Archive for the 'Class' Category

Gwendolyn Brooks

May 9, 2007

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(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

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Seamus Heaney

May 9, 2007

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(1939-)

Writes masterfully in meter and rhyme and is reticent and indirect
Paradoxes of work can be understood in the context of his historical situation as an Irish Catholic who grew up in the predominantly Protestant North of Ireland under Brithis rule
Is a political poet, but refuses slogans, journalistic reportage and ploitical pieties
Voice of conscience and remorse
Wrote elegies for people who were killed in the violence of Northern Ireland

Quotations:

Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound/ When the spade winks into gravelly groud:/ My father, digging. I look down
Till his strainging rump among the flowerbeds/ Bends low, comes up twenty years away/ Stooping in rhythm through potato drills/ Where he was digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap/ Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge/ Through living roots awaken in my head./ But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests./ I’ll dig with it.

-Digging

I can feel the tug/ of the halter at the nape/ of her neck, the wind/ on her naked front.
It blows her nipples/ to amber beads,/ it shakes the frail rigging/ of her ribs.
I can see her drowned/ body in the bog,/ the weighing stone,/ the floating rods and boughs.
Under which at first/ she was a barked sapling/ that is dug up/ oak-bone, brain-firkin:
her shaved head/ like a stubble of black corn,/ her blindfold a soiled bandage,/ her noose a ring
to store/ the memories of love./ Little adulteress,/ before the punished you
you were flaxen-haired,/ undernourished, and your tar-black face was beautiful./ My poor scapegoat,
I almost love you/ but would have cast, I know,/ the stones of silence./ I am the artful voyeur
of your brain’s exposed/ and darkened combs,/ your muscles webbing/ and all your numbered bones:
I who have stood dumb/ when your betraying sisters,/ cauled in tar,/ wept by the railings,
who would connive/ in civilized outrage/ yet understand the exact/ and tribal, intimate revenge.

-Punishment (in whole)

My father worked with a horse-plough,/ His shoulders globed like a full sail strung/ Between the shafts and the furrow./ The horses strained at his clicking tongue.
An expert. He would set the wing/ And fit the bright steel-pointed sock./ The sod rolled over without breaking./ At the headrig, with a single pluck
Of reins, the sweating team turned round/ And back into the land. His eye/ Narrowed and angled at the ground,/ Mapping the furrow exactly.
I stumbled in his hobnailed wake,/ Fell sometimes on the polished sod;/ Sometimes he rode me on his back/ Dipping and rising on his plod.
I wanted to grow up and plough,/ To close one eye, stiffen my arm./ All I ever did was follow/ In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,/ Yapping always. But today/ It is my father who keeps stumbling/ Behind me, and will not go away.

-Follower (in whole)

Derek Walcott

May 9, 2007

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(1930-)

The preeminent Caribbean poet writing in English
Born on Saint Lucia, one of the four Windward Islands
Background is racially and culturally mixed
Tries to embrace all his cultural influences
Asks how the postcolonial poet can both grieve the agonizing harm of Brithis colonialism and appreciate the empire’s literary gift
Has adapted various literary archetypes and forms
Has a great passion for metaphor
Currently paints and writes on the Northwest coast of Saint Lucia

Quotations:

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt/ Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,/ Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt./ Corpses are scattered through a paradise.

The violence of beast on beast is read/ As natural law, but upright man/ Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.

I who am poisoned with the blood of both,/ Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?/ I who have cursed/ The drunken officer of British rule, how choose/ Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?/ Betray them both, or give back what they give?/ How can I face such slaughter and be cool?/ How can I turn from Africa and live?

-A Far Cry From Africa

Below bent breadfruit trees/ in the flat, coloured city, class
escalated into structures still,/ merchant, middleman, magistrate, knight. To go downhill/ from here was to ascend.
The middle passage never guessed its end./ This is the hight of poverty/ for the desperate and black;
climbing, we could look back/ with widening memory/ on the hot, corrugated-iron sea/ whose horrors we all
shared.

Afterwards,/ the ceremony, the careful photograph/ moved out of range before the patient tombs,
we dare a laugh,/ ritual, desperate words,/ born like these children from habitual wombs,
from lives fixed in the unalterable groove/ of grinding poverty. I stand out on a balcony/ and watch the sun pave its flat, golden path
across the roofs, the aerials, cranes, the tops/ of fruit trees crawling downard to the city./ Something inside is laid wide like a wound,
some open passage that has cleft the brain,/ some deep, amnesiac blow. We left/ somewhere a life we never found,
customs and gods that are not born again,/ some crib, some grille of light/ clanged shut on us in bondage, and withheld
us from that world below us and beyond,/ and in its swaddling cerements we’re still bound.

-Laventille

Laventille is a hillside slum outside Port of Spain

Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?/ Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,/ in that grey vault. The sea. The sea/ has locked them up. The sea is History.

Sir, it islocked in them sea-sands/ out there past the reef’s moiling shelf,/ where the men-o’-war floated down;
strop on these goggles, I’ll guide you there myself./ It’s all subtle and submarine,/ through colonnades of coral,
past the gothic windows of sea-fans/ to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyes,/ blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen;
and these groined caves with barnacles/ pitted like stone/ are our cathedrals,
and the furnace before the hurricanes:/ Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills/ into marl and cornmeanl,
and that was Lamentations-/ that was just Lamentations,/ it was not History;

Then came the white sisters clapping/ to the waves’ progress, / and that was Emancipation-
jubilation, O jubilation-/ vanishing swiftly/ as the sea’s lace dries in the sun,
but that was not History,/ that was only faith,/ and then each rock broke into its own nation;
then came the synod of flies,/ then came the secretarial heron,/ then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,
fireflies with bright ideas/ and bats like jetting ambassadors/ and the mantis, like khaki police,
and the furred caterpillars of judges/ examining each case closely,/ and then in the dark ears of ferns
and in the salt chuckle of rocks/ with their sea pools, there was the sound/ like a rumor without any echo
of Hisotry, really beginning.

-The Sea Is History

 

Lucille Clifton

May 9, 2007

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(1936-)

Born Thelma Lucille Sayles
Married Fred Clifton
Has written frankly about being an incest survivor
Raised six children
Has two ancestors of great significance to her: great-great-grandmother Caroline, a west-central African girl kidnapped by slave traders and great-grandmother Lucille, the first woman legally hanged in “Virginia for murdering the white father of her only son
Celebrates African American culture, especially black womanhood
Protests the injustices inflicted by the larger culture
Intensely personal and yet collectivist: bridges the gap between “confessional poetry” and “identity poetry”

Quotations

i am accused of tending to the past/ as if i made it,/ as if i sculpted it/ with my own hands. i did not./ this past was waiting for me/ when i came,/ a monstrous unnamed baby,/ and i with my mother’s itch/ took it to breast/ and named it/ History./ she is more human now,/ learning language everyday,/ remembering faces, names and dates./ when she is strong enough to travel/ on her own, beware, she will.

-[i am accused of tending to the past] (in whole)

among the rocks/ at walnut grove/ your silence drumming/ in my bones,/ tell me your names.
nobody mentioned slaves/ and yet the curious tools/ shine with your fingerprints./ nobody mentioned slaves/ but somebody did this work/ who had no guide, no stone,/ who moulders under rock.
tell me your names,/ tell me your bashful names/ and i will testify.
the inventory lists ten slaves/ but only men were recognized.
among the rocks/ at walnut grove/ some of these honored dead/ were dark/ some of these dark/ were slaves/ some of these slaves/ were women/ some of them did this/ honored work./ tell me your names/ foremothers, brothers,/ tell me your dishonored names./ here lies/ here lies/ here lies/ here lies/ hear

-at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989 (in whole)

you   uterus/ you have been patient/ as a sock/ while i have slippered into you/ my dead and living children/ now/ they want to cut you out/ stocking i will not need/ where i am going/ where am i going/ old girl/ without you/ uterus/ my bloody print/ my estrogen kitchen/ my black bag of desire/ where can i go/ barefoot/ without you/ where can you go/ without me

-poem to my uterus (in whole)

well girl, goodbye,/ after thrity-eight years./ thirty-eight years and you/ never arrived/ splendid in your red dress/ without trouble for me/ somewhere, somehow.
now it is done,/ and i feel just like/ the grandmothers who,/ after the hussy has gone,/ sit holding her photograph/ and sighing,
wasn’t she/ beautiful? wasn’t she beautiful?

-to my last period (in whole)

Tony Harrison

May 9, 2007

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(1937-)

Born in Leeds, England to a working class family
Poems embody the tension of the classically educated son and his humble origins
His triumph has been to bring the sensual power, vigor, wit and immediacy of working-class Yorkshire speech into an exciting amalgam with literary English
Writes poetry, plays, and translated opera libretti

Quotations:

I
Baked the day she suddenly dropped dead/ we chew it slowly that last apple pie.
Shocked into sleeplessness you’re scared of bed./ We never could talk much, and now don’t try.
You’re like book ends, the pair of you, she’d say,/ Hog that grate, say nothing, sit, sleep, stare . . .
The ‘scholar’ me, you, worn out on poor pay,/ only our silence made us seem a pair.

II
The sone’s too full. The wording must be terse./ There’s scarcely room to carve the FLORENCE on it-
Come on, it’s not as if we’re wanting verse./ It’s not as if we’re wanting a whole sonnet!
After tumblers of neat Johnny Walker/ (I think that both of us we’re on our third)/ you said you’d always been a clumsy talker/ and couldn’t find another, shorter word/ for ‘beloved’ or for ‘wife’ in the inscription,/ but not too clumsy that you can’t still cut:
You’re supposed to be the bright boy at description/ and you can’t tell them what the fuck to put!
I’ve got to find the right words on my own.
I’ve got the envelope that he’d been scrawling,/ mis-spelt, mawkish, stylistically appalling/ but I can’t squeeze more love into their stone.

-Book Ends

When the chilled dough of his flesh went in an oven/ not unlike those he fuelled all his life,/ I thought of his cataracts ablaze with Heaven/ and radiant with the sight of his dead wife,/ light streaming from his mouth to shape her name,/ ‘not Florence and not Flo but always Florrie’./ I thought how his cold tongue burst into flame/ but only literally, which makes me sorry,/ sorry for his sake there’s no Heaven to reach./ I get it all from Earth my daily bread/ but he hungered for release from mortal speech/ that kept him down, the tongue that weighed like lead.
The baker’s man that no one will see rise/ and England made to feel like some dull oaf/ is smoke, enough to sting one person’s eyes/ and ash (not unlike flour) for one small loaf.

-Marked with D. (in whole)

John Updike

March 21, 2007

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(1932-)

John Hoyer Updike
Born in Pennsylvania
Attended Harvard University on a full scholarship
Known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, having published 22 novels and more than a dozen short story collections as well as poetry, literary criticism and children’s books
Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems have appeared in The New Yorker since the 1950s
Works often explore sex, faith, and death, and their inter-relationships

Quotations:


The scum has come. / My cocoa’s cold. / The cup is numb, / And I grow old.
It seems an age / Since from the pot / It bubbled, beige / And burning hot-
Too hot to be / Too quickly quaffed. / Accordingly, / I found a draft
And in it placed / The boiling brew / And took a taste / Of toast or two.
Alas, time flies / And minutes chill; / My cocoa lies / Dull brown and still.
How wearisome! / In likelihood, / The scum, once come, / Is come for good.

-Lament, For Cocoa (in whole)

My child as yet unborn, the doctors nod, / Agreeing that your first month shall be March, / A time of year I know by heart and like / To talk about- I too was born in March.
March, like November a month largely unloved, / Parades before April, who steals all shows / With his harlequinade of things renewed. / Impatient for that pastel fool’s approach, / Our fathers taunted March, called him Hlyd-monath, / Though the month is mild, and a murmurer. / Indeed, after the Titan’s fall and shatter / Of February, March seems a silence. / The Romans, finding February’s ruins / At the feet of March, heard his wind as boasting / And hailed his guilt with a war-god’s name.
As above some street in a cobbled sea-town / From opposing walls two huge boards thrust / To advertise two inns, so do the signs / Of Pisces the Fish and Aries the Ram / Overhand March. Depending on the day, / Your fortunate gem shall be the bloodstone / Or the diamond, your lucky color crimson / Or silver gray. You shall prove affable, / Impulsive, lucky in your friends, or cross, / According to the counterpoint of stars. / So press your business ventures, wear cravats, / And swear not by the moon. If you plant wheat, / Do it at dawn. The same for barley. Let / The tide transplant kohlrabi, leeks, and beans. / Toward the month’s end, sow hardy annuals.
It was this month when Caesar fell, Stalin died, / And Beethoven. In this month snowflakes melt- / Those last dry crusts that huddle by the barn. / Now kites and crocuses are hoisted up. / Doors slap open. Dogs snuffle soggy leaves, / Rehearsing rusty repertoires of smells. / the color of March is the one that lies / On the shadow side of young tree trunks.
March is no land of extremes. Dull as life, / It offers small Flowers and minor
holidays. / Clouds stride sentry and hold our vision down. / By much the same token, agonized roots / Are hidden by earth. Much, much is opaque. / The thunder bluffs, wind cannot be gripped, / And kites and crocuses are what they are. / Still, child, it is far from a bad month, / For all its weight of compromise and hope. / As modest as a monk, March shall be there / When on that day without a yesterday / You, red and blind and blank, gulp the air.

-March : A Birthday Poem for Elizabeth (in whole)

Sunflower, of flowers / the most lonely, / yardstick of hours, / long-term stander / in empty spaces, / shunner of bowers, / indolent bender / seldom, in only / the sharpest of showers: / tell us, why / is it your face is / a snarl of jet swirls / and gold arrows, a burning / old lion face high / in a cornflower sky, / yet by turning / your head, we find / you wear a girl’s / bonnet behind?

-Sunflower (in whole)

At verses she was not inept, / Her feet were neatly numbered. / She never cried, she softly wept, / She never slept, she slumbered.
She never ate and rarely dined, / Her tongue found sweetmeats sour. / She never guessed, but oft divined / The secrets of a flower.
A flower! Fragrant, pliant, clean, / More dear to her than crystal. / She knew what yearnings dozed between / The stamen and the pistil.
Dawn took her thither to the wood, / At even, home she hithered. / Ah, to the gentle Pan is good- / She never died, she withered.

-Poetess (in whole)

In the novel he marries Victoria but in the movie he dies.
-caption in Life

Fate lifts us up so she can hurl / Us down from heights of pride, / Viz.: in the book he got the girl / But in the movie, died. /
The author, seeing he was brave / And good, rewarded him, / Then, greedy, sold him as a slave / To savage M-G-M.
He perished on the screen, but thrives / In print, where serifs keep / Watch o’er the happier of his lives: Say, Does he wake, or sleep?

-In Memoriam (in whole)