Countee Cullen: for my grandmother

cuc0003 allen_cullen

Countee Cullen, black poet.

For my grandmother

This lovely flower fell to seed;
Work gently sun and rain;
She held it as her dying creed
That she would grow again.

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NYer, born in 1903, raised a strict methodist and turned pagan. NY university, Harvard. Published works “Color”, “The Ballad of the Brown Girl” and “Copper Sun”.

His greatest wish was to be read as a poet, not to be judged on the brown colour of his skin. I am pointing out they are black, because otherwise most people assume Countee Cullen was white. And everyone needs bright, shining examples, especially when their bodies are walked over, shot, fetishized, taken, used to scare and control and whitewashed and hidden– on a daily basis.

From the Dark Tower.

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made eternally to weep.

The night whose sable breast relieves the stark
White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

Words can never hurt. Unless you hear them again and again.
The incident.

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, ‘Nigger.’

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.

CullenYoungnPretty

 

 

From Caroling Dusk. See http://www.abebooks.com for your own copy!!

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America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath— America will be! Langston Hughes, Ferguson!

 hughes2
A writer dreams.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Black History- poems about your body. Waring Cuney- No images.

Image

Black History Month- poems about your body.

She does not know
her beauty,
she thinks her brown body
has no glory.

If she could dance
naked
under palm trees
and see her image in the river,
she would know.

But there are no palm trees
on the street,
and dish water gives back
no images.

Waring Cuney- No images.

“He is best known for his poem “No Images”, which won first prize in the 1926 Opportunity poetry contest. The poem was later used by jazz singer/pianist/songwriter Nina Simone on her 1966 album Let It All Out.”

“William Waring Cuney, “No images” from Storefront Church, published in 1973 by Paul Breman Limited. After exhaustive efforts have been made to identify and contact a rights holder, this material is believed to be in the public domain.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6vZwsJu7co

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/william-waring-cuney

http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/waring-cuney-poet-harlem-rennissance

 

“He is the consummate artist when it comes to drawing vivid sketches of character with brevity and clarity of words. Cuney, as he was better known among his contemporaries, is often referred to either as one of the minor poets of the Harlem Renaissance or one of the “second echelon” poets of the New Negro Movement. However, among his contemporaries he was considered one of the favorites of the Renaissance group.”

 

Langston Hughes- April Rain Song

Langston Hughes- part of the Harlem Renaissance in the 20s.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/audioitem/713

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

Langston Hughes