EXCERPTS – Full Statements @ Poetry Foundation
In other words, if I had never encountered poetry, I would never have become an activist—that is, if I, a black man who came of age poor and used to buy 5¢ candy with $1 food stamps to get change for the bus, am allowed to determine for myself whether I am anactivist.
Nah. Fuck that. I am an activist. This is my activism.
— Shane McCrae
The prisons are full of black people, immigrants and POC precisely because the reading rooms are filled with white lives, white voices and white supremacist ideologies.
— Amy King
It’s that empty gesture of “political” acknowledgment that is in reality a non-noticing–and this kind of non-noticing is at the heart of racism.
— Jason Koo
How can you fight for your struggle, for basic human rights, if people do not know that your struggle exists? If they do not hear a word about it? Literary activism sounds through the streets and right through those shut doors you mention.
I am tempted here to explain myself, like so many other times in my life, to gently and disarmingly explain why I, with my history and mistakes and desires, deserve to be a part of the conversation, part of the literary and larger worlds. But, you know what? Fuck that. My work, our work, speaks for itself.
How carefully are artists and writers of color remembered, and when they cannot properly be recalled, why is it easier to make up names rather than…double check/search the interwebs/ask anyone? This is not a petty question. This is a serious question concerning ethos, positionality, importance, labor and love: who do we remember, who do we make up, who do we cite because we are committed to their ideas—who do we cite as a fleeting justification, who have we memorized—how do we care for the body of their work, let alone their names?
Smells like brand protection.
You are misnaming and schooling poets of color on the “connection between lived struggles and living poets” which their accounts of literary activism somehow in your view threaten to sever. That this connection appears tenuous to you evidences your privilege; living this connection every day of their lives in America, poets of color are at the very least freed from sharing in your worry.
I’m used to having to outwork my white colleagues just to feel like I belong in the same place as them. I’m used to laying it on thick with the academic register just to preempt their inevitable accusations that my work is not enough. Not academic enough, not “radical” enough, not “correct” enough (not white enough)—just not enough.
— Read the full statements @ Poetry Foundation
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.