Emmett Wheatfall shows us how the roots of love grow deep in the soil of sacrifice. He illustrates the intensely complex relationship between idealism and realism. His poems hurt in just the right way. And it’s no small feat opening one’s own racial and cultural wounds for the world to see. It takes courage. It takes trust that a country will recognize itself, and its complicity, in those wounds. And Wheatfall trusts us to witness along with him. He proves himself ready and willing, even eager, to, as the titular poem in this collection demands, “build a new world” together.
In the tradition of Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and other writers who surrender to the swinging rhythms of jazz with words, Emmett Wheatfall delivers poems to chant, to recite in time to drum, sax, and guitar, to chalk onto the sidewalk so children and their parents may pause and consider what this country is, what our times require, and how we might speak with more invention and grace. His poems call on us to celebrate even as we challenge one another, to be festive with our speech even as we demand greater honesty. In a style that reaches from winsome jump-rope rhyme to lyrical love ballad to personal anthem of a citizen, this book will call you to a full spectrum of patriotisms—to country, to family, to romance, to music, to all the loyalties we need to make our stumbling world get the beat and sing as one.
Poet Laureate of Oregon
Emmett Wheatfall has gone deep within himself to create a fine book that touches on the political condition and the human condition. Our Scarlet Blue Wounds speaks truth to power, but does so with tremendous heart, empathy, and poetic skill. It is a book forged of our time that deserves to be read by as many people in it.
—Robert Lashley, Poet
The Homeboy Songs and Up South
Emmett Wheatfall’s poetry is richly subversive, not in a secretive way but with a wild openness that defies the reader to categorize or channel his work into predictable byways. Woven into his own voice, allusions range from current news to long established cultural and pop culture landmarks—the United States Constitution, poetry of Wallace Stevens, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the daily insults of divisive politics. Tones of both Whitman and Langston Hughes and perhaps even Brecht resonate in Wheatfall’s demands for a more just and loving world, but the voice here is definitely his own, and you will always know where this “citizen poet” of our present times stands.
—Barbara Drake, Poet
Peace at Heart: an Oregon Country Life
(Oregon Book Award Finalist, 1999)