October 17, 2010

Black Poetry Day – U.S.

This is a great excuse to delve into the poetry of such luminaries as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Phillis Wheatley, and Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Why October 17? It is the birthday of Jupiter Hammon (pictured above), the first published African American poet, who was born into slavery on this day in 1711.

Hammon lived his whole life as a slave and was the son of two slaves. He lived during the time that slavery was legal in the North as well as the south, and he was owned by a family living in Queens, New York.

Here are some poems and some links, to get your day off to a great start:

Children's Rhymes
by Langston Hughes

By what sends
the white kids
I ain't sent:
I know I can't
be President.
What don't bug
them white kids
sure bugs me:
We know everybody
ain't free.

Lies written down
for white folks
ain't for us a-tall:
Liberty And Justice--
Huh!--For All?

More from Langston Hughes here.

We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks

We real cool. We
Left School. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

More from Gwendolyn Brooks here.

An Easy Goin' Feller
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

THER' ain't no use in all this strife,

An' hurryin', pell-mell, right thro' life.

I don't believe in goin' too fast

To see what kind o' road you've passed.

It ain't no mortal kind o' good,

'N' I would n't hurry ef I could.

I like to jest go joggin' 'long,

To limber up my soul with song;

To stop awhile 'n' chat the men,

'N' drink some cider now an' then.

Do' want no boss a-standin' by

To see me work; I allus try

To do my dooty right straight up,

An' earn what fills my plate an' cup.
An' ez fur boss, I'll be my own,

I like to jest be let alone,

To plough my strip an' tend my bees,

An' do jest like I doggoned please.

My head's all right, an' my heart's meller,

But I'm a easy-goin' feller.

The Poet
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

He sang of life, serenely sweet,
With, now and then, a deeper note.
From some high peak, nigh yet remote,

He voiced the world's absorbing beat.

He sang of love when earth was young,

And Love, itself, was in his lays.

But, ah, the world, it turned to praise

A jingle in a broken tongue.

More from Paul Dunbar here.

My First Memory (of Librarians)
by Nikki Giovanni

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
too short
For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big.

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall.

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

More from Nikki Giovanni here

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