Major Jackson’s essay on race in poetry, “A Mystifying Silence: Big and Black” cracked open the silence on the topic of race in poetry. First appearing in the American Poetry Review, it is reprinted in the anthology in a section called "Imperialism & Experiments: Comedy, Confession, Collage, Conscience". Some of the essays in the section respond directly to Major Jackson's essay; others build upon it; some try to answer his call. In the coming days, there will be blog posts on the other essays--by Martha Collins, Jaswinder Bolina, Tess Taylor, Ailish Hopper, Tony Hoagland, and Patrick Lawrence--in this section. Here is a tiny taste of Major Jackson's humane and intelligent essay:
Writing about race has to be so much more than writing about race, and moreover, race in poetry is not a mere discussion between black and white peoples of the United States, or a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, or some poeticized contraption set up to ensnare an overly sensitive group of readers who passionately believe in equity, justice, racial harmony, and change. It bears repeating again: for us to actualize as a country whose ideals and documents profess the value of a diverse ethnic and racial populace, we must begin to pen a body of poems that go beyond our fears and surface projections of each other to a fuller account of the challenges and reaches of an ever-evolving democracy.
To read the full essay and all of the others, please get the anthology!