NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 48

A-Legba Poetics: Reading Komunyakaa By ARACELIS GIRMAY * NOTE: the five collages in the piece are original works inspired by Komunyakaa’s poetry, prose, and interviews, with the exception of the first, which takes its title from George Moses Horton’s “George Moses Horton, Myself.” Each collage incorporates a Verdana font “+” which means to respond to the idea of the crossroads. + He enjoyed composing rhyming poems, and would compose poems in his head even before he knew how to write. The students to whom he sold produce came to know that Horton enjoyed composing acrostics and love poems, and somewhere in his life of selling produce for the Horton plantation and composing poems, he began to sell his spoken love poems for change. And he began to devise a plan. My genius from a boy/ has fluttered like a bird within my heart…” + A few years ago, the poet Yusef Komunyakaa gave the Helen Edison lecture at the University of California, San Diego, and early on in his talk he spoke about the poet George Moses Horton. A poet new to me. 46 A poet new to me. A poet I should have, but had never, heard of before. A poet whose story is extraordinary in many ways, not the least of which deals with freedom and urgency. Let’s begin there. George Moses Horton was born into slavery on the William Horton plantation in Northampton County, North Carolina, around 1797. One of his “duties” (how language sometimes fails to get at the daily terrors of slavery) on the plantation was to sell produce to students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. As a young man, Horton taught himself to read using a spelling book, a hymnal, and the Bible. I do not know the details of that first transaction, but I imagine that the gleam of tha Bf