A poetry workshop at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville, New York, taught me that literature could become a shared experience with the potential to make the world a better place. The author of this letter, ibn kenyatta (or K), is himself a testament both to genius and to courage—an artist and poet who is still in jail because he refuses to deny his innocence.
Until recently, K wrote in a form of Ebonics that are difficult to read at times. But then K was never one to make even the most obvious things easy for himself. He and his persistent dedication to truth, poetry and human dignity have become an ongoing inspiration for me. It was his signature in this letter that gave me the title for “From Another World.”
December 25, 1976, Saturday, 11:51 p.m.
Dear Dennis, Salaam,
did’cha ever look into de dark eyes’ a Nuthin
and wonder’d why?
did it frighten’ ya to find out dat…
dat Nuthin could care?
i will assume from my own personal record dat my letter to ya reach’cha as a kinda surprise, no? i knew dat it’s been a good while since we last saw 1 another, but i said to you dat i would write: um finally livin up to my word… dis is very important to me. You’ll notice dis if your friendship/relationship continues.
dis (rat hea’) is my “feel” letter. um jus writin now to let’cha know dat i always go all out (though late) to keep my word. and /don’t furgit to come back by to visit wird us—it was good to hear ya stuff.
i am as is.
i feel dat de work, de poetry, dat um now engaged in, at dis point in time, is gonna set/or take me in whole ‘nother realm’a existence altogether. do ya know what um talkin’ bout?
my problem: where kin I find me a (buck) naked truth …? seems dat all truths in de world, historically, have been born wid clothes on. or somebody’s always covered’ em up.
dere is so much dat I jes wanna open up and git outta me: ya know.
and um not gonna ever tell Nobody dat um ah Real poet: um always gonna be jus a Black notty head country boy wid a story to tell. and through dis process’ a relatin’ dis/ my story to de world, I have used whatever just means dat i could: poetry is i part’a my nature.
um ah send ya a few pieces a my work, probably in my next letter to ya. take care. And whatever happiness is dere is out dere rat now/ dis period a’time: enjoy!
ideas are intangible forces, but they have more power than the physical brains that give birth to them. they have the power to live on after the brain that creates them has returned to dust.
from another world.