To Juanita Pleasants
George Elliott Clarke
Bleak scholars despise you with shamming praise,
Caring nothing for your Annapolis
Valley that "Glitters"—postcard-style—with "gold"
Russets, caring nothing for your rusty prayers,
Your tinny blather about "April Storms"
And dull, somnolescent, semi-white Negroes.
Obscure poet, obsolescent as faith,
Copyright your work under "Anonymous"
And name your residence "Limbo." No one
Wants to buy your bastard, anemic poems.
You are a Nova Scotian, second-rate—
Some silly black hymning hillbilly's blues.
But your thin, preening, vain, naive chapbook
Bears fat and pretty murmurings, sighings
Of rumour-soured rum, charred orchards dusted
With snowing light, and songs harping Negro
Heroics of precarious cunning.
Why shouldn't I adore your brittle libretto?
Because I, too, hope to break with Europe,
To finish with whiteness and its failings,
To shine your songs into all the alleys,
To gush your lyrics into desert minds,
To smell lushness in slushy April,
To regret the rum wasted in my throat,
To forget nasty eyes and shitty teeth,
To sterilize members of Parliament,
To bad-talk jittery literati,
To play the pure maoist of three mile plains,
To spy the sheen of a speech like water,
To sing language watery as a kiss.
Diva, live avid as lithe Godiva;
Avoid kitsch, though it cancers everything;
Lavish venom in low-key soliloquies;
Leave dead flesh in poetry-hating minds;
Make every lyric a work of treason,
A criminal's code, an arsonist's song.
Genius is hideous, degenerate:
Let your poems, this culture, incriminate.