contributing editors

Anthony A. Lee, Ph. D.
UCLA & West Los Angeles College

leeAbout the Poet: Anthony A. Lee teaches African American history at UCLA and at West Los Angeles College. He was awarded the 2003 Nat Turner Poetry Prize (Cross Keys Press) and the 2005 Naomi Long Madgett Award for poetry (Lotus Press).

 



The Subaltern Voice – Abraham’s Bargain

Students always ask: “What is poetry, anyway?” Of course, there is no answer to that question. Or rather, there are as many answers to that question as there are poets and readers. Emily Dickinson famously answered: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. [It is] the only way I know it.  Is there any other way?”

When I am asked, I answer that poetry is the language we use when there is no language to express the emotions we are feeling. It is the language that moves beyond language. Every poem, if it is a poem, conceals a secret and reveals it without words, since words cannot express it. Every poem points to the sacred, but cannot speak it.

Therefore, if successful, every poem is an apocalypse. The root meaning of the word is “to uncover” or “unveil,” literally to “un-eclipse” a part of reality. Apocalypse. A poem should break open a moment in time and unveil its full depth and meaning to us, uncover its sacredness. Since every moment is full of truth, full of meaning, and saturated with presence, any moment will do. Any moment can inspire a poem—washing the dishes, crossing the street, making love to a spouse—or to a stranger, watching a leaf fall from a tree. And each poem will pass beyond the moment of its creation to shatter the surface of our everyday sense of reality to uncover (or unveil) something deeper.

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