"Why Do So Few Blacks Study Creative Writing?" by Cornelius Eady

For the last couple of years, I've been involved in a conversation on and off the blog about the representation of people of color in the publishing industry. This poem was posted earlier this year by the indispensable Ta-Nehisi Coates, and it more than anything else I've read or heard on this subject drove home to me the need for books that speak one's own language, where no translation is necessary, where one's life doesn't have to be justified or explained. 

Why Do So Few Blacks Study Creative Writing?
by Cornelius Eady

Always the same, sweet hurt,
The understanding that settles in the eyes
Sooner or later, at the end of class,
In the silence pooling in the room.
Sooner or later it comes to this,

You stand face to face with your
Younger face and you have to answer
A student, a young woman this time,

And you're alone in the class room
Or in your office, a day or so later,
And she has to know, if all music
Begins equal, why this poem of hers
Needed a passport, a glossary,

A disclaimer. It was as if I were...
What? Talking for the first time?
Giving yourself up? Away?
There are worlds, and there are worlds,
She reminds you. She needs to know
What's wrong with me? and you want

To crowbar or spade her hurt
To the air. You want photosynthesis
To break it down to an organic language.
You want to shake I hear you
Into her ear, armor her life

With permission. Really, what
Can I say? That if she chooses
To remain here the term
Neighborhood will always have
A foreign stress, that there
Will always be the moment

The small, hard details
Of your life will be made
To circle their wagons?

Oh, My Poor, Lovely, Ever So Neglected Blog . . .

. . . I have been thinking about you, I promise. But I also have been traveling and editing and knitting, some of these things simultaneously. I spent nearly three weeks on the West Coast, the last one inadvertently, thanks to Tropical Storm Irene. I became an aunt to a darling future star for Manchester United, which is ironic, because at present his name most famously belongs to a cricket player. I completed the baby blanket I have been knitting since 2006, and strained my wrist kayaking while singing Broadway showtunes. (Long story.) I reviewed and personally critiqued one hundred and fifty-three queries -- yes, 153 -- in connection with the webinar I did back in June. I visited two different music museums. I finished both A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin, with great satisfaction, and three other books besides, with only medium satisfaction comparatively, but still pleasure. I wrote four editorial letters in the week before I left, and one more during my Irene-enforced vacation. I ate at the best Thai restaurant in Los Angeles, or maybe the United States. I lost my wallet and iPod on a plane, and one of my books was named an Entertainment Weekly Must List pick, and another is featured on the Kirkus website this week. And I boogie boarded successfully.

Those are all the verbs of my last month or so, and some of the nouns too; but the reason I stayed away from you, dear blog, had to do with the adjectives . . . "Tired" and "talked-out" to some extent, thanks to all the crazy work of this year, and especially the week prior to vacation; and "emotional" about things that were none of your business. (Nyah, nyah, nyah, blog, I have things I don't tell you!) . . . And those things also made me feel tired and talked-out. One of the perils of being an editor, or perhaps just of modern life, is that one's judgmental antennae can be up all the time, weighing how something is done, to what ends, whether those ends are worth the effort, whether the "how" is the best method for reaching them, and then figuring out how best to communicate those judgments in the appropriate forum, if one should, because one has so many forums to be judgmental. (Wittily and briefly for Twitter? At great length in a letter or blog post?) I did not entirely succeed in turning off these antennae during my vacation, and as a result, I remained tired and talked-out in my head, and not so much wanting to put that talk down in pixels . . .

But it feels good to write here, Brooklyn Arden dear, and stretch these familiar muscles. I do hope to return again soon. I have new books to tell you about, and some thoughts on this devastating but oh-so-true Onion article, and those 153 critiques plus the article made me want to do a series delving into the nature of bad prose (not that all of the critiques were bad by any means). I promise nothing, because that merely sets me up for failure, but I'm thinking about you, and wishing we could spend more time together. The fall is always my time for new beginnings:  Here's to trying.

The Quote File: Change

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. — Charles Darwin

Fortune does not change men, it unmasks them. — Suzanne Necker

Some people change when they see the light, others when they feel the heat. — Caroline Schoeder

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. — Eric Hoffer

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change. — Carl Rogers

We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn. — Peter Drucker

We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends. — Mary McLeod Bethune

Teaching is more than imparting knowledge, it is inspiring change. Learning is more than absorbing facts, it is acquiring understanding. — William Arthur Ward (again)

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules.... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. — Steve Jobs

I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a "transformer" in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader. — Stephen R. Covey

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. — Robert F. Kennedy

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. — William O. Douglas

You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty. — Jessica Mitford

For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. — Ingrid Bengis
 
The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him. — Dylan Thomas

I can't think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people's understanding of what's going on in the world. — Seamus Heaney

We pass the word around; we ponder how the case is put by different people, we read the poetry; we meditate over the literature; we play the music; we change our minds; we reach an understanding. — Lewis Thomas

Books are the dreams we would most like to have, and, like dreams, they have the power to change consciousness, turning sadness to laughter and anxious introspection to the relaxed contemplation of some other time and place. — Victor Null

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft. — H. G. Wells

You wait for fate to bring about the changes in life which you should be bringing about yourself. — Douglas Coupland

To change your life, start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions! — James Joyce

Our heads are round so that thoughts can change direction. — Francis Picabia

Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind. — William Somerset Maugham

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. — John F. Kennedy

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. — William Arthur Ward (again)

It makes me unhappy when certain things change or things are superseded… my nine-year-old daughter's personality... Card catalogues... Jiffy Pop right now feels imperiled... I want to stop time and get things down on paper before they've flown off like a flock of starlings. — Nicholson Baker

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. — Nelson Mandela

Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. — Flannery O'Connor

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. — William Somerset Maugham (also again)

The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about these once in a while and watch your answers change. — Richard Bach

I get up every morning determined both to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day difficult. — E. B. White

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. — Helen Keller

A Walk Up Crosby Street

When it comes to subways in New York, I've always been an orange line commuter: the F for the eight years I lived in Park Slope, and the B for the last 2.75 years in Prospect Heights. But this summer, I've discovered the pleasures of the big yellow Q train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. First I get to cross the Manhattan Bridge on the southern tracks, allowing a much better view of the Brooklyn Bridge: