POWER OF POETRY #68: ALEXUS ERIN

The power of poetry, to me, its immediate access to the individual, enmeshed: with their self-reflection, with their environment, their body, their pasts, their place in presupposed power structures- poetry is the expression of an unconscious superhighway. Poems can express themselves as fixed and as plastic, as grounded in space and liminal, heterotopic. They can be lively and spectral- palms kissing at the intersection of here and every elsewhere imaginable.

It is piss and sugar/it is waiting/blue carpet/a dreg of rum, drying sticky in a glass at a hostel in Shanghai/a rotting wisdom tooth/forgetting how to swim/a stained labcoat/it is our fathers/a cracked book spine/cheap glitter/bay windows, French doors…

As a young, Black, woman poet, the political is paramount and ultimately inextricable to informing my experience; over the years, has become more apparent. Poetry facilitates a platform to express larger political concerns- be they of the mass failures of global powers and self-sick demagogues, to the politics of the body and identity. Alternatively, poetry has served me as a secret code: all the things I’ve seen, my private joys and quiet terrors,form a single-file line. They sing. They speak, as one, thesubtext- like a Greek chorus or the muses, chatting around a water cooler. In my work, there is witness, communication. My poems are for both future selves and every past self that waited, in incalculable yearning, for an unfolding.

It is a weepy, public apology/a premonition of heartbreak set, strangely, in a Moroccan hotel/an alarm clock/it is pretending you’re having a fun time at this party/held breath/a coral reef/a supplication/a supermoon/a tshirt knotted at the waist/magpies/cold rooftiles pressed against skin, under a blood orange sky up North/it is why and how many and who all gon’ be there/it is the lace curtains and the rage…

Poetry is my compass and flashlight and a crystal ball. My workoften focuses on documenting the personal in ways that are fixated in evocation- at times, in abstraction. I lean into it to help engage with my past and the past of my people, illuminate a sometimes-nebulous present, and lay the groundwork in imagining new futures. 

It is and ambulance and ambulance chaser/a heliotrope/a loveliness of ladybirds/empty peanut butter jar/that smile you try to smile when you’re trying not to cry/a sloppy set of kisses, and the beardburn that followed/it is glue/dust bunnies/it’s the train back from Brooklyn/it is asking for patience but not receiving any…

My work is often prayer and petition. It speaks for me when I want for narrative and can only find hints: that which is pre-language but post-visceral. The power of poetry is in its ability to weaken the mortifying sting of desire by acknowledging it head-on; there is an inherent want to witnessed, if only by oneself. Being human is embarrassing; poetry refuses to flinch. This is what I respect the most: poetry lives in the ugliness of knowing, wherein there is intimacy. It may be scared, but it is never scared enough to turn away.


Purchase your copy of Alexus Erin’s St. John’s Wart from Animal Heart Press. https://www.animalheartpress.net/p/purchase-st-johns-wort-by-alexus-erin.html?m=1

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