Simone John: Poetry is what we as humans reach for when average language won’t do. It can’t hold what we’re trying to communicate.
My name is Simone John, and I won the Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry in the year 2020.
This piece is called, Recessive Genes, Maternal.
Reads the poem
Simone John: I’ve been thinking a lot about inheritance. I’ve been thinking a lot about origin stories and about how some of the methods and language that we use to talk about origin, to talk about inheritance, is not adequate. It feels too small or too insufficient or even inaccurate. When I think about technologies like the DNA samples where you send away your DNA and get back this list of your genealogy, how even the science beneath that is shaky. And I’ve been working a lot with the concept of biomythography, this idea of past myths and narratives and writing yourself into them and rewriting your own history, thinking about recessive genes not as a genetic trait in a literal sense, but as perhaps magic that you can inherit. Or other things that you could inherit from your lineages.
The shape my practice was taking before the pandemic set me up well in some ways, right. This is a body of work that I started three years ago. Our country was in another moment of turmoil – this was shortly after the election. And I was trying to parse that and trying to seek guidance from my ancestors. How do we navigate these types of moments? You know? Understanding that this is not the first crisis or the first experience of this that my community has had. And that we survived that, because I’m here. And so, how can I access some of that wisdom? Like, what do I need to know? And that’s taken me on such a journey. And ultimately led me to a creative and spiritual practice that involves being in communication with what I call my Aunties. So, both literal aunties in my family and people who have passed, but also figurative Aunties from the black literary canon. And when I think about, you know, fictive kin ties in Black communities, I think about how they’re often created out of necessity or out of love, right? My relationship to the Aunties comes out of both of those things. Comes out of a love and an adoration and a reverence for my literal and literary Aunties. But also out of a necessity, a need for guidance, a need for some grounding. So, it’s been really powerful and humbling in this moment to be in that type of creative but also reverential practice and to have that grounding to come to every single day that can hold both what my work is calling for but also what the world is calling for.
How might this weird moment offer more room for magic, offer more room to play and to kind of innovate? So I’m, you know, this is my work until it’s done, and I don’t know if it will be done.