Trumps & Tropes

A poet’s concision speaks to me now, as I wonder how best to say that I am concerned but not surprised. The tug of war nature of America’s relationship with race began centuries ago. We can argue how much race configured the race, but there is also the debate of the role of race in the Civil War. That latter debate continues. I have an older white friend who believes “The War” was not about slavery, contrary to what Grant wrote in his memoirs.
The danger of larger regional and even global war (s) bothers me, as it should. However, I am closer to the way “working class” has become a petrified exploitative phrase, while the laboring working class is a world I lived in and worked in for many years, a world into which I was born.
It just so happens that the subject of my work as a poet nowadays is just that world of industrial labor, one I knew much more intimately than Phil Levine. My work now feels more wonderfully like my duty.
In the context of these promises of returns to greatness, writing will be challenging in that I, a veteran worker, am convinced that the return is impossible. It always is. Each repetition of history is new. Otherwise, there would be no history.
Poetry about history is not history. It is poetry.

Afaa M. Weaver is the author of 14 collections of poetry, including The Government of Nature, which won the 2014 Kingsley Tufts award. A former Fulbright Scholar and the recipient of fellowships from both the NEA and Pew Charitable Trusts, he currently teaches in the MFA Program at Drew University.