NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 50

I am interested in the way Horton points to his genius or his impulse to create art by pointing to the nonhuman world — the fluttering of a bird. We notice that he uses the feminine pronoun (she) to describe his genius. “My genius from a boy,/ has fluttered like a bird within my heart… She like a restless bird…” The speaker articulates his desire: the ability to move through and across worlds. As we might gather from Horton’s biography, this need to create was urgent and not separate from the work and quest of his own liberation. We see this same work and quest in the above description of the bird, her power, her desire. 48 Metrically, the poem moves, quite consistently, from iambic tetrameter to pentameter and back. The poem is neatly composed of five quatrains. But! There is a break in the metrical system. We find it in the penultimate line, “And let her songs be loudly heard…” A line of iambic tetrameter where our ear expected pentameter. Structurally the poem is engaged with confinement and freedom, the construction of form and the breaking of form. These priorities are also reflected in the narrative. Genius is fluttering “within” a heart and cannot employ her powers because of this confinement. The last stanza is an articulation of the poem’s (and Horton’s) freedom dream: genius dressed as bird spreading her wing(s), unfurling her power and power to be, singing and flying, from world to world. Freedom is the ability, not just to sing, but to let one’s songs be heard — and to “dart” or move through and between worlds. But what I find profoundly surprising in this last stanza, is the phrase “her power to be unfurl’d.” If I read the phrase very literally, the lines suggest that the powers will be unfurled. The words “to be” place us in time, in the process of unfurling. Another interpretation: the speaker equates the power of being with freedom, expressing that we are, in our natural state, to our marrow, meant to be free. The power to be is unfurled. And it is that essence of beingness, a kind of natural state of the self, that is unfurling in the poem’s last stanza. An alternate reading that ghosts this phrase for me is the idea that there is power in the ability to b RV