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Posts Tagged ‘black poets’

Here’s a stunning punch in the gut/mind/heart from Morgan Parker‘s powerful new collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé

Photo of Morgan Parker

“These Are Dangerous Times, Man”

Do you know what I would do
with the glory of everyone?
I would set it on my tongue.
I’ve been meaning to sing this
against chamomile hissing
up from the grates.
Not because it is
dark but because of how
I interpret the rules.
While tree trunks
grow into their pleats,
I continue to respect
unwritten codes.
The world would crumble
without my unwavering
sacrifice. I try to write
a text message
to describe
all my feelings
but the emoticon hands
are all white.
White Whine.
White flowers in a river.
Some plantation
stuck in my teeth like a seed.
I think the phone is racist.
The phone doesn’t care about Black people.
The phone is the nation
that loves the phone.
Otherwise my feelings are unable
to be expressed.
A white thumb pointed down.
You are
everything good.
I suck color
out of the night and then
your finger bones.
We become
a beautiful collection
of knots
trembling on the floor.
I need to know
what it feels like to be softened.
Tender filet on a fresh
wood block.
Small, warm body
in a field, un-itching.
Our bodies
never synchronized
enough.

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With ambitious manipulations of poetic forms, Tyehimba Jess presents the sweat and story behind America’s blues, worksongs and church hymns. Part fact, part fiction, Jess’s much anticipated second book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstrelize them. (from the publisher, Wave Books

I don’t have the words at this hour to properly articulate the incredible multitudes contained within Tyehimba Jess’s masterpiece, Olio.  I was actually enroute to the library just yesterday to pick up the copy I had put on hold when I read the announcement that it had just won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry–and although I’ve only spent a bit of time with it, I can already see why. Here is a poem written in the voice of Edmonia Lewis, considered the first woman of African-American and Native American heritage to become a globally acclaimed fine arts sculptor. If you’d like to see the sculpture referenced, Minnehaha, you can view it here.

jess_tyehimba1c-keliy-anderson-staley
“Minnehaha”
Edmonia Lewis, Marble, 1868

What part of me is mine that was
not mined from the mind of poets,
artists rewriting the past blow
by blow till it’s pulverized past
the barely recognizable?
I was born when I was written,
then hammered out of a mountain.
I was shattered and then broken,
then sharpened to the human. I’m
carved in marble that never dies,
hardly crumbles; a stubborn queen
who’ll die only with those people
who crave a ruling monarchy
of fictions–tales my sculptor plied
to strike against their pale armies
of indignities. History
is their favorite lie. I found
my face buried in its would-be
pages, then excavated by
a native who fled the country.
Such was her misery at home
in the land where my legend roams
the canonized American
poetry. I’m her stone arrow,
her refusal to bow. I wear
her chisel-sharp aim as my crown.

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