Etheridge Knight & Gwendolyn Brooks


We look back at PoemTalk’s 39th episode. In what ways is Etheridge Knight’s poem “The Sun Came” a rejoinder or counterargument to Brooks’ poem “truth”? There is no easy answer to this question. For this episode of PoemTalk, published in December 2010, Al Filreis gathered Tracie Morris, Josephine Park, and Herman Beavers to talk through the relationship between the two poems and between these two poets. Enabled by Tracie’s sense of the lived authority of Knight’s voice (“the Joe Williams of modern poetry”), by Jo’s close reading of his performed meter, and by Herman’s attention to the jailed figure of Knight, we soon realize that Brooks invites a dialogue by way of a key religious trope, and that Knight has responded by figuring Malcolm X as Jesus Christ. Summoned by Brooks to testify about Jesus, Knight associates Malcolm with the end of darkness. Christian regret (we did not sufficiently know him until after death) sparks Knight’s angry, sad, sorrowful expression of our having “goofed the whole thing” — that our ears should have been, but weren’t, equipped to hear the “fierce hammering.” [more>>]