Wednesday, April 28, 2010


As an undergrad in college I took a literature class and was introduced to the writing of Ugandan writer Okot p'Bitek.  After reading the first pages of Song of Lawino I fell in love with the text of this long prose poem. 

p'Bitek was one of East Africa's best-known poets, helping redefine African literature in the English speaking world, by emphasizing the oral tradition of the native Acholi people of Uganda. His prose poems, can be and have been categorized as poetic novels, reflecting the form of traditional Acholi songs while expressing contemporary themes such as politics, male female relations, the meeting of disparate cultures and the effects of such interactions on interpersonal realtionships.

His first collection of poetry, Song of Lawino, is the lament of a nonliterate woman over the strange ways of her university-educated husband, whose new ways are incompatible with traditional African concepts of manhood.

Stop despising people
As if you were a little foolish man,
Stop treating me like saltless ash
Become barren of insults and stupidity;
Who has ever uprooted the Pumpkin?
(from 'My Husband's Tongue Is Bitter,' in The Song of Lawino)

Like beggars
You take up white men's adornments,
Like slaves or war captives
You take up white men's ways.
Didn't the Acoli have adornments?
Didn't black People have their ways?

Like Drunken men
You stagger to white men's games,
You stagger to white men's amusements.

Is lawala not a game?
Is coore not a game?
Didn't your people have amusements?
(from My Name Blew Like A Horn Among the Payira, in The Song of Lawino)

All misforutnes have a root,
The snake bite, the spear of the enemy,
Lightning and the blunt buffalo horn,
These are the bitter fruits
Grown on the tree of Fate.
They do not fall anyhow,
They do not fall at random,
They do not come our way by accident,
We do not just run into them.
When your uncles curses you
You piss in your bed!
And you go on pissing in your bed
Until you have taken him
A white cock!

When your mother lifts her breast
And asks you,
Did you suck this?
If your father lifts his penis
Towards you!
Know that you are in trouble.

No one wrestles with his father,
no one looks down
On his mother,
You cannot abuse your mother!
Because it was that woman
And that man
Who hewed you out of the rock
And molded your head and body.
(from The Last Safari to Pagak, in The Song of Lawino)

The Padre and the Nun are the same,
They only quarrel
They are angry with me
As if it was I
Who prevented them marrying.

To them
The good children
Are those
Who ask no questions,
Who accept everything
Like the tomb
Which does not reject
Even a dead leper!
(from From the Mouth of Which River, in The Song of Lawino)


As April and National Poetry Month comes to an end, I bring to your attention the last guest poet.  Cait Meissner is a young, dynamic and vibrant poet, one I have much respect for.  We met at a writer's conference in Ghana and have managed to stay in touch.  I am so glad she accepted my invitation to present work.  Of all the guest poets, Caits had the most to impart to this blogs readers beyond her well-written poem.

In her words:

Multi-disciplinary storyteller Caits Meissner uses an exciting blend
of poetry, music, performance and visual art to deliver poignant
testaments to the complexities of the human spirit. Caits has moved
audiences from street corners to Columbia University, The Nuyorican
Poets Cafe to Rikers Island. Winner of the OneWorld Poetry Contest,
Caits attended the 2008 inaugural Pan-African Literary Forum in Accra,
Ghana where she studied under Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa
and other luminaries from the literary African diaspora. In addition
to her own self-released work, she has been published in various
literary journals and has shared sets with musicians such as Immortal
Technique, Grandmaster Caz, Boot Camp Clik and many others.
Keep your eyes peeled for May 1st when she releases her second EP,
music project "the wolf & me," executive produced by Just Plain Ant
and featuring Maya Azucena, Jesse Boykins III, Dunce Apprentice and
Broke MC; with production by Blu, Cazeaux OSLO, Just Plain Ant, Bisco
Smith, Cave and The Aftermath. Download her single, "Blackest Blood,"
for free at

Illuminating the Mundane
by Caits Meissner
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. - Antoine de Saint Exupery (author of “The Little Prince”) There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight. -
Gertrude Jekyll (famous British gardener)

[Recently], I had the joy of bringing a workshop titled "Illuminating the Mundane" to a Richmond, VA slam venue. Having been birthed in the slam community, I find much value in the art of performance poetry. Having diverged from the scene to pursue poetry in its quieter form, on the page, and through music, I learned a thing or two about subtlety and the value of silence within word-based work. I'd like to share what I brought to these young, hungry poets. Before my note to the poets, you'll find a journal entry written during the summer of 2008, when I studied under Yusef Komunyakaa during the Pan-African Literary Forum in Accra, Ghana. This dialogue has long stayed with me and informed my work since that life-changing two weeks under my favorite poet's guidance. I hope you find the value in its translation to you.


The inspiration: Journal Entry July 8, 2008 Embracing the Mystery
One of the Nigerian students asked me last night, "Caitlin, how are you coping alone in that room with no TV or radio?" Funny. I hadn't thought of that. My buzzing brain is so full of stories that at the end of the day all my heart longs for is to write. I can't imagine watching TV here. Even music, as desperately as I love it, has little place in this experience. My iPOD sits in my bag, unused. My songs, instead, are the lilting accents of the Nigerian students laughing in the common room, the barking dogs in heat, the bull frogs and their incredible feat of throats. My own heart beat and breath.

Today in the workshop we talk about the function of poetry as a group (finally!) Yusef shares his thoughts on what makes a good poem. Notes below:
- Each line is important, each word. The word that falls right or left of a given word changes the music.
- Take out the extraneous
- Entry into the poem very important
- "Art is that which endures"- spoken by a friend of Yusef's. This was a new way of thinking about poems for him. We write the poem for the moment, but we revise it with the intention of endurance (even if it doesn't end up enduring.) "Time is always at war with other Gods"- a quote from an article in an Italian publication he read.
- Music of the poem in relation to the oral tradition
- the ear is a great editor. Think of language as music.

Tyehimba Jess shares that poetry, for him, is an opportunity to have his voice heard beyond his time on the planet. A way to share political ideals, though he is wary of preaching to the choir or creating a message without image. The image is extremely important, above all. Tonya Foster shares that a writer must discover themselves in the creation of the work, create an alternative space. She is interested in how poets use language to draw in different audiences. Refers to George Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language."

Yusef calls on Plato. In his ideal republic, Plato banishes the poet. Why? Yusef thinks the poet forces us to pose questions. By posing a question, the reader is already active. Being told a message is passive. Language is political and silence is political. The image is subversive because it keeps reoccurring in our psyche, it haunts us. Yusef believes a short statement can be inserted into a poem successfully, but only depending on what happens around it. Often poets think too much about the meaning of the line and not the music. Sometimes we don't want to understand the poem entirely. We must be wary of poems as emotional advertisements, lacking depth and mystery. Embrace the mystery.

After the workshop, Tonya, Tyehimba, Masese, Mildred and I grab a bite before the evening reading. Masese tells us how he makes his Obokano, the traditional instrument he plays, specific to his village in Kenya. Amazingly, its all natural. A specific tree in the forest is used in its creation, a tree that is not used for firewood, except in the exception of elders and widows, since it is easy to access, close to the edge of the forest. If lightening strikes any given tree, this is the same tradition, it is left for elders and widows. The strings of the instrument are made of dried animal veins. The body, of hallowed gourds. Masese made his instrument himself in about a week long process. --

The result: April 3, 2010 Caits' Note to Poets:

Let the story of Masese's instrument tell us a thing or two about patience. The process behind whittling an instrument to perfection, so it will play when you touch its body just right. Too often I see performance poets shouting their points, statement after statement inserted into their poems without using imagery or leaving much to the imagination. Rushing through lazy metaphors. Cramming as many words as they can into their mouths and the air outside their mouths and into our heads. LISTEN TO ME! I HAVE THE ANSWER AND I’VE FOUND MY SOAPBOX! Yawn.

Reading suggestions: Here are just a few poets who do brilliant work in this vein: Check out what Neruda does with his incredible "Odes," giving life to things as simple as olive oil, clothing and ironing. Roger Mitchell (one of my favorite poets) does unbelievable things in his exploration of everyday life. Erica Miriam Fabri turns lying in bed with a lover into an overwhelming journey for the senses. There are many others. Share your finds!


Poems by Caits Meissner


when I say you remind me of a book's broken back,
pages half-sewn and a coffee ring on it's face or
that moment in half-morning where the sun is hesitant
or after the ground's been cried upon and everything
is soft and open or holding the earth's guts in palm
just to feel alive amidst all this concrete, my god, what
I mean to say is this song is an off strum and I like the way
it hits my ears sideways and how I might be cold and you'll
put your coat around my shoulders like the movies and
I'll show my teeth and say, who spilled molasses over the window,
making the day golden? You'll say, beautiful is a dead word
and I'll say, so let's invent, they tell us that star up there blew out
ages ago and you'll say, but it still holds 10,000 wishes
tonight alone and we'll want to sing with our voices turned
on backwards, we'll want to laugh so hard we forget to
ask why and then lose any use for that word, too.


A Letter to Roger Mitchell
*My new favorite poet, and a dear friend of my father's

Dear Roger,

Please forgive your book's curved edges
dog-eared and bits of soot that have lodged,
inexplicably, between page 42 and 43
it has come everywhere with me
I have a gift of dirtying everything I touch
a euphemism for love, perhaps
sometimes I read a poem and close the book shut
rub fingers over it's shiny cover and
whisper a soft yes.
Strangers on the subway have taken to
staring, thinking I might be one of the mad
and in some ways, I am.

Did my father ever tell you
I hated mountains as a child?
The steep incline aching little tendons,
hiking boots clinging captive toes,
the third blister arriving on the pinky to
draw complaint from my throat
I was a tantrum thrower,
already full of vices and unable to lose
my thinking mind, despite the view
My eyes were small then.
I had not yet learned to be a bird.

Yesterday I climbed the rickety ladder
to my Brooklyn roof
noticed how the street below looked
the morning after a shooting
ambulences had returned to their beds
one strip of police tape unhinged,
waving in the wind
across the way, the building's five mouths
still boarded up in silent witness
the super is laughing with his daughter
in a language foreign to my ear,
punctuating the gray sky in audible color
garbage and broken glass leave a trail
for the stray cats to bleed on
nothing much is out of ordinary,
the city lays sprawling in it's
hurried, noisy habits
but if I squint, I can see the Valley
and hold it's magic, twenty years later
next to my ragged heart
I read your poems and remember a feeling
called peace I have only come to know
in my young adult face
and whisper, softly, yes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Coloring Outside the Lines:

Black Cartoonists as Social Commentators


Comic strips offer a unique form of social criticism and commentary. The best cartoons expose some truths and, to quote the Bible, “the truth will set you free.” Cartoonists must often be provocateurs. As cartoonist Keith Knight says, “Cartoonists are the court jesters of modern times. We can get away with things that others can’t because of our ‘cute’ drawings.” Coloring Outside the Lines features some of those “court jesters.” They share their experiences, inspiration and perspectives as social commentators and provocateurs.

The exhibit features several Black cartoonists whose comic strips appear in newspapers across the country.

Related Program: Artist Discussion - nationally-syndicated cartoonists Darrin Bell (Candorville and Rudy Park) and curator Kheven LaGrone discuss their art. Animated shorts by nationally-syndicated cartoonist Jerry Craft (Mama’s Boyz) will also be screened. The discussion will be moderated by Thomas Robert Simpson, founder and artistic director of AfroSolo. Sunday, June 13, Main Library, Lower Level, Koret Auditorium, 1 – 3 PM

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jewelle Gomez: National Poetry Month

Jewelle Gomez, author, poet, critic, and activist also has the honor of being the President of the San Francisco Public Library Commission.  Gomez is the author of seven books, including the Lambda Literary Award winning novel The Gilda Stories. This novel, which has been in print since 1991 and reframes the traditional vampire mythology, taking a lesbian feminist perspective, is an adventure about an escaped slave who comes of age over two hundred years.  Gomez has been the executive director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University, she was also the director of Cultural Equity Grants at the San Francisco Arts Commission and the director of the Literature Program for the New York State Council on the Arts.  I am honored to highlight the work of such a fine artist and friend of libraries. 

Flamingoes and Bears

Flamingos and bears
meet secretly
on odd street corners.
Horses and chickens
elephants and geese
looked shocked and appalled.

Ostriches dont look at all.

Bear and flamingo
ignore greedy gazes
from disgruntled parents
and frightened sly weasels
who hiss
as the couple
strolls by.

Chance brought them here
from forest and sea,
but science won't agree
bears and flamingoes
learned how simple
building a nest
in a den can be.

Now flamingo and bear
sleep forever entwined
in all sorts of climes
be it rainy or snowy or sunny,
happy to know
there's room in this world
for a bear who likes palm trees

and a bird who loves honey.

from: Flamingoes & Bears : poems
Jewelle Gomez

Monday, April 19, 2010


James Cagney is a poet and writer residing in Oakland, Ca.

This is the full bio from a man who has poetry flowing through his veins like lava- when cut, he bleeds scorching synechdoche, smoking similes, smoldering and too hot to touch images that sear and brand the imagination lingering long after the page has been turned. 
He says about himself:
My imagination works like a snowball– the tiniest stone grows larger, collecting more weight as it continues on its journey. The road to this story diverged from two places.

Last month, my list serve shared a recent discovery of a black penguin. Being writers, many of us were alarmed at the language the media used to talk about this rarity. Even the link above uses the sinister word ‘mutant’ to describe her. The animal is provocatively beautiful and certainly draws my imagination. The problem is the word ‘black’ and how my mind lazily defaults towards easy archetypes and stereotypes in order to have the animal ’speak’. Could I write a poem for an animal without leaning on easy smiles and images and even straying away from feeling forced to speak about blackness at all? I’ve thought about her for a month without being able to write anything; googling again and again photos of an adult black penguin just to admire.

Around the same time, one of my coworkers and friends on Facebook posted a random status which said something like: Forget it! I’m going to chug everything and move to Antarctica and live amongst the penguins.

And I saw this and without thinking replied: don’t do it. If you do, get separate beds. They snore, their farts smell like fish, and their feet are cold as ice. And I implied having to forgo a relationship with a penguin over cold feet or however I’d said it.

Both of these ideas crashed together over breakfast this morning, at a time when I’d been reading the work of James Tate who specializes in writing these beautifully dreamy prose poems that somehow grow in the oddest directions sentence by sentence. He is my role model here as i imagine myself shoveling snow on the ‘lawn’ of an igloo. All I needed was an image, THAT crazy image, and I stared at it like a psychic with a bad antenna until it cleared up on the page.


My Ex-Lover or Fuck Somalia

She stood in the doorway of the igloo and said, This isn’t working. I was shaving
our ice lawn and saw she stood barefoot with her flippers crossed sternly.
You’ll catch your death, I said. Put on those slippers I bought you off Ebay.
And where’s your headscarf? Its hand dyed silk from Somalia.
Fuck Somalia, she said. I’m not African. I’m a penguin.
And I want to be alone and single again.
I didn’t know what to say. So I held up my ice shaver in Moses pose
and the mosh pit of penguins parted cleanly on the ice shelf.
This time she didn’t laugh, just pretended to smoke and look disinterested.
What about the children, I said. We don’t have children, she said.
I was shamed. I could never get a full erection around so much ice.
Are you going back to mother, I said.
She disowned me because of my mutation, she said. I’m staying
here and asking YOU to leave. National Geographic
is giving me my own reality show. I’m going to be famous
and invited to all the glamorous parties and movie stars
will kiss my ass and send me screenplays. And you’ll just be
the footnote in my ghostwritten biography.
Last night I had a dream, I said.
Is this another reference to Malcolm Luther King? she said.
No, this was a real dream. I said. I dreamed
I was Pablo Neruda and I wrote an ode for every Eskimo
word there is for snow. I made them all complicated
love poems where the first letter in each line spells your name vertically.
I wrote these poems in cayenne pepper on the snowbank
above our igloo. Every morning at sunrise the words are illuminated
with lemonly light and my poetry rises in the mist of the dawning
air, swirling and raining around us as we make love, our skin steaming
making our kisses hot as if our tongues were orange habaneros.
I’m going to need you to leave before the camera crews arrive,
she said. They’ll think I’m crazy for ever having loved you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


In an attempt to introduce new poets from throughout the African Diaspora to the readers of this blog, I continue this months poetry theme with a young  writer.
Nana Nyarko Boateng, is a 23 year old Ghanaian poet:
"I do not always understand poetry, but I am at all times partial to look into her. I like that she takes my attention and help me to be true to my feelings. An underlining significance of my literary journey is the composition of (my) realities through imagination and craft; such that I feel a gratifying functionality (of soul and spirit) when I write. As it may not be about myself in my artistic expressions, it always is from myself. Poetry is my true address.

"Poetry is a clay pot. It works a balance on hot coal, tense waters, in soft rain, sun beams and spirit music. Whatever the poet will let, poetry will hold. The thoughts and feelings of a poet as captured in lines and stanzas becomes an entrance (or exit) in a manner that is unlimited. Beyond the rhythm and imagery that entrails our emotions, poetry (re)incarnates the human experience. The reader fetches what they will in any piece and wholly or in part walks on with herbs of words, fresh streams of metaphors that is able to stay like a pungent smell that won’t leave the hairs in your nostrils. Poetry lives with us, grows with us, transits with us and returns to us."

god in your person

dream of

peculiar flowers

like sound of laughter

fluid in words you could spell

only after lettering down

libation on territories virgin

with mystic bite of your footsteps

creating gardens

of hope beyond tales

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


As I mentioned in an earlier posting for National Poetry Month, I was going to post the poetry of new, up and coming poets.  Here is the first poet this month. 
In May, 2009 Ines P. Rivera Prosdocimi finished her M.F.A in Creative Writing at American University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Afro-Hispanic Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Border Senses, Brush Mountain Review, Callaloo, Hispanic Cultural Review, PALABRA, Poet Lore, Revista LENGUA, and Saranac Review. Recently, her manuscript “The Flamboyan’s Red Petals,” was a finalist in the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award competition.

Ines P. Rivera Prosdocimi (c) Alison V. Cartwright

When I approach a poem, I’m always returning to my mother tongues, to that voice in my head that emulates my sense of home. I grew up in an English speaking country, the United States, but in a Spanish speaking family where my father spoke the Spanish from Dominican Republic and my mother, the Spanish and Lunfardo from Argentina: A simple question such as, ‘How are you,’ contrasted my father’s, ‘Como estas tu,’ and my mother’s, ‘Que tal, che?’ Every country, and Latin American countries are no exception, has its own peculiarities, its own inflections and accents, sayings and vocabulary words – its inherent cultural flavors. How does one reconcile these when they come from two or more worlds? How does one come to balance these differing identities that so often can be at odds with one another? Poetry is the place where I dissect these issues, and try to show not only how different languages, cultures, religions, races or ethnic groups are unified, but how they co-exist within me and in the countries I am from.

Learning to Speak Spanglish

I missed the S not in Spanish
but Español. Somewhere

between my tongue and throat -
not a miss you,

but something missing
in the words I spoke.

My friend Jesús tells me
to return home, to speak soft-like,

like even when it’s bad
it still sounds sweet.

So I roll my Rs, practice
my prepositions.

It isn’t para, but por.
Tell myself not mas mejor,

but simply better,
to repeat my mother’s,

sank-you, sank-you,
hold not my father’s, hermano,

but his, Oye brother,
beautiful day, no? And my mouth is:

A collision of two alphabets
without teeth.
                         Poem previously appeared in BorderSenses Summer 2008

JEAN TOOMER: National Poetry Month

One of my all time favorite writers has been Jean Toomer.  His melding of poetry and fiction in his most famous novel Cane, will always be a classic work that lingers with me.  He idealizes the black south of the early 20th Century, but he does so in a way that neither glorifies and or falsely praises thus becoming maudlin, or trivializes and belittles.  Cane is a series of vignettes, interspersed with poems,  that speak to the soul of the characters within.  Although considered a Harlem Renaissance writer, there never seems for Toomer to be a strong connection with his fellow Black writers of the time, and thus for the most part, seems to me to be a Renaissance writer by circumstance alone.
Born Nathan Pinchback Toomer in Washington, D.C., Jean was of mixed racial descent and spent his childhood attending both all-white and all-black segregated schools. In his early years Toomer resisted racial classifications and wished to be identified only as an American. Toomer attended several colleges for short stints but did not take a degree. The readings that he would undertake and the lectures he attended during his college years shaped the direction his writing would take. After leaving college, Toomer published some short stories, devoted several months to the study of Eastern philosophies and took a job as a principal in Sparta, Georgia. The segregation Toomer experienced in the South lead Toomer to identify more strongly as an African-American. In 1923, Toomer published the experimental novel Cane, his most famous work. A series of poems and short stories about the Black experience in America, Cane was hailed by critics and is seen as an important work of both the Harlem Renaissance and the Lost Generation. In 1926 Toomer went to France to attend the Gurdjieff Institute and was associated with G. I. Gurdjieff until 1935. Toomer was prolific during this period, writing plays, the novel The Gallonwerps and several poems and short stories that appeared in The Dial.

Georgia Dusk  by Jean Toomer

The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue
The setting sun, too indolent to hold
A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,
Passively darkens for night's barbecue,

A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,
An orgy for some genius of the South
With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.
The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,
And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,
Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill
Their early promise of a bumper crop.

Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low
Where only chips and stumps are left to show
The solid proof of former domicile.
Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,
Race memories of king and caravan,
High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,
Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.

Their voices rise . . the pine trees are guitars,
Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . .
Their voices rise . . the chorus of the cane
Is caroling a vesper to the stars . .

O singers, resinous and soft your songs
Above the sarcred whisper of the pines,
Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,
Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.

Reapers by Jean Toomer

Black reapers with the sound of steel on stones
Are sharpening scythes. I see them place the hones
In their hip-pockets as a thing that's done,
And start their silent swinging, one by one.
Black horses drive a mower through the weeds,
And there, a field rat, startled, squealing bleeds,
His belly close to ground. I see the blade,
Blood-stained, continue cutting weeds and shade.


The lives of Jean Toomer : a hunger for wholeness
Jean Toomer, artist : a study of his literary life and work, 1894-1936
The Negro novel in America
The collected poems of Jean Toomer
Jean Toomer reader : selected unpublished writings

Thursday, April 1, 2010


April is National Poetry Month, so I could find no better time to highlight African American poetry and poetics.

In an attempt to answer, if ever so briefly, the question of the possible origins of African/African American poetry, I started looking first beyond American shores and back to Africa and to the oral tradition of storytelling.

I looked at the long history of storytelling by griots in Africa. A griot, according Wikipedia, is a West African poet, praise singer, and wandering musician, considered a repository of oral tradition. In the European tradition griots would be considered bards. Not only are griots traveling poets but they were also the depository and disseminators of tribal and cultural history. Such epic works as Sundiata An Epic of Old Mali, was initially told in oral form and tells the history of the nation of Mali.

The poetic style of African storytelling has continued and can be seen in the work Song Of Ocol by Okot p’Bitek. This long poem, at times read as a piece of work that hails from an oratory beginning. It has been said that poetry is a literary form best heard and not read, this seems to be the stance that many African Americans poets historically have taken.

To find a starting point for the poetry of African Americans, I will start with the two of the earliest published black poets- Jupiter Hammon and Phyllis Whitney. Both poets were steeped in the tradition of classical European literary form. Moving forward to the Harlem Renaissance the poetry of African Americans became the poetry of identity politics. This was poetry written through a black aesthetics both bad and good. Arguments went back and forth on if black poetics should reflect the good within society so as not to show up flaws, or be directly linked to the real world as lived by all African Americans- both the gritty and urban and the upper class, educated lifestyles.

Poetry heavily steeped in a black collective consciousness continued up through the 1960’s with the Black Arts Movement which was the artistic arm of the black power and pro black ideological movements of the time and centered literature squarely in a pro-black, sometimes militant vein. Such views of African American literature has continued through the 1970’s, but more recently more and more poets can be seen to be writing in traditional forms such as sonnets, using meter- spondee and trochee, classic patterns that define poetry and not writing about themes that are universal and color-blind reflecting the experiences of every man. This can be seen as throwback to the writing of Hammon and Whitley, although thematically they are still worlds apart. Also with the onset of slam and spoken word poetry, African American writers are re-linking their art, unknowingly so, back to the oral tradition of poetry.

Throughout April I will be posting poems from some established, well known poets both dead and alive, as well poems from up and coming poets from America and around the world.

photos: Poets Camille Dungy, Langston Hughes.