Postcards to the Future: Future / Lillian Yvonne Bertram

The Dream World is a place she can reach through her own body 

by Lillian Yvonne Bertram

“In this section Lillian-Yvonne Bertram engages the slippages between poetics, literary criticism and philosophy to consider the framing of the “negro’s” body as a viewed space and that this person, this negro as paragon, insists upon her own self-defined centrality irrespective of how her body is viewed.” – Tracie Morris

For the negro, her body is both fleshy material, which exists in the material world, & social construct. It has a special place. As Maurice Merleau-Ponty said, “The outline of my body is a frontier which ordinary spatial relations do not cross” (2002, p.112), although for the negro it is a frontier always crossed, or at least threatened, by members of the “human family,” the gaze of men in a park, & in her own fantasies. The more present the negro, the more she responds to people watching her in a park, & enters a dream-world she can escape to the outside of the limitations of raced, gendered, & sexualized public space. The range of possibilities offered by the dream-world, as against the limitations of the daily, is illustrated by the repeated ampersand. From a particular person in a particular place & with all the restrictions that brings, & where she is located through her previous relationship to the place & the people in it, the negro & the poem about the negro become a space of possibility. Like the ocean. Like the Dark Continent. It is a place in which “I marry in, then out./ Under it I stroll, a sky so blue and visible and starred” (xx). It is a place that makes action possible, but not compulsory, a place in which she can do, or not do, what she likes. Yet for the negro, pleasurable though the abstraction might be, & whether it takes her to some place else such as the imagined geography of ‘over there’ or the eroticized fantasy of the dream world, the negro must still exist between the immanent experience of everyday life & the possibilities of the abstractions of the transcendent as when she says: “You hope it’s not true” (xx).

© Lillian Yvonne Bertram, page 58 from Letters to the Future

Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is the author of Personal Science (Tupelo Press, 2017), a slice from the cake made of air (Red Hen Press, 2016), cutthroat glamours (Phantom Books, 2013) and But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise, chosen by Claudia Rankine as winner of the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Award and published by Red Hen Press. The recipient of an NEA Poetry Fellowship,she received her MFA from the University of Illinois and her PhD from the University of Utah, and teaches at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Photograph by Dennison Bertram.

FUTURE is part of KPI’s small experiments of radical intentseriesPostcards to the Future: Protest in Place that began during the BLM protests while on pandemic lock down in summer 2020. The series runs through August 2021 and focuses on the voices in Letters to the Future: Black Women / Radical Writing, with the intent to uplift and celebrate Black women’s voices.

The KPI Postcards to the Future: Protest in Place team
Tracie Morris, Lisa Bowden, Desiree Maultsby, Denise Uyehara, Dulce Botello, Casely Coan, Liz Burden, Tina Howard

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