Poem: “Black Boys Play the Classics” by Toi Derricotte

0 Posted by - January 12, 2018 - BLACK ART & LITERATURE, BLACK WOMEN, History, LATEST POSTS

Toi Derricotte is an American poet and a professor of writing at University of Pittsburgh. She won a 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. With Cornelius Eady, she co-founded Cave Canem Foundation, a summer workshop for African-American poets,

Derricotte was born in Hamtramck, Michigan, the daughter of Antonia Baquet, a Creole from Louisiana, and Benjamin Sweeney Webster, a Kentucky native, and later half-sister to Benjamin, Jr. At around 10 or 11 years of age, she began a secret journal that included, among other things, the disintegration of her parents’ marriage and the death of her grandmother on whom she was very emotionally dependent.

In 1959, Derricotte graduated from Girls Catholic Central and enrolled that autumn in Wayne State University as a special education major. In 1962, her junior year at Wayne State, she gave birth to a son in a home for unwed mothers. At Wayne State University she earned a B.A. in 1965 and an M.A. in 1984 at New York University in English literature.

Her move to New York City in 1967 was a momentous one, for it was here among white, mostly female intellectuals that Derricotte’s poetic voice resurfaced. Unlike the African-American poets of the Black Arts Movement.
Her literary reputation and publications flourished, culminating in her first book, The Empress of the Death House, published in 1978 by Lotus Press. Her second book, Natural Birth, was published in 1983 by The Crossing Press. Her third book, Captivity, first published in 1989 by University of Pittsburgh Press, has enjoyed second (1991) and third (1993) printings.

Black Boys Play the Classics

By Toi Derricotte
The most popular “act” in
Penn Station
is the three black kids in ratty
sneakers & T-shirts playing
two violins and a cello—Brahms.
White men in business suits
have already dug into their pockets
as they pass and they toss in
a dollar or two without stopping.
Brown men in work-soiled khakis
stand with their mouths open,
arms crossed on their bellies
as if they themselves have always
wanted to attempt those bars.
One white boy, three, sits
cross-legged in front of his
idols—in ecstasy—
their slick, dark faces,
their thin, wiry arms,
who must begin to look
like angels!
Why does this trembling
pull us?

sources:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42877/black-boys-play-the-classics

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