A Conversation with Myself

A Conversation with Myself


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



a hi / way cop passes / and / slows down / peering in his rear / view mirror

I clutch / I am a Black Woman / like / a security blanket / I turn and show my teeth



Books by Etheridge Knight

Poems from PrisonBlack Voices from Prison  / Belly Song and Other Poems 

 Born of a Woman  / Essential Etheridge Knight

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A Conversation with Myself


By Etheridge Knight 


What am I

               doing here

in these missouri hills

hitch / hiking these hi / ways

                        where farmers

fondle their guns

and eye my back

the cars zoom by

                        zoom zoom zoom

and disappear around the bend

I sit

on the abutment of a small bridge

and wait

            reading mari evans’ book

below me a brook gurgles along

a field of corn, green waving in the wind

five cows stand swishing their tails

                        in the shade

                        of three cedars

a hi / way cop passes


                        slows down

peering in his rear / view mirror

I clutch

            I am a Black Woman


a security blanket

I turn and show my teeth


                        the book

the cop gasses the engine

                        and disappears

                        I scramble



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Source: Callaloo. 19.4 (Fall 1996): 940–46


posted 18  December 2005

Etheridge Knight, born in Corinth, Mississippi, perhaps will be remembered for his excellence in blending oral and poetic traditions as he tried to create works that confronted personal and social dimensions with relentless honesty. Some critics praised him on his ability to render the genre of the toast as high art. He began writing poetry in 1963 while he was incarcerated at Indiana prison. His books include Poems from Prison, Black Voices from Prison, Belly Song and Other Poems, Born of a Woman, and the Essential Etheridge Knight. Knight received NEA grants in 1972 and 1980 and won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974. His work is included in such anthologies as Dices and Black Bones, Norton Anthology of American Poets, New Black Voices, and Black Poets. Etheridge died in 1991.

Source: Black Southern Voices, Edited by John Oliver Killens and Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


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Guide to the Etheridge Knight Collection

Special Collections and Rare Books, Irwin Library, Butler University


Etheridge Knight was born on April 19, 1931, in Corinth, Mississippi. In 1947, two years after dropping out of school in the eighth grade, Knight joined the army. He saw active duty in the Korean War, during which he received a shrapnel wound. By the time he was discharged from the army in 1957, Knight was suffering from addictions to drugs and alcohol. He turned to crime to support his habit, and in 1960 was arrested for robbery. While serving an eight-year prison term in the Indiana State Prison Knight wrote poetry. Renowned poet Gwendolyn Brooks met Knight during a prison visit and encouraged his writing. In 1968 Knight saw his first book published, Poems from Prison (Broadside Press).

Knight entered into a successful period during the early 1970s, enjoying Popularity and recognition. He led Free People’s Poetry Workshops (including one in Indianapolis), gave numerous readings, and was a poet in residence at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Hartford, and Lincoln University. His critical acclaim included a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (1972) and a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation (1974). He continued to be plagued, however, by his addictions, and periodically sought treatment from veterans’ hospitals.

The next decade saw the publication of two volumes of poetry, including The Essential Etheridge Knight (1986), which brought together pieces from his five volumes of poetry. In 1989 Knight once again led a Free People’s Poetry Workshop in Indianapolis, which ran until his death. He worked with Butler University’s Writer’s Studio in 1990, the same year that he earned a bachelor’s degree in American poetry and criminal justice from Martin Center University in Indianapolis. On March 10, 1991, Knight died from lung cancer. The Etheridge Knight Festival of the Arts was held in Indianapolis in 1992 and 1993, and in 1993 the Indiana Arts Commission posthumously awarded Knight the Governor’s Arts Award.

Scope and Content

This collection contains the personal and literary papers in Etheridge Knight’s possession upon his death. Some items date as far back as 1965, but most fall into the period from 1982 to 1991. A collection of Knight’s earlier literary and personal papers is housed at the Ward M. Canaday Center at the University of Toledo. The bulk of this collection is received correspondence, although there is a series of letters written by Etheridge Knight. The received correspondence has been subdivided into two categories: personal and professional.

Contact Information: Special Collections and Rare Books / Irwin Library / Butler University / 4600 Sunset Avenue / Indianapolis, Indiana 46208-3485 USA / Phone: 317.940.9265 / Fax: 317.940.8039 /  /

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

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#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

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#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 3 January 2009 




Home   Miriam DeCosta-Willis Table   Art for Life Table

Related file:  Homespun Images  He Sees Through Stone  Etheridge Knight Speaks     Once on a Night in the Delta  A Conversation with Myself  Etheridge Knight’s Love Songs to Women

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