Vol. 3 No. 2 Dec. 2019

Zero Hour: Simone White and D.S. Marriott
Author:David Grundy    Time:2020-01-13    Click:

Abstract: This essay has two strands. It examines Simone White’s writing on U.S. Trap in Dear Angel of Death (2017), bringing in questions of gender and of the history of writings of “The Music,” in dialogue with thinkers such as Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey. Historicizing writings on Black music, and their intersections with questions of gender and class, the essay also reflects on the relations between U.S. and U.K. thinking on anti-blackness and music, and sketches some speculative lineages for the different poetic traditions from which such work emerges. Exploring Trap’s address to male desire and vulnerability within the context of anti-black violence and the American carceral State, White hears in Trap something beyond nihilism, even if only as proxy or metaphor—an expression of desire and horror which is the threat of aliveness in the face of social death. The essay also explores U.K.-born, U.S.-based D.S. Marriott’s engagement with grime in his most recent book of poetry, Duppies (2017, U.S. edition 2019). “Post-work” and “post-brexit,” Marriott’s grime poetics registers the racial antagonisms unleashed by the Brexit vote, and harks back to the 2011 U.K. riots triggered by Mark Duggan’s murder at the hands of the police. Marriott understands grime as representing performances of labor, and racialized identity performance itself as a kind of un-remunerated labor, related to Black social death. Both internalizing and refusing the interpellation of the police and state apparatus, and often literally unintelligible to white mainstream society, it is a space of performative subversion, powerful even when mocked, derided or ignored. As “the thread which links afro-pessimism to afro-futurism,” grime could be positioned as a theoretical solution to ongoing debates on Afro-pessimism and Afro-optimism; but it “proceeds without ties or duplicity,” refusing identification or pigeonholing. Neither grime nor Trap, Marriott’s nor White’s poetry, ask for or require empathy. Their “fierce rigor and method” are tools of diagnosis and resistance vital for understanding poetry, race and politics today.

Keywords: Poetry, race, grime, Trap, riots, Simone White, D. S. Marriott

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