Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Monday, June 30, 2008

Poetry: Dropping Knowledge, SingingTruth--Part I

"Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action."

-- Audre Lorde, poet

"But there are certain very practical things American Negro writers can do. And must do. There's a song that says, "the time ain't long." That song is right. Something has got to change in America—and change soon. We must help that change to come.”
--Langston Hughes, writer

Listen up. The daddy wants to ask you something: What type of writing do you trust the most?

The daddy wants to say straight-up that the writing he trusts most is poetry. Why? Because, above all else, the poet seeks to write honestly, to discover truths from self, from others, from community, from the world. But a funny thing about truth—a lot of people don’t want to hear it. “There are things more painful than truth,” a wise man once said. “But I can’t think of any.” So writing truth can be a harrowing affair.

Nonetheless, the poet, like a hungry, ragged child rummaging through piles of garbage for food on the outskirts of town, the poet digs through mountains of words and concepts for a morsel of truth. The ultimate miner, a John Henry with pen, the poet plunges the depth of his or her soul to bring up rough-edged, valuable but often bitter-sweet rocks of truth, that essence of reality. Then the poet follows the find, wherever it leads, whomever it hurts.

When do people hate the truth the most? When it’s communicated simply; when it comes to them raw and unvarnished. When the great poet Langston Hughes’ published “Fine Clothes of the Jew,” it received rave reviews from white critics but was immediately attacked by the black press. The Pittsburgh Courier’s headline said, “LANGSTON HUGHES’ BOOK OF TRASH.” The Amsterdam News said that, with this book, Hughes had become a “SEWER DWELLER.” But, undeterred, Hughes continued to write honestly; and, where he felt appropriate, in black vernacular. And his writing in black vernacular gave an even greater authenticity and ring of truth to his poetry.

One painful truth that Hughes told was that black Americas were fed up with the way they were treated in this country. In “Dream Deferred,“ he cut to the quick and laid it down when he asked:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Not only did Hughes write honestly and in black vernacular, he made it clear to the black press and the world that he would continue to do so. In "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," which appeared in The Nation magazine in 1926, Hughes proclaimed his independence from the black press and stated his determination to speak the truth no matter what others thought:

The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad, If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too. The tom-tom cries, and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain free within ourselves.”

Take that, Pittsburgh Courier.

NEXT POST: The Black Poet and Black History


rainywalker said...

Looking forward to part two.....

"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interrred with their bones." Shakespeare

sdg1844 said...

Looking forward to part 2 as well. I hadn't really thought about the type of writing I trust. It depends on your definition of "truth" and what it represents to you.

I remember Langston, Countee, Claude, Zora and Nella Larson. All great, all speaking their "truths." It's a very personal thing and the only truth I believe in is my own, though I may respect others.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Rainy, Marc Antony on Ceasar. . . Ya had to love James Purefoy's portrayal of Antony on HBO.

I trust writing that comes from the heart. Writing that evokes passion and is written with passion. That's honesty. That's why I always loved reading Audre Lord's post colonial contemplations. Thanks for the picture of her. I don't think I ever actually saw one. She was a remarkable woman.

MacDaddy said...

rainywalker: I think you'll like Part II.
sdg: I'm going to focus on black poets as historians, which is what the best ones are. Let me know if it connects.
sagacious: Audre Lorde was fantastic.
Let me know what you think of Part II. If you don't like it, I'll try something else. One person I'm going to bring up is Walt Whitman, who, in my mind, is the father of American, or New World, poetry. Peace. said...

Hey there MacDaddy! {waves}

I look forward to Part Two!

Thank you for Langston Hughes...
Of course, one of my favorites..."well son, I'll tell ya, life for me..."

You know the rest!!

Ahhhhh...Walt Whitman:
I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.

Love it, love it!

MacDaddy said...

sdg: I hate to sound ignorant. But I've never heard of Nella Larson. Who is she?

sdg1844 said...

Nella Larsen is a writer from the Harlem Renaissance era that wrote a seminal book called "Passing". Check it out as well as her other books. She's excellent.