Why is this child acting so strange?


In mainstream culture, trance state is likely to be categorized as pathology rather than a gift. For me the creative process requires the presence of a certain kind of energy that possesses the body. For instance, I feel a buzz in my head or feel a ring of heat around my forehead and temples. There may be a fire in my chest and trembling all over that is ever so subtle. So from the age of 7 and onwards, one of the things I would do when those feelings came over me was to write or sing or do something very intensely so that people would wonder: Why is this child acting so strange? I also played baseball and football in the alley with other boys or be just as content playing in the yard with the girls in their world. Rather than being looked at and judged, there was always the delicious solitude that I could fill with books, music from the family record player or my own wild and random thoughts. “Hey! What you doin’ Louie?” “Oh, just thinking.” My mother told me that when I was 8 or 9 years old I announced to her one day out of the clear blue that “everything was related to everything else”. I have NO idea where that came from. Once puberty hit those feelings intensified. For a while, nothing could channel those fires and vibrations.

The process went something like this: mental wanderings, getting caught up in a rhythm, melody or phrase that would sprout and grow into full poems or sometimes songs. They either stayed inside of me, were written down or were faded away. It took a long time to figure out that I was a writer and performer that ideas and images didn’t necessarily come from me, but rather through me.

In school there were so many rules and forms around this activity of writing poetry that didn’t affirm my process or feelings. The Black Arts Movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s showed me that there was a way to go. Among other things, it reaffirmed as Langston Hughes and Zora Neal Hurston had done earlier in the century, the power, lyrical and poetic flow of everyday African American speech.