Three Yaddo Poets Extol the Strength of Unity

July 10, 2020

A moment of stillness, a zing of recognition, a window opened on the soul— these are among the rewards of poetry, each of them sorely needed right now. Join us here for an occasional Yaddo series, curated by Soren Stockman.

Jacqueline Jones LaMon Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

“Socratic” by Jacqueline Jones LaMon

Source: Poetry (June 2017)

A community must realize its own power in order to determine an equitable future. Here, a teacher empowers students who “just stare outside at the lot / of parked cars,” demoralized by the question of “how could they / not indict. And why won’t justice ever be / served.” LaMon compares government to “our failed / technology,” two impersonal yet essential entities that ultimately function according to finances and must be directed specifically by exterior humanist concerns. A generation that will not wait for permission to progress no longer requires it. LaMon’s speaker exemplifies this responsibility for her classroom, “tell(ing) them / every true thing I know — that they are / the power who will save what needs saving.” — SS

Etheridge Knight Photo: Indiana Historical Society

“A Fable” by Etheridge Knight

Source: “A Fable” from The Essential Etheridge Knight, by Etheridge Knight, © 1986. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.Source: The Essential Etheridge Knight (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)

Knight constructs an allegory for the insidious psychological discord of oppression and incarceration. The poem’s characters “were innocent of any crimes; they were in prison / because their skins were black,” a damning scenario the poem takes to be tragically realistic. Knight’s prisoners each advocate disparately for what they identify as “the only way” to get free, be it to “emulate the non-/colored people,” “pray to my god,” “quietly dig,” “follow all the rules,” or “shoot our way out,” each person’s desperation at their captivity driving them to distrust each other’s solutions, and thereby distrust each other. Knight confesses his fear that such an oppressed group, fractured further within itself, is “still arguing . . . in their prison cells, their stomachs / trembling with fear.” — SS

Dolores Kendrick Photo: Darrow Montgomery

“Epoch” by Dolores Kendrick


The late D.C. poet laureate employs dense, compact lines composed of no more than three words each to speak in precise distillations. “We are,” the piece opens in declaration, “flesh and blood / steel and skin / struggling within / a linear light / toward one heartbeat.” Kendrick acknowledges the unquestionable ties that bind us to one another, as well as the difficulty of withstanding those very ties. “Our fragile / dreams that rise / upon a muscle / of memory / and wind” depend on us to share in the vulnerability of others. We must find strength in each other in the service of amending a sorrow not only our own. — SS