US-based poet drea brown shares her second blog post about her Fresh Milk residency, which is part of a new partnership between Fresh Milk and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. This week, despite coming with a plan for her residency, she has found herself responding in unexpected ways to the space, and has been compelled to continue writing about Phillis Wheatley – responding to the gaps in history and giving way to the ‘ghosts’ that haunt her poems. Read more below:
I came here with a plan. But, the poems that have come since my arrival are not the poems I intended. Each morning I make my way to the studio listening to leaves murmuring in the early breeze, I sit at a blue desk facing windows wide open to a winding hillside, and the poems come. Sometimes they are unwelcome visitors knocking for entry, sometimes to write them is comfort, but at all times they feel necessary, like work I am continually called to do. They are long—pages and pages of unfurling stanzas, raw and full of secrets, ragged line breaks; they are not the poems I imagined. But poems, like the ghosts that live in this ink, want what they want, and who am I not to oblige.
Dear reader, Phillis Wheatley will not let me be. I have made peace with this, and realize in some ways to write these poems is to work toward my own healing. The blues of the studio, its tables and doors and corner rocking chair, the blues of Bathsheba in the east, of Accra in the south, they remind me of this. And so I write and read incessantly, at the studio, in my flat, with my feet in the sand near lapping water, as if it is the only way to breathe. Perhaps in this second week, that is what it has been—a way to let go and take in again and again.
What Audre Lorde said remains true: poetry is not a luxury. It is a tool of survival, a means to find some kind of freedom.
This residency is supported by the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies