Monday, April 27, 2009

Toi Derricotte

I subscribed this National Poetry Month to'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 Boys

i 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;
not yet
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,
the parasitic
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,

at the back window
the same person...
translated by David Lanoue



Anonymous said...

a discovery for me thanks

she certainly "writes down the bones"

this one of hers "grabbed" me..

Family Secrets

They told my cousin Rowena not to marry
Calvin─she was too young, just eighteen,
& he was too dark, too too dark, as if he
had been washed in what we wanted
to wipe off our hands. Besides, he didn't come
from a good family. He said he was going
to be a lawyer, but we didn't quite believe.
The night they eloped to the Gotham Hotel,
the whole house whispered─as if we were ashamed
to tell it to ourselves. My aunt and uncle
rushed down the the Gotham to plead─
we couldn't imagine his hands on her!
Families are conceived in many ways.
The night my cousin Calvin lay
down on her, that idol with its gold skin
broke, & many of the gods we loved
in secret were freed.

well the lines as she wrote them got "computer-ized"

well there certainly is (much) more to Pittsburgh than
The Steelers
The Penguins
and The Pirates


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hey, Ed,

Thanks for the Derricotte poem, much appreciated. Yes, the Burg is pretty active in, er, unactive sports, like thunkin', poetizing and gazing blearily into the middle distance ...

Now if it weren't for this work thing ...

Ed Baker said...

Now if it weren't for this work thing ..


as soon as I hit 61 years 9 months I filed for SS..... about 3 YEARS AFTER
that I got my first health coverage...

now look at me! an old poet/artist "...just fading away"

so, aprappoe to this 'discussion' I got here part of an issue of WordWrights!

no. 25 Sept-Oct 2001 and I betcha it is (magically) on the net at their site and I also think that they are around here

well to the POINT the "Interview with Carl Rakosi" (we connected in 2000..see note at end of The City... on my site) this short interview should be inhaled en toto leave the plagiarizing to "the young and stupid" here is a taste:

KL: Do you think young poets should adopt a master, or does that happen naturally?

CR: It happens without the young poet's being aware of it at first, and when he does, he has to free himself from the bond, which is not easy to do. But of course many influences from others go into the making of a poet, too many to trace. The trick is to maintain one's individuality and come away from this barage with only as much influence as can be integrated into it."


KL: How about computers? Do you use one?

CR: No, I never have. I do use a word processor, however."


I forgot my original point! something about that long empty space between writing/drawing and drawing/writing

where things ink-you-bate...