I first met James Hawkins in our Asylum Hill neighborhood—a small part of a small city in a small state. The great appeal of this neighborhood is its great social diversity, and the people who live here value that diversity greatly. Not only is it stimulating (“fun”, most would say), but it probably also provides people with a much needed feeling of security. You will always fit in somehow, and you can expect comfortable social relations, not just in terms of race, gender or ethnicity, but also of individual personality.
So Asylum Hill was the meeting ground for myself (who just gets a kick out of walking its streets and meeting people) and James Hawkins, who was located here by social services. He was one of several “street poets” I encountered back in the 1990s and is the one with whom I've had regular contact ever since, although he recently moved back to be with family in Georgia.
James' way to come to grips with his daemons, obviously more damaging to his spirit than most people have to endure, is to communicate concerning them. In that way he defines them for himself, and that helps him dislodge them to some extent from occupying the very center of his being. By communicating his daemons, James has won some territory he can call his own. It has been a long and difficult battle, with many ups and downs, but over the years much ground was won, although it is a battle for which he will never be able to claim total victory.
There are several ways in which James communicates his daemons: poetry, playing the flute, and importantly through personal conversation. This last has often exposed him to others who exploited his innocence in various ways. The neighborhood is filled with people who are desperate and must take advantage of every opportunity they can just to survive without much regard for moral niceties. Until recently, he has not enjoyed much security of person or property. One reason I put his poetry on line was that James' personal life was so much in shambles that it seemed the only way to preserve it.
James' poetry consists of three books, and to some extent these reflect steps in the evolution of his regaining some health. I leave it to the reader to grasp that uneven development. It may be that the third book of poetry will be his last, for he may no longer really need to produce more. He still speaks of writing, but I'm not sure anything will come of it. No matter; the poetry that he has written has at least served its purpose and stands as a monumnent to the creative spirit.
10 January 2007