If you really wanted to hear the news. . . Or: Nine things I’ll carry forward from the Poets Project honorees
During National Poetry Month 2022, we invited Meca’Ayo Cole, a Denver-based multidisciplinary artist and writer, to reflect on The Poets Project at Casa Grande, an anthology of poetry from nine contemporary poets from whom rooms in our new building are named. To read the anthology, please visit our website. Learn more about Meca’Ayo by visiting their website, https://www.sireneatspoetry.com/.
“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.”
– William Carlos Williams
If you really wanted to hear the news, you would take a walk through the city. You would take a long view of the landscape. You would breathe in the street, the river, the side of a mountain, the trees and their inhabitants, the symbols and old masonry of the historical buildings, a street’s evaporating histories, and you would recognize yourself as not apart. You would recognize yourself as an extension of that street, and everyone who has tread upon it. You would recognize yourself as all parts of the river: the water coursing, the salmon struggling upstream during their season, the water birds, the moss and the stones and water skimmers. You would walk and collect the street, the river, through your vision, and through your eyes reflect it back to many more who need reminding that if they really wanted to hear the news, they would take a walk through the landscapes surrounding them.
This is what stayed with me the whole time I read through the poets’ work in The Denver Foundation’s anthology The Poet’s Project at Casa Grande. It is a bit of an affirmation for me. Poetry’s tools can provide the multiple modes of seeing we need for so many occasions. My favorite occasion is in creating positive social change.
You, like I, may have once thought that poetry was solely a solitary (and quite possibly high falutin’) mental exercise in which words and images were spun for the sake of it. Amanda Gorman, America’s first national poet laureate, and the youngest presidential inaugural poet reiterates that “Poetry is a weapon, it is an instrument of social change. Poetry is one of the most political arts out there.” This reminds me too of one of my favorite poets Audre Lorde who very powerfully states in her essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury.” that “It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.” Poetry can be a catalyst for social change, and it is for all of us. Poetry is communal and alive!
As I’ve mentioned before, this kind of poetic mindset is one that has grown me. This poetic mindset is also evident in the works, on and off the page, of The Poets’ Project poets.
Some examples from their work in these pages:
Frederick Bosco gives us an accounting of Denver’s changing landscape. He shows us how long-standing neighborhoods and their peoples are affected by city interests, and how that change affects some of our most vulnerable people. Bosco also asks questions that might light sparks inside of us:
If we can dream of a
great city we can build it.
whose dream is it?
Linda Hogan draws our attention to the river, and reminds us to remember our histories and lineages, our ancestors, and the river, too, because we are not separate from any of it. What we might bend to our will or take without paying attention to and/or respectfully regarding, we are more prone to lose. Hogan reminds us:
even you I may never know,
none of us alike,
we are all in the same
rushing current of life.
Bobby LeFebre reminds us how powerful we all are when we remember our ancestors and histories. He along with every poet in this collection dreams that another world is possible, one that remembers and honors instead of erasing and sweeping the eraser filings under a rug. LeFebre reminds that this remembering and honoring and walking through the landscape includes walking inside of our own bodies. The remembering must go deep:
Crawl inside and sightsee,
ask difficult questions about who it is, and why…
When there is nothing left to do but live,
simply show up;
that has always been enough
Sheryl Luna is another poet who makes our most vulnerable visible, and reminds us that we must consult our innermost depths for the truth that can only serve us. This inner mining also “is expansion: to stand as One with all,” just as much as breathing in the stars:
For two hundred thousand years,
we have been deaf.
We forget meaning, our storylines
repeat the rhythm of our breaking.
The soul is without weight in the end.
We must find the calm witness
within that observes the self
quietly, the child laughing
in a flurry of light.
Jovan Mays reminds that we are all connected, too, and it is urgent that we recognize this before it becomes too late:
And somewhere in that abyss
of poached, they will find black
tusks and carcasses and see
that all of our bones were the same.
I think I mentioned that poetry can be healing: writing them, speaking them, listening. Poetry is also a sort of magic which unites us, a ceremony that connects us to each other and back to our ancestors who could not have imagined our coming into being. Poetry helps us to send messages back to those who might hear us as well when we become future ancestors. This reminds me of Angela Davis who is constantly telling us that “Freedom is a constant struggle.” We do the work, we create artifacts of that work, and we bequeath them to our next readers. Adrian Molina writes that we should
Fear not of death
for we are dying as we
speak so we can
how to live again.
The worlds we can imagine are possible, and the worlds that have passed should be remembered. Chris Ransick remembers the ghosts of yore:
Underground, you see the dangling
roots of condominiums, legs of lynched men
dripping silver back into the earth.
Ore crushers pound incessantly, great
piston strokes and impacts. This town
is a drum beaten by demons.