I subscribed this National Poetry Month to poets.org's Poem-A-Day service and it has been very ho-hum. In recent days, finally, something with spark: you can always count on Toi Derricotte. Among her many powerful volumes are Natural Birth, Tender, and Captivity.
In Knowledge of Young Boysi knew you before you had a mother,
when you were newtlike, swimming,
a horrible brain in water.
i knew you when your connections
belonged only to yourself,
when you had no history
to hook on to,
when you had no sustenance of metal
when you had no boat to travel
when you stayed in the same
place, treading the question;
i knew you when you were all
eyes and a cocktail,
blank as the sky of a mind,
a root, neither ground nor placental;
red with the cut nor astonished
by pain, one terrible eye
open in the center of your head
to night, turning, and the stars
blinked like a cat. we swam
in the last trickle of champagne
before we knew breastmilk—we
shared the night of the closet,
closing on our thumbprint,
we were smudged in a yellow book.
son, we were oak without
mouth, uncut, we were
brave before memory.Toi Derricotte
Toi Derricotte is a formidable poet, who mixes grit with beauty; her metal was forged in rebellion, the principles and sensibilities of which she has always been dedicated to and which serve as the foundation for what she does. Her work has yet to receive the universal recognition it deserves, but those in the poetry community know, respect, and admire her. I saw her read in a small setting back in New Jersey over 20 years ago from her powerful prose/prose poetry volume Natural Birth. She teaches here in Pittsburgh and was the co-founder of the poetry collective Cave Canem. I deal with Pitt poetry students regularly and the word from that quarter is always good.
Of course, it is, with Toi Derricotte there isn't any other way.
A poet with heart and fire and skill; now there's something you don't see everyday, eh, poets.org?
at the back window
the same person...
translated by David Lanoue