Monthly Archives: March 2009

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), by Saidiya Hartman

Here are links related to the author:  interview with Tavis Smiley; another review; and another review; an essay from the book.

Decades ago when I graduated with my undergraduate, I was only 12 hours from having a double major in Pan-African Studies.  It was my goal at the time to obtain a doctorate degree in Pan-African Studies or African America Studies.  I wanted to become (among many things) a scholar on the Middle Passage.  Being short-sighted on the pushes and pulls of life, my life didn’t unfold as I had planned.  However, books that address this industry of attempting to commodify human beings, particularly African people, for purposes of profit are always on my radar.  Lose Your Mother has been on my Amazon wish list for a nearly 2 years.  I picked it up from my library last week.

Hartman fuses her scholarly research on documenting one of the slave routes with her personal reconciliation and discovery for what it means to be an African America woman.  I’m a third of the way through the book and its like working through fresh grief…her’s and mine.  There are times I’ve found myself wanting to minimize her grief and comfort her broken heart at the realizations of the current impact (dispossession, alienation and anger) of an old wound that scabs over and sometimes festers (ain’t that right Langston Hughes?!) like a sore and then runs. 

The other train of thought is wondering what her views are on the current movement of “hope” we working on now.  I’m certain that 40-50 years from now a young scholar will write as perceptively as she on how this generation’s romanticism or naievete or short-sightedness or whatever-ness fail short of healing the pains of alienation, dispossession, and malaise among common folks. 

Lose Your Mother is a strong companion to Middle Passages by James T. Campbell.  Will write more later.

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Filed under Author Links, history, Library book, sociology, The Middle Passage

Exquisite Heats, continued

I have a secret to share…I’m almost never out and about without a book of poetry.  Poetry is comforting and fills the spaces when I find myself waiting…also, when I’m out running about and fatigue or mental lethargy wants to creep in, poetry is my talisman to ward it off and all manners of evil.  Exquisite Heats is my new talisman.

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Filed under african american women, Poetry

Exquisite Heats, by Cherryl Floyd-Miller, Salt Publishing, 2008

Exquiste Heats is the 3rd book of poetry (84 pages) by this author and serves as my introduction to her talent.  I became familiar with the author through her blog which is a wealth of information and opinions on writing, poetry, and authors.  The Cherryl Floyd-Miller is also a textile artist who recently contributed a block to a group quilt organized through Fiber Artists for Obama.  Due to her literary focus and fiber focus, I felt a stronger connection and dedication to keeping up with her blog than most bloggers I read.

Before I proceed I’ll confess that my literary bias points in the direction of poetry over other forms…poetry tends to cut to the marrow of the bone.  Not all poets or poems do I grasp or get readily but I take that as an invitation to be taken to new ground that I’m most often grateful for.  With this stated, I’ve read the first poem in Exquisite Heats entitled Trapeze: The Greatest Show on Earth.  I always wonder what decisions a poet makes in laying out their poems in a collection…how specifically a poem is selected as the first poem from many, but I quickly pushed this question aside and read Trapeze.  First quietly…the first stanza and then I was flooded with images from my own family before I could begin again, quietly, the first, second, and third stanzas and again the memories of my own family returned.  I quietly started again and read through the entire poem and then read out loud for the sheer fun of hearing the rhythm.  The poet parrallels the pull and draw of a family with young children attending the circus with the family’s economic situation.  The act of saving for and attending the circus for this family is so much more the greatest show and risk than any act put on by the circus workers.

I found a comedic edginess in the poem…on the surface there is the fun and delight in the irony but the ending lines cut a little deeper when she ends with:

“The greatest of these is putting one day and soon in the same sentence.  We survive falls.  Plunge thousands of feet into straw.  Nothing is there to catch us.”

With these lines, Floyd-Miller invites the reader to reflect on the act and grace of one’s own daily survival.

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Filed under Poetry