“I used to hate poetry in school- all the “rules” and subject matter from the European poets seemed unrelatable. James Baldwin and Langston Hughes were the first Black writers whose voices spoke to me. It wasn’t until I heard Gil-Scott Heron, who I actually met and talked to, and The Last Poets (Ali bin Hassan’s group) that I imagined Black poetry in modern context. For me to become a writer though, I needed to learn more to have something to write about and more life experience. I’ve only been writing now for about 2 years,” Khan replied to the question pertaining to his inspiration to write poetry.
In two years Aquarius has managed to carve out a strong voice within his poetic explosions. Direct and plain-spoken, he is definitely not a poet that shies away from issues that seem to be controversial or that many people try not to discuss in their poems like race, sex, and religion. In the poem Milk and Honey he writes of lovers reciprocating their affections for one another through the art of cunnilingus and fellatio:
Enter your temple
My lingual praise
I gave testimony
How could my love for punani-
Be a sin?
As much as you love-
Gettin’ licked from the back
And how I drink your honey
It’s better to give than receive
I melt in your mouth-
“Controversy? Our very presence in our natural state is controversial. I’m not going to waste my time writing about “safe” issues. The power of words is something I learned from Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. When I consider what I need to write about, I look for what’s not being said. Also, how we as a people see ourselves or even imagine what we could become, requires some positive propaganda (I hate that word but it’s the truth).”
From the poems Kush, X-Rated Slaves, & Where There is No Vision the People Will Perish, the reader will notice that Khan’s work seems to be influenced by Pan Africanism – a belief in black unity and appreciation of the history of the motherland, Africa. Khan’s explained that he feels a responsibility to speak about the black experience in his poetry. “I once heard Bill Cosby say that because of our collective experience, anytime a Black artist has the spotlight on them and a microphone in front of them, we have a responsibility to be a voice to and for our people. I heard Malcolm X say that we’re not American- we are Afrikans living in America.”
Aquarius expands this responsibility to the black experience by his expressions of appreciation to black women. Poems like Brick Church and Taboo speak of the black woman in a way that makes her the center of everything in life. It’s almost as if she is sanctuary. Something that black women that believe as if they are under-appreciated in society even by men of their own race.
” I was raised christian but like so many others, I question the politics of religious leaders and why some spiritual ideas were not included in male-dominated religions. Since all cultures spring from spiritual beliefs, I (and I’m not the only one) realize that a Mother Goddess was obscured from Western religions which would leave Black women under-represented in ours. It is one thing for Black women to raise their voices of aspiration- more beautiful when Black men join our sisters in this struggle. So much conversation about the plight of the Black race is centered around the men. The women are just as much responsible for our success as the men.”
Finally, Aquarius Khan was asked about his poem Taboo. One line in particular was especially captivating where he writes that “Poets wants fans – I want disciples”. Khan was asked what kind of skills would he require from his disciples. “Just as many who came before me and laid the groundwork and taught me, I hope to inspire others who read from me and hear me to translate from the books we’re reading and apply the ideals necessary to uplift and inspire their own audience.”
An Aquarius Khan Poem:
WRITTEN IN BLOOD
Every empire, kingdom and government-
Have needed words to move the people
Every priest, minister, poet and prophet-
Have needed words to speak to your soul
Written in stone or mud or papyrus-
Some write history and some write destiny
The Bible didn’t write itself- why blame it-
For the evil that men do? Used it against you
Use it against them- but who fears the Devil?
He writes the future/ How many write fiction?
Written in blood is the tale of Kush-
And Kanaan and kemet- we created it all
Every singer, dancer, virgin and whore-
Are players on a stage/ Who writes the drama?
You know Shakespeare and Nostradamus-
But how many know Imhotep and Thoth?
His-story tells us they burned Alexandria-
But who taught them chemistry, biology and astronomy?
The gospel according to Khan-
Is written in blood- you can feel my pain
Count your curses or count your blessings-
Or count your losses or count your wins
So hard to say goodbye to yesterday-
The world thinks Black is stuck in the past
How to conquer a world power?
Learn the language- use women as spies
Introduce your gods- seduce their children-
But when they go to school- who writes the books?
Slaves learned to read- a loquatious breed-
Like Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth
Written in blood- were the songs of slaves-
Once you got free- your children entertain?
Lookin’ over your shoulder- seein’ what you write?-
Sex, money and drama? Is that all you got?
Can’t blame the Devil- Black, shame on you
You can write and speak- but only talkin’ jive
In prison- they call it- jail jazz- war stories-
When slaves refuse to free their minds
Love pimps and hoes- and fancy clothes-
You can chase paper- they chase your gold
How many ghetto-dwellers sayin’: “Buy my book”
Ain’t sayin’ nothin’ new- what I see in the street
Glamourize crime- and then complain-
When your sons get shot and die for real
Tired of sisters who blame the brothers-
For using their bodies to seduce the flesh
But the flesh is weak- let me love your mind-
Girls better learn that knowledge is power
Study human nature- and what you’ll find-
Is most people need told what to do
Written in blood are the laws of men-
Now, whatchu gonna write with your bloody pen?