The Good Caucasian
[It’s] the ghost in me coming out. —Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
When forty acres have besieged
my brow, and a mule
and a winter, cold
as Ice Cube, I try
a remembrance of things, floating past—
Miss Daisy, and her necklace
of fingerpointing Title pages
On the South now squares of ash
If memory be a mountaintop
mine is hidden
by fat, puffy clouds, and other
symptoms. But, when dis-raced
in men’s eyes, and by time—
dust, the centuries—I will admit
impediment. My body
is where we are held
and you mine. Not
I Have a dream
A cold, cold feeling
-Excerpt from Dark~Sky Society
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
AH: This book was actually raised by its grandparents, Gwendolyn Brooks’ A Street in Bronzeville, Zbigniew Herbert’s Report from a Besieged City, Robert Hayden’s American Journal, and Adrienne Rich’s Dream of a Common Language.
Its parents are LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka’s The Dead Lecturer and Eavan Boland’s In a Time of Violence. Though they weren’t around to make their strong impressions, you can see their harsh love in its face.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
AH: Bodyrock of dance and fuck and nursing child. Taking words apart, for the nu-trition they can be, and the sound instruments they are. And match-making words together, for the free-love unimaginable community that’s formed, after the labyrinthine solo, song broken down, when the band rejoins, builds the city of my Note in body. Following the yellow-brick road, off the Reality-beaten path. Building a doorway, or few; maybe a house. Inside: Singing with others, blending timbre to suit Song. Philosophy—but only the kind that would help a rabbit when in the headlights of an oncoming car (stolen from Czeslaw Milosz). Blind spots, patches of ignorance. Devastation, as disguise. The city inside a question. Fight. Love for Us. Wind, breeze in grass. Ass against thigh, arms against arms, casually grazing on subway.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
AH: Anna Karenina. I’m re-imagining it right now, for new work. I love how Tolstoy combines social critique with human longing, and ignorance.
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
AH: I fail a lot, and it’s changed my writing process to notice how important that is. For instance, I now know that I like to work with questions that are taboo, or seemingly stupid, impossible; I’ve learned to stay away from things that feel tame or ‘easy;’ those are poems that I will never figure out somehow. A lot of my failed poems compost into future poems—and to things in my life, since poetry isn’t something that happens on the page; it just gets distilled there. Also, it works the other way: my poems can’t change and expand unless I am doing so, in life. The poems that are failures also show what in my life I’m failing at, what kinds of imaginative leaps have become boring or opaque, what ruts in my mind or body need to be rained out and re-seeded, to be a better home for the more primal and disorienting animal of me.
Get a copy of Dark~Sky Society at IndieBound.
Ailish Hopper is the author of Dark~Sky Society (New Issues), and the chapbook, Bird in the Head (Center for Book Arts). Individual poems have appeared in Agni, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review Online, Ploughshares, Poetry, Tidal Basin Review, and many other places. She has received support from the Baltimore Commission for the Arts and Humanities, the Maryland State Arts Council, MacDowell colony, Vermont Studio Center, and Yaddo. A native of DC, she teaches at Goucher College in Baltimore.