Holly Bass


Volume 16:1, Winter 2015
The Sonnet Issue


a sonnet for saartjie, elizabeth and betty

Booty  bustle  funk: it boils down to this,
centuries of black femininity condensed.
Spectral and spectacular, haunting, these Eves,
hymens and hymns locked tight by history.
Whither thou goest, thou goest not alone
hell-bent, northbound, to build your rightful throne.
O pioneers! Go get your hustle on—
shake it or stitch or rock til break of dawn.

What right have I to treat your life as trope?
Some common DNA perhaps detected,
tenuous thread on which I hang my hopes.
Here, my dears, I hold you safe, protected.
Your archeology, it speaks to me,

raced heroines of this new century.


Holly Bass is a multidisciplinary performance and visual artist, writer and director. A Cave Canem fellow, she has published poems in numerous journals and anthologies, including Role Call, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC and The Ringing Ear, Black Poets Lean South. She studied modern dance (under Viola Farber) and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College before earning her Master’s from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She has received numerous grants from the DC Arts Commission and is a 2019 Red Bull Detroit artist-in-residence, a 2019 Dance/USA Artist Fellow and a 2019 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow. A gifted and dedicated teaching artist, for four years she directed a year-round creative writing and performance program for adjudicated youth in DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services as well as facilitating workshops nationally and internationally. She is currently the national director for Turnaround Arts at the Kennedy Center, a program which uses the arts strategically to transform schools working to solve deep racial and economic inequities. To read more by this author: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Vol. 10:2, Spring 2009 Introduction, It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Vol. 10:2, Spring 2009 Audio Issue, Vol. 9:4, Fall 2008 Five Poems, Vol. 3:2, Spring 2002