Wearing nothing but snakeskin
boots, I blazed a footpath, the first
radical road out of that old kingdom
toward a new unknown.
When I came to those great flaming gates
of burning gold,
I stood alone in terror at the threshold
between Paradise and Earth.
poems & poets
Wearing nothing but snakeskin
O cloud-pale eyelids, dream-dimmed eyes,
The poets labouring all their days
To build a perfect beauty in rhyme
Are overthrown by a woman’s gaze
And by the unlabouring brood of the skies:
And therefore my heart will bow, when dew
Is dropping sleep, until God burn
The Dark Room Collective was founded in Boston in 1988 by a group of African American poets led by Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharan Strange. The mission of the Collective was to form a community of established and emerging African American writers. Major Jackson, John Keene, Janice Lowe, Carl Phillips, Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Artress Bethany White, and Kevin Young were also members of this group.
Originally conceived as a reading series, the Collective became a small community of poets. Strange wrote, "It was the sustaining practice of writing in community just as much as the activism of building a community-based reading series for writers of color that kept us engaged in collectivity" (Painted Bride Quarterly 60).
The Collective invited a diverse group of writers with different aesthetics and at different points in their careers, including Young and Smith, who both joined while undergraduates at Harvard University. Visiting writers and early readers in the
verbless poetry: Poems without verbs. On one hand, the verbless poem can create a static quality, a sense of the arrested moment, which is why it has appealed to poets who write haiku and other types of imagist poems. For example, Ezra Pound’s defining imagist poem, “In a Station of the Metro,” consists of fourteen words without a verb. It juxtaposes two images without a comment, suggesting rather than stating the relationship, and in the process freezes a moment in time. Here is the version that first appeared in Poetry (April 1913):
The apparition of these faces in the crowd :
Petals on a wet, black bough
On the other hand, the verbless construction can give, as the linguist Otto Jespersen points out in “The Role of the Verb (1911),” “a very definite impression of motion.” That’s why verbless constructions especially appealed to the futurists, such as F. T. Marinetti (1876–1944), who eliminated verbs in order to create a sense of telegraphic
My grandmother Ruth Stone died on a cold day in November on the mountain in Vermont where our family land stretches over acres of tall grass and woods and a lean dirt road that cuts through, utterly unchanged in all the years I’ve been alive. That Arcadian mountain loomed enormous in my childhood, rife with plums and apples growing wild, clusters of fat currants jamming the backyard bushes, and a towering cherry tree that bent right over the old W. B. Stone mailbox and dropped its sour cherries onto the dusty road. I can still feel the gritty pits that seemed so unusual in my mouth and I can still feel Grandma’s hand at the moment of her death many years later, her last big sigh of breath like a great steam engine coming to a stop.
Her house was stuffed with books and papers, rooms of the true artist’s life—ninety-six years, at the time of her death—worth of poems, letters, marked-up books, photographs, piano music, quilts, tin cups, notes in her broad, loopy handwriting,