You cannot even spell here without her. First, Margaret Walker, Margaret Walker Alexander. She was one of the greatest writers of the language. She was the grandest expression of the American poetic voice and the ultimate paradigm of the Afro-American classic literary tradition. Margaret Walker Alexander was the living continuum of the great revolutionary democratic arts culture that has sustained and inspired the Afro-American people since the middle passage.
Hers is an American art, but an art deeply rooted in the actual life and history and feelings of the African chattel slaves, transformed by the obscene experience of slavery, from human to "real estate," as Du Bois shocks us into understanding in Black Reconstruction in America. Many were suffering throughout the world, the good doctor said, but "none of them was real estate."
It is from this basement of the human repository of recall and emotional registration that our lives in the Western torture chamber began, and it is out of this ugliness and oppression that we have, still, made our judgments and created our aesthetic. So it is, like Douglass, Harper, Du Bois, Hughes, the high-up near heaven thundermouth preachers, laboring in the darkness of our willed salvation, that Margaret Walker Alexander reaches us. Carrying our will and our history, our pain and our precise description of what it is, what it was and who was the great beast rose smoking from the Western sea, snatched us way from home and brought us here to be et, what ghost and pirate. What did this?
Margaret came from the way back. She has clearly been touched by Douglass, at the July 4 speech…that modernism post-Shakespeare and contemporary with Melville and pre-Whitman, you will find that same chronicling of pain and place that Margaret immortalizes in "For My People." It is no accident that that poem has touched so many. Because it comes from so far back, so way before ourselves, that when we open our eyes, our minds, she is telling us what we had up in us and never not understood but could not find the words again to say, so perfect were it said.
Margaret was the human speech itself, raised like Du Bois or Langston to reach past itself. To be itself, simple and open and daring to be paraphrased. She needed no hocus pocus, no abstractions, save language, full open, itself. For Margaret, like those others in the tradition, the language itself was the monster. The sounds we make everyday, stirred up, rolled around, these are the what-nots and what-it-is-es of what we slur as literature.
Margaret took the highest of the oral tradition: the oracular divinity of high religious speech. The Preacher. But not just the preacher, like Jimmy B. for instance, she reaches past the preacher to where the preacher spose to be getting his stuff from, the all-the-way-out, past the Waygonesphere. At that point, just before your eyes roll up in yr head and you screaming hallelujah, or death to slavery, there is that place, it's moving–of high-up sequential reasoning. Where Perception have took us to meet Rationale and we have persisted past that to Use and that use has rose us up from On to reach Dig, before we see Serious. As the Dogon would say.