For Ailish Hopper ’93, growing up white in Washington, D.C., meant living in a world where “the American drama of race” was played out on a daily basis, she says. She explored issues of race as a certificate student in African American studies at Princeton, and later through her poetry. “It was really only in African American studies that I could begin to understand my history, our history,” Hopper says.
In Hopper’s first book of poetry, Dark~Sky Society, the poem “Ways to be White in a Poem” is about a white female who obliviously reinforces racial stereotypes even as she struggles to be free of the social expectations for women. Other poems obliquely illuminate the effect of race on spaces and relationships. “As a topic, [race] is more than tired; it is exhausted,” Hopper says. “We know The Story. And many of us feel that we have been defeated by it.” The book was a runner-up for the New Issues prize from Western Michigan University. Hopper is an assistant professor at Goucher College.
An excerpt from “The Good Caucasian”
When forty acres have besieged
my brow, and a mule
and a winter, cold
as Ice Cube, I try
a remembrance of things, floating past –
Miss Daisy, and her necklace
of fingerpointing Title pages
On the South now squares of ash
If memory be a mountaintop
mine is hidden