“It is not enough” on Kamau Brathwaite’s “Negus”

brathwaite_kamauIt was an incredible privilege to speak with Amber Rose Johnson, Huda Fakhreddine, and Al Filreis about Kamau Brathwaite’s “Negus” last November as part of the PoemTalk series. I’m so sorry that Brathwaite is not around to see the recording made public this week. It seems a long time since I visited Penn in November. It was quite a different world then with Brathwaite still alive and no pandemic to make travel to the US impossible. It was also before the latest wave in the ongoing uprising against racial oppression, an uprising to which “Negus” gives voice:

It is not
it is not
it is not enough
to be pause, to be hole
to be void, to be silent
to be semicolon, to be semicolony;

fling me the stone
that will confound the void
find me the rage
and I will raze the colony
fill me with words
and I will blind your God.

In the opening chapter of Make It the Same, I  write about the same recording of these words discussed in our PoemTalk.  I use this recording (of a reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City in 2004) to illustrate how Brathwaite made each reading and recording an occasion for an artful reworking of his existing poetic materials. Brathwaite’s ability to rework his poems to respond to new situations perhaps explains why his poetry continues to be so relevant in our current moment.

Published by Jacob Edmond

Jacob Edmond is associate professor in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is the author of Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media (Columbia University Press, 2019), A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature (Fordham University Press, 2012), and of numerous essays, which have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Contemporary Literature, Poetics Today, Slavic Review, and The China Quarterly.

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