I read Between the World and Me earlier this year, and I found it a powerful read. One that I could relate to in some ways but not in most ways. The thing I took out of it was this passage from page 51 of the hardcover letter to his son:
I was not in any slave ship. Or perhaps I was, because so much of what I’d felt in Baltimore, the sharp hatred, the immortal wish, and the timeless will, I saw in Hayden’s work. And that was what I heard in Malcolm, but never like this–quiet, pure, and unadorned. I was learning the craft of poetry, which really was an intensive version of what my mother had taught me all those years ago–the craft of writing as the art of thinking. Poetry aims for an economy of truth–loose and useless words must be discarded, and I found that these loose and useless words were not separate from loose and useless thoughts. Poetry was not simply the transcription of notions–beautiful writing rarely is. I wanted to learn to write, which was ultimately, still, as my mother had taught me, a confrontation with my own innocence, my own rationalizations. Poetry was the processing of my thoughts until the slag of justification fell away and I was left with the cold steel truths of life.
I have never appreciated poetry beyond the angst-filled scribbles of my teenage self. But I think I should probably read and write more. Ta-Nehisi Coates has convinced me that it might be a good way to express my truths.