He Sees Through Stone

He Sees Through Stone


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



he led me trembling cold / into the dark forest

taught me the secret rites / to make it with a woman




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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He Sees Through Stone

By Etheridge Knight

He sees through stone

he has the secret

eyes this old black one

who under prison skies

sits pressed by the sun

against the western wall

his pipe between purple gums


the years fall

like overripe plums

bursting red flesh

on the dark earth


his time is not my time

but I have known him

in a time gone


he led me trembling cold

into the dark forest

taught me the secret rites

to make it with a woman

to be true to my brothers

to make my spear drink

the blood of my enemies


now black cats circle him

flash white teeth

snarl at the air

mashing green grass beneath

shining muscles


ears peeling his words

he smiles

he knows

the hunt the enemy

he has the secret eyes

he sees through stone

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 /  /


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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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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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