Black American Women Poets and Dramatists

Black American Women Poets and Dramatists

Black American Women Poets and Dramatists

Black American Women Poets and Dramatists


In our contemporary America many of us are mad on angels; it is something of a growth industry. Tony Kushner's Angels in America, possibly our best drama since the death of Tennessee Williams, is the major aesthetic consequence, so far, of a national mania. Very close in eminence are the visions of Thylias Moss, a remarkable poet by any standards. She concludes her poem, "Fisher Street," with a phantasmagoria of laundry taking the place of angels:

Songs rise in vapor, white and bleached
Like all that laundry struggling on the line
like all of us
to be free.
I don't expect to see

any other angels.

I don't often get the sense that Moss poetically needs much "struggling on the line ... to be free" of influences, since she is so much an original. Her wit and metric alike have some relation to Elizabeth Bishop's, but she swerves from Bishop because in some inalienable sense Moss remains a religious poet, though with a difference, as at the close of "Birmingham Brown's Turn," one of her irrealistic triumphs:

Going there, we notice how Jesus
can become Confucius without a hitch
and can keep his parables if he wishes.
We all keep salvation.

In another strong poem, "A Form of Deicide," Moss observes that "Between Elvis, God, and Santa Claus, some people / get everything they need." She rather clearly does not, if only because her God is "a shadowy ever-descending brother," as he is described in "The Warmth of Hot Chocolate," an immortal wound of a prose-poem. My particular favorite, for now, is the marvelous "Doubts During Catastrophe," where Ezekiel's vision of the valley of bones is amplified, with an exuberance all Moss's own:

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