Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hot buttons

Originally meant to be posted 9/16/05. I'll post why this past weekend was so crazy later after I've had a chance to process.

When I find myself talking out loud to no one in particular about a particular issue, I usually know it’s time to post.

Last night at the Urbana Slam, Eliel came up to me before the second round and suggested I do “The Poem.”

I thought he meant “The Journal”, which was the most confessional thing I’d done for the Bar13 crowd (discussing my erstwhile descent (almost) into male prostitution, drugs, and abject, pathetic loneliness, and what happened when a girlfriend found out all the sordid details), and which was sort of a watershed for me in terms of performance. “No,” he said, “The POEM. The White Man Poem.”

Ohhh, THAT poem. The POEM. The scare the crap out of myself poem. I wrote this poem in response to Roger Bonair-Agard’s “Song for Trent Lott” in which he writes about the strength that has come to Black people from being systematically enslaved, tortured, experimented on, etc. The entire history of the relationship between White folk and Black, basically, with a bit of “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and you do not want to fuck with what you made,” thrown in for good measure.

I’ve thought a lot about that poem since I first heard it. It’s very moving, very intense and exciting. One of the reactions I had as a white person was particularly interesting for me: I found myself perversely proud of the history of rape, genocide, and world domination white people have forged for themselves. I was, in my heart-of-hearts, a little admiring of the bat-shit crazy white folk who bent technology and the world to their will in the pursuit of power, much in the same way that one reads with morbid fascination of a serial killer or watches a slasher film, secretly rooting for the guy in the mask as he impassively slaughters his way through an unmemorable gaggle of pretty vacant teenagers.

This was, to say the least, a disturbing thing to know about myself.

In an effort to understand myself (or possibly just to put my fascist sympathies back in the closet where they would no longer shame me), I came to the conclusion that what I was admiring of was, in fact, a more wide-spread trait: the Will to Power. The desire to dominate, to destroy the “other”, to impose ones will upon the world. I admired this trait because it resonated with a trait that all people had to a greater or lesser degree, and which I had, up to this point, not acknowledged in myself.

So I wrote a poem, first claiming and owning those traits every slam poet and race polemicist since the post-colonialism came into being had attributed to White People, and then pointing up as many instances as I could of the root issue (the Will to Power) manifesting in other races, preferably against their own kind. The idea being that every person has this tendency in them somewhat, and White people just happened to have been better at expressing it during a certain point in recent history, but that if you took a longer and broader view, you would find that that violence and that desire to dominate were universal human characteristics that didn’t pertain to race.

I scared myself. Like when you cut yourself to watch the blood well up – that kind of scary. So, to debut this little gem, I decided to read it at GrooveNation – a series at Bar13 “celebrating poets and poems of the African diaspora.” Just to make it a little bit scarier.

It was fine, of course. I puss-ed out a bit at the beginning by saying that the piece was a persona, which is true, but only sort of. Truthfully, I know that I’m fairly safe at 13, and that it was the right way to do it. The point was fairly well made, but I think it needs editing. Anyway, you can find the poem here.

Do let me know what you think.

I didn’t do it at Urbana, mostly because it’s too long to slam with right now, and I didn’t have it with me or memorized.

I’ll write more about my desire to push myself by putting myself in difficult performance positions later.

1 comment:

  1. I would KILL to have you read that at my ara open mic - if you ever find your self in ST Louis on a Saturday night - hit me via my blog and you got a space to stay and I'll find you every feature I can! that is a really really strong poem - so makes you think.