I was so excited that Aaron Coleman chose to recite many of the poems we read in class yesterday, including “A Fire She Loved” and “Another Strange Land: Downpour off Cape Hatteras (March, 1864).” These two struck me the most when I first read them on Tuesday, and Coleman’s context and performance of the poems added even more to my fascination with them.
Before reciting the poem, Coleman talked about how the influence of “Another Strange Land” was the story of his great-great-great-grandfather (if I’m remembering the number of “greats” right!). Like several other poems he read, his family is a major influence in this works, and he even makes this ancestor the persona of the poem. I loved the deep-dive into history that Coleman gave before reading this poem, in which he described how he was tracing his family’s path through the Great Migration and wound up discovering this incredible story. This poem still reminds me a lot of Eula’s speech in Daughters of the Dust because it tells a story about resilience and an impossible-sounding escape from death and destruction–and because in both cases, the story is being told by a descendent of the subject, it makes the message of resilience and persistence that much stronger!
“A Fire She Loved,” another poem based off of Coleman’s family members, was also very interesting to hear Coleman read. What I found particularly interesting about his performance of the poem was when he sang the spiritual lyrics rather than just read them as lines in the poem. I had not expected this after reading the poem to myself a few times, so it caught me by surprise, but really added to the mood of the poem. I would be really interested to hear Coleman’s thoughts on poetry performance and how that influences his writing. Also, in relation to this class, the subject of “A Fire She Loved” reminded me a lot of Delia in the short story “Sweat,” as well as Zora Neale Hurston’s female characters in general. Coleman talked a lot about his influences, including Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson, but I also wonder if Zora Neale Hurston inspired some of his work as well and to what extent.
I feel like our class will have a lot to talk about tomorrow and I’m excited that Coleman will be joining us again!