vocalisms #22: Evie Shockley


vocalisms is a regular feature that presents selected tracks from voca, the Poetry Center's online audio video library of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today.

photo of Evie Shockley

“Have you ever made a mistake?” Evie Shockley asks in this poem written as part of the Poetry Center’s Art for Justice series, which commissions leading writers to compose new work focused on the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States. In each Art for Justice reading, you’ll hear poets offering remarkable new poems that speak clearly and courageously, imaginatively approaching the deep wounds of racism and institutionalized violence in the United States. Shockley’s commissioned poems evidence her creative intelligence and ability to present complex situations in compelling ways. “When we think of violent crime, if we see black skin, history’s whispering its old lies into our colorblind ears,” she continues. Shockley’s poem asks its listeners what evidence of racism and injustice we have quietly filed away in ours mind, unseeing even as we see.