Archive for the 'Black Arts' Category

Robert Hayden

May 9, 2007

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(1913-1980)

Born in Detroit, was raised by a foster family next door to his mother
Struggled with severe nearsightedness
Greatly admired W.H. Auden
Taught until his death
Poet of elegance and restraint, wrote about such emotionally fraught subjects as lynching of African Americans during the civil rights movement, the transport of slaves from Africa to the New World and his own perplexity as a youth raised in a Detroit slum
Poetry condenses and evokes feelings and ideas in intricate sonic textures
Approaches highly charged subjects indirectly, even risking adoption of the voice of victimizer
One of the leading African American poets of the twentieth century
Became Baha’i in 1943, embracing a religion that teaches the unity of all faiths and peoples
Put to powerful use modernist aesthetic principles as concision, allusion, juxtaposition, collage, and symbolism

Quotations:

I
Jesus, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,/ sharks follwing the moans the fever and they dying;/ horror the corposant and compass rose.
Middle Passage:/ voyage through death/ to life upon these shores.

“10 April 1800-/ Blacks rebellious. Crew uneasy. Our linguist says/ their moaning is a prayer for death,/ ours and their own. Some try to starve themselves./ Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter/ to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.”
Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:
Standing to America, bringing home/ black gold, black ivory, black seed.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,/ of his bones New England pews are made,/ those are altar lights that were his eyes.
Jesus   Savior   Pilot   Me/ Over   Life’s   Tempestuous   Sea
We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,/ safe passage to our vessels bringing/ heathen souls unto Thy chastening.
Jesus   Savior

II
Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,/ Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar;/ have watched the artful mongos baiting traps/ of war wherein the victor and the vanquished
Were caught as prizes for our barracoons./ Have seen the nigger kings whose vanity/ and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,/ Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us.

III
Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,/ the dark ships move, the dark ships move,/ their bright ironical names/ like jests of kindness on a murderer’s mouth;/ plough through thrashing glister toward/ fata morgana’s lucent melting shore,/ weave toward New World littorals that are/ mirage and myth and actual shore.
Voyage through death,/ voyage whose chartings are unlove.

You cannot stare that hatred down/ or chain the fear that stalks the watches/ and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath;/ cannot kill the deep immortal human wish,/ the timeless will.

“It sickens me/ to think of what I saw, of how these apes/ threw overboard the butchered bodies of our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsaam./ Enough, enough. the rest is quickly told:/ Cinque was forced to spare the two of us/ you see to steer the ship to Africa,/ and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea/ voyaged east by day and west by night,/ deceiving them, hoping for rescue,/ prisoners on our own vessel, till/ at length we drifted to the shores of this/ your land, America, where we were freed/ from our unspeakable misery. Now we/ demand, good sirs, the extradition of/ Cinquez and his accomplices to La/ Havana.

I tell you that we are determined to return to Cuba/ with our slaves and there see justice done./ Cinquez-/ or let us say ‘the Prince’- Cinquez shall die.”
The deep imortal human wish,/ the timeless will.
Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,/ life that transfigures many lives.
Voyage through death/ to life upon these shores.

-Middle Passage

Journey of slaves across the Atlantic from Africa to the Americas
Poetic voice changes in each part

Gwendolyn Brooks

May 9, 2007

gwendolyn-brooks.jpg
(1917-2000)

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

Quotations:

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

Adrienne Rich

May 9, 2007

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(1929-)

Born white and middle class
Married and had three sons before she was thirty
Separated from her husband and committed herself to radical feminism and lesbian vision
Leading feminist poet of the twentieth century
Populates her poems with emblematic female figures
Defies modernist injunctions and is in search of a common language to describe a shared historical experience
One of the most well-known contemporary love poets
Personal feeling can never be completely separated from politics

Quotations:

Living    in the earth-deposits   of our history
Today a blackhoe divulged   out of a crumbling flank of earth/ one bottle   amber   perfect   a hundred-year-old/ cure for fever   or melancholy   a tonic/ for living on this earth   in the winters of this climate
Today I was reading about Marie Cruie:/ she must have known she suffered   from radiation sickness/ her body bombarded for years   by the element/ she had purified/ It seems she denied to the end/ the source of the cataracts on her eyes/ the cracked and suppurating skin   of her finger-ends/ till she could no longer hold   a test-tube or a pencil
She died   a famous woman   denying/ her wounds/ denying/ her wounds   came   from the same source as her power

-Power (in whole)

First having read the book of myths,/ and loaded the camera,/ and checked the edge of the knife-blade,/ I put on/ the body-armor of black rubber/ the absure flippers/ the grave and awkward mask./ I am having to do this/ not like Cousteau with his/ assiduous team/ aboard the sun-flooded schooner/ but here alone.

I came to explore the wreck./ The words are purposes./ The words are maps./ I came to see the damage that was done/ and the treasure that prevail./ I stroke the beam of my lamp/ slowly along the flank/ of something more permanent/ than fist or weed
the thing I came for:/ the wreck and not the story of the wreck/ the thing itself and not the myth/ the drowned face always staring/ toward the sun/ the evidence of damage/ worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty/ the ribs of the disaster/ curing their assertion/ among the tentative haunters.
This is the place./ And I am here, the mermaid whose dark ahir/ streams black, the merman in his armored body./ We circle silently/ about the wreck/ we dive into the hold./ I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes/ whose breasts still bear the stress/ whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies/ obscurely inside barrels/ half-wedged and left to rot/ we are the half-destroyed instruments/ that once held to a course/ the water-eaten log/ the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are/ by cowardice or courage/ the one who find our way/ back to this scene/ carrying a knife, a camera/ a book of myths/ in which/ our names do not appear.

-Diving into the Wreck

I
Whenever in this city, screens flicker/ with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,/ victimized hirelings bending to the lash,/ we also have to walk… if simply as we walk/ through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties/ of our own neighborhoods./ We need to grasp our lives inseparable/ from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces,/ and the red begonia perilously flashing/ from a tenement sill six stories high,/ or the ong-legged young girls playing ball/ in the junior highschool playground./ No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,/ sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,/ dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,/ our animal passion rooted in the city.

X
Your dog, tranquil and innocent, dozes through/ our cries, our murmured dawn conspiracies/ our telephone calls. She knows- what can she know?/ If in my human arrogance I claim to read/ her eyes, I find there only my own animal thoughts: / that creatures must find each other for bodily comfort,/ that voices of the psyche drive through the flesh/ further than the dense brain could have foretold,/ that the planetary nights are growing cold for those/ on the same journey, who want to touch/ one creature-traveler clear to the end;/ that without tenderness, we are in hell.

XVII
No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone./ The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,/ they happen in our lives like car crashes,/ books taht change us, neighborhoods/ we move into and come to love./ Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,/ women at least should know the difference/ between love and death. No poison cup,/ no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder/ should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder/ not merely played but should have listened to us,/ and could instruct those after us:/ this we were, this is how we tried to love,/ and there are the forces they had ranged against us,/ and these are the forces we hand ranged within us,/ within us and against us, against us and within us.

XXI
The dark lintels, the blue and foreign stones/ of the great round rippled by ston implements/ the midsummer night light rising from beneath/ the horizon- when I said “a cleft of light”/ I meant this. And this is not Stonehenge/ simply nore any place but the mind/ casting back to where her solitude,/ shared, could be chosen without loneliness,/ not easily nor without pains to stake out/ the circle, the heavy shadows, the great light./ I choose to be a figure in that light,/ half-blotted by darkness, something moving/ across that space, the color of stone/ greeting the moon, yet more than stone:/ a woman. I choose to walk here. And to draw this circle.

-Twenty-One Love Poems

Amiri Baraka

October 17, 2006

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(1934-) 

Born LeRoi Jones
Born in the industrial city of Newark, New Jersey
After attending Howard University in Washington, D. C., he served in the United States Air Force
In the late fifties, settled in New York’s Greenwich Village where he was a central figure of that bohemian scene
Became nationally prominent in 1964, with the New York production of his Obie Award-winning play, Dutchman
Became a Black Nationalist, moving first to Harlem and then back home to Newark
In the mid-1970s, became a Third World Marxist-Leninist
1999, after teaching for twenty years in the Department of Africana Studies at SUNY-Stony Brook, he retired
Currently he lives with his wife, the poet Amina Baraka, in Newark.

Quotations:

Poems are bullshit unless they are / teeth or trees or lemons piled / on a step. Or black ladies dying / of men leaving nickel hearts / beating them down. Fuck poems / and they are useful, wd they shoot / come at you, love what you are, / breathe like wrestlers, or shudder / strangely after pissing. We want live / words of the hip world live flesh & / coursing blood. Hearts Brains / Souls splintering fire. We want poems / like fists beating niggers out of Jocks / or dagger poems in the slimy bellies / of the owner-jews. Black poems to / smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches / whose brains are red jelly stuck / between ‘lizabeth taylor’s toes. Stinking / Whores! We want ‘poems that kill.’ / Assassin poems, Poems that shoot / guns. Poems that wrestle cops into alleys / and take their weapons leaving them dead / with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland. Knockoff / poems for dope selling wops or slick halfwhite / politicians Airplane poems. rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr / rrrrrrrrrrrr … tuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuh / … rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr … Setting fire and death to / whities ass. Look at the Liberal / Spokesman for the jews clutch his throat / & puke himself into eternity … rrrrrrrrrr / There’s a negroleader pinned to / a bar stool in Sardi’s eyeballs melting / in hot flame. Another negroleader / on the steps of the white house one / kneeling between the sheriff’s thighs / negotiating cooly for his people. / Aggh … stumbles across the room … / Put it on him, poem. Strip him naked / to the world! Another bad poem cracking / steel knuckles in a jewlady’s mouth / Poem scream poison gas on beasts in green berets / Clean out the world for virtue and love, / Let there be no love poems written / until love can exist freely and / cleanly. Let Black People understand / that they are the lovers and the sons / of lovers and warriors and sons / of warriors Are poems & poets & / all the loveliness here in the world
We want a black poem. And a / Black World. / Let the world be a Black Poem / And Let All Black People Speak This Poem / Silently
or LOUD

-Black Art (in whole)

For Malcolm’s eyes, when they broke/ the face fos ome dumb white man, For/ Malcolm’s hands raised to bless us/ all black and strong in his image/ of ourselves. For Malcolm’s words/ fire dars, the victor’s tireless/ thrusts, words hung above the world/ change as it may, he said it, and/ for this he was killed, for waying,/ and feeling, and being/change, all/ collected hot in his heart, For Malcolm’s/ heart raising us above our filthy cities,/ for his stride, and his beat, and his address/ to the grey monsters of the world, For Malcolm’s/ pleas for your dignity, black men, for your life,/ black man, for the filling of your minds/ with righteousness. For all of him dead and/ gone and vanished from us, and all of him which/ clings to our speech black god of our time./ For all of him, and all of yourself, look up,/ black man, quit stuttering and shuffling, look up,/ black man, quit whining and stooping, for all of him,/ For Great Malcolm a prince of the earth, let nothing in us rest/ until we avent ourselves for his death, stupid animals/ that killed him, let us never breathe a pure breath if/ we fail, and whtie men call us faggots till the end of/ the earth.

-A Poem For Black Hearts (in whole)

In the south, sleeping agains/ the drugstore, growling under/ the trucks and stoves, stumbling/ through and over the cluttered eyes/ of early mysterious night. Frowning/ drunk waving moving a hand or lash./ Dancing kneeling reaching out, letting/ a hand rest in shadows. Squatting/ to drink or pee. Stretching to climb/ pulling themselves onto horses near/ where there was sea (the old songs/ lead you to believe). Riding out/ from this town, to another, where/ it is also black. Down a road/ wehre people are asleep. Towards/ the moon or the shadows of houses./ Towards the songs’ pretended sea.

-Legacy (For Blues People) (in whole)

How will it go, crumbling earthquake, towering inferno, juggernaut, volcano, smashup,/ in reality, other than the feverish nearreal fantasy of the capitalist flunky film hacks/ tho they sense its reality breathing a quake inferno scar on their throat even snorts of/ 100% pure cocaine cant cancel the cold cut of impending death to this society. On all the/ screens of america, the joint blows up every hour and a half for two dollars an fifty cents./ They have taken the niggers out to lunch, for a minute, made us partners (nigger charlie) or/ surrogates (boss nigger) for their horror. But just as superafrikan mobutu cannot leopardskinhat his/ way out of responsibility for lumumba’s death, nor even with his incredible billions rockefeller/ cannot even save his pale ho’s titties in the crushing weight of things as they really are./ How will it go, does it reach you, getting up, sitting on the side of the bed, getting ready/ to go to work. Hypnotized by the machine, and the cement floor, the jungle treachery of trying/ to survive with no money in a money world, of making the boss 100,000 for every 200 dollars/ you get, and then having his brother get you for the rent, and if you want to buy the car you/ helped build, your downpayment paid for it, the rest goes to buy his old lady a foam rubber/ rhinestone set of boobies for special occasions when kissinger drunkenly fumbles with/ her blouse, forgetting himself./ If you dont like it, what you gonna do about it. That was the question we asked each other, &/ still right regularly need to ask. You dont like it? Whatcha gonna do, about it??/ The real terror of nature is humanity enraged, the true technicolor spectacle that hollywood/ cant record. They cant even show you how you look when you go to work. or when you come back./ They cant even show you thinking or demanding thenew socialist reality, its the ultimate tidal/ wave. When all over the planet, men and women, with heat in their hands, demand that society/ be planned to include the lives and self determination of all the people ever to live. That is/ the scalding scenario with a cast of just under two billion that they dare not even whisper./ Its called, “We Want It All … The Whole World!”

-A New Reality Is Better Than a New Movie! (in whole)

We’ll worship Jesus/ When jesus do/ Somethin/ When jesus blowup/ the white house/ or blast nixon down/ when jesus turn out congress/ or bust general motors to/ yard bird motors/ jesus we’ll worship jesus/ when jesus get down/ when jesus get out his yellow lincoln/ w/ the built in cross stain glass/ window& bow w/black peoples/ enemies we’ll worship jesus when he get bad enough to at least scare/ somebody

Jesus need to hurt some a our/ enemies, then we’ll check him/ out, all that screaming and hollering/ & wallering and moaning talkin bout/ jesus, jesus, in a red/ check velvet vine + 8 in. heels

we aint gonna worship jesus cause jesus dont exist/ xcept in song and story except in ritual and dance, except in slum stained/ tears or trillion dollar opulence stretching back in history, the history/ of the oppression of the human mind/ we worship the strength in us/ we worship our selves/ we worship the light in us/ we worship the warmth in us/ we worship the world/ we worship the love in us/ we worship our selves/ we worhsip nature/ we worship ouselves/ we worship the life in us, and science, and knowledge, and transformation/ of the visible world/ but we aint gonna worship no jesus/ we aint gonna legitimize the witches and devils and spooks and hobgoblins/  the sensuous lies of the rules to keep us chained to fantasy and illusion/ sing about life, not jesus/ sing about revolution, not no jesus/ stop singing about jesus,/ sing about, creation, our creation, the life of the world and fantastic/ nature how we struggle to transform it, but dont victimize our selves by/ distorting the world/ stop moanin about jesus, stop sweatin and crying and stompin and dyin for jesus/ unless thats the name of the army we building to force the land finally to/ change hands. And lets not call that jesus, get a quick consensus, on that,/ lets damn sure not call that black fire muscle no invisible psychic dungeon/ no gentle vision straight jacket, lets call that peoples army, or wapenduzi or/ simba/ wachanga, but we not gon callit jesus, and not gon worship jesus, throw/ jesus out yr mind. Build the new world out of reality, and new vision/ we come to find out what there is of the world/ to understand what there is here in the world!/ to visualize change, and force it./ we worship revolution

-When We’ll Worship Jesus