Alvin Aubert

Alvin Aubert

“I believe that a poem must be performable in a way, but it must also perform itself on the page.”

Alvin Aubert
Photo: C.B. Claiborne, 1994

Alvin Aubert was an award-winning poet, playwright, editor, and literary critic. In 1993, Aubert retired from Wayne State University where, as a professor of English, he taught creative writing and African American literature. In 1975, Aubert founded and edited the journal Obsidian, aimed at publishing works in English by and about writers of African descent worldwide. Throughout his career, Aubert also taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge, his alma mater, the University of Illinois, the University of Oregon, and the State University of New York. Aubert was a Bread Loaf Scholar in Poetry, and received two creative writing fellowship grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), as well as an Editors Fellowship Grant from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for small press editing and publishing and a Callaloo Award for his contribution to African American cultural expression. His poems, articles and reviews have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. Aubert has written several works of poetry, including Against the Blues (1972), Feeling Through (1975), South Louisiana: New and Selected Poems (1985), and If Winter Come: Collected Poems, 1967-1992 (1994). Following the 1994 Conference, Aubert published Harlem Wrestler and Other Poems (1995). He died in 2014.

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Nat Turner in the Clearing

                                                     Ashes, Lord—
But warm still from the fire that cheered us,
Lighted us in this clearing where it seems
Scarcely an hour ago we feasted on
Burnt pig from our tormentor’s unwilling
Bounty and charted the high purpose your
Word had launched us on. And now, my comrades
Dead, or taken; your servant, pressed by the
Bloody yelps of hounds, forsaken, save for
The stillness of the word that persist quivering
And breath-moist on his tongue: and these faint coals
Soon to be rushed to dying glow by the
Indifferent winds of miscarriage-- What now,
My Lord? A priestess once, they say, could write
On leaves, unlock the time-bound spell of deeds
Undone. I let fall upon these pale remains
Your breath-moist word, preempt the winds, and give
Them now their one last glow, that some dark child
In time to come might pass this way and, in
This clearing, read and know.


Like Miles Said

my memory ain’t too good
i trouble the past, like, crazy
maybe i’m crazy like they say miles was
maybe i don’t half know what i’m doing

like miles said if you don’t know what you’re
doing chances are you ain’t doing nothin’

quoting the old drummer he played with
when he first started playin’
who was dead when miles said that about him

now miles is dead and i’m sure every mf
and his mama is going to be lyin’
about stuff miles said like maybe i’m doin’
right now but miles won’t mind
miles was hip to all that shit

like every time you put a mouthpiece
To your lips you bound to lie some.