When I was named poet laureate of the State of Mississippi, it was a big deal to me because it was “the state that made a crime // of me.” To go from that world to ostensibly being the most publicly present advocate for the arts and letters in the state almost defies belief. It meant for me a kind of recognition as a native—which is, of course, what Native Guard is trying to do: to claim my native-ness, my American-ness, my right to full citizenship of this place.
When I first opened Stanford’s slim book of posthumously published selected work, The Light the Dead See, every word rang true and glowed like burning coal. I was enraptured by his recklessness, his rebelliousness, his loneliness; I drank up his language like whiskey and was pulled into his dangerous, nocturnal world full of energy and eroticism and death.
. . . . Whenever they look at me they see Civil War. Rape. The
great historical dismissive black boy walk away. When they shoot
me and leave me in the street for four hours facedown on the hot
summer pavement while my mother screams on the porch they
see sugar plantations melting in the distance.