“Before I Was Straightened Out”

I just wanted to share with you some of the wonderful things I’ve read in the past seven days, all of which involve the written, spoken, & loving word.

“You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places to make room for houses & liveable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it as. Writers are like that… Like water, I remember where I was before I was straightened out.”

(from What Moves at the Margin: Essays by Toni Morrison)

“For those American poets who doubt the existence or relevance of well-written political poetry in the USA, for those who think “political poetry” is just a post-9/11 fad, I would say to leave your comfy little academic and abstract circles and open your minds to poets coming out of communities of color, immigrant communities, multilingual communities, communities of working folk and families, these American poets’ communities, and see that “political poetry” has always existed, has always been necessary, has always been crafted and spoken and sang, has always served to educate, inspire, and mobilize its constituents.”

(Barbara Jane Reyes on Suheir Hammad’s new collection)

“Images will often manufacture a language of their own and converse in it among themselves. They will communicate with each other by means of pictures and will make up secret alphabets which they will use for correspondence with each other.”

(from What It Is by Lynda Barry)

I’ve also been reading (and in some cases re-reading):

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead by Randall Kenan

100 Demons by Lynda Barry

The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith

For the Love of God by Alicia Ostriker

Ordinary Genius by Kim Addonizio


6 responses to ““Before I Was Straightened Out”

  1. great quotes! love the Morrison one especially!

  2. Toni Morrison always takes me where I need to go. The essay that that quote appears in – “The Site of Memory” – is a must read.

  3. I love Toni Morrison. Her works have a recurring theme of memory or “rememory” as she likes to call it. I love the way she applied it to the Mississippi River. I need to get the piece you quoted from. I feel like I could benefit from having it around.

  4. I agree. Toni Morrison — nice choice in pic — really brings the excerpt to life.

  5. Yeah, that Toni Morrison quote is epic. I love it.

  6. Toni Morrison has the best everything. I’m just glad that she doesn’t write poetry or I may too scared to ever pick up the pen. I’ve read Giovanni’s Room, hit me up on Twitter to discuss one day.

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