After an interesting class discussion on universality and writers of color (led by Tayari Jones), I’ve been thinking about it on and off for a week now. As a gay black southern writer, identity politics and the expectation for my writing to have a universal appeal (or not) is relevant, perplexing, and irritating. To be honest, I’m often so busy just trying to write the best poems I can — I don’t have time to be worrying about politics. That comes later, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not trying to make a statement so much as I’m trying to be sincere.
Either way, Jericho Brown (author of Please) drops some serious knowledge on the subject:
I negotiate the personal and the universal by understanding that the universal, as it has been presented to us over and over again, is a lie. I know it’s a lie because, though I’ve witnessed audience members at readings ask gay poets what a straight person can appreciate about their poems, I have never seen a straight poet asked what gay people can appreciate about his or her poems.
Go to Critical Mass to read the rest of Jericho’s discussion with Rigoberto Gonzalez.