Elizabeth Alexander on Melvin Dixon & Gay Black Poetry

Lately, I’ve been reading Love’s Instruments Melvin Dixon’s posthumous collection of poems which open with a powerful introduction from Elizabeth Alexander. Reading what she says breaks my heart & reminds me why I write.

“AIDS has, of course, defined and devastated our times, and the ranks of artists and people of color have been particularly decimated. When literary historians try to write the story of gay black poetry in the late twentieth century, it will be a history swathed with absence. There are the absent whose books are left behind as well as those whose works only remain in anthologies, or perhaps in notebooks hidden from the rest of the world. And there are those who fell silent as they devoted their physical and psychic energies to struggling with disease. But as the background of a painting shapes its composition, absence can also be understood as presence. We can see and hear and read absence as a presence that profoundly marks the cultural history of our times.

Melvin was my friend and mentor for many years; I would characterize him as most essentially possessing fierce elegance, the fiercest, not a decorative elegance but rather a distilled and streamlined way of being and presenting. Or, in the vernacular, Melvin was fierce.”

Elizabeth Alexander, 1995

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3 responses to “Elizabeth Alexander on Melvin Dixon & Gay Black Poetry

  1. that is a powerful introduction

  2. Whenever I think of all the “untold stories” taken forever by AIDs, I think first of my two deceased cousins. Then I think of Marlon Riggs. If we was able to offer us so much then in those documentaries, what would he be able to do today?

    Will pick up some Dixon next time I see his work.

  3. black lit in its entirety is endangered by invisibility, especially in this new era where digitized media has become king as physical print outlets are drying up… in “theory” ebooks are supposed to provide wider audiences with easier access to new and older literature, but without an independent agency with the heft to herd readers on- and offline to black lit of all genres then our collective voices will continue slipping towards extinction.

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