A poetic sequence using the 1841 slave revolt aboard the brig Creole as a lens through which to view the vitality of Black lives and the afterlife of slavery.
In 1841, the only successful, large-scale revolt of American-born enslaved people erupted on the ship Creole. 135 people escaped chattel slavery that day. The event was recounted in US Senate documents, including letters exchanged between US and British consulates in The Bahamas and depositions from the white crew on the ship. There is no known record or testimony from the 135 people who escaped. Their story has been lost to time and indifference. Quenton Baker’s ballast is an attempt at incomplete redress.
With imagination, deep empathy, and skilled and compelling lyricism, Baker took a black marker to those Senate documents and culled a poetic recount of the Creole revolt. Layers of ink connect readers to Baker’s poetic process: (re)phrasing the narrative of the state through a dexterous process of hands-on redactions.
ballast is a relentless, wrenching, and gorgeously written book, a defiant reclamation of one of the most important but overlooked events in US history, and an essential contribution to contemporary poetry.