Blue Boy: Seeing beyond Perception by Dash Cox
Illustrations by David Dibble
There is a particular kind of poetry that I’ve seen in literary magazines: so-called literary works from literary minds, masters of fine arts, doctors of poetry with the passion schooled straight out of them. Some are clever, some surprising, some witty, some are examples of poetic forms that died in 14th century Persia, and some comment on the soulless, branded present—but how few have that ragged sound of a verse shrieked into a pillow, lines written because, left unexpressed, they would like a pile of stones on a human being’s chest drive out the breath and blood and life, leaving the corpse of a poet unmourned in the dust.
Such are the verses of Dash Cox—they are his struggle, his confession, his pain and his confusion and, finally, his freedom.
“Dash Cox was born in Monrovia, Liberia. When he was eight years old, a coup broke out in his native home, and two years later his parents sewed five hundred dollars into his back pocket and stuck him on a plane to live with his aunt in Arlington, Virginia.” So says the introduction to Blue Boy. It continues, “Arriving in the United States, he was proud of his African heritage, proud of who he was, and proud of his color. But that all changed. In his new home he met a very light skinned black man who often said to him, “Dash you’re so black, you’re blue.” So when he was around, Dash’s nickname was Blue Boy”.
Divided into three books, Bondage, Emancipation, and Freedom, Dash deals with his coming of age side-by-side with his growing sense of racial awareness in blunt, barely poetic terms that speak directly, half-growling, half-howling of the unjust truths that were forced on him. It would not be a stretch to compare him to Langston Hughes, writing of the explosion of a dream deferred, though some of his more traditional rhymed poems have the more polished feel of Countee Cullen. Much of the writing in Blue Boy is free verse, for lack of a better catch-all—in fact, most of the forms seem to be of the poet’s invention, and come in such a great variety that it would be futile to try to describe them all. In general, Cox has a playful attitude towards the page, letting his lines move spatially, and sometimes in unexpected ways, such as when they break into nearly indecipherable curlicues in God: Who, What, Where?
If it is the intensity of his voice that gives power to these poems, their value comes from their look at America—black and white—and their passion comes from the poet looking within himself. Looking at America: “Scars on my back / blood on the floor / Please, Massuh! Please, Officer! / Don’ beat me no more!” Looking at himself: “Blue Boy, Blue Boy, / Man, you’re a new boy. / You didn’t have a clue, boy, / How it would be for you, boy.”
These are not poems to be forgotten. No exhibitions of kooky language and unexpected line breaks, they are simple words taken from the deepest of places, the place where we keep our love and our hate and our spirituality, our fear, prejudice and pride—the place where real poetry comes from. These are poems to be ignored at our own collective peril.
For a copy of Blue Boy, as well as for interviews and speaking engagements, e-mail Dash Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.