The PdS Black Voices Series Presents: CANDICE ILOH
anyone that knows me will tell you that. after Donald Trump.
“If you get good ratings, they’ll cover you even if you have nothing to say.” Trump
they are wanting to make you great again. again they are wanting to make you. you again are going to become America. becoming America again is voices of white men raising. is asking anyone that knows you & they will tell us, you are the least likely to not be great. his pale & purpling face tells us so. his pointing finger jabs the air like a machete slicing the lung passages of our ancestors. of migrant minimum wage slaves. ask anyone that knows you & they will tell us, you are the least likely to not be great again. you are the least likely to be racist. you are the least likely to be raceless. you are the least racist, likely, because, America, you don’t see race. you don’t see color. you don’t see us. therefore you can’t be racist. racism is seeing color & all you see is white. all them other colors don’t exist. & black isn’t a color. color is a construct. you make black with all them other colors you don’t see. that don’t exist. they are wanting to make you great again. ask anyone that knows you & they will tell us, you are the least likely to be racist. again they are wanting to make you. his pale and purpling face tells us so. his pointing finger jabs fighting his own rouging flesh. his own
elegy for boyhood. for Kanye West.
“If I never moved to L.A. she’d still be alive.” West on his guilt of his mother’s passing
scraped knee, bicycle Innocence, song
like a dream like myth, this mirage
mama say it all got lost in the fire
mama say she can’t remember say it’s old news now
the fire is the inch they gave the fire is the mile I took
the fire is camera crew round every corner the fire is memory of mama fading into the hungry crowd
I do not know if I want it back: summers or mama’s smile
that young life is dead and unrecognizable now
Make art like a fading bulb of white light
A few good words with Candice
PDS: In reading “anyone that knows me will tell you that,” I couldn’t help but see a mirroring of the way that the news cycle elevates/highlights/is built upon sound clips of Trump during this election period. It feels oppressive, the repetition of his words in the media and in the poem—I think that that discomfort is important and necessary in the work, especially as I think about the old adage on deception, that you can tell a lie enough times that it starts to feel like the truth. Where does the power of repetition come for you in this poem? What about the echoing feels particularly significant?
CI: I love what repetition does to a poem and how it often affects me when I read poems that use it. Repetition makes it difficult for us to turn our heads or simply overlook something that someone is trying to say. Any time I’ve truly wanted to be heard in a resistant space, I’ve had to repeat myself. Similarly we know this tool is used all around us to feed us messages about the world we live in and about ourselves to the point that a lot gets confusing and you don’t know what to believe. That repetition is extremely oppressive. I felt it was important to use this kind of echoing in the poem, along with some twists and turns in which the words are simply rearranged in order, to mirror and better illustrate the experience I know many of us have being recipients of this messaging we are held hostage to on a daily basis.
PDS: I think that it’s interesting to have both of these poems focus on men who have been demonized for their egos—Trump as a petulant child-like megalomaniac and West as an artist with a god complex. It seems that white privilege and stereotyping of black masculinities, respectively, have had a hand in creating these public perceptions, but I wondered how you saw these two poems (and two men) in conversation with each other? What tension arise from reading this work together?
CI: I don’t know that I saw these two poems in conversation with each other initially. I was first inspired by images I came across of them online and moved, in a rare moment, to play with things they’ve said or been known for to bring attention to what seems to plague their existence and fuel their obsessions. I think, in contrast, I looked more at Donald Trump as representation of a kind of hatred and privilege that supports anything this man says because of what he represents. Whereas with Kanye, I feel as much as he talks, very few really hear him, his pain, or what he has become a product of without writing him off. Now that I really think about it, it’s guys like Trump, that systemically and societally have had a direct influence on the psychological predispositions of artists and black men like Kanye West.
PDS: What poems (or poets) that address the political and pop culture are speaking to you most right now? Whose work feels like it’s on the cutting edge of social commentary?
CI: My favorite poem right now is “Summer, Somewhere” by Danez Smith.
Candice Iloh is a first-generation Nigerian-American creative writer and teaching artist residing in Brooklyn, NY whose writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fjords Review, The Grio, For Harriet, Blavity, No Dear Magazine and elsewhere. She is a VONA fellowship recipient as well as a Home School Lambda Literary Fellow. A MFA candidate in Writing for Young People and Poetry at Lesley University, Candice is currently working on her first young adult novel in verse. You can find her at www.becomher.com or @becomher