(from My Afmerica)
LIFE AS A BLONDE
My daughter proudly
delivers a paper figure
yellow yarn for hair
Mommy, this is you,
displaying my doppelgänger,
seductive cultural snare.
I pause to consider the latest CSI
myself victim of a killer
sharpening his knives
Why are you doing this? I sob
mascara pooling beneath
my Pecola blue eyes,
then running through the woods,
a chainsaw nipping at my heels
until I trip on a tree root
and the roar of the saw
is the last thing I hear.
So, too quickly, I say
Baby, I have black yarn here
certain life does not end well
for little black girls who imagine
sporting blonde hair.
Artress Bethany White is a poet, essayist, and literary critic. She is the recipient of the 2018 Trio Award for her poetry collection, My Afmerica (Trio House Press, 2019), and the author of the collection Fast Fat Girls in Pink Hot Pants. Her prose and poetry have appeared in such journals as Harvard Review,Tupelo Quarterly, The Hopkins Review, Pleiades, Solstice, Poet Lore, Ecotone, and The Account. Her collection of essays, Survivor’s Guilt: Essays on Race and American Identity is forthcoming from New Rivers Press/Minnesota State University in March 2020.White has received the Mary Hambidge Distinguished Fellowship from the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts for her nonfiction, The Mona Van Duyn Scholarship in Poetry from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and writing residencies at The Writer’s Hotel and the Tupelo Press/MASS MoCA studios. She is current poetry faculty for the Rosemont College Summer Writers' Retreat in Pennsylvania.
For more information, please email:
Artress dot White at gmail dot com
“In verse both free and deftly formal, Artress Bethany White unflinchingly mines the notion of family: biological, blended, constructed and decidedly American. She takes no prisoners, or perhaps takes us all prisoners, kicking into the necessary and discomfiting discourse of who we truly are—and how we are tied together in awful, and also surprisingly beautiful, ways.” --Danielle Legros Georges, Poet Laureate, City of Boston
“Over the past decade, I have faced the challenge of raising a transracial family in the South, reckoned with being descended from one of the largest slaveholding families in America, and faced the history of a nineteenth-century ancestor being lynched by the KKK. As I worked to assess these realities, I marveled at how my experiences were echoed in the trauma of a nation under siege from domestic terrorism, gun violence, and racism. In the spirit of healing, I share Survivor’s Guilt: Essays on Race and American Identity with a public searching for answers to America’s complex racial dilemma.” –from the author, Artress Bethany White, PhD.
(Available March 2020 from New Rivers Press/Minnesota State University)
“Artress Bethany White has written a beautiful book that shimmers with bravery on every page..." Bridgett M. Davis, author of The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers
“My Afmerica forces us to consider the cost of history, brutality, racism, accompanied by documented facts. In doing so, her work makes our bodies react with a nod, a jaw clench, a curse, a sigh, a held breath. White’s art is as evident as her keen use of form translates what the textbooks often miss. There is no overstating that My Afmerica is one of those books that should be studied as history, poetry, theory, and art. Artress Bethany White’s second collection of poetry should be committed to memory and passed down as a living, poetic, historical document.”--Willie Perdomo, The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon