Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Holly Bass

The Furious Dance

an occasional poem in celebration of Alice Walker and her book of poetry, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

October 2, 2010 (presented with tap dancer Melissa Frakman)

What is a furious dance?
It is not polite.
Does not shuck and jive or shuffle along.
It is not beige.
It is bold. In your face. Ready for revolution.
A solidarity of the body. A rhetoric of rhythm.
A furious dance is the knowing
that despite the opposition’s best efforts
to suppress, deny, destroy
we will shake off your oppression
and stamp it into dust
with our furiously dancing feet.

Are you furious
in your peacemaking, in your pleasure making,
your life giving and living? Do you dance the sun up
and give thanks each day?

We must be furious, like our sister Alice
Her words cut through
all the tepid tea parties, the sleight
of hand and misdirection of
pundits, politicos and profit mongers
She speaks truth, sings peace
in her garden of words
fingers coaxing nourishment
from the earth’s fertile being

Alice
The eighth and last child of
Willie Lee Walker and
Minnie Lou Tallulah Grant Walker
royalty of “the rural peasantry”
from red clay Georgia
this Daughter, Sister, Mother
Bearer of magic talismans:
a suitcase, a sewing machine,
a typewriter
Walker
She who make inroads
from dirt roads
Who cuts new paths
wherever her feet take her
Spelman to Sarah Lawrence
New York City to Mississippi
Gaza and Washington, DC

Poet, novelist, essayist, anthologist
editor, educator, activist
water-bearer
prophetess
sending us in search
of our mothers’ gardens
only to discover that We
are the ones we have
been waiting for

We praise her for teaching
a generation of women the difference
between lavender and purple,
between feminist and womanist
for reclaiming our heroine
Zora Neale Hurston
and returning her arrow-sharp words
to their rightful position

Alice Walker has given us more
than four decades of catalytic language
beginning with a book of poems in 1967
Once
gathering into the global phenomenon
that is The Color Purple
and arriving some thirty books later here
to Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

Require is a word of urgency,
any-means-necessary
That is to say, this is not optional, people
this is a call to action,
to march, to shout, to protest, to love
to dance and dance furiously
our collective humanity.

-Holly Bass

Used by permission.

Holly Bass is a poet and performer. A Cave Canem fellow, her poems have appeared in Callaloo, nocturnes (re)view, Role Call, Beltway and The Ringing Ear, an anthology of Black Southern poetry.

Bass, Poet-in-Residence at the 5th & K Busboys and Poets, was a featured reader for the opening night of Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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