, governed over all other faculties of human expression, Wheatley celebrates the Imagination as a feminine, fertile power moving as part of a spacecraft traveling beyond limits placed on it. In the quote above and the rest of the same stanza (From star to star the mental optics rove,/Measure the skies, and range the realms above./There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,/Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul.), she describes Imagination exploring beyond the sky to different stars and even different worlds in what she calls, “the mental optics.” Remember this is 1773 and she is an enslaved black woman and yet she is imagining traveling in a spaceship. If that isn’t Afrofuturistic and the mind of a Black speculative writer, I don’t know what is.

Imagination, like her, is a genius in bondage and struggles to be free. Imagination was what allowed Wheatley to see and be aware of the fullness of the cosmos and through which she could envision new spaces.

Below is the complete poem:

 

On Imagination

Continue reading The M(N)STRY: Phillis Wheatley and Fugitive Imagination

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Astro-Caribbean: Riddims and Revolutions (Music!)


Currently I am in the revision process of my poetry collection, and I was looking for a few inspirations for one of the poems in it. British-Jamaica dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson came to mind and it lead me to one of his poetry recordings, “Reality.”

Continue reading Astro-Caribbean: Riddims and Revolutions (Music!)

Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from “Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures”


Yesterday was the anniversary of Nat Turner’s rebellion, and with the growing controversy surrounding the film due to Nate Parker’s rape trial from 17 years ago, my desire to watch the film has been mostly vaporized. But last weekend as I went through my photos, I came across Delphine Fawundu’s “Mende Woman on Nat Turner Plantation” and the other artworks exhibited at the Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures exhibition in May. Looking at the art again inspired a new set of poems from me (in addition to Beloved, which I read in full last week). Read the poetry and take a look at some of the art below:

This collection of poems is called, Black: Where Past and Future Become One; Where Magic Is Birthed.

Continue reading Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from “Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures”

“Space:Queens”: Poetic Inventions Workshop


Hey everyone! I have exciting news! On June 26th from 2:30-5pm, I will be facilitating a workshop at the Lewis Latimer House Museum!

If you are not aware, Lewis Latimer was a 19th-early 20th century African-American self-taught inventor and draftsman, who worked with Thomas Edison and was greatly involved in the development of the light bulb, specifically in the production of carbon filaments. He lived in the same house in Flushing, Queens, which was later moved to location it is now and was turned into a museum. Not only was Latimer an inventor, but he also was a poet, playwright and painter. He was truly a polymath!

My workshop will explore the intersections between writing, invention and social change, three areas important to Latimer; we will analyze his poetry (and also a poem inspired by one of his poems); and attendees will be given prompts to write their own poetry. If you are in NYC and are interested, please RSVP at the email in the flyer!

I hope to see you there!IMG_0442

 

Moving on the Wires: Lucy’s Bone Scrolls Chapbook!


Hey everyone! I’m sorry I was quiet on here last month. Due to illness, work and some technical difficulties, I wasn’t able to do much posting. But I wanted to share for National Poetry Month the chapbook I made for the DIY chapbook challenge.

For my, chapbook, Lucy’s Bone Scrolls: The AF Mystery School, I wrote several poems inspired by the New School Afrofuturism conference last year.  I used parchment paper and chenille sticks/pipe cleaners to create the book because I wanted to give it a kind of scrapbook kind of look.

Check out some photos of the project below and I will be showcasing it live at the Women Writers in Bloom Five-Year anniversary event this month. If you are in NYC and want to come, I welcome you to do so; the wonderful poet Mariahadessa Ekere Talle will be the feature!

Sometime in the near future, I will publish the chapbook as an e-book, so stay tuned for that! Also, as I promised last month, I will premiere my Space:Queens segment next week!

Lucille and the Sphinx
This the cover picture. It is a cropped version of the 1961 Louis and Lucille Armstrong in Egypt picture. The image of Lucille sitting under the sphinx and next to the pyramid was striking to me and I felt it fit well with the theme of my chapbook.

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Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School Part 2


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Several months ago I attended the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School. While due to my other work I didn’t get a chance to do a recap of the event right after, it had a profound effect on me. I took all the notes I had from it and wrote a series of poems inspired by the different panels and workshops I attended.

This is my holiday present for you! I posted Part 1 yesterday and I will leave the poems up for a few weeks. Then I will probably make a small e-book chapbook out of the poems for you to buy!

Enjoy! See you in the New Year!

 

Day Two

What is black love?

Continue reading Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School Part 2

Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School


Several months ago I attended the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School. While due to my other work I didn’t get a chance to do a recap of the event right after, it had a profound effect on me. I took all the notes I had from it and wrote a series of poems inspired by the different panels and workshops I attended.

This is my holiday present for you! Part 2 will be up tomorrow and I will leave the poems up for a few weeks. Then I will probably make a small e-book chapbook out of the poems for you to buy!

Enjoy!

 

Day One –

Constructs. Narratives.

 

The Narrative as Technology

(Inspired by Womack’s Keynote)

Continue reading Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School