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April is Poetry Month, and Lorna Simpson is Celebrating

Lorna Simpson Photo: Stephanie Berger

Lorna Simpson, probably best known for her photography-based works, is adding a new performative element to her practice: poetry reading. For poetry month in April the conceptual artist is reading two poems by the late Caribbean-American poet June Jordan, remembered as The Poet of the People, at the 16th Annual Benefit for the Academy of American Poets at Lincoln Center tonight (April 25). "During the early 1980s, while in grad school as an art student, I had the opportunity to take a graduate seminar taught by June Jordan,” Simpson tells us. “As a poet and essayist, her insightful observations of the connection to how we speak, interpret, describe and name experiences is intrinsically linked to how we perceive and come to understand politics and history. These many years later, I find her work as insightful as ever." Simpson will be joined by other artistic powerhouses like the actress Uma Thurman, the singer Patty Griffin and the National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes. Below is an excerpt of Poem About My Rights, one of the works Simpson is due to read:

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear

my head about this poem about why I can’t

go out without changing my clothes my shoes

my body posture my gender identity my age

my status as a woman alone in the evening/

alone on the streets/alone not being the point/

the point being that I can’t do what I want

to do with my own body because I am the wrong

sex the wrong age the wrong skin and

suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/

or far into the woods and I wanted to go

there by myself thinking about God/or thinking

about children or thinking about the world/all of it

disclosed by the stars and the silence:

I could not go and I could not think and I could not

stay there

alone

as I need to be

alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own

body and

who in the hell set things up

like this…