one day



No. 1 of 2016’s 100 Poems.

A setting of E. E. Cummings’ poem, one day a nigger.

I’ve spent years figuring out how to set this poem. Not only that, I’ve spent the same amount of time figuring out what E. E. Cummings was trying to say. There have been countless critiques of Cummings work as having racist undertones (see: Seven Poems by E. E. Cummings, and Cummings’ other poems such as a like is the most dangerous). However, I often read such poems as critiques themselves of racism.

Given the heightened racial tensions in the United States, I felt it only right to set this poem as the first of this year’s 100 Poems. I finally came to the conclusion that Cummings was celebrating African-Americans talents and spirit, despite many African-Americans’ desires to be white, or rather, to have access to the privilege that Whites have in this country. Cummings exalts the black person in his poem as a “star”. This word, star, was the jumping-off point for me. A black performer stands onstage with a spotlight directed at him/her…

The score of one day reads:

Radios, speakers playing music by black artists; can also have video from black actors, entertainers, etc.… + visual art by black artists

Nighttime sounds: frogs, crickets, owls, wind, etc.…

The mood is soft, hushed, serene (even when music enters). The text should be read calmly, but powerfully, preferably by someone experienced in spoken-word and/or poetry readings.