Love Lets Go – Guest Poetry Blog # 8 – Introducing the Latest Contributor, American Poet, Bianca Lynne Spriggs aka DRRTY BĒ- Part One of Two

A snood scarf

– for the next one

What if it works
the same way, today?
What if this snood-scarf
I’m making out of yarn
from the clearance aisle
is just like the mantle
tossed from a chariot
on its way to Glory,
because of my intent?
If you were to wear it,
it would be the only thing
you’d ever have to do
differently—put it on
or carry it around
until something changes.
That’s it.
That’s the only rule.
That way, you could achieve
cosmosis on your own time.
Not mine.
I’m not saying you’d have to
believe in Elijah’s God
(or mine),
I’m just of the opinion
that sympathetic magic
is the oldest in the world—
it’s the only kind that works.
I’m just saying, ain’t nothing
wrong with a little bit of conjure.
I’m saying there are far worse
ways a person could try
to get to whatever miracles
dwell dormant inside them
than wearing a homemade snood.

DRRTY BĒ (Bianca Lynne Spriggs) from BLK MDNNA: New & Used Poems forthcoming from Numerica Press, 2023


American poet Bianca Lynne Spriggs aka DRRTY BĒ


I am so pleased to introduce the eighth guest blogger in this new series of guest poetry blog posts: American spoken-word, page poet and artist, Bianca Lynne Spriggs aka DRRTY BĒ. Love her last lines in her new poem above about the miracles that dwell dormant inside us! Isn’t that poems are for? To wake those miracles up! Her poems can do that!

Bianca is the author of three poetry collections and been much-commended for her spoken word poetry performances. Much celebrated Patricia Smith commended her first collection, while current U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón said this about her second collection, Call Her by Her Name: Both a shape-shifting powerhouse who conjures deeply needed voices from the past and a courageous presence who lays down the real truth, Spriggs is a poet who expertly excavates and celebrates the feminine.

Her third collection from 2016, The Galaxy and the Dance Floor is full of her own illustrations. Commenting on the book American poet  Aracelis Girmay says Bianca’s collection: models awe while deftly conjuring emotion in nuanced moments of syntactical invention. Yes, there is heartache here. yes, there is loss, But these all give way to necessary metamorphosis and transformation, and this is exactly where, again and again, Spriggs cultivates hope.

In her preface to “The Galaxy” Bianca expresses what I think many poets might wish when someone reads their book of poems:

Dare I say that I hope reading this book leaves you as irrevocably changed as the way writing it left me? I suppose that’s what any writer wishes, ultimately – to alter someone the way she has been altered. But that is what I wish – that you finish reading these poems and feel that you were there with me last night, among a blur of humans, moths, cicadas, moonlight and mason jars, where for one flared moment – who knows, maybe we were all together for two seconds, maybe two centuries – but time turned into a slow, bright streak across the night sky where for once we were all of us certain of our hearts. For once, we were all certain where we belonged.

Part Two of Bianca’s blog posts will feature the American poet, playwright and oral historian, Kelli Stevens Kane. Kelli’s debut poetry collection, Hallelujah Science, was released in February 2022 with endorsements from major U.S. poets including Patricia Smith.

Bianca has been profiled in these pages before. To see the latest of these blog posts please click here. I still consider her poem What Women Are Made Of one of my favorite poems. I have attached it to the bottom of this post. I was so pleased when Bianca said yes to joining my guest blogger series. After a stint teaching as an assistant professor at Ohio University from 2017 to 2021 she is working on her own writing projects. In her words: I am currently working on a memoir to describe what happened to me while working there as the only Black American woman in the [English] department during the Trump Administration and a pandemic in Trump Country in a glorified sundown town in Appalachian Ohio. 

When I asked her in a email where to say she was now living she replied: I consider Appalachia my home away from home these days and hope to one day reside there again or at least have a residence…I’m currently considering Appalachian New Brunswick as a great place for me to start looking. 

BIANCA SPRIGGS’S INTRODUCTION – Love lets go. Everything else is entitlement.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a poet is to let the form be of service to the content—not the other way around.

To that end, I guess we should talk about Adam.

Adam used to be one of my most promising artist cubs. Think young Johnny Depp circa Cry Baby with the potential to become the next Wendell Berry and a show-stopping performance artist. That kind of talent, you know? Enough so that I’d spent years workshopping his poetry, featuring him in my short films, serving as a sounding board for his poor life choices, accepting him despite his addictions and obsession with Hunter S. Thompson.

I’ve known people like Adam my whole life. He’s leading-man handsome, but he doesn’t look like that in his head. In Adam’s head, he’s the minotaur wandering through a labyrinth looking for home.

At one point for me, Adam had become as priceless as finding an expensive kintsugi vase at the Goodwill, and I loved the precision of his mind and how gentle he was when he wasn’t high. He helped me restore my confidence after my divorce and reminded me how to be fearless as an artist. I have fed this boy, welcomed his circle of lost boys into my home and fed them too, and included them all in just about every project I was working on for a few years there. He brought me plants, put together furniture around the apartment, cat-sat, and made me playlists. That was before I left Kentucky the last time after graduating with a terminal degree and securing a tenure-track gig (which I’ve since walked away from).

But let’s back up. In 2015, on Valentine’s Day, we were sitting in his apartment across from one another eating chocolate and talking about why neither of us had a date. Adam wanted to know more about women, and he said something like, “Do you know how much a woman like you could teach men my age? I want to know everything a man like me should know about the world from your perspective.” I accepted the challenge. I never say no to my students, and I never forget their requests. And that’s why I started writing Sue Jennie.

It’s been almost eight years now since that conversation, and I finally have more than enough content for Adam that he is not in the position to receive because he tapped out mentally, I think, post-Donald Trump, post-pandemic. The last time I talked to him just to run diagnostics on how he’d been holding up, it was clear to me his addictions had finally won. If someone called me to tell me he OD’d tomorrow, I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s no way he’d be able to process let alone put to good use what he’d asked me to teach him. Not without getting clean, not without me sitting right next to him and coaching him through his b.s. all over again. He’d gotten worse, not better in my time away, and whatever magic I was blessed with never works on people who lack self-discipline, self-control, and who have a hole inside them. Adam needs soul-retrieval, and I’m not a shaman.

Ultimately, the lessons I finally felt ready to pass onto him were via poetry and essays, because that was our thing, because once upon a time he’d asked me how to write a book — an entire tome covering sympathetic magic, conjure, divination, neurodiversity – how to make a film based on a book, how to tour and sell your work without selling out, how to secure a terminal degree, parlor tricks from almost two decades of teaching in higher-ed, how to survive your family, how to survive this country, how to let go of who you used to be prior to COVID—everything. Everything. Sitting in a file folder on my desktop waiting now for nobody.

That said…

I found someone else—he could be a surrogate host, but he would have to want it. Like Adam, Steve is also a Kentucky born-and-bred Anglo man who spends a lot of time around people of color. It’s clear he doesn’t just see us as windup dolls or look at us and immediately start thinking of what we can do for him in the moment so he can benefit from his proximity to us. I’m hardwired at this point to know the difference. He quite literally built his business from scratch with his own hands, employs Black artists, and has devoted his entire career to promoting our voices by lending us his platform and nurturing our projects from inception to execution.

At first, I thought we would be working together on a client/producer basis, and Steve “Dr.” White, who operates the Dojo Recording Studio in Lexington, has worked with everybody. I’m not at liberty to say who, but there are definitely some household names you’d recognize along with some up-and-comers who will be household names one day. He’s the South’s version of Rick Rubin, and since the pandemic, he’s been expanding his services while also teaching on the West Coast. And he’s kind. When I booked a consultation for an hour with him last year, to date, Steve is the only person I talked to who didn’t flinch or poke fun when I said I wanted to make a spoken word album that was Grammy-worthy. He just said, “Okay,” and told me what I would need to do to prepare.

With a muse like Steve for the purposes of fine-tuning Sue Jennie, since he’s such a natural conversationalist, I imagine our discussions taking place as a public dialogue like a podcast, and between our respective interests, what a spectrum. There’d be something for everybody because Steve isn’t afraid of anything except not being able to provide for his family. But I haven’t worked up the nerve to ask him since our first conversation eighteen months ago because now one of my more pronounced symptoms (I was diagnosed as neurodivergent during the pandemic), which is “selective mutism” keeps stalling me out. Steve is pretty busy, and the work I’m doing in Sue Jennie is at a delicate point and can’t be rushed or forced, and I don’t know how I’d even initiate a conversation like that with someone who charges by the hour, because he isn’t Adam, and I wouldn’t want to approach Steve like a cub—it’d be more like an offer to have a regular dialectic once a month to get to know him better between equals—true sparring partners.

So, for now, I think this is one of those scenarios where I’m going to have to shelve a major project that’s taken almost eight years to complete. Time is the new currency these days, and asking anyone to slow down long enough to incorporate a new commitment into their lives sight unseen without being able to promise a paycheck on the other side is a tall order to ask of anybody.

That said, I have a feeling it’s not if, it’s when the world will meet Sue Jennie, and who knows—maybe by then, my once-upon-a-time best cub, Adam, wherever he is in the world, will finally be ready to read it, starting with Lesson #1:

Love lets go. Everything else is entitlement.

By Bianca Lynne Spriggs aks DRRTY BĒ, March, 2023

What Women Are Made Of

There are many kinds of open.

— Audre Lorde

We are all ventricle, spine, lung, larynx, and gut.
Clavicle and nape, what lies forked in an open palm;

we are follicle and temple. We are ankle, arch,
sole. Pore and rib, pelvis and root

and tongue. We are wishbone and gland and molar
and lobe. We are hippocampus and exposed nerve

and cornea. Areola, pigment, melanin, and nails.
Varicose. Cellulite. Divining rod. Sinew and tissue,

saliva and silt. We are blood and salt, clay and aquifer.
We are breath and flame and stratosphere. Palimpsest

and bibelot and cloisonné fine lines. Marigold, hydrangea,
and dimple. Nightlight, satellite, and stubble. We are

pinnacle, plummet, dark circles, and dark matter.
A constellation of freckles and specters and miracles

and lashes. Both bent and erect, we are all give
and give back. We are volta and girder. Make an incision

in our nectary and Painted Ladies sail forth, riding the back
of a warm wind, plumed with love and things like love.

Crack us down to the marrow, and you may find us full
of cicada husks and sand dollars and salted maple taffy

weary of welding together our daydreams. All sweet tea,
razor blades, carbon, and patchwork quilts of Good God!

and Lord have mercy! Our hands remember how to turn
the earth before we do. Our intestinal fortitude? Cumulonimbus

streaked with saffron light. Our foundation? Not in our limbs
or hips; this comes first as an amen, a hallelujah, a suckling,

swaddled psalm sung at the cosmos’s breast. You want to
know what women are made of? Open wide and find out.

Bianca Lynne Spriggs from Black Girl Magic, Haymarket Books, 2018

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