The Electric Poetry of Kwame Dawes

January 6, 2015 8:09 PM

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If poetry demands solitude and introspection, then I am in trouble. I know too many gifted poets who have been waiting for years for time to write. This saddens me. I believe poetry benefits from introspection, but solitude -- physical solitude -- is not necessary for introspection. The secret is to have the capacity for introspection while being around others. I remember hearing Lucille Clifton suggesting to a group of poets that wondered how she managed to keep writing while having her share of children, that they look at the length of her poems during the years she spent raising the kids. They were shorter, she said. Her point was that she was not going to stop writing. But she was going to change the way she wrote -- the form, if you will -- to suit the culture of her world. It is a most brilliant thing. Recently, my children were laughing about the fact that they have never really seen me write. Suddenly there is a book and then they wonder how that happened, when did I do all that writing. The answer is that I worked on the poems while I was with them. Introspection -- thinking, if you will -- happens in the head. Chew, and walk, chew and walk, now rub your belly and pat the head. Again, chew and walk, chew and walk, now rub the belly and pat the head.

Duppy Conqueror, a volume of his selected poems, which includes pieces that date all the way back to his Forward Prize-winning turn in 1994 with Progeny of Air, is a stunning, clear-sighted affair that examines historical wounds and the sense of community, love, friendship and appreciation of art, m...

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