In a recording of a performance from Clemente Padín’s archives described by Jill Kuhnheim, Padín reads a poem to a group of schoolchildren until he reaches the line “‘este verso debe repetirse’ [this line should be repeated].” Taking his own words as instruction, Padín closes the gap between the text of the poem and its performance, repeating the words again and again until one of the children exclaims “‘este verso debe culminar’ [this line should finish].” Rather than an interruption of a prescripted performance, the playful, improvisatory response of the child perfectly completes Padín’s poem.
So, which Côte d’Ivoire? Yet, even that designation is not so stable — leftist nationalists of the recent wars often proclaim, not Côte d’Ivoire, but the state of Éburnie; Éburnie is proposed as a change to the country name, a change that would help move the country further from the status of residual French colony or international resource extraction zone. And as the country split during the civil wars, rebels in the north referred to a Republic of the North. So, who is an Ivorian poet?
Asked about his conception of poetry in a 2001 interview with Spanish poet and translator Emilio Araúxo, Afrizal Malna wrote, “Poetry doesn’t live in itself. Poetry lives in the reader who is open to their own memories, their various private and social experiences. Everything that we consider fixed in its position, through the semiotic play of poetry, can attain new correspondences. Those positions open wide and defy us to join them together with fresh contrasts and combinations.”
We’re familiar by now with the designation of neglected writers as “poets’ poets”— essentially, an excuse for their continuing neglect. And we are, or should be, even more familiar with the neglect heaped on African American innovative writers, especially those who refuse to be easily pigeonholed into secure ideological or formal categories. Thomas Elias Weatherly (1942–2014) fits both categories.
When Jacket2 invited me to compose a CFP for a special feature spanning multiple modes of thinking, it was the summer of 2017 and we were several months into Trump’s presidency. I had just returned to the United States, where I am a naturalized “citizen,” after years in Singapore, where I was employed as a faculty member on a work visa, a status determined almost solely on the state’s articulated understanding of my temporary utility to society — a condition that defines and delimits the lives of immigrants everywhere, but especially in oligarchic states (like Singapore and the US) that bank on the sweat and blood of certain bodies, the profitability of distended indenture (including debt), disenfranchisement, carceral surveillance, and other forms of coercion.