“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Detroit Diaspora: Writers From Detroit. Toi Derricote

Toi Derricote was born on April 12, 1941 the city of Hamtramck, Michigan.  Hamtramck is a separate city located within the city of Detroit.   Her many awards include two Pushcart prizes, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.  She is currently a professor of English in the Creative Writing program at the University of Pittsburgh.  Derricote is  co-founder and  president of Cave Canem, a place for African American poets to learn and grow artistically and professionally.

Always remember more than just cars and Motown came out of Detroit!

For Black Women Who Are Afraid

A black woman comes up to me at break in the writing
workshop and reads me her poem, but she says she
can’t read it out loud because
there’s a woman in a car on her way
to work and her hair is blowing in the breeze
and, since her hair is blowing, the woman must be
white, and she shouldn’t write about a white woman
whose hair is blowing, because
maybe the black poets will think she wants to be
that woman and be mad at her and say she hates herself,
and maybe they won’t let her explain
that she grew up in a white neighborhood
and it’s not her fault, it’s just what she sees.
But she has to be so careful. I tell her to write
the poem about being afraid to write,
and we stand for a long time like that,
respecting each other’s silence.
Toi Derricote


Those huge platters on their heads on which everything
is placed accurately, each small red pepper,
prawn, each orange―each arranged in piles so tall they defy gravity―
avocados, crabs, dried fish of silverish brown,
or one great yam, thirty pounds, dirt brushed,
counterbalanced in a kind of aquarium.
A woman approves me with a fluent grin
and offers her light basket for my head;
I walk a yard, tottering awkwardly.
The unremarkable commonness—
a beauty shaped by women's hands.

Toi Derricote
—from Tender 1997

From Wikipedia: Some of her Books

Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, (co-editor with Cornelius Eady), fiction and poetry (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006)

Tender, poetry (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press,1997)

The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey, memoir (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997)

Captivity, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990)

Natural Birth, (Ann Arbor: Firebrand Books, 1983)

The Empress of the Death House, poetry (New York:Lotus Press, 1978)

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