Monday, February 25, 2008

Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872-Feb. 9, 1906)

Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American poet to garner national critical acclaim. Dunbar penned a large body of dialect poems, standard English poems, essays, novels and short stories before he died at the age of 33. His work often addressed the difficulties encountered by African-Americans to achieve equality in America. He was praised both by the prominent literary critics of his time and his literary contemporaries. His mother was a former slave and his father had escaped from slavery and served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War.

Here is my favorite poem by Mr. Dunbar:

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gwendolyn Brooks (June 7, 1917-December 3, 2000)

Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas and raised in Chicago. She is the author of more than twenty books of poetry, including, Children Coming Home (The David Co., 1991); Blacks (1987); To Disembark (1981); The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems (1986); Riot (1969); In the Mecca (1968); The Bean Eaters (1960); Annie Allen (1949), for which she received the Pulitzer Prize; and A Street in Bronzeville (1945).

This is my favorite poem by Ms. Brooks:

We Real Cool



We real cool.

We Left school.

We Lurk late.

We Strike straight.

We Sing sin.

We Thin gin.

We Jazz June.

We Die soon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902-May 22, 1967)

Langston Hughes was one of the most important writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance, which was the African-American artistic movement in the 1920s that celebrated black life and culture. Through his poetry, novels, plays, essays, and children's books, he promoted equality, condemned racism and injustice, and celebrated African-American culture, humor, and spirituality.

Here's my favorite poem by Mr. Hughes:

Mother To Son
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928- )

In celebration of Black History Month, I have decided to feature four poets whom I admire. I'll feature a different poet each week during the month of February. I love poetry and will post my favorites by each poet. Please remember that Black History is everyone's history.

Dr. Maya Angelou, a.k.a., Marguerite Johnson, is world renowned. She is a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director. She is a knowledgable and phenomenal woman. Here's my favorite poem by Dr. Angelou:
Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a model's fashion size
But when I start to tell them They think I'm telling lies.
I say It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips
The stride of my steps
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman Phenomenally Phenomenal woman
That's me.
I walk into a room Just as cool as you please
And to a man
The fellows stand or Fall down on their knees
Then they swarm around me A hive of honey bees.
I say It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth
The swing of my waist
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman Phenomenally Phenomenal woman That's me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say It's in the arch of my back
The sun of my smile
The ride of my breasts
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman Phenomenally Phenomenal woman
That's me. Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say It's in the click of my heels
The bend of my hair
The palm of my hand
The need for my care.
'Cause I'm a woman Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That's me.