At the Edge of Town


by Pieter Hugo

“Tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light.. Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What is it to live at the edge of a town that cannot bear your company.”

Toni Morrison, Nobel Lecture, 1993

The above excerpt from Morrison’s lecture will be the epigraph of my chapbook (When The Only Light is Fire). The life of the writer – especially the other writer, the queer writer of color, the working class writer – is at the edge of town. It’s also true for the speakers in my poems. Whether it’s the boy walking through a field in a stolen evening gown, the disembodied voice of James Byrd, or a black college student dancing to country music in Nashville: they can tell you what moves at the margin because they are what moves.

James Baldwin said the essential experience of the artist was the state of aloneness. I believe that sentiment is echoed in Morrison’s lecture. When you live, as an other, at the edge of town – at the margin – you can see all the lights flickering in houses that have locked their doors against you. No one in town can see the wolves just a few yards into the woods, the leaves burning in the trees, the writer taking it all in.


One response to “At the Edge of Town

  1. writing poetry – for mysel-has indeed been a long lonessome journey. family and friends grow tired of the endless ramblings….

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