“Things Awfully Quiet in America” 1987
Knight drew on his experience as a Black man as a source of inspiration in his poetry. The same raw, visceral, unedited, relatable emotion that characterizes his other work is present in this work as well.
In this piece, Knight touches on the realities of being Black in America and the way systems of oppression intensify the pain in this reality. These themes of reality and the Black experience align with the views his mentor, Gwendolyn Brooks, taught him and are reflected in her own writing. This poem is also an example of how the work of Etheridge Knight transcends time and inspires thought and connection even in the present day.
This poem was written in 1987, but over three decades later it is still an accurate reflection of the same social injustices that wade in and out of the spotlight: housing crises, food insecurity, repression of change, and mass incarceration.