Beauty, in our sea’s distance: we have to confess why your face is sweet, yet your hands hard, and your body now in knots, on the embers of our charcoal fires.
Beauty, beauty yet for unknown stars, beauty for peoples. And salt in seed, and rain for uncured lands.
The solution to this theoretical impasse—between modernists and communitarians, Eurocentrists and Africanists—does not lie in choosing a side and defending an entrenched position. Because both sides to the debate highlight different aspects of the same African dilemma, I will suggest that the way forward lies in sublating both, through a double move that simultaneously critiques and affirms. To arrive at a creative synthesis transcending both positions, one needs to problematize each.
Trying to construct ideas and images afresh, by staying close to concrete experience, for the purpose of alleviating a common reality that is felt to be intolerable—this seems to me fair work for the imagination.
Even when I know something to be true as bone I fear the knowledge will dissolve, will not, despite my writing it, stay real. I’m breaking us apart again so that I might carry us somewhere else—where, exactly, I’m not sure.
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;
What is cobbled together, we recall, is not simply the apparatus of a machine but a fiction of that machine. [Martin] Venezky ascribes the development and appearance of his compositions to a “machine-like logic,” but this is not the steely logic idealized by modernists—nor for that matter is it a conceptualist’s procedural logic. … These less reducible forms grow out of a quasi-organic process that is anything but economic or efficient. Indeed, Venezky credits the slowness of this process as affording the space necessary for the autonomy of each piece to develop. And this evolution moves in psychological and poetic as well as physical and aesthetic ways.
Let the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing voice of Bessie Smith singing Blues penetrate the closed ears of the colored near-intellectuals until they listen and perhaps understand. Let Paul Robeson singing Water Boy, and Rudolph Fisher writing about the streets of Harlem, and Jean Toomer holding the heart of Georgia in his hands, and Aaron Douglas drawing strange black fantasies cause the smug Negro middle class to turn from their white, respectable, ordinary books and papers to catch a glimmer of their own beauty. We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.
A theory of truth is a theory of what it means to understand a statement as true or false in a certain situation.
Any correspondence between what we say and some state of affairs in the world is always mediated by our understanding of the statement and of the state of affairs. Of course, our understanding of the situation results from our interaction with the situation itself. But we are able to make true (or false) statements about the world because it is possible for our understanding of a statement to fit (or not fit) our understanding of the situation in which the statement is made.
Since we understand situations and statements in terms of our conceptual system, truth for us is always relative to that conceptual system. Likewise, since an understanding is always partial, we have no access to “the whole truth” or to any definitive account of reality.
I have lost, yes, a sense of my own possible beauty, grown external, I externalize beauty. Beauty occurs on the surface of plants; the sun darkens the skin of my child, he is so small, he is beautiful (I can see; it is obvious) and everything about him is beautiful. Because he is small the bite of some insect, its venom makes his hand swell. He appears to feel nothing. He smashes his skull against the floor. He screams. I hold him in my lap on the kitchen floor in front of an open freezer, pressing a pack of frozen clay against his forehead. He likes the cold. I see; it is so obvious. Hydrangea.
All was very gentle. The voices, no matter how they rose, or even sharpened, had fur at the base. The steps never bragged, or grated in any way on any ear—not that they could very well, on so good a Persian rug, or deep soft carpeting. And the drum table stood in front of a screen, a Japanese one, perhaps with rich and mellow, bread-textured colors. The people drank and nibbled, while they discussed issues of the day, sorting, rejecting, revising. Then they went home, quietly, elegantly. They retired to homes not one whit less solid or embroidered than the home of their host or hostess.
What she wanted to dream, and dreamed, was her affair. It pleased her to dwell upon color and soft bready textures and light, on a complex beauty, on gemlike surfaces. What was the matter with that? Besides, who could safely swear that she would never be able to make her dream come true for herself? Not altogether, then!—but slightly?—in some part?
She was eighteen years old, and the world waited. To caress her.