POEM TO BE READ IN A WORKSHOP[This is not a poem. Instead, I’d like to use my workshop
time—the approximately x minutes of it—to talk about
power, who is allowed to write, and why folks are
allowed to write.
A professor tells me in a one-on-one meeting that I write
about my rape because I have a sick fascination with
violence. Because I am like the professor. The professor
misgenders me as they say this.
What does it mean for, say, a professor to only teach, or
reference, white poets, or male poets, or straight poets,
or cisgender poets. Or to only invite to campus same.
What does it mean for multiple professors to do this.
What does it mean that this is happening everywhere.
Of course, the violences done unto white bodies are,
almost invariably, the least violences that are done at any
An institution1, one that both employed Audre Lorde and
contributed to her death by refusing to accommodate her
cancer treatment schedule, has a cohort of all white
First one year, then the following.
How does this make you feel. How does this make you
feel about each other. How does this make you feel about
me. I, of course, am complicit.
Please do not analyze the formal qualities of my writing,
including my avowals/disavows, distancing techniques,
and use of repetition.
Please do not pay attention to the shape of these letters
against the white of the page.
You’re smarter than someone I’d take to believe in
politics, says the professor.
Keep this in mind, I am writing about everywhere.]
1. “The English Department at Hunter, which recently honored Lorde with a conference 20 years after her death, rejected her proposals at the end of her life to teach on a limited residency basis that would allow her to teach poetry intensive classes for students during warm weather in New York and to live in warmer climates during the winter based on her health needs.” Alexis Pauline Gumbs, “The Shape of My Impact”↩
Photograph of Zefyr Lisowski by Ayesha Raees.