To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Against the potent poison of your hate.
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.
The Bean Eaters Gwendolyn Brooks
They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.
And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.
We Real Cool
THE POOL PLAYERS.
SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Coal Audre Lorde
is the total black, being spoken
from the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open
how a diamond comes into a knot of flame
how sound comes into a word, coloured
by who pays for what speaking.
Some words are open like a diamond
on glass windows
singing out within the passing crash of sun
There are words like stapled wagers
in a perforated book, -buy and sign and tear apart-
and come whatever wills all chances
the stub remains
an ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
breeding like adders. Others know sun
seeking like gypsies over my tongue
to explode through my lips
like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Love is a word, another kind of open.
As the diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am Black because I come from the earth's inside
now take my word for jewel in the open light.
Dark Prophecy: I Sing Of Shine Etheridge Knight
And, yeah brothers
while white America sings about the unsinkable molly brown
(who was hustling the titanic
when it went down)
I sing to thee of Shine
the stoker who was hip enough to flee the fucking ship
and let the white folks drown
with screams on their lips
(jumped his black ass into the dark sea, Shine did,
broke free from the straining steel).
Yeah, I sing to thee of Shine
and how the millionaire banker stood on the deck
and pulled from his pockets a million dollar check
saying Shine Shine save poor me
and I'll give you all the money a black boy needs-
how Shine looked at the money and then at the sea
and said jump in muthafucka and swim like me-
and Shine swam on-Shine swam on-
and how the banker's daughter ran naked on the deck
with her pink tits trembling and her pants roun her neck
screaming Shine Shine save poor me
and I'll give you all the pussy a black boy needs-
how Shine said now pussy is good and that's no jive
but you got to swim not fuck to stay alive-
And Shine swam on Shine Swam on-
How Shine swam past a preacher afloating on a board
crying save me nigger Shine in the name of the Lord-
and how the preacher grabbed Shine's arm and broke his stroke-
how Shine pulled his shank and cut the preacher's throat-
And Shine swam on-Shine swam on-
And when news hit shore that the titanic had sunk
Shine was up in Harlem damn near drunk-
the mississippi river empties into the gulf Lucille Clifton
and the gulf enters the sea and so forth,
none of them emptying anything,
all of them carrying yesterday
forever on their white tipped backs,
all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
it is the great circulation
of the earth's body, like the blood
of the gods, this river in which the past
is always flowing. every water
is the same water coming round.
everyday someone is standing on the edge
of this river, staring into time,
only here. only now.
Still I Rise Maya Angelou
to the blackness we be about
cuz as Curtis Mayfield be sayen
we people be darker than blue
and quite a few
of us be yellow
all soul/shades of
cuz some of us
be hearen yo/sweet/music.
Crutches Nikki Giovanni
it's not the crutches we decry
it's the need to move forward
though we haven't the strength
women aren't allowed to need
so they develop rituals
since we all know working hands idle
women aren't supposed to be strong
so they develop social smiles
and secret drinking problems
and female lovers whom they never touch
except in dreams
men are supposed to be strong
so they have heart attacks
and develop other women
who don't know their weaknesses
and hide their fears
behind male lovers
whom they religiously touch
each saturday morning on the basketball court
it's considered a sign of health doncha know
that they take such good care
of their bodies
i'm trying to say something about the human condition
maybe i should try again
Nikki-Rosa Nikki Giovanni
childhood remembrances are always a drag
if you’re Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have
all to yourself and
how good the water felt when you got your bath
from one of those
big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in
and somehow when you talk about home
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale
and even though you remember
your biographers never understand
your father’s pain as he sells his stock
and another dream goes
And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
and though they fought a lot
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy
Ka'Ba Amiri Baraka
"A closed window looks down
on a dirty courtyard, and Black people
call across or scream across or walk across
defying physics in the stream of their will.
Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone's
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk the air.
We are beautiful people
With African imaginations
full of masks and dances and swelling chants
with African eyes, and noses, and arms
tho we sprawl in gray chains in a place
full of winters, when what we want is sun.
We have been captured,
and we labor to make our getaway, into
the ancient image; into a new
Correspondence with ourselves
and our Black family. We need magic
now we need the spells, to raise up
return, destroy,and create. What will be
the sacred word?
“cube” in Arabic) is the building deeply revered by Muslims, in the center of the great mosque at Mecca, in the eastern corner of which, about five feet from the ground, is embedded the Black Stone
. The Black Stone
(al-hajar, al-aswad) is a stone believed to be of meteoric origin. During pilgrimage Muslims attempt to kiss it and walk around it seven times.
Monday in B-Flat Amiri Baraka
I can pray
But if I call
in a minute!
1. Basic Terms
the dictionary meaning of a word
the implied or suggested meaning connected with a word
limited to the simplest, ordinary
, most obvious meaning
associative or connotative meaning; representational
measured pattern of rhythmic accents in a line of verse
correspondence of terminal sounds of words or of lines of verse
2. Figurative Language
a direct address of an inanimate object, abstract qualities, or a person not living or present.
"Beware, O Asparagus, you've stalked my last meal."
exaggeration for emphasis (the opposite of understatement)
"I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."
comparison between essentially unlike things without using words OR application of a name or description to something to which it is not literally applicable
"[Love] is an ever fixed mark, / that looks on tempests and is never shaken."
a combination of two words that appear to contradict each other
a situation or phrase that appears to be contradictory but which contains a truth worth considering
"In order to preserve peace, we must prepare for war."
the endowment of inanimate objects or abstract concepts with animate or living qualities
"Time let me play / and be golden in the mercy of his means"
comparison between two essentially unlike things using words such as "like," as," or "as though"
"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"
a part substituted for the whole
"Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your ears"
3. Poetic Devices
a contradiction of expectation between what is said and what is meant (verbal irony) or what is expected in a particular circumstance or behavior (situational), or when a character speaks in ignorance of a situation known to the audience or other characters (situational)
"Time held me green and dying / Though I sang in my chains like the sea"
word or sequence of words representing a sensory experience (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, and gustatory)
"bells knelling classes to a close" (auditory)
an attempt to fuse different senses by describing one in terms of another
the sound of her voice was sweet
an object or action that stands for something beyond itself
white = innocence, purity, hope
the repetition of consonant sounds, particularly at the beginning of words
". . . like a wanderer white"
the repetition of similar vowel sounds
"I rose and told him of my woe"
the use of words to imitate the sounds they describe
"crack" or "whir"
a reference to the person, event, or work outside the poem or literary piece
"Shining, it was Adam and maiden"
4. Poetic Forms
poetic form free from regularity and consistency in elements such as rhyme, line length, and metrical form
poetic form subject to a fixed structure and pattern
unit of a poem often repeated in the same form throughout a poem; a unit of poetic lines ("verse paragraph")
unrhymed iambic pentameter
lines with no prescribed pattern or structure
a pair of lines, usually rhymed
a pair of rhymed lines in iambic pentameter (tradition of the heroic epic form)
four-line stanza or grouping of four lines of verse
fourteen line poem in iambic pentameter with a prescribed rhyme scheme; its subject is traditionally that of love
POETRY GROUPS AND MOVEMENTS
A Brief Guide to Negritude
Negritude was both a literary and movement of ideas led by French-speaking black writers and intellectuals. The movement is marked by its rejection of European colonization (white cultures forcing their ways upon any foreign culture) and its role in the African diaspora (a scattering of a people, language, or culture that was formerly concentrated in one place), pride in "blackness" and traditional African values and culture, mixed with an undercurrent of Marxist ideals. Its founders (or les trois pères), Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Léon-Gontran Damas, met while studying in Paris in 1931 and began to publish the first journal devoted to Negritude, L'Étudiant noir (The Black Student), in 1934.
The term "Negritude" was coined by Césaire in 1939 and it means, in his words
, "the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture." Even in its beginnings Negritude was truly an international movement--drawing inspiration from the flowering of African-American culture brought about by the writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance while asserting its place in the canon of French literature, glorifying the traditions of the African continent, and attracting participants in the colonized countries of the Caribbean, North Africa, and Latin America.
The movement's sympathizers included French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Roumain, founder of the Haitian Communist party. The movement would later find a major critic in Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian playwright and poet, who believed that a purposeful and outspoken pride in their color placed black people continually on the defensive, saying notably "A tiger doesn't declare its tigerness
; it jumps on its prey." Negritude has remained an influential movement throughout the rest of the twentieth century to the present day.
A Brief Guide to the Harlem Renaissance
In the decades immediately following World War I, huge numbers of African Americans migrated to the industrial North from the economically depressed and agrarian South. In cities such as Chicago, Washington, DC, and New York City, the recently migrated sought and found (to some degree) new opportunities, both economic and artistic. African Americans were encouraged to celebrate their heritage and to become "The New Negro," a term coined in 1925 by sociologist and critic Alain LeRoy Locke in his influential book of the same name.
Countee Cullen thought long and hard in his poems about his own and collective African-American identity. Some of his strongest poems question the benevolence of a Creator who has bestowed a race with such mixed blessings. Claude McKay, born and raised in Jamaica, wrote of the immigrant's nostalgia and the American negro's pride and rage. Jean (Eugene) Toomer remains a mystery. Light enough to "pass" and alone constituting the generation's Symbolist avant-garde, he appeared briefly on the Harlem Renaissance scene, became a follower of the mystic Gurdjieff, and disappeared into the white world.
Sterling Brown, for many years a professor at Howard University, emerged in the thirties with sometimes playful, often pessimistic poems in standard English and black vernacular and in African American and European forms. In many of Brown's poems strong men and women resist the oppression of racism, poverty, and fate.
The legacy of the Harlem Renaissance opened doors and deeply influenced the generations of African American writers that followed, including Robert Hayden and Gwendolyn Brooks. In the forties, fifties, and sixties, Hayden taught at Fisk University and the University of Michigan and served two terms as the Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress. Since the publication in 1945 of her first book, A Street in Bronzeville, Brooks has combined a quiet life with critical success. Her second book, Annie Allen, won the 1950 Pulitzer prize, the first time a book by a black poet had won that coveted distinction, and the last time until Rita Dove's Thomas and Beulah, almost forty years later. Brooks was a virtuoso of technique, her exquisite poems exploring, for the first time, the interior lives of African American individuals. Brooks' perspective shifted mid-career, her later work influenced by the politically and socially radical Black Arts Movement of the sixties.
A Brief Guide to the Black Arts Movement (BAM)
"Sometimes referred to as 'the artistic sister of the Black Power Movement,' the Black Arts Movement stands as the single most controversial moment in the history of African-American literature--possibly in American literature as a whole. Although it fundamentally changed American attitudes both toward the function and meaning of literature as well as the place of ethnic literature in English departments, African-American scholars as prominent as Henry Louis Gates, Jr., have deemed it the 'shortest and least successful' movement in African American cultural history." --"Black Creativity: On the Cutting Edge," Time (Oct. 10, 1994)
With roots in the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, and the Black Power Movement, Black Arts is usually dated from approximately 1960 to 1970. African American artists within the movement sought to create politically engaged work that explored the African American cultural and historical experience.
One of the most important figures in the Black Arts Movement is Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Following the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) made a symbolic move from Manhattan's Lower East Side to Harlem, where he founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School. According to the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, "No one was more competent in [the] combination of the experimental and the vernacular than Amiri Baraka, whose volume Black Magic Poetry 1961-1967 (1969) is one of the finest products of the African American creative energies of the 1960s."
Sometimes criticized as misogynist, homophobic
, anti-Semitic, and racially exclusive, the Black Arts movement is also credited with motivating a new generation of poets, writers and artists. In recent years, however, many other writers--Native Americans, Latinos/as, gays and lesbians, and younger generations of African Americans, for instance--have acknowledged their debt to the Black Arts movement.
Related works include "On Black Art" by Maulana Ron Karenga and "The Revolutionary Theatre" by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones). For more information, consult The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996), Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present (University of Virginia Press, 2004) and Modern American Poetry's Black Arts resources.
Poets in the Black Arts Movement inlude
: Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ed Bullins, Eldridge Ceaver, Jayne Cortez, Harold Cruse, Mari Evans, Hoyt Fuller, Nikki Giovanni, Lorraine Hansberry, Gil-Scott Heron, Maulana Ron Karenga, Etheridge Knight, Adrienne Kennedy, Haki R. Madhubuti, Larry Neal
, Ishmael Reed, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, Quincy Troupe, and John Alfred Williams.
A Brief Guide to Jazz Poetry
Jazz poetry is a literary genre defined as poetry necessarily informed by jazz music—that is, poetry in which the poet responds to and writes about jazz. Jazz poetry, like the music itself, encompasses a variety of forms, rhythms, and sounds. Beginning with the birth of blues and jazz at the beginning of the twentieth century, jazz poetry is can be seen as a thread that runs through the Harlem Renaissance, the Beat movement, and the Black Arts Movement—and it is still vibrant today. From early blues to free jazz to experimental music, jazz poets use their appreciation for the music as poetic inspiration.
Not only the music but the artists make frequent appearances in jazz poetry: Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Bessie Smith, and Lester Young are just some of the muses for jazz poetry.
But writing about jazz poetry is, as they say, like dancing about architecture. Perhaps the form can be best understood through a few lines from the poets themselves:
from “The Weary Blues”, by Langston Hughes:
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.from Jazz Fan Looks Back, by Jayne Cortez:
I crisscrossed with Monk
Wailed with Bud
Counted every star with Stitt
Sang "Don’t Blame Me" with Sarah
Wore a flower like Billie
Screamed in the range of Dinah
& scatted "How High the Moon" with Ella Fitzgerald
as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium
Jazz at the Philharmonic
Poets in the Jazz tradition include:
Amiri Baraka, Marvin Bell, Sterling Brown, Hayden Carruth, Jayne Cortez, Michael S. Harper, Langston Hughes, Jack Kerouac, Yusef Komunyaaka, Mina Loy, Kenneth Rexroth, and Sonia Sanchez.
A Brief Guide to Slam Poetry
Because Allen Ginsberg says, "Slam! Into the Mouth of the Dharma!"
Because Gregory Corso says, "Why do you want to hang out with us old guys? If I
was young, I'd be going to the Slam!"
Because Bob Kaufman says, "Each Slam / a finality."
—Bob Holman from "Why Slam Causes Pain and Is a Good Thing"
One of the most vital and energetic movements in poetry during the 1990s, slam has revitalized interest in poetry in performance. Poetry began as part of an oral tradition, and movements like the Beats and the poets of Negritude were devoted to the spoken and performed aspects of their poems. This interest was reborn through the rise of poetry slams across America; while many poets in academia found fault with the movement, slam was well received among young poets and poets of diverse backgrounds as a democratizing force. This generation of spoken word poetry is often highly politicized, drawing upon racial, economic, and gender injustices as well as current events for subject manner.
A slam itself is simply a poetry competition in which poets perform original work alone or in teams before an audience, which serves as judge. The work is judged as much on the manner and enthusiasm of its performance as its content or style, and many slam poems are not intended to be read silently from the page. The structure of the traditional slam was started by construction worker and poet Marc Smith in 1986 at a reading series in a Chicago jazz club. The competition quickly spread across the country, finding a notable home in New York City at the Nuyorican Poets Café.