Discovering the Relevance of Words
The Poet is the Amplifier of Longing
– John Ebersole
Every poem I write is written by a white straight male American poet.
I recently saw a group of black children bouncing on a trampoline and something about it didn’t feel right, as if their joy was threatening. Where do reflexes come from?
Poetry exposes the reflexes within me.
In bondage, whites depicted blacks as infantile. In freedom, whites cast blacks as thugs.
Within white supremacy, a joyous black child is an ontological contradiction. The black body must be the trampoline.
Unlike fear, anxiety doesn’t have an object to attach itself to, like a hooded black man walking towards a white person. It cannot be imaginatively overcome: one cannot cross the street. Because anxiety is more generalized, more nebulous, sewn to nothing, it is always present, unresolved, and therefore must be expressed: poems happen.
Anxiety is estrangement: from each other and from ourselves.
In its desire to become an object of fear, anxiety acts as frustration on the mind that arises from the unmet desire for camaraderie. Poets know this to be where creativity is born. Poems provide the texture for love to adhere to.
The poet is the amplifier of longing.
I’ve been writing poems about whiteness, about anti-blackness. A friend asked me – what good can it do? As I write a black body into one of my poems, am I a poet or an overseer?
Charles Olson’s theory of FIELD COMPOSITION sounds insidious.
Whiteness is a ubiquitous nothing that longs to be something: just like anxiety. If anxiety strives to be fear and if fear must be attached to an object, does my whiteness make the black body the object of fear…so I can overcome it? So I can discover who I am? Or is it that the poem itself serves as the object of fear?
Is the desire to discover the contours of the self – within the zones of race – racist?
Property has always been anything that helps whiteness achieve its fullest articulation. It’s why guns are so precious.
A silhouette is black so the white body can project its lack into it. Is a white poet writing on race merely making property law sound like poetry?
Disability experts say white texts are seen best against a black background.
Poets reveal our own anxiety. By casting words upon it they make it suddenly visible, like the wall you pass every day but never see until graffiti’s been sprayed on it.
Are my poems about race little imaginary whips that I can only see as lines?
When I see a young black father pushing a stroller, dressed a little street, I know what my white mind thinks. Poetry, annihilate my reflexes.
History is full of statistics, but not memory. Nine bodies in Charleston will dissolve into ache.
The poet sings our estrangement. The poem recovers our contemplative nature. Poetry reads the fine-print of our inner-life. Poetry is receptivity and absorption.
The poet says with a poem: forgive yourself for existing as you do. In poems, we hear God asking us for forgiveness.
Poetry is where you can be vulnerable and everyone will say you’re brave.
We crave connection. Poetry is the arrangement of that craving.
You can find more from John Ebersole at his website Little Reviews for Busy People, or on his Twitter account @ebersole_j.