A Reading of Bertram on Brooks on Walker (2020) · 1 min

Program Note

A Reading of Bertram on Brooks on Walker (2020) is a reading and electroacoustic setting of Lillian-Yvonne Bertram’s poem: “Gwendolyn Brooks on Kara Walker’s ‘Gone, An Historical Romance of Civil War As it Occurred B’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart.’” This is in response to an invitation to make art by Nell Painter, Chair of the MacDowell Board of Directors, towards enhancing the conversation about social justice through art.

(A Song for Your 21st Birthday, My Dear.)


Today is the day you become

a thing of wax.


I wish you

every success in your shaping.

I am indebted to Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, recipient of the Poetry Society Of America’s 2020 Anna Rabinowitz Prize for their collection, Travesty Generator (Noemi Press), for their creativity and generosity in offering me this original text – their writing and their reading – presented in this electroacoustic setting, and specifically for this occasion.

Bertram offers this note on the creation of their poem: “It is a collaboration between myself and a text generating neural network I call ‘Warpland 1.0’, an instance of GPT2 that I fine-tuned and trained on the work of Gwendolyn Brooks. The pieces imagine/re-imagine ekphrastic poems in the style of Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks may have seen ‘Gone….’ in person (it’s possible).”

One can both view and learn more about Kara Walker’s “Gone….” at The Museum of Modern Art

One can view more work created in response to Nell Painter’s call for social justice through art at MacDowell.org.