Poetry. African & African Ameican Studies. The title of this new volume of poetry by upfromsumdirt packs a lot of meaning and intention into a mere three words. It is dedicated to Emmett Till, and more recent Black victims of violence, and is entirely an urgent demand for social justice. But don't be fooled by the play on words, for upfromsumdirt isn't playing around here. This isn't a poet merely having fun with language (well, there are points where he clearly is enjoying himself), but rather a reclaiming and reinvention of language in order to engage it in the serious work at hand. In "Tea with Bojangles" he proclaims "reinvisionism is a freedom / if not a luxury, the tongues of your / indignant gods in my painted mouth like / a mud dauber in pink cotton candy..." He knows that words have power to sting, and one word that he uses repeatedly is "Africadabra," an act of conjuring, invoked to break "connection to the God of Chains... / His shackles left you spouting slave-words / from your spirit..." He knows the very language in which he writes is a legacy of slavery, and he shatters and reforges it, breaking the chain, making it a new thing. Freeing it, and with it himself, and us.
There is also a ring of science to the title, suggesting light emanating from excitation, which is no accident, for upfromsumdirt often employs the language of science, and science fiction, in his work, connecting it to Afrofuturism and the projection of a future embracing Blackness. In "Black Wholeness: A Theorem," he hypothesizes that "thick = dark thighs x 40 thieves to the power of mules," and enjoins us to "please discount all that you believe about gravity // in the romanticism of such lightless / reality a poem for love is born... [S]hit happens when we raise accountants / instead of wizards," he laments in "Playdates for Zombied Heads of State," anxious over the world awaiting his six-year-old son. "[I]t's as I always say: // a people without the science / to contort their skin into myth / abort the realities they want..." As a talisman against "walking rigor mortis" he places his "solemn black word" beneath the boy's pillow. And in this volume, upfromsumdirt, wizard and poet (for are they not the same thing?) has placed many solemn black words in our ears, in hope that we might hear, and heed.
upfromsumdirt is the author of four chapbooks and the full- length collection, DEIFYING A TOTAL DARKNESS (Harry Tankoos Books, 2020) and TO EMIT TEAL (Broadstone Books, 2020). He is a 2010 winner of Kentucky's Al Smith Award for Art (as Ronald Davis), whose visual work has graced the covers of The African American Review, Tidal Basin Review, Mythium Literary Journal, and various book covers for a variety of published authors. If so moved you can find him across the spectrum of social media sites.
Author City: LEXINGTON, KY USA