Three Yaddo Poets Forge Our Path to Freedom

June 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.

Taylor Johnson Photo: Sean D. Henry-Smith

“Trans is against nostalgia” by Taylor Johnson

Source: Four Way Review (Issue 14), 15 November 2018

A trickle of freedom becomes a flood. Johnson prepares themselves accordingly, synchronizing their first step toward liberation with that liberation’s realization. “O New Day, I get to build the boat!,” Johnson exclaims, “I tell myself to live again.” Those most endangered call on those for whom danger is still an imminent idea, and make visible that danger in order to safeguard against it. “Somehow I survived / my loneliness and throwing up in a jail cell . . . I’ve picked up the hammer everyday / and forgiven myself.” We enter into the labors of others and are astonished by their immensity and duration. There, we chisel ourselves free. — SS

Hermine Pinson Photo: Stephen Salpukas

Test for Cognitive Function” by Hermine Pinson

Source: Split This Rock: Poem of the Week, 22 August 2014

Pinson’s speaker understands as a child that the power of community not only begets safe passage through duress, but sustains a legacy. “Mama said, ‘Walk together, children’ was code for / escaping to freedom, walking away,” Pinson writes. Love provokes love beyond its time, connects us to ourselves and others, and clears a space for collective emotion. Those who have fought to make our present fight possible still watch over us now, wistful at our opportunity. “Every season she’s gone / she walks memory’s winding / corridors . . . for safe keeping.” Our heroes continuously redeem the past, and leave the future to us. — SS

Ronaldo V. Wilson Photo: Joel Gregory

“71. Realizing Lucy” by Ronaldo V. Wilson

Copyright © 2016 Ronaldo V. Wilson. Used with permission of the author.

The journey to escape false hierarchies will be as arduous as the wrath with which those hierarchies were ingrained. Wilson’s speaker is witness to “the signal,” which declares this journey necessary, and which he defines by a process of elimination: “It is not the dead bird, lying out flat and face down in the middle of the street, its brown / belly on the pavement . . . It is not in my chest, which opens up in sections as I breathe . . . It is not the breath.” The mountain in front of us is the deadly imagination within, punctuated by fear of the perceived other. We follow the footsteps of those who have emerged. “This summer.” Wilson announces, “I burn off another self, sprinting up the high hill of my own making.” — SS