Poetry: Poems We Love and Why We Love Them

Jul 12, 2018

TAA 0028 – C. Travis Webb, Seph Rodney and Steven Fullwood swap poems that have moved, inspired, and saved them. If you care about words or love lyrical licks, pop on some cans and give us a listen.

C.T. WEBB 00:18  [music] Good afternoon, good morning, or good evening, and welcome to the American Age podcast. Today, I’m talking to Seph and Steven. How are you, gentlemen? 
S. FULLWOOD 00:27  Hey, good afternoon. How are you doing? 
S. RODNEY 00:29  Yep, I’m peachy. I’m glad to here with both of you. 
C.T. WEBB 00:32  So before we got started, Seph very politely asked if he could use a fan because it’s sweltering in New York and, unfortunately, the answer was no because it’s too loud [laughter]. So if Seph disappears towards the end of the conversation, he has just died [laughter]. 
S. FULLWOOD 00:49  He melted. 
S. RODNEY 00:50  Yeah, he died. Exactly. 
S. FULLWOOD 00:54  That’s hilarious. 
C.T. WEBB 00:54  And anything in the pursuit of truth and art. 
S. RODNEY 00:59  Amen. 
S. FULLWOOD 01:00  The sacrifices. 
C.T. WEBB 01:02  So today’s topic was a second go. So Steven and I had an exchange that Seph was involved where we talked about maybe broaching the subject of Jordan Peterson, and for a variety of reasons, we decided not to do that, although we may revisit him as a topic in the future. And so we came up with this idea of swapping poems that we love. I think I had used the adjective “favorite,” but, of course, I doubt I’m speaking for only myself when I say that’s impossible because there are so many poems that would be on that list. And so we swapped our poems that mean something to us, that are meaningful and poignant at that day in time. So what we thought we would do is we’re each going to read a poem and then we’ll have to eight to 10 minutes to all kind of talk about it and go from there. So, Seph and/or Steven, you guys want to get us going [laughter]? 
S. RODNEY 02:03  Yeah, you can go first, Steven. I’m happy to get into your poem because it’s a cool-ass poem. 
S. FULLWOOD 02:09  Sure, sure. 
C.T. WEBB 02:10  And I have to say I’m really looking forward to hearing Steven read it, actually [laughter]. 
S. FULLWOOD 02:16  So we’re going to discuss these afterwards, right? 
C.T. WEBB 02:19  Yes, yeah, that’s the proposal. Yeah. 
S. FULLWOOD 02:22  Yeah, that sounds good. Okay, hi everybody. The poem I’m reading today is from Marvin K. White’s book, Last Rights. It is a titular poem, “Last Rights,” and when I read it a couple days ago, I cried. And I’d been reading– I read this poem over the years when I first met Marvin, I think in 2002 in Chicago, but here’s the poem. Last Rights: “When I learned of Gregory’s death, I cried silently. But at the funeral, girl, I’m telling you, I rocked this church. Hell, I fell to my knees twice before I reached my feet. Three people had to carry me to my pew. I swayed and swoon, blew my nose on any and every available sleeve; the snot was flying everywhere. Then when I finally saw his body, my body jerked itself. Right inside that casket, and when I placed my lips on his– honey, the place was shaking. I returned my seat, but not before passing his mother, who I’m sure at this point was through with me. I threw myself on her knees, shouting, “Help me, Jesus. Help me.” When someone in the choir sang out, ‘Work it, girl. Work it,’ all hell broke loose. I was carried out, kicking and screaming, ushered into the waiting limo, which sped me to his family’s house where I was feasted on fried chicken, hot-water cornbread, macaroni-and-cheese, and Johnnie Walker Black. Finally, in my rightful place. 
S. RODNEY 03:52  Amen. Amen. 
S? 03:54  Mm-hmm. 
C.T. WEBB 03:57  Okay. 
S. FULLWOOD 03:58  So, yeah [laughter]. 
C.T. WEBB 04:01  So you said “rightful” at the end, and in the text that you sent around, it says, “In right place.” 
S. FULLWOOD 04:08  I had a funny feeling that when I would send the poem around that I’d miss a line or two, it’s actually “rightful place.” Yeah, I’m reading [inaudible]. 
C.T. WEBB 04:13  Is it rightful? Oh, interesting. That changes things a little bit, actually. 
S. FULLWOOD 04:17  It does. And I think when I read it earlier today, I did say “right” and I went back, I was like, “I don’t think that’s right.” So it’s funny that you should bring it up. Now, smart me didn’t go back and correct it [laughter]. 
C.T. WEBB 04:27  Okay, that’s true. Well, you just corrected it. So we’re good, we’re good. 
S. FULLWOOD 04:32  It does change it, but yeah. So, yeah, there you have it. 
S. RODNEY 04:36  All right. So are we going to read the next poem and then talk? 
C.T. WEBB 04:39  Well, I thought what we would do is then just kind of talk about Steven’s poem, his selection, and then we’ll move to the next one after that. 
S. RODNEY 04:48  I completely agree. So, Steven, question, the first thing that pops out to me about the poem and you sent it around yesterday was that it’s a poem, to a certain extent, about performance– 
S. FULLWOOD 05:01  Yes. 
S4 05:02  — and it is, in itself, performative. 
S. FULLWOOD 05:05  Yes, absolutely. 
S. RODNEY 05:06  Right, so is that one of the things that you love about this poem? 
S. FULLWOOD 05:05  So what I loved about it was that it’s very visual. Marvin K. White, he is a poet in residence in Oakland, California. He’s also a deacon and he works with different kinds of people in different workshops, writing workshops, spiritual workshops, and what-have-you. And Marvin is a very performative guy, in fact, when I told him, “I selected this poem,” he goes, “I can’t wait to hear how you do it.” And I’ve heard him read it at least twice since– before then. It’s very performative, but what I loved about it– I love a lot of things about it, but it’s someone telling you the story of what he did in the church. So the two ways that I took it, one is that it actually happened. And two, that it happened differently [laughter]. 
C.T. WEBB 05:56  Yes. 
S. RODNEY 05:58  Right, right. Because it’s his story, he’s going to tell it his way. 
S. FULLWOOD 06:02  Absolutely, because this is his story. 
S. RODNEY 06:04  Right. 
S. FULLWOOD 06:04  Right, this is his partner. And so here’s another story about it very briefly is that– so Marvin wrote the poem to appear in a book called 100 Black Gay Poets: The Road Before Us by Assotto Saint. Assotto Saint was a poet, activist, publisher. And after Assotto read the first iteration of the poem, he goes, “But don’t you think,” because it didn’t have him going to the house afterwards, he goes, “Don’t you think he deserves a drink after all this?” And that’s when Marvin wrote the rest of it, and I love it when a poem is trying to be born and someone says one or two things and it changes the whole flavor of it, right? But Marvin reads it, obviously, 10 times better than I do, and so what Marvin does for me a lot is that he always has community in mind and some of my favorite poems are all about community. [inaudible] told me to tell you guys that her favorite poem is in front of her. There’s always a poem– there’s no such thing as a favorite poem for her, and I’m glad that you mentioned that earlier, Travis because right after this, I went after a few more poems and said, “Let me just stop.” I said, “I love poems. This is what I sent them [laughter]. I’ll share this other stuff with them later.” But it’s a transformative poem and it makes me feel excited about writing. Marvin makes me excited about writing. 
C.T. WEBB 07:26  Mm-hmm. 
S. RODNEY 07:27  And Travis, what did you see in the poem that [inaudible]? 
C.T. WEBB 07:30  So the performative aspect is, of course, one of the things that jumps out. I mean, what I thought was interesting is this play on “right.” So “rights” as it would typically be written is R-I-T-E. 
S. FULLWOOD 07:47  T-E. 
C.T. WEBB 07:48  Right? Yeah. So if it was a religious rite, but this is something morally good, right? So there’s a sense in which there’s almost a setting things in order, to place things– I mean, he himself goes to this proper place, which is clearly just sort of some kind of bodily comfort, right? I mean, that’s what happens at the end of the poem; it’s the chicken, it’s the cornbread, and the Johnnie Walker Black. I mean, it’s a very affective gesture at the end. So this movement back into the body, after this really outrageous display [laughter]. I mean, there’s really just no other way– 
S. FULLWOOD 08:42  I mean, a funeral. 
C.T. WEBB 08:44  I mean, if you were in– if you saw this performance– I know if Seph was sitting next to me, he would just lean over, he’s like, “What kind of fucking nonsense is this [laughter]?” I know he would be very unsparing with this. I mean, Steven, I can’t speak for you. I’m not sure. 
S. FULLWOOD 09:03  Well, I do have a take on that, and that is this. So early on in the ’80s and even into the ’90s, people were going to funerals for people who had died of HIV and AIDS, and what happened was that they were getting different funerals from the person who was in the casket. Meaning that the parents or someone wiped away their sexuality, they wiped away the fact that they had AIDS, and they just presented them in a particular way. In fact, one of my last books, I actually talk about that issue when you are at someone’s funeral and you don’t get the funeral that you believe that they should have had, what do you do? And so sometimes– I think what Essex Hemphill’s– a poet named Essex Hemphill, his parents did not talk about his gayness or how he died, and so his friends and other people, they put together another funeral, another service for him, but this had happened a lot where people were just sort of whitewashed their lives, which is I think is really poignant. And I don’t know if still happens, but– 
C.T. WEBB 10:06  So here’s the thing. So that makes sense to me and I understand the potency of being a part of a community that is ostracized– I mean, as much as I can understand it, right? I can sort of imagine what that’s like. But I mean, it seems almost universal to me as a story of misunderstanding one’s– one’s family misunderstanding who one is as an adult. I mean, I know very few people who have transitioned their relationships, their adolescent and childhood relationships to full-fledged adult relationships with their parents. I think, oftentimes, we are not seen for who we are as adults by our adult parents, and maybe that’s intensified, again, like I said if you’re in a community that is also ostracized, right? So, particularly in the ’80s if you were part of the gay community, but that sense of alienation– and I don’t say this to diminish it, I mean to say that there’s this aspect of the poem that injustice and that indignation that is readily accessible to many people, I think, that feel that they weren’t recognized in life. 
S. FULLWOOD 11:25  That’s probably why it works for a lot of different people for different reasons, but I definitely agree with you that it could– it’s very specific to a certain community, but the poems that do that are universal. 
C.T. WEBB 11:38  Yes. 
S. FULLWOOD 11:39  And that’s what allowed you, possibly, to get into it. But yeah, Seph? 
S. RODNEY 11:46  No, I’m sorry I interrupted you, Steven. You’re absolutely right. I mean, that’s one of the powerful things and I sort of– what’s the word? It’s contrary, it’s not intuitive at all, and it’s one of those things that people who start out writing poetry need to learn quite early on in the process in order for the work, I think, to progress or to become more sophisticated is that the more detailed you are, actually, the more the poem explodes out to encompass more and more of life. And I do want to say something quickly, I don’t think I would have called it “nonsense,” Travis, if I was next to you, I would have liked like to use some sort of– 
S. FULLWOOD 12:30  I just want to go on record. Yeah [laughter]. 
S. RODNEY 12:32  Right. I just want to– I would not have– because I actually think part of me would have been entertained by that and part of me would have been, of course, scandalized as well because that’s just my character. But I do want to say this about the story that both you and Steven was telling. It’s just very personal to me and I think this just happened to a friend of mine who passed away a couple of years ago, and I still have no idea what caused his death, but Terry Hollis and I were roommates back in Fort Greene in ’91 to ’92/’93, right before I went back to undergrad. And Terry was a dancer. Terry was an elegant– Terry loved dance. He studied at Dance Theatre of Harlem. At the time, he did some work with the dance troupe that I was kind of involved in, Reggie Wilson’s Fist & Heel, which is still going, in which our mutual friend, Lawrence Harding is still very much involved in. And then he just kind of fell of the map and I didn’t know what happened to him. I heard that he was in San Francisco and then I heard that he was homeless and I heard that someone had seen him and didn’t know what to do for him– whatever. He reached out to me a couple of years ago, he found me on Facebook, and we exchanged some really heartfelt messages. I miss Terry. I think Terry is a really gorgeous human being, and I think at the time in my life, we were living together, I just was not– I was just not a very– I just wasn’t a very good person. I was just bitter and confused and didn’t know what to do with myself, but Terry was a real friend and he passed away. And the thing is I read his funeral– sorry, the statement that they published in the paper, and it mentioned nothing about him being a gay man, and I remember thinking, “This is some bullshit. You have robbed him of this salient aspect of his life. This is who Terry was. This is who Terry was.” Yeah. So that is my sense of how this poem rings– this is my story about the sense of how the poem rings true to me. 
C.T. WEBB 14:51  Yeah. 
S. FULLWOOD 14:53  Wow. 
C.T. WEBB 14:54  Yeah, I don’t really have an elegant segway for that. Seph, do you want to jump into your poem? 
S. RODNEY 15:01  Yes, yeah. Mine is– actually, it’s a kind of nice counterpoint because my poem is a poem by Denise Levertov, who I did not know much about and I still don’t. I encountered a poem, probably back in the ’90s actually. It just was somewhere when I was reading a lot of poetry, in those days, and I encountered it and it stuck with me. And at one point, I think I memorized it, but I have a printout in front of me just in case I haven’t. So this is the poem by Denise Levertov, titled O Taste an See, “The world is not with us enough, O taste and see. The subway Bible poster said, meaning the Lord. Meaning, if anything, all that lives to the imagination’s tongue; grief, mercy, language, tangerine, weather. To breathe them, bite, savor, chew, swallow, transform into our flesh, our deaths. Crossing the street, plum, quince, living in the orchard and being hungry and plucking the fruit.” So I love this poem for several reasons. One is that it is actually an answer to a William Wordsworth poem, The World is Too Much With US. 
C.T. WEBB 16:27  Is too much with us. Yeah, that was the first thing that jumped out at me. 
S. RODNEY 16:29  Right. So I’m just going to read the first couple of lines of that poem and explain how they’re connected. So, Wordsworth, one of the progenitors of English Romantic poetry wrote this poem, it says, “The world is too much with us. The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending. We lay waste our powers. Little we see in Nature that is ours. We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!” His argument, his grievance is that with– and I think it’s really, he’s talking about the onset of modernity. I mean, he’s writing at the beginning of the 19th century, and he sees this movement towards this sort of acquisitive materialism of the age, right? The beginnings of the industrial period, and he thinks we’re losing out. We’re losing touch with nature. We’re losing touch with that which is sort of verdant and life-giving and life-affirming. Right. So Denise Levertov comes into the picture like about two centuries later, right? And she says, “The world is actually not with us enough,” and what she means by that is that if we look around us, that despite the sort of story that is being told by ecclesiastical authorities, by the Christian church, that it’s about the Lord. No, it’s– “The Bible poster said,” right? “Meaning the Lord,” but she says, “No, no, no, no. It’s about being this physical embodied human being in this place and reaching around us for those beautiful, enticing, gorgeous things that are not equivalent to sin, right? They are equivalent to actually being in your life and celebrating it. Tangerine, grief, mercy, language, and you savor these things, you chew them, you swallow them, you make them into the life that you can live. They become part of you if you so wish it. And she ends the poem by saying, “This is what life can look like. That you actually have an appetite for being in this place, for being an embodied human being, and you live in this orchard and you are hungry and you take the fruit.” It is such a hopeful poem for me because, honestly, I think most of human life is misery. I genuinely do. 
C.T. WEBB 19:07  No, no. Too strong. Too strong [laughter]. 
S. RODNEY 19:10  Well, I’m just saying, “This is what I believe.” It’s misery, but if I– 
C.T. WEBB 19:21  We should’ve let you have the fan on [laughter]. 
S. RODNEY 19:24  That’s funny. If I shake that off, if I shake that off and I look around and I say, “Okay, yeah actually, I am in an orchard. I am. There is fruit to be plucked around me.” It gives me hope. 
C.T. WEBB 19:41  Yeah. Yeah. Steven, do you have anything to– I’ll let you start this one. 
S. FULLWOOD 19:47  Oh, I just thought it was a powerful way to remind people that everything is happening right now and that there’s a beauty in it and that it’s really up to you. I felt like it’s a great poem for New York [laughter]. It’s just a great poem for New York. 
C.T. WEBB 20:03  It’s so funny. That’s really funny you said that– I immediately– probably just because of “subway,” but, I mean, obviously, I’ve been in other cities with subways, but it recalled New York to me as well when I read it. 
S. FULLWOOD 20:16  Well, I also think– okay, what I want to add to that is that I know a lot of people who just sort of go back and forth through their daily lives and they kind of go back here and there, and they live for the weekend, and all the other things that people claim the rest of the world does– New York does it, too [laughter] with a smattering of artists who stay up late and do all this other kind of stuff, but there was something– there’s this gnashing of teeth, there’s this soft demand to appeal to the senses that I really, really like about it, and I thought that the words back-to-back, “Grief, mercy, language, tangerine,” I was like, “Tangerine? I freaking love that. That is so dope.” It’s like a burst of orange in the middle of everything else, and I think it allows readers to get in and, obviously, as a reader, you get what you pull out because it’s just your imagination. And I just love poems that demand more of you. They don’t confirm your own biases and they don’t confirm your litmus test for living, but they try to push beyond those soft borders. So that’s how I read it. 
C.T. WEBB 21:20  Yeah. I thought there was a real edge in the poem, actually. And I mean that in a complimentary way. So, “Grief, mercy, language, tangerine,” so we’ve all zeroed in on that, but then, “Weather, to breathe them. Bite, savor, chew, swallow.” I mean, that’s all alimentation. I mean, that is devouring, consuming the world– 
S. RODNEY 21:48  Digest. 
C.T. WEBB 21:49  Yeah, yeah. And then, of course, into the next stanza, “Into our flesh, our deaths.” Right? Right there and at the core of the poem, this is William James, at the center of the feast there is the worm, right? And we shall all grin and dine in. Right there at the center of this plucking and savoring the fruit, that urgency– that urgency is death and mortality and threat. So I thought it was a very powerful poem. 
S. RODNEY 22:35  Good. 
S. FULLWOOD 22:35  Me, too. 
S. RODNEY 22:36  Yeah, nicely done. 
C.T. WEBB 22:37  What was the context in which you came to this one, Seph? Was it just something that you– were you reading Levertov at the time or were you drawn to it from another avenue? 
S. RODNEY 22:49  No, there was actually a very, very old-ass poetry anthology and I’m actually looking to my left now to see whether I still own it. I actually don’t know whether I do, but it’s one of the small press, it was a series and it was done in the 1960s or ’70s, and I remember it had a bunch of other really old poems like Dirge 1-2-3 by Kenneth Fearing and something by Howard Nemerov, and really– poems I never encountered anywhere else. And if I were more of a sort of willing investigator, I would actually look up that series and see if I could find copiesof it because it’s kind of a gold mine. It’s amazing. 
S. FULLWOOD 23:32  Oh, yeah. 
S. RODNEY 23:32  Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I don’t know if I still have it. It may actually be in one of those crates I shipped off to my father’s house more than a decade ago. So I have to do some investigation at some point to track that down, but I think we’ve talked this one out. So I’m happy to move on to yours, Travis. 
C.T. WEBB 23:57  So I will give you a little bit of context on this one. So this is by Pablo Neruda, obviously, a very, very famous poet, Chilean poet. Famous for his love poetry early in life and sort of made a political turn, and a lot of his poetry became quite political later in life. But this poem, in particular, I found when I was quite young. So I really had not developed– at that time, I had not yet really developed my palate for poetry. I had this job at Disneyland that was awful, and Seph probably knows this story, but I was one of the custodians that would have to walk around the park and sweep trash up, or be in the parade and walk behind the horses with a vacuum cleaner and vacuum up their [inaudible]. 
S. RODNEY 24:55  Oh, my God. 
C.T. WEBB 24:57  So this was a great indignity for me, and the way I would get through my days is I would– this is no joke, I would memorize a poem and I would say the poem to myself over and over again as I was sweeping the lines and having obnoxious teenagers tell me that I had missed stuff on the floor and things like that. So even though I hadn’t really looked at it in a very long time, but it has a lot of sentimental value to me and, obviously, originally written in Spanish, but I just called it “Enigmas” by Pablo Neruda. “You’ve asked me what the lobster is weaving there with his golden feet. And I replied, ‘ The ocean knows this.’ You say, “What is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent bell?’ What is it waiting for? I tell you it is waiting for time, like you. You ask me whom the Macrocystis alga hugs in its arms? Study it. Study it at a certain in a certain sea I know. You question me about the wicked tusk of the narwhal, and I respond by describing how the sea unicorn with the harpoon in it dies. You inquire about the kingfisher’s feathers which tremble in the pure springs of the southern tides, or you’ve found in the cards, a new question touching on the crystal architecture of the sea anemone, and you’ll deal that to me now? You want to understand the electric nature of the ocean spines, the armored stalactite that breaks as it walks, the hook of the angler fish, the music stretched out in the deep places like a thread in the water? I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its jewel boxes is endless as the sand, impossible to count– pure. And among the blood-colored grapes, time has made the petal hard and shiny. Made the jellyfish full of light and untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall from a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl. I am nothing but the empty net which has gone on ahead of unseeing human eyes, dead in those darknesses, of fingers accustomed to the triangle, longitudes on the timid globe of an orange. I once walked around as you do, investigating the endless star, and in my net, during the night, I woke up naked. The only thing caught; a fish trapped inside the wind.” So yeah, that got me through many days at Disneyland [laughter]. 
S. RODNEY 27:29  I just loved that. I loved that. So two things, Travis, briefly. One, that’s an amazing story about Disneyland and just changing your consciousness at that moment and being able to move it. It reminds me of a story that I heard a man tell me once that Africans– it was one of these Africans, it wasn’t specific to a particular culture, that for the long distances that they walk, they tell themselves stories and it helps them get the miles– helps them eat up the miles, right? I also want to say this about this poem, it feels like– I read it and I read it twice, and then I listened to it again when you were reading it. So there’s a song by Bjork called “Oceania” that I have that’s just an instrumental, played with piano. And it feels– this poem– it adheres to this poem so well. It’s a great background to it, but it’s so dense. Each line I could pull out and do something with it. 
C.T. WEBB 28:33  Mm-hmm. Sure, yeah. 
S. RODNEY 28:34  Each line, it’s really beautiful. And so where did you find this? You found this in a collection of his? 
C.T. WEBB 28:40  So it was in this movie– it was, again– so it was kind of a, formative’s probably the wrong word, but there was this movie called Mindwalk in the 1980s and it was an adaptation of a book by Fritjof Capra, and Capra’s one of these kind of synthesizers of East and West philosophy. And I forget– Tao of Physics may have been the book it was adapted from. I don’t remember exactly. And the premise of the movie is a physicist– this sounds like a joke– but a physicist, a politician, and a poet go on this walk together and they just have this kind of long-ranging conversation where they talk about quantum mechanics, and poverty, and poetry. And one of the characters towards the end of the movie breaks into this poem, and I remember just being blown away. I would watch that scene over and over and over and over again, and it’s what led me to look for Pablo Neruda. So that started the– I don’t know if it started, but it was certainly one of the earlier moments where it kind of lit a fire under me to move in a different direction. 
S. FULLWOOD 29:56  Isn’t it great to find something that leads you to something else? 
S. RODNEY 29:58  Yeah. 
C.T. WEBB 29:59  For sure. 
S. FULLWOOD 30:00  I just love that. That’s freaking awesome. 
S. RODNEY 30:02  So I have this desire to pull out what I think is a main thematic thread for me. And it’s subtle in that I wonder who he’s speaking to, and I wonder how he’s setting himself up in the poem, rhetorically, as a person who’s answering this other person. The other person is off-camera, right? He’s answering that person’s inquiries, right? So basically, this person is coming to the speaker of the poem and he’s saying, “You know about this. Answer me this, okay? You know– you’re in a position, clearly, to give me knowledge. So okay, Mr. Smart Guy, what is this about?” Right [laughter]? And his response, the speaker’s response is to say, I mean, it is kind of the enigma, right? And in some ways he absence himself, he’s like– he doesn’t say, “I don’t know,” but he says, “Actually, look through me. The ocean knows this. The ocean knows this.” 
C.T. WEBB 31:15  That’s my favorite line. 
S. RODNEY 31:16  Right? And then he says towards the end of the poem, I once walked around as you do, right? So you have this investigative mind, you want these sort of like– what’s the word I’m looking for? Scientific answers to these things, right [laughter]? What is this algae doing? What is this kelp doing? What is this sea slug doing? What is this about? And he says, “I did that once upon a time.” And then, in the night, right? And during the night, this would be the night where poetry would come to someone, right? And he says, “I woke up naked. I came into the world anew. Something happened. I came into the world anew, and the only thing in my net was a fish trapped inside the wind.” And I have to admit, I still don’t know what that means yet [laughter]. 
C.T. WEBB 32:11  So I’ll give you– I mean, obviously, I used to have this poem memorized. I probably still do, actually. So to me, I think– I follow your thread all the way, and to me, that feels right, and the thing that you’re waking up to is sort of the nonsense of the dream, which is the self– which is the self. It’s just yourself you’ve caught. You’ve come back to your own self that has brought you back to all of these questions. Sort of tying into what you said, sort of the lens through which– he’s trying to help this person perceive the world. 
S. FULLWOOD 32:48  But he’s also trying to help him– like you said, he disappears himself, “And I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life and its jewel boxes is as endless as the sand, impossible to count– pure.” That, for me, is the poem. So it’s a search for life or a search for beauty or a search for meaning. Meaningless? No, that’s the point. That’s the very point. So that’s how I read that last line. I was like, “That’s enough.” It’s great to have the questions. When you don’t have the questions, you might end up being a zombie or end up just sort of not seeing the color, or being able to eat or taste, or to go back to [inaudible] taste and see that poem. It’s really rich. I just thought this was a really wonderful poem and I love the story behind it, too. So I got to look at this movie. Mindwalk by Capra? 
C.T. WEBB 33:41  Well, it’s based off the book by Fritjof Capra. And it’s Fritjof spelled in a– F-R-I-T-J-O-F. 
S. FULLWOOD 33:49  Okay. Fritjof Capra. Okay, cool 
C.T. WEBB 33:52  Well, that was fun [laughter]. I mean, I always enjoy a podcast, but, I mean, it was actually just kind of fun to talk about poems. 
S. RODNEY 34:00  It is. It is really. And I have to say, though, one of the things I really liked about this exercise was it gave me– I mean, I know you guys. I know Travis a lot longer than I know you, Steven, but given our conversations over the years, Steven, with you, I feel like– one of the first times that we talked, I felt like, “Oh, here’s a brother. Oh, we know each other.” And there’s this profound like, “He’s a member of my tribe. We knew each other before, we’re just getting to know each other again kind of thing.” 
S. FULLWOOD 34:33  Oh, that’s really dope. I think that, too, and I think what I love is that there was a preamble with you with Mingus, our mutual friend. 
S. RODNEY 34:41  Right. 
S. FULLWOOD 34:42  “Oh, you got to meet Seph. You got to meet Seph.” He was just passionate that we know each other because we have something in common, and what I theorize of what I like to imagine about you and Travis’s friendship is that there’s a lot of places you guys are willing to go intellectually, and that just allows me a lot of fun space. So thank you for that. So thank you for that help. 
S. RODNEY 35:04  But what I was getting at was that– what this exercise has done has actually allowed me to know both of you even more in another way because I see– like the poem that you chose, Steven, actually kind of slightly surprised me because I think of you as kind of like– what’s the word? Like a sort of warrior-angel intellectual, but then you have this side to you that, clearly, enjoys this “performativity,” these moments where people break out of their rigid social roles and show out, and I love that that has come up, right? 
S. FULLWOOD 35:52  I don’t think I do a lot of trickster around you guys, but I have a lot of trickster energy. I’m very interested in seeing something happen sometimes to see just what will happen. And the emotional part of me is like, “Oh, I don’t want anyone hurt. I don’t anyone to do this and everyone should be safe and all that.” And then someone might ask a question, like in Travis’s poem, in Enigmas, “So you want the answer? Well, here are some ways that you can find out. Maybe. Maybe.” 
C.T. WEBB 36:19  Yeah, I also– just to echo what Seph said, I also was– surprised might be a little too strong, but I was provoked in a really positive way. There was something very mischievous about the poem that you picked. And we don’t interact in ways that I probably get a chance to see that very often, but it does definitely comport to other interests that you’ve self-reported to me. So you’ve talked about the trickster thing and one of the things that fascinated you about Prince is sort of his ability to transform himself, and clearly, Prince was all about poking and taking apart and lampooning musical forms. 
S? 37:08  And people. And people. 
C.T. WEBB 37:10  Absolutely. 
S. RODNEY 37:09  And marketing. 
C.T. WEBB 37:13  Yeah. Anyone that changes there name to a symbol [laughter] 
S. RODNEY 37:20  What do you with it? Yes. 
C.T. WEBB 37:21  You have ascended to marketing nirvana if you can make that move. 
S. RODNEY 37:27  Absolutely, absolutely. It was the before and after [laughter]. 
S? 37:32  Y’all going to have to try to pronounce this shit [laughter] 
S. RODNEY 37:35  Right, and I’m not going to tell you. I’m not going to tell you [laughter]. It was a stroke of genius, actually. 
S. FULLWOOD 37:42  It was. It so was. 
C.T. WEBB 37:46  All right. We’re a bit long in the tooth for today’s podcast, but that’s okay, though, it was a lot of fun. 
S. RODNEY 37:50  I really enjoyed it. 
C.T. WEBB 37:50  Thanks very much for joining me guys, and we’ll talk next week. 
S. FULLWOOD 37:54  Yes. 
S. RODNEY 37:54  Thank you, Travis. Thanks, Steven. 
C.T. WEBB 37:57  Thank you both. Bye-bye. [music] 

 

References

First referenced at 02:22

Marvin K. White

“The poems collected in LAST RIGHTS portray caring, humanness, family or kinship, humor, despair, ordinary problems and unqualified love as they occur in the everyday lives of homosexuals. With the quiet dignity of these poems Marvin K. White challenges us to consider how homophobia may distort what we behold”—The Washington Post.

First referenced at 15:01

The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov

How splendid and impressive to have a complete, clear, and unobstructed view of Denise Levertov at last. Covering more than six decades and including, chronologically, every poem she ever published, Levertov’s Collected Poems presents her marvelous, ground breaking work in full.

First referenced at 24:57

The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems

This bilingual collection of Neruda’s most essential poems will prove indispensable. Selected by a team of poets and prominent Neruda scholars in both Chile and the U.S., this is a definitive selection that draws from the entire breadth and width of Neruda’s various styles and themes.

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