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  • Maurisa Li-A-Ping

Dear Nikky Finney,

Dear Nikky Finney,

I keep returning to your and how “Black people were the only people in the United States ever explicitly forbidden to become literate.” I knew this, but you re-ring the bell of urgency. You said, “we begin with history,” reminding me that it is both the now, then, and before.

“…what about the possibility of one day making a poem?” This question clarified to me how I exist today as a Blaxk poet. In 1739 someone dreamed of the possibility of one day making a poem. They dreamt a greater reality beyond the current one and thus manifested me and generations of Blaxk poets into existence. This letter is a small praise to Blaxk poets from 1739 and on, one of them being you Nikky Finney. During your 2011 Cave Canem Reading and Conversation at the New School, you mentioned being a Junior at Talladega College and having no idea how to be a poet. I too am not sure how to do this poetry thing most days. Your story permissions me into a future of poetry I cannot yet see, but trust awaits me. I am writing to express my deepest gratitude for you and the ancestors. Thank you so very much for this labor of love we call poetry. I am because you are, forever grateful.

With love and light,

Maurisa Li-A-Ping

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