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Jacket 2 Presents: Amy Catanzano AND Part 1 of M. NourbeSe Philip’s Essay ‘Black W/Holes: A History Of Brief Time’

By Harriet Staff

nourbese philip

At Jacket 2, Amy Catanzano recently published an essay about M. NourbeSe Philip’s book-length poem, Zong! (Wesleyan, 2008) entitled, “Physics of the Impossible.” After sending the essay to M. NourbeSe Philip, Catanzano received this piece (“A History of Brief Time”) AND permission to re-print it at Jacket 2. What follows is Amy Catanzano’s commentary, and the beginnings of M. Nourbese’s “A History…” Read this entry in its entirety at Jacket 2.

What follows is Part 1 of 2 of M. NourbeSe Philip’s essay, “Black W/Holes: A History Of Brief Time,” which combines definitions from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time with an urgent discussion about race relations in Canada and beyond in the late 1990s. This essay was originally published in Toronto’s FUSE Magazine in 1998. After sending Philip my commentary, “Physics of the Impossible,” which speculatively discusses her book-length poem Zong! (Wesleyan University Press, 2008) in relation to Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity, she sent me this essay. Since it only appears in the back issue of FUSE, I am presenting it here with her permission.

Part 2 of 2 can be found here.


Black W/Holes: A History Of Brief Time (1998)
By M. NourbeSe Philip
Part 1 of 2

event: A point in space-time, specified by its time and place.

Immersed in a recently bought newspaper, I exit a variety store and almost collide with a man walking west along St. Clair Ave West. I am immediately apologetic. His response is swift. And contemptuous. “You fucking people are all over the place!”

I suggest he do something to himself which is anatomically impossible I am angry—very angry. I am also afraid. He is white. He is male. In a big city interactions like these can easily become fatal. I quickly duck into a another store. Some minutes later I emerge and am relieved to see his figure a block or so ahead of me.

Quark: A (charged) elementary particle that feels the strong force.

“You fucking people are all over the place!” The white man’s words remain with me for a long time. They reverberate within—“all over the place…,” “all over the place…” If nothing else, it was clear that he felt I ought not to be on St. Clair Avenue West. The further implication of his statement was that my being on that street in Toronto was evidence that we—African people, I suppose—were “all over the place.” The corollary being that we ought not to be. I could easily dismiss that man’s statement, were it not for the fact that the notion of illegitimacy contained in his words is carefully nourished, cultivated and brought to splendid fruition in the white-supremacist immigration practices of all the western, so-called democracies. The main job of these countries—formerly the Group of Seven, now the Club of Eight—appears to be figuring out how best to club the rest of the world into submission, while keeping darker-skinned peoples physically corralled. Meantime capital, which is in fact our capital, wielded by multinationals, runs rampant and rough-shod all over the world. Indeed, all over the place!

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Harriet Staff.