Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Featured Reader Comment: "White Males are the Generational-Keepers of the Flame of the English Language Literary Tradition"

Steve Augustine, a frequent commenter here at WARN made a nice and provocative observation about the craft of writing that is worth bumping up:
Just as Black Females and Males (of all genders) are the go-to Masters if you want to learn in the Western Neo-Classical (aka "Jazz") Tradition, White Males are the generational-keepers of the flame of the English-language Literary Tradition. Too many Writers-of-Color being too proud to acknowledge that obvious fact is part of the reason that Black Musical Genius (and its Accomplishments) dwarf, by *orders of magnitude*, Black Literary Accomplishment.

It takes generations of Literacy to produce a steady supply of literary geniuses in any subculture, and, as you know, reading-and-writing would have gotten most of us *killed*, in the USA, not even 200 years ago! No fault of our own but we have some catching up to do (the fact that America has entered an Illiterate Age is not helping).

Anyone with a deep feeling for the English language will have to see that, for example, Ted Hughes is operating on a more *technically knowing* level than Langston Hughes; Langston is fine but he is not grappling with the Olde Ones in the back of the Word Cave; Langston (as we all are) was a noob. We shouldn't take this any more personally than a White reader should when I state, with no fear of reasonable contradiction, that Duke Ellington is Bach to Stan Kenton's... uh... Stan Kenton.
I am not an expert on literature. I enjoy listening to and learning from folks who are. Moreover, Steve's comments about black arts and letters are a nice wink back to an earlier post about how some white conservatives do not think that black people have anything to contribute to American intellectual life or history.

Brother Steve is most certainly not making such a specious claim. But, I am very curios and compelled by his taboo suggestion that material, political, social, and other circumstances impact the types of "culture"--written and otherwise--that an ethnically or racially marked group which is socially and politically disadvanted produces. The New Negroes, DuBois, and others grappled with these questions explicitly, and in the public realm. It would seem that such questions have now fallen out of style.

What do you all think about these questions? Me? I am going to sit back and learn a thing or two.

34 comments:

CNu said...

There's much truth in what SA wrote, much as there was truth in what my nemesis smrgol wrote at Cobb's.

I've told this story before, but it bears retelling. I was a young liberal student in the 1970s and was doing three things in my life -- earning degrees in Latin and mathematics, and also getting a California State teaching credential. I came from a really poor family -- neither of my parents had completed high school, and we tended to move where the jobs were, which, by the addresses I remember, was about 20 times before we finally settled down in a place with assured employment.

I was the first of my family to complete high school. And I was the first to go to college -- mostly on scholarships. And I wanted to give back, so, at the request of a mathematics faculty member who was an adjunct faculty member in the school of education, I applied for a position in the Teacher Corps and submitted that application to the Dean of the school of education. Some professors -- and the Dean -- interviewed me.

I heard nothing about the application until the math professor who'd started this whole thing inquired as to whether I'd been accepted or rejected. I told him I didn't know -- nobody had gotten back to me. So he called the Dean, and mid way through the call, asked that I leave his office and wait outside. After he finished, he called me back in and said, in a disgusted tone of voice, "You were the best applicant, but you weren't brown enough. He wanted people who would be role models in their own communities. You've been rejected. I'm sorry I put you through this."

As the consolation prize, he made me the TA for a class I'd already taken -- Mathematics for Elementary School teachers -- and the class I would be TA'ing was the Teacher Corps one.

On the first day, I realized what "not brown enough meant" -- every person in the class was a person of color -- to be particular, a black person. It really brought home to me the fact that my Government had just discriminated against me based on the color of my skin.

As the class went on, I discovered that two thirds of these people did not understand mathematics. But I wasn't about to have them stay that way if I could fix the problem -- so I and my professor did our best -- multiplication, long division, geometry -- and when the dust settled, about half of those who couldn't do math at the outset had a light bulb turned on and could. But there was still that one-third who didn't understand math and never would. These people might have made good high school teachers -- for many were smart and had very good skills in other areas, but that high school class was already full -- so they'd been dumped with their non-skills into the elementary track.

We had no choice -- we were going to have to fail about one third of these students. But we didn't -- the Dean ordered that every student had to receive a "Pass" (the class was Pass/Fail). So that's what my professor did.

Now, when I hear about how blacks are not doing well overall in school, I think about those Teacher Corps teachers standing in front of a class of black elementary school kids teaching a subject they didn't understand themselves. And I imagine that every year, they damaged the next group of kids the same way. And they were role models for their community.

Such is the social engineering associated with Affirmative Action.

I firmly believe we have our first Affirmative Action President, and it is turning out about as well as one might expect when someone campaigns on what they won't do rather than what they will do, in an era where entitlements consume over 50% of our budget, and 50% of our budget is deficit. He'll kick the can down the road until someone at the right pay grade deals with it.

chaunceydevega said...

If I recall you called out that foolish white victimologist bigot over at Cobb. What did he get right that is worthy as a complement to SA's point?

nomad said...

"I am not an expert on literature. I enjoy listening to and learning from folks who are. Moreover, Steve's comments about black arts and letters are a nice wink back to an earlier post about how some white conservatives do not think that black people have anything to contribute to American intellectual life or history."
Not much on literature myself, but I know this is very much the case in visual art. Bad as bros be in art now, our participation in the art world is fairly recent. There were one or two exceptions before the Harlem Ren. The fact remains that the towering figures in the field of art are a bunch of white guys. Just as when you're going to study jazz, you go to Coltrane and Bird, when you study art its Pollock, Picasso, Van Gogh, etc. etc. Art, modern and Western, developed through these white men.

chaunceydevega said...

@Nomad. I think there are lots of folks who who disagree that "Art, modern and Western, developed through these white men."

Is that what you mean? Or are you identifying how cultural gate keepers and others long worked from a framework that elevated white artists because they were white and systematically denied people of color that title? Could it be the system of patronage and sponsorship that supported some artists over others?

CNu said...

I called him out for his funky, inverted, and racist politics. I didn't dispute either the veracity of or the consequences of the experience he described.

As many folks as I've observed in the education space "faking it till they make it" and the student casualties that have mounted up like cordwood in the wake of these 2nd/3rd line inheritor imposters - I think it exactly in line with what SA has called out.

CNu said...

It's gettin toward 5:00pm EST Thrasher, you better tighten up your househusband game and get Mrs. Thrasher's dinner on the stove and some epsom salts in her footbath...,

nomad said...

@CD
"Or are you identifying how cultural gate keepers and others long worked from a framework that elevated white artists because they were white and systematically denied people of color that title?"
Nope. Western art emerges primarily from Europe. Ipso facto. Italian. French. Spanish. English. Dutch. Basically white people. While Africa had its own tradition of art extending back to prehistory, there was no significant degree of participation by blacks in Western art until well after the slave trade had begun. By then Western art, painting and sculpture had already reached a very high apex in its history of artistic achievements. The Renaissance had already occurred in Europe; some of the greatest art of all time already created by the likes of Michelangelo. Rembrandt, Velazquez, Vermeer have already painted incomparable masterpieces. Why were there no great artists? No, they weren't overlooked. And no, the talents of these great artists is not just derived from viewing them through a white racial frame. Blacks were not a part of Western culture at the time. And later when they were in some marginal sense a part of Western culture, they were not allowed to participate in the "higher" arts. That barrier wasn't really broken, for visual artists, until the second half of the 19th century. Up to that point, Western art was the art of white men. Because women, generally speaking, were not allowed to compete either. Consequently, no great female artists from the golden age of Western art either. Why no great female artists? Why no great black artists? No opportunity. That's just the way it was until about two hundred years and a civil war ago.

chaunceydevega said...

@Cnu. I agree with you there. I had a friend a few years back who decided to "give back" by teaching at a black private school here in chicago.

they were all excited to get her because of her credentials and background. she was put in charge of the AP history courses. there she discovered that many of the students were semi-literate and "D" students at best. She tried to help them, assess them properly, deal with the administration. Guess what?

The parents organized--these are boogie wannabe types--got her fired because their kids were the best in the school and my friend, superbly trained and invested in the students' success--had to be the problem. These kids were on the fast track to failing in college and making black folks look the posterchildren of the right-wing's fictive dreams of affirmative action. The school wanted to advertise their college matriculation rates; the parents were in denial.

I know folks who work with the admins here in chicago, and in DC, as well as Detroit. They have told me the system is rotten from the top down. Sad.

I deleted Thrasher's online bowel movements. I didn't know that the legend from the D, he who is a legend because of the volume of sheer mediocrity he produced, was living off of his woman. What are Thrasher's basement dwellers going to do now?

chaunceydevega said...

@Nomad. Got you. I thought you meant generally. Have you seen that new books series by the Good Doctor Gates on images of Blacks in European Art?

nomad said...

yep. just briefly.

nomad said...

Yeah, and speaking of those two art cultures, Western art and African art, it was really the meeting of the two at the turn of the 20th century that rejuvenated the modern art movement. Western Artists had taken representational art about as far as it could go. Pushing the boundaries modern artists experimented with various non-Western forms. They were blown away by the the forms they discovered in traditional African art and began to incorporate them into their own art. Picasso, Matisse Braque and I dig Modigliani. They niggerized art and created stuff like Cubism. The Nazis no likey.

CNu said...

They niggerized art and created stuff like Cubism.

I beg to differ.

The Europeans Africanized their art - appropriating the forms and thereby giving rise to hip-hop - oops, I mean modern art....,

CNu said...

I am very curios and compelled by his taboo suggestion that material, political, social, and other circumstances impact the types of "culture"--written and otherwise

The quality of western classical orchestral music has fallen off precipitously over the past fifty years and no one appears poised to or capable of reviving original and aesthetically rich/pleasing composition at the large scale. I don't believe that for a moment that any aspect of classical western orchestral performance or composition has become culturally obscured in any manner, form, or fashion, to the contrary, a far larger number of people play these instruments in ensembles now than at any prior period of time. However, there is a level of masterful original classical composition which appears to have become wholly inaccessible. I find that VERY interesting.

The classical western orchestral form has been extensively appropriated.

On the other hand, there are classical African forms of musical composition, exposition, and transmission which have proven themselves mostly impenetrable to western appropriation and performance, still less original composition. I'm not convinced that that fact evidences lack of cultural interest as much as intrinsic difficulty. OTOH - the plucked stringed African instruments have been fully embraced, appropriated, and been made the foundation of much if not all popular western musical performance and composition.

nomad said...

"They niggerized art and created stuff like Cubism.

I beg to differ.

The Europeans Africanized their art - appropriating the forms and thereby giving rise to hip-hop - oops, I mean modern art....,"

That's a big question mark there in the making sense department. Did you mean you beg to agree?

nomad said...

I beg to disagree with this:
"On the other hand, there are classical African forms of musical composition, exposition, and transmission which have proven themselves mostly impenetrable to western appropriation and performance, still less original composition. I'm not convinced that that fact evidences lack of cultural interest as much as intrinsic difficulty."
There is a whole field of study dedicated to understanding and in the process performing African music. Ethnomusicology.

CNu said...

Yes, and water is wet. Thanks for your always profound insight.

The question is whether Picasso an'em mastered canons of african visual formation, or did they just dabble?

Do americans and europeans master canons of african rhythmic formation, or do they just dabble?


CNu said...

Mebbe CDV can get us around a paywall? Africanity vs Blackness: Race, class and culture in Brazil

I take for granted that niggerization has nothing whatsoever to do with africanization and is its own curious little cul-de-sac...,

Adam H said...

@Steve Augustine, @CD

While I don't claim to have a deep knowledge of English literature, I would just ask to consider Ralph Ellison (esp. The Invisible Man). I've read my fair share, and this is the best book I've read (better than every Vonnegut I've read). It is in fact my favorite book.

I understand where you're coming from about the need for a culture to develop a history in order to come to greater heights and all that, but Afro-American's are American. As such they inherit from the same tradition (which yes is predominantly white). And while Black writers may not identify with white voices to as great an extent black, I can't accept this generalization.

I'm a nurture of nature guy, and as far as I can tell we're all suckling at the same tit over here. Moreover, the Invisible Man bro -- doesn't get much better than that.

Adam H said...

correction
*nurture over nature.

nomad said...

@CNu

"niggerization has nothing whatsoever to do with africanization"

Oooohhh, that. I can see that. I was being ironic.

"The question is whether Picasso an'em mastered canons of african visual formation, or did they just dabble?

Do americans and europeans master canons of african rhythmic formation, or do they just dabble?"

Well, no. And no. There is no way Westerners can have the same relationship to indigenous art forms as the Africans themselves. And that includes Western blacks like you and me. As Steven said "we're all suckling at the same tit over here". In the sense of acculturation, black Americans are Westerners, not African. Traditional African art and music is in many ways as foreign to our aesthetic sensibilities as it is to any white American. The basic underpinnings of the two cultures are fundamentally different.

So, no, white Westerners don't necessarily master the canons of African arts, any more than black Americans. But working with these forms is not just merely dabbling for any serious artist Western artist, black or white. It's about transforming the source material and incorporating it into ones own work, and, hopefully creating something new.

adamabroad said...

Full disclosure: I'm white, male, and American, and I teach English language and (occasionally) literature at a high school in Ukraine. I went to a very ethnically diverse university in the US, but the vast majority of Ukrainians are white, and most of the kids and adults I work with don't see people of different ethnicities unless it's on TV. My having been here for nearly two years may have skewed my opinions a bit, so please call me out on anything stupid I say, especially if I'm missing something about the larger argument.

It's sort of odd to hear someone talking about the English language literary tradition being absolutely controlled or guarded by white men. The first popular piece of American colonial literature was written by a woman, women were deeply involved in the development of the novel during the 18th century, and arguably, much of what developed into first-wave feminism was in response to ideas expressed by Virginia Woolf about the need for a writer to enjoy agency in society in order to express themselves as well as possible. Men are dominant in most periods of literature, but the canon's far from a total sausage fest.

But the big problem I have with putting too much emphasis on the "origins" of individuals' (or ethnicities') art of any kind is that if one agrees with the idea, then the "true" artistic expression of a community seems to be forced down paths created or at least implied by the social and artistic history of the community. The implication is that creative expressions which don't reflect upon those histories are less "true." This doesn't do a good job of explaining, for example, James Baldwin. There's room in the "Black American" canon for Sonny's Blues, but not necessarily Giovanni's Room, and The Man Child doesn't seem to be a "true" part of that canon at all. A literary theory that implies what should and shouldn't be written and by whom may be politically correct, but I'd argue it's creatively moribund.

I like to think of most literature as being intertextual, not so much "influenced by" factors. Writers have to read things, listen to music, and otherwise experience life the same ways most people do. But creativity isn't just building on what's already been created. It's a dialogue, albeit in response to creative works whose creators usually can't respond in turn, because writers have their own ideas, experiences, and conflicts to deal with, which may not have much in common with what an "influence" may have dealt with beyond the bottom denominator of shared humanity.

The big common factor, I think, in determining how healthy any art form is would have to be participation. CNu says that there are some forms of African music which seem resistant to composition by Americans or public appreciation in the west. How many people in the west are trying to be part of that musical community, I wonder? I don't know the answer, but I'd suspect it can't be too many. There's nothing inherent about the Iliad's origins that made it so popular in Greece before it reached western Europe. It survived on the brilliance of the story and characters, the emotions and thoughts of the narrator, and a connection to the human condition which little else matches. If African forms of composition have been around for a while, and Americans can get more involved, I'm pretty sure they'll enjoy increasingly artistically interesting American participation, and eventually an increased audience.

Opsimathphd said...

I am baffled by the almost complete lack of reaction (with the exception of one commenter) to the 'male' part of the 'white male' term in this argument. I understand that race is the primary point of this discussion, which is otherwise an interesting one, but the unchallenged assumption that only men create culture is pretty breathtaking. Care to take another look, guys???

Me: white, female, old, and a faithful reader of this blog, which unfailingly teaches me, although sometimes, like today, there are lessons I would prefer not to learn!

nomad said...

Well, except for a few isolated cases, like, Artemisia Gentileschi in the Baroque period, painting, sculpture and archtx were all male vocations; until the 19th century. In the history of African-American art, female participation has been on a par with males. In fact the first African-American artist who was not part of that (relatively privileged by black American standards) mulatto class was female.

I did say "bros" at the outset. I should have said bros and sistas.

chaunceydevega said...

@opsi. great call. funny how we all wear our blinders and certain understandings are normalized. "art" equals male and white and European.

The intersections between hegemonic masculinity and racial inequality are little discussed by us here enough.

@Adam. What is American and what is black? In this context we are both and sometimes either. It is interesting to how black people have been a shadow and a presence in "white" American literature by virtue of our absence and/or white masculinity's own obsessions with purity and insecurity. Thus, necessitating some of the white masculine ego issues in work by Faulkner and London.

How do your students abroad think about what it means to be American? Is it the black and brown face of America through music, sports, and popular culture? Or white lost white dreams of the New Right and others who dream of some time that really wasn't?

adamabroad said...

Chauncey: Telling most of my students what it's like to be black is difficult for a few reasons, one being my own ethnic identity, the other being that most of them are not strong English speakers, and for my part I'm still learning Russian and Ukrainian and am nowhere near native proficiency. That said, it's a lot of work to overcome the effect of American media on how *every* aspect of American culture gets distorted, and more so to teach about the possibility of mixed ethnic and national identities.

Kids seem to see African-American celebrities a lot on TV or the Web - musicians, actors, and the President (not so much sports stars, soccer is king here) - but there isn't much awareness of American history for them to contextualize those individuals' creativity or achievements as things that are both part of the larger American culture and things which have specific meaning in the African-American context.

And there isn't a similar history of immigration to Ukraine, or of coexistence with other cultures within Ukraine, to provide the sort of diversity seen throughout America. Even the predominantly white neighborhoods I grew up in when I lived in Massachusetts were more ethnically and socially diverse than the town where I live now. Many older Ukrainians still struggle to understand that someone can be proudly Ukrainian by nationality and not by parents' ethnicity; Gaitana, an African-Ukrainian performer on Eurovision this year, recently had to deal with public opposition from the Svoboda (Freedom) Party, a right-wing minority political party with seats in Parliament, because she "does not belong to" the Ukrainian "race."

It's an uphill battle, to say the least. But I just got the materials I need to start showing documentaries, and thankfully the Internet is generous with English language films, not just fiction, with Russian subtitles. I should be able to put together an instructive after-school film curriculum so they don't rely on The Walking Dead to understand ethnic relations.

adamabroad said...

As far as what they think of it is concerned: I'd have to ask them all, but the general perception of what it's like to be American is that everyone in America, regardless of ethnicity, is wealthy, powerful, and healthy. And although I've tried to show them that's not entirely the case, they're generally right if you compare Americans to Ukrainians.

The average Ukrainian makes a little over $3,000 per year, and the prices of most things are only slightly lower than they are in America; in some cases, prices are higher.

The political system is described by international observers as "free but not fair," which is, in my opinion, a massive understatement meant to partly absolve the European political community of guilt for not intervening. Voter fraud and intimidation of political opposition would make Sharpe Davis blush; he merely threatened to arrest Cory Booker repeatedly. Had he been a Ukrainian politician in power, Booker would still be in prison simply for posing a serious threat in an election.

Development here is sometimes described as "diverse." This is a euphemism for "wildly uneven." Some cities here are literally among the most beautiful cities anywhere - Odessa especially - and have reasonably good infrastructure, schools, and other resources for the lucky, smart few who get to live near them. Everyone else gets an infrastructure system that has gone neglected or completely ignored by the government since independence. The death rate here is the second highest in the world, just behind South Africa.

For example: When I got bronchitis last month, I had to go to Kyiv to find the antibiotics I needed. The pharmacies around me only had drugs from unreliable suppliers. Had I been stuck here, I'd have had to take my chances that the drugs wouldn't make me worse. But my internet connection is faster than it was in the US. I still wonder how people choose to prioritize download speed over not risking their health.

/rant

adamabroad said...

Greg: I'd love to have authors from America of any ethnicity come here. If you're up for the trip and you're ready to communicate in Russian or Ukrainian, let me know. Travel here, however, is a bit of a challenge for those who don't speak those languages. And in any case, it's really difficult to learn how another culture works, even from a representative of that culture, unless one travels to it. To that end I'm trying to get as many of my stronger pupils and adult friends into international exchange programs as I can. I can tell them my perspective, not absolute facts; for them to understand, they need to see and decide for themselves.

chaunceydevega said...

@Adam. Whatever you do, for the love of sanity and international relations, do not let Greg Thrasher, who is banned here and elsewhere because of his antics and mental health issues, anywhere near your students or country of residence.

He will set back international relations for many years. He is also an object lesson in the very types of pathologies and stereotypes about black people which your students should be deprogrammed of.

adamabroad said...

Greg:

A white Ukrainian would enjoy white privilege if they made it to the US. That, however, is a colossal "if."

Depending on the laws in place at any given time (Parliament loves messing around with the laws to make themselves look busy if an election's coming up), Ukrainians need a greater or lesser amount of proof that they're not planning on leaving the country permanently if they want to get permission to travel to the US. If they plan on changing their citizenship permanently, they've basically got to have a lot of money saved up before they try, which the average income doesn't begin to cover.

So for the most part, they're stuck here, and they're going to lead hard lives that few Americans would willingly trade their own lifestyles for. As far as I can tell, none of the African-Americans I work with (I'm in Peace Corps) are planning on staying after they complete their service.

White (or at least some form of ethnic) privilege has definitely been a concrete block in the way of peoples' lives; many Ukrainians were subjected to discrimination due to being part of an undesirable ethnicity during the Soviet era. People I've worked with were denied admissions to university explicitly because they were not ethnically Ukrainian or Russian.

The new Constitution ostensibly prevents such discrimination, but the courts basically work for whoever's got the power to intimidate them, so discrimination is still very real. A new national law, for example, has made it illegal for people to promote homosexuality, and it's so vaguely worded that NGOs who are trying to treat the worst HIV epidemic in any European country aren't sure they can continue to operate under the law's prohibitions.

I'm not saying that life is perfect in America. I wasn't rich when I lived there, and things were tough even with white privilege. But I can confidently say it's tougher to live here.

adamabroad said...

Chauncey: Eh. Welcome to the Internet, right? I'll amend that: any non-crazy authors are welcome.

adamabroad said...

Okay, enough threadjacking for me. :P Chauncey: I agree that stories like The Man Child and Giovanni's Room tell the reader about emotional conflict and (especially in the former's case) the insecurity that occupies part of the heart of racism, and they do this without needing the targets of racial prejudice in the plot. But there's something about Baldwin's work that connects to readers that's both indicative of an unparalleled command of language and literary theory every bit as strong as a Ted Hughes or Virginia Woolf, and of a grasp of emotional conflicts and insecurities that don't occupy any particular social context. They work differently as stories for African-American readers than they do for me, but they still work. I can't say for sure that they'll all still have emotional impacts on readers in a few hundred years, but it seems likely.

Also, I'm not sure I know anyone on Earth who resents African-Americans' contributions to music in the US and abroad aside from white supremacists. I think, from having known a couple of full-time authors fairly well, they tend to try to avoid pointless resentments, and can appreciate, as any other human being would, that trying to rate methods of creativity as "better" or "worse" than one another is a pretty awful way to go through life.

I guess my big point is that, contrary to what Steve Augustine says:

a) not every African-American author's a noob re: the literary canon, and those with some real genius have written stories that are required reading for English lit majors. Sometimes you have to read them repeatedly, because of how simultaneously located in the African-American experience, and universally accessible, they are.

b) The world is big enough for lots of different kinds of art and participants, and songs can be instructive and delightful, sometimes more so than literature. I can't describe how happy I was when I got some of my ninth graders to understand "Doo Wop (That Thing)."

Steven Augustine said...

Damn! Could a Brotha gets a "heads up" next time...? I was off wrapping the garden furniture in plastic before the snow hit...! Now anything I might add would have a certain after-the-factness to it...

But thanks anyway, CdV!

Steven Augustine said...

@Adamabroad

"But there's something about Baldwin's work that connects to readers that's both indicative of an unparalleled command of language and literary theory every bit as strong as a Ted Hughes or Virginia Woolf..."

There I'd have to disagree: JB's command of the language was fairly standard in the company he kept. One thing JB suffered from, stylistically... make that two things... was a certain A) grandiloquence and B) the regrettable tendency to run to bathos; the two-speed curse of the Mid-20th Century Black (Wo)Man of Letters. And these tics lock JB firmly in middlebrow territory (didactic branch), right alongside the Malamuds, the Bellows' and the Anthony Burgesses (as hard as AB reached for Joycean, nail-paring control).

The problem was/is largely social: WE (interlopers) have to try too hard to prove ourselves... very much like over-dressing for a fancy dinner party at which the (confidently) rich will be fashionably *under*-dressed. In this analogy, let being "under-dressed" stand for a certain stylistic understatement/ lightness of touch. There was also the thing about JB having to meet certain expectations (in White readers/publishers) of preacherly cadences in Negro script.

Comparing two poets... T. Hughes and L. Hughes... there's no way to match T's muscular ability to reinvigorate language/perception (while sensualizing abstraction with such bold fluency)... with L.'s mere wit and conscience... T. had a much much deeper tool box to dig through. Again: this was no fault of L.'s. But the difference is striking if you tune your ear to the depth of language in T.'s work. L.'s *subject matter* was deep... his language was not.

There's nothing in L.'s oeuvre that comes close to the sweep and assurance of even a moderately-unknown work like T's "Football at Slack" or his semi-famous "Pike".

What WE need is to acquire the luxury of being HUMBLE. We need to face, early on, how much we DON'T know. Crucial shit in the development of an Artist As A Young Sister or Brother.

Steven Augustine said...

Looking through the thread, I see there is *so* much I would have loved to engage with (esp. @CnU)...