Jack White wants to clear a few things up.
Not only does he bear no malice toward Detroit, says the White Stripes front man, he harbors great admiration for what he calls his hometown’s “spirit, its beauty and its burning earth below.”
Frustrated by a sense that his thoughts about Detroit have been misrepresented since his departure two years ago, White offered to the Free Press a poem that he hopes will express “my feelings about the city itself, and how strong I believe it to be,” as he says by way of introduction.
Raised in southwest Detroit, cutting his teeth in the downtown rock halls of the 1990s, White moved to Nashville in 2006. Since then, he has been quoted in media accounts lamenting what became of Detroit’s music community, which he described as “super-negative” to the Associated Press. “I couldn’t breathe anymore in that scene,” he told Rolling Stone magazine for a story last month about his band the Raconteurs.
White tells the Free Press that “those expressions of mine have never been a representation of my feelings about Detroit the city, a town that I have strong feelings about … nor were they expressions about its citizens.”
Citing the inspirational Detroit forces that have fueled creators from Albert Kahn to Iggy Pop, he sets the scene: “The following poem is the Detroit from my mind. The Detroit that is in my heart. The home that encapsulates and envelops those who are truly blessed with the experience of living within its boundaries.”
‘Courageous Dream’s Concern,’ by Jack White
I have driven slow,
three miles an hour or so,
through Highland Park, Heidelberg, and the
I’ve hopped on the Michigan,
and transferred to the Woodward,
and heard the good word blaring from an
I love the worn-through tracks of trolley
trains breaking through their
As I ride the Fort Street or the Baker,
just making my way home.
I sneak through an iron gate, and fish
rock bass out of the strait,
watching the mail boat with
its tugboat gait,
hauling words I’ll never know.
The water letter carrier,
bringing prose to lonely sailors,
treading the big lakes with their trailers,
floats in blue green chopping waters,
above long-lost sunken failures,
awaiting exhumation iron whalers,
holding gold we’ll never know.
I’ve slid on Belle Isle,
and rowed inside of it for miles.
Seeing white deer running alongside
While I glide, in a canoe.
I’ve walked down Caniff holding a glass
Atlas root beer bottle in my hands
And I’ve entered closets of coney islands
early in the morning too.
I’ve taken malt from Stroh’s and Sanders,
felt the black powder of abandoned
And smelled the sawdust from wood cut
to rehabilitate the fallen edifice.
I’ve walked to the rhythm of mariachis,
down junctions and back alleys,
Breathing fresh-baked fumes of culture
nurtured of the Latin and the
I’ve fallen down on public ice,
and skated in my own delight,
and slid again on metal crutches
into trafficked avenues.
Three motors moved us forward,
Leaving smaller engines to wither,
the aluminum, and torpedo,
Monuments to unclaimed dreaming.
Foundry’s piston tempest captured,
Forward pushing workers raptured,
Frescoed families strife fractured,
Encased by factory’s glass ceiling.
Detroit, you hold what one’s been seeking,
Holding off the coward-armies weakling,
Always rising from the ashes
not returning to the earth.
I so love your heart that burns
That in your people’s body yearns
the lonely dream that does encapsulate,
Your spirit, that God insulates,
With courageous dream’s concern.