We Are Virginia Tech
It hurts me that Nikki has become poetry's answer to Elton John, who ran right out after Princess Di died and put out a rewritten tripe version of "Candle in the Wind." "We Are Virginia Tech" hurts me. Not because it's a sad account of a tragedy, but because it's terrible. It reeks of all the slam poets who run right out after every hurricane, tsunami, school shooting, earthquake, etc., and write vapid, impersonal diatribes filled with cliches but not a single metaphor or answer.
Transcript of the poem (hold your nose):
we are Virginia Tech...we are sad today...and we will be sad for quite a while...we are not moving on...we are embracing our mourning
we are Virginia Tech...we are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly...we are brave enough to bend to cry...and sad enough to know we must laugh again
we are Virginia Tech...we do not understand this tragedy...we know we did nothing to deserve it...but neither does the child in Africa dying of AIDS...neither do the invisible children walking the night awake to avoid being captured by a rogue army...neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory...neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water...neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands...being run over by a boulder because the land was destablized...no one deserves a tragedy
we are Virginia Tech...the Hokie nation reached out and embraces with open hearts and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds...we are strong...and brave...and innocent...and unafraid...we are better than we think...and not quite what we want to be...we are alive to the imagination and possibility..we will continue to invent the future...through our blood and tears...through all this sadness
we are the Hokies...we will prevail...we will prevail...we will prevail...we are Virginia Tech
There is not one moving thing in this entire wet fart of a poem. Not a word of the professor who put his body between the gunman and the students, not a line for the woman whose quick thinking and barricades saved the lives of all the students in room 105, not a metaphor, not a thought for WHY neither VT students nor the elephant or the Mexican child don't deserve to die; just a list of other things that are sad, like Virginia Tech is sad. I know it's sad because Nikki told me it was sad. She is sad today.
I acknowledge that the community at VT need something to rally behind. That they have undergone a monumental tragedy. That it must sting to hear that cow, Diane Sawyer who said (and I'm paraphrasing because I don't have a transcript, and can't find one online) that the students went to college to learn, and on Monday they learned an important lesson of sadness. I know they needed something to give hope.
If this poem were written by a student, a novice, anyone who was not heralded as a "prolific poet" with multiple legitimate books published, I'd understand. A tearful cheerleader. One of the students who watched his friends murdered. A dean of student life. The president of the college. These were sentiments that the community needed. They are not a poem.
Tonight, Patricia Smith (pswordwoman) will be reading at The Cantab. She is also a much published author. She is also a strong voice who writes about tragedy and hope. Unlike Giovanni, though, she takes time to actually work her way into the personal side of tragedy. I've never heard her say she is sad, or that pain hurts, but I've felt it between her words. Her new book about Hurricane Katrina would make Bush & Michael Brown cry...both Michael Browns (Patricia's ex-husnabd and the FEMA fucker both have the same name).
I'm sure she'll have some thoughts on the VT tragedy. They'll be insightful, and moving. I wish Nikki Giovanni could be there to hear what a real poet sounds like.