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Friday, November 11, 2011

China Note

Dear Asili,

I returned from two weeks in China on October 1, and I'm still dealing with all the work I asked students to do during my absence. So, to some extent, I am in a state of delayed "recovery."

My third visit helped me to clarify much about my cultural mission, my trying to help Chinese colleagues and students develop a firmer understanding of African American literature and culture. From 2012 to 2014, I will spend two months each year in China, teaching graduate students and lecturing at a number of universities in addition to my home base, Central China Normal University in Wuhan. Even if it proves to be only a matter of form, the respect the Chinese accord me is very charming.

I have attached the PowerPoint version of the keynote address I gave on your work for "Dialog on Poetry and Poetics": the 1st Convention of Chinese/American Association forPoetry and Poetics on September 30. The convention, which was dominated by American and Chinese scholars who have a deep interest in L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry, involved approximately 300 people. It pleased me to talk about your innovations, the tonal drawings in poetic form, especially given that none of my colleagues from the States had ever given much thought to the kind of creative process (dialect + vision of the inner eye and a special hearing of time + historical memory) that goes into your making of tonal drawings. They were certainly surprised when I said your major contribution to African American poetry was a "physics of existence," by which I mean experience of time/space positions not easily accounted for in Standard American English, because it lacks the reformations of verbs that you have created. I think some of the Chinese listeners got what I was talking about better than the Americans; they have a better grasp of how Tao and t'ai chi are related to the study of physics. It is essential that people hear you read/perform the tonal drawings, but I encountered a problem with the laptop and projector used for the convention. It was impossible to access the Posterous audio versions and the slides with what I had downloaded from your CD recordings did not work either. I tried to make up for the problem by reading one of the drawings, but my imitation of your voice was so imperfect. So, I feel obligated to give the lecture again when I return to China in May, to focus much more matters of science, and to actually play your readings from the CDs. I hope I can find a way to burn or rip the sound from Posterous onto a CD.

What is most satisfying for me is that your work, which is so much advanced in conception beyond the commonplace of spoken word poetry, is now known among a small numbe of people in China. Perhaps in the future I will be able to persuade one of the Chinese graduate students to write about your poetry as I continue to expand my own thoughts about it.

Stay in touch.