In-Depth Look: Bernard Ferguson – “Love Does Not Want This Body”
Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.
“How we were made to bleed, and then made a nation out of dying.”
In workshops and cyphers, we talk sometimes about clarity of meaning; the question usually revolves around how important it is that the audience (a loaded term) “gets” the poem right away. Especially with spoken word, where the hearing of the poem is the only chance to absorb it– as a writer, what is the value of clarity? What are the dangers of seeking it at the expense of other stylistic impulses? Complicating things, “clarity” is definitely a relative term– poems outside of our specific experience as readers or listeners may feel confusing or abstract, when what they’re saying is actually perfectly clear for some other audience.
This poem might be a good entry point into that conversation, since it is perhaps a little less straightforward than a lot of the other poems featured on Button’s channel. But while that lack of straightforwardness might mean that this poem doesn’t go viral and rack up a billion YouTube views, it powers the poem in other, perhaps more important, ways.
Note how this poem is driven by a dialogue between abstract and concrete: the swirling, dynamic juxtaposition of big ideas/concepts like Love, Country, God, Heaven, Nation, and Lineage, next to concrete, imagistic words like Body, Mist, Wind, Bleed, Sea, and Reflection. Some of their pairings are explicit, and some only manifest beneath the surface of the poem. This gives the poem a dreamlike quality, that forces the audience to reckon with the larger ideas relating to home, grief, and loss in a new way, to seek to understand from a new angle. I would argue that that challenge– to push the audience to reconsider/revisit/reckon with ideas– is one reason we write poems in the first place.