Why Do So Few Blacks Study Creative Writing?: Poetry by Cornelius Eady
In June 2011, Sampsonia Way asked poet Cornelius Eady if there was a personal story that made him believe Cave Canem, an organization of African-American poets he co-founded in 1996, was an indispensable institution in the United States. Eady sent back the following poem, from his third book The Gathering of My Name (CMU press, 1991), as his response.
Why Do So Few Blacks Study Creative Writing?
Always the same, sweet hurt,
The understanding that settles in the eyes
Sooner or later, at the end of class,
In the silence cooling in the room.
Sooner or later it comes to this,
You stand face to face with your
Younger face and you have to answer
A student, a young woman this time,
And you’re alone in the classroom
Or in your office, a day or so later,
And she has to know, if all music
Begins equal, why this poem of hers
Needed a passport, a glossary,
A disclaimer. It was if I were…
What? Talking for the first time?
Giving yourself up? Away?
There are worlds, and there are worlds
She reminds you. She needs to know
What’s wrong with me? and you want
To crowbar or spade her hurt
To the air. You want photosynthesis
To break it down to an organic language,
You want to shake I hear you
Into her ear, armor her life
With permission. Really, what
Can I say? That if she chooses
To remain here the term
Neighborhood will always have
A foreign stress, that there
Will always be the moment
The small, hard details
Of your life will be made
To circle their wagons?
Read Sampsonia Way‘s interview with Cornelius Eady.