What are we to do with the things we inherit? The names we are given? The language we are taught? The stories with which we are raised? These are the questions at the heart of Elizabeth Hughey’s White Bull, winner of the 2020 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry. This new poetry collection is composed entirely of words taken from the correspondence and public statements of notorious segregationist Bull Connor, who was Commissioner of Public Safety for the city of Birmingham in the early 1960s. Join us for a conversation about how art and poetry can help us reckon with the ugliness of our past, confront the moral cost of silence in the present, and recalibrate our language for a shared future.
About White Bull: Composed entirely of words taken from the letters and public statements of the notorious segregationist Bull Connor, the poems in White Bull use language that was wielded in violence and oppression to reckon with the present moment. Here, the truth comes out, like a child whispering in the midst of a political rally, “Summer separates us with the same trees.” And, “I thought if I repeated a word enough it would change its meaning.” Elizabeth Hughey holds up and examines the things handed down to us―from patterned wing backs and chipped tea sets to family names and gender roles―and asks if we should keep any of it or burn it all down and start again.
About Elizabeth: Elizabeth Hughey is the author of Sunday Houses the Sunday House (University of Iowa Press), and Guest Host (The National Poetry Review Press). She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. She is the co-founder and Programming Director of the Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO), a literary arts center in Birmingham, Alabama, where she teaches poetry in public schools.
Recent Praise for White Bull:
“White Bull is a feat in finding the language to demystify our time.”―The Clarion-Ledger
“[Hughey’s] refusal to let the dead lie buried evokes the hauntology of Southern life, but it also seeks a reparative future that acknowledges, and disempowers, the old…..White Bull ravage[s] time in spectacular, disturbing ways.” ―”Invocations of Time in Recent Poetry” by Alina Stefanescu, Gasher