James Byrd Jr.” In it, Hall says of the Big Thicket, It’s the land that produced me and that produced James Byrd and that also produced three men who could look at James Byrd and not see a man, three men who could only see a thing that they called a “nigger.” Three men who beat up James Byrd and tied him to the back bumper of their truck and dragged him for miles … dragged him until parts of his body broke off the main trunk … dragged him until his head separated from his body and lay beside the road. Not afraid to detail the intensity of a happening, Hall unabashedly takes us into the shocking truth of racism. In his opening essay, Hall writes, I am thinking, too, about the year I was seven years old and my doctor told me I was going blind in my right eye … I am thinking mostly about poetry and only a little about surgical “procedures” and about how everything these days is a “process.” … is movement toward something or, perhaps, away from something else … To walk across the street is a dangerous thing … and to write a poem can also be dangerous, as dangerous, at least, as crossing a street with our eyes closed … I was seven years old … I did not think about poetry then, but the place was poetry and the place was dangerous … Poetry is dangerous, I think, if it is poetry worth doing. Poetry is risk taking, pushing yourself and your words out there into water so deep … a single wave can drown you … that single moment of awareness. Readers can look forward to another Hall book of poems, from Turning Point Press, in 2009 titled Foreign and Domestic. “They’re poems about my whole life: Vietnam. James Byrd Jr. The Big Thicket. A poetic version of the essays in Coming to Terms, plus poems about the Persian Gulf wars,” Hall says. As to poetry’s current state, Hall says, “We have a very strong contemporary poetry scene. A lot of people lament the various writing programs in colleges and universities. I think it’s a combination of some jealousy, a genuine feeling about a whole lot of bad poetry in the country, and there is a lot, but there always has been. It just hasn’t survived for us to read. I have this book on Civil War poems, and 90 percent of it is sheer dreck, because the editors included poems for political reasons. It’s not just an edition of the great poems of the Civil War, it tries to be all-inclusive, and there is so much crap in that book that’s important for political and social reasons, but not for literary reasons. “Let’s remember, in any generation, maybe 10 percent, if that much, of what’s published is going to be really, really good.” Marian Haddad, MFA, poet-essayistmanuscript consultant, lives in San Antonio. Her chapbook Saturn Falling Down was published at the request of Texas Public Radio. Her full-length collection of poems, Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home, was published in 2004 by Pecan Grove Press. 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 11, 2008
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