Eugene B. Redmond, poet laureate of East St. Louis, master teacher

To watch Eugene Redmond teach is to fall in love with writing, with words, and with the world. Here are some gems from a workshop I attended.

Eugene talked about connection and continuum…how our identity is rippling out in circles: woman/womanhood; story; village/community; power; race and class; visionary source and lineage.

Eugene has a big view and teaches in the language of story. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?” (“It is in your hands.”)

To get to know each other, he asked, “What is the nature of your passage?” Isn’t that beautiful?

Eugene spoke about the enclave of writers, black expatriates in Paris, who met at a conference in 1992 there, women and men of letters, all.

The connection between poetry and music…we can use the same language to teach both…felt rhythm…the rise and fall of melody and pitch.

“The Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club offers comfort and occasional discomfort to writers. We offer critical assistance, surgery.”

All the apparatus of social consciousness and the arts are related.

Story comes first. Story involves music. Story comes before poetic geneologies. What if we were to master black poets to the same extent that scholars master T. S. Elliott?

River as metaphor for connection. “Don’t push the river.” “Gather at the river.” Settling around the river. Body of water.

The original meaning of poet was griot, wise person, speaking truth of the village, storyteller, diviner, a maker, legislator of the inner worlds, “conch-us-nest.”

Raymond Morrison, 200 words of African origin we use in U.S. daily, “Kitchen Talk.”….”Grandmother, Mother, and Me” (Haven’t been able to locate either of these online yet, but don’t they sound great?)

From 1970-1985 black writers won more prizes than throughout all history. “What hath the struggle wrought?…Pulling on our cultural river.” Knowing it through veins and kitchen talk.

The warrior poet is the singer/swinger of the sword. The poet in battle. “Poets are dangerous.”

“We have nothing to fear from the poet but the truth.”

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