Grew up in Chicago
Appointed poet laureate of Illinois
Became the first African American woman to be appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress
Married to Henry Blakely and had a son and daughter
Often presents the characters of local people
Poetry is direct but sly and ironic
Determined to represent everyday lives of African American city dwellers in her work
We real cool. We/ Left school. We
Lurk late. We/ Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We/ Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We/ Die soon.
-We Real Cool (in whole)
The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.
Without my having known./ Policeman said, next morning,/ “Apparently died Alone.”/ “You heard a shot?” Policeman said./ Shots I hear and Shots I hear./ I never see the dead.
The Shot that killed him yes I heard/ as I heard the Thousand shots before;/ careening tinnily down the nights/ across my years and arteries.
Policeman pounded on my door./ “Who is it?” “POLICE!” Policeman yelled./ “A Boy was dying in your alley./ A Boy is dead, and in your alley./ And have you known this Boy before?”
I have known this Boy before./ I have known this Boy b efore, who/ ornaments my alley./ I never saw his face at all./ I never saw his futurefall./ But I have known this Boy.
I have always heard him deal with death./ I have always heard the shout, the volley./ I have closed my heart-ears late and early./ And I have killed him ever.
I joined the Wild and killed him/ with knowledgeable unknowing./ I saw where he was gong./ I saw him Crossed. And seeing,/ I did not take him down.
he cried not only “Father!”/ but “Mother!/ Sister!/ Brother.”/ The cry climbed up the alley./ It went up to the wind./ It hung upon the heaven/ for a long/ stretch-strain of Moment.
The red floor of my alley/ is a special speech to me.
-The Boy Died in My Alley (in whole)
They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair./ Dinner is a casual affair./ Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,/ Tin flatware.
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, vaces and fringes.
-The Bean Eaters (in whole)
Whose broken window is a cry of art/ (success, that winks aware/ as elegance, as a treasonable faith)/ is raw: is sonic: is old-eyed premiere./ Our beautiful flaw and terrible ornament./ Our barbarous and metal little man.
“I shall create! If not a note, a hole./ If not an overture, a desecration.”
Full of pepper and light/ and Salt and night and cargoes.
“Don’t go down the plank/ if you see there’s no extension./ Each to his grief, each to/ his loneliness and fidgety revenge.
Nobody knew where I was and now I am no longer there.”
The only sanity is a cup of tea./ The music is in minors.
Each one other/ is having different weather.
“It was you, it was you who threw away my name!/ And this is everything I have for me.”
Who has not Congress, lobster, love, luau,/ the Regency Room, the Statue of Liberty,/ runs. A sloppy amalgamation./ A mistake./ A cliff./ A hymn, a snare, and an exceeding sun.
-Boy Breaking Glass (in whole)
To Marc Crawford from whom the commission