“What Should You Know of a Lyrical Life?”

from “The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America or Something Like a Sonnet for Phillis Wheatley” by June Jordan

“It was not natural. And she was the first. Come from a country of many tongues tortured by rupture, by theft, by travel like mismatched clothing packed down into the cargo hold of evil ships sailing, irreversible, into slavery, to be turkey/horse/cow, to be cook/carpenter/plow, to be 5’6″ 140 lbs., in good condition and answering to the name of Tom or Mary: to be bed bait: to be legally spread legs for rape by the master/the master’s son/the master’s overseer/the master’s visiting nephew: to be nothing human nothing family nothing from nowhere nothing that screams nothing that weeps nothing that dreams nothing that keeps anything/anyone deep in your heart: to live forcibly illiterate, forcibly itinerant: to live eyes lowered head bowed: to be worked without rest, to be worked without pay, to be worked without thanks, to be worked day up to nightfall: to be three-fifths of a human being at best: to be this valuable/this hated thing among strangers who purchased your life and then cursed it unceasingly: to be a slave: to be a slave. Come to this country a slave and how should you sing? After the flogging the lynch rope the general terror and weariness what should you know of a lyrical life? How could you, belonging to no one, but property to those despising the smiles of your soul, how could you dare to create yourself: a poet?”

from “Education of the Poet” by Louise Glück

“The fundamental experience of the writer is helplessness. This does not mean to distinguish writing from being alive: it means to correct the fantasy that creative work is an ongoing record of the triumph of volition, that the writer is someone who has the good luck to be able to do what he or she wishes to do: to confidently and regularly imprint his being on a sheet of paper. But writing is not decanting of personality. And most writers spend much of their time in various kinds of torment: want to write, being unable to write; wanting to write differently, being unable to write differently. In a whole lifetime, years are spent waiting to be claimed by an idea. The only real exercise of will is negative: we have toward what we write the power of veto.”

from “372” Emily Dickinson

“After great pain, a formal feeling comes –“

from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

“Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?”

wheatley

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One response to ““What Should You Know of a Lyrical Life?”

  1. Well professor/instructor, I can tell you’re formally trained with these long quotes and thangs. I know of June Jordan’s piece, but you keep writing about Louise Gluck, and I’m very faint with her. I agree that the writer, the poet is here to document life on paper. That’s the simple yet complex job that we attempt to do.

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