Contemporary Black American Poets and Dramatists

Contemporary Black American Poets and Dramatists

Contemporary Black American Poets and Dramatists

Contemporary Black American Poets and Dramatists

Excerpt

Though I greatly admire the work of Rita Dove, currently our poet laureate, I prophesy that Thylias Moss, still a young woman, will surpass Dove and will be one of the crucial American poets of our turn into the twenty-first century. A marvelously original writer, with a vision and a diction very much her own, Moss is both a superb comic poet and a radical religious visionary whose mythos is altogether new, at least to me. The comic mode and the spiritual stance so blend in Moss that I scarcely can conceive of one without the other, as here in the second section of the superb "For Those Who Can't Peel the Potatoes Close Enough," where the poet, in the Christological year of her life, compares herself to Jesus:

Now I am thirty-three
and sometimes unable to feel my right leg,
a numbness threatening my feeling
the best part of marriage, numbness
I first felt biting through haddock
and my lower lip until blood spurted
and I stopped at red as I always do.
The waitress did not and pocketed
the bloody money.

A red carpet is a tongue of blood.
Jesus never married.
I never French kiss.

The pungency of this is very difficult to characterize; it has little to do with mere irony, with saying one thing while meaning another. Rather, the tone is uncanny, and seems both foreign and yet familiar. It appears throughout Thylias Moss's religious poems. In the great prose-poem, "The Warmth of Hot Chocolate," Moss portrays herself as "an angel who doesn't believe in God," yet who nevertheless protects him from corruption, and maintains him as "a shadowy ever-descending brother." "The Adversary" benignly presents Satan as "the original Uncle Tom," while "A Form of Deicide" compares God both to Elvis Presley and to Santa Claus. "Renegade Angels," another extraordinary prose-poem, implicitly makes women in love represent a new breed of angels, who can either divide or double at will.

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