Song-Gwendolyn Bennett

I’ve added Heroine of the Harlem Renaissance and Beyond to my ever-expanding TBR so I thought that it was only appropriate to post a poem by the woman whose work fills the book. The multi-hyphenate(poet, sculptor, fiction writer, and columnist) was a vital member of one of the most important literary and cultural movements in American history.

Join me in celebrating her work this month.

gwendolyn bennett

I am weaving a song of waters,
Shaken from firm, brown limbs,
Or heads thrown back in irreverent mirth.
My song has the ush sweetness
Of moist, dark lips
Where hymns keep company
With old forgotten banjo songs.
Abandon tells you
That I sing the heart of race
While sadness whispers
That I am the cry of a soul. . . .

A-shoutin’ in de ole camp-meeting-place,
A-strummin’ o’ de ole banjo.
Singin’ in de moonlight,
Sobbin’ in de dark.
Singin’, sobbin’, strummin’ slow . . .
Singin’ slow, sobbin’ low.
Strummin’, strummin’, strummin’ slow . . .
Words are bright bugles
That make the shining for my song,
And mothers hold down babies
To dark, warm breasts
To make my singing sad.

A dancing girl with swaying hips
Sets mad the queen in the harlot’s eye.
Praying slave
Jazz-band after
Breaking heart
To the time of laughter . . .
Clinking chains and minstrelsy
Are wedged fast with melody.
A praying slave
With a jazz-band after . . .
Singin’ slow, sobbin’ low.
Sun-baked lips will kiss the earth.
Throats of bronze will burst with mirth.
Sing a little faster,
Sing a little faster,


Enigma- Jessie Redmon Fauset

Poet, essayist,  and novelist Jessie Redmon Fauset was also the literary editor of the NAACP magazine The Crisis. She also published the works of other prominent artists during the time allowing her to give them a voice during the The Harlem Renaissance.

After she stopped publishing, she worked as a teacher until her death but her works are ones that should not be forgotten.

jessie redmon fauset

There is no peace with you,
Nor any rest!
Your presence is a torture to the brain.
Your words are barbed arrows to the breast,
And one but greets
To wish you sped again.
Frustrate you make desire
And action vain.
There is no peace with you.
No peace . . .
Nor any rest.
Yet in your absence
Longing springs anew,
And hopefulness besets the baffled brain.
“If only you were you and yet not you!”
If you such joy could give as you give pain!
Then what an unguent for the burning breast!
And for the harassed heart
What rapture true!
“If only you were you and yet not you!”
There is no peace with you
Nor ever any rest!
Read more at https://www.literaryladiesguide.com/classic-women-authors-poetry/6-jessie-redmon-fauset-poems/#GqPtsr3tR3cBzRYh.99


Dunbar- Anne Spencer

I apologize for the sporadic posting lately. I will be sharing more about the cause later this week. Today’s post comes from a Harlem Renaissance era poet who I’m just getting around to reading. Anne Spencer had thirty poems published in her lifetime and although she lived her entire life in Virginia she was close to many of the prominent writers from The Harlem Renaissance including James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B DuBois. She also lived to be 93, how amazing!
As always, enjoy!
Harlem Renaissance ballroom
Ah, how poets sing and die!
Make one song and Heaven takes it;
Have one heart and Beauty breaks it;
Chatterton, Shelley, Keats and I—
Ah, how poets sing and die!

Another Elegy [“This is what our dying looks like”]-Jericho Brown

This is what our dying looks like. 

You believe in the sun. I believe 

I can’t love you. Always be closing, 

Said our favorite professor before 

He let the gun go off in his mouth. 

I turned 29 the way any man turns 

In his sleep, unaware of the earth 

Moving beneath him, its plates in 

Their places, a dated disagreement. 

Let’s fight it out, baby. You have 

Only so long left—a man turning 

In his sleep—so I take a picture. 

I won’t look at it, of course. It’s 

His bad side, his Mr. Hyde, the hole 

In a husband’s head, the O 

Of his wife’s mouth. Every night, 

I take a pill. Miss one, and I’m gone. 

Miss two, and we’re through. Hotels 

Bore me, unless I get a mountain view, 

A room in which my cell won’t work, 

And there’s nothing to do but see 

The sun go down into the ground 

That cradles us as any coffin can.


Don’t Let Me Be Lonely [Mahalia Jackson is a genius]- Claudia Rankine

Mahalia Jackson is a genius. Or Mahalia Jackson has genius. The man I am with is trying to make a distinction. I am uncomfortable with his need to make this distinction because his inquiry begins to approach subtle shades of racism, classism, or sexism. It is hard to know which. Mahalia Jackson never finished the eighth grade, or Mahalia’s genius is based on the collision of her voice with her spirituality. True spirituality is its own force. I am not sure how to respond to all this. I change the subject instead.

We have just seen George Wein’s documentary, Louis Armstrong at Newport, 1971. In the auditorium a room full of strangers listened to Mahalia Jackson sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and stood up and gave a standing ovation to a movie screen. Her clarity of vision crosses thirty years to address intimately each of us. It is as if her voice has always been dormant within us, waiting to be awakened, even though “it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, (and) through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech.”

Perhaps Mahalia, like Paul Celan, has already lived all our lives

poetry, writing

Everyday Poetry and Poetry Everyday

Poetry, poetry, poetry where would I be without you? I don’t really expect an answer but it’s an important question. One of the reasons that I am committed to participating in National Poetry Month and to grow poetry in my community is because of how poetry has influenced my life. This is especially important considering the state of poetry in publishing. I say this after being told many times that a lot of presses aren’t publishing poetry. Even though I see plenty of calls for poetry and chapbook competitions. 

I tell people, including my students, all the time that poetry does not have to be complex or over your head. It doesn’t have to be this brain racking, ball of confusing words and phrases. It is the human experience and I write poetry to express the mayhemail in my head and world. My poetry is my statement on current events, losses, food, trips, poetry, books even shoes. I determine what my poetry says but not who it touches. 

It should evoke, resonate and resound. For me, poetry is this palpable thing. It’s presence is something that I rely on to get through the hardest moments in my lifr. It is my coping mechanism. It is therapeutic and I think that my love for it grows every week. 

One of the best articles that I’ve read about the benefits of poetry comes from Writer’s Digest. I already knew that poetry was good for me and why but the reasons listed in the article made me want to share.I’ve included the link so that you can share the joy. 



My poetry- Part II

This is the second part to a piece that I published a while ago. I eventually hope to combine the pieces but this is a very rough draft. I have more that I can add and will do so once I polish this section.

Poetry Will Be Made By All
Poetry Will Be Made By All

My poetry is
Memory evoking
Life affirming
It is grounded
In reality
My poetry is
Full of grace
It is a gift
It carries
The sound
Of Sarah Hill McLeod’s voice
The fury of broken hearts
And uncried tears
My poetry is
more than words
on paper it is
a bad bodied chick in
full makeup and heels
My poetry is
The Mahogany spin
It is Billy Dee Williams suave
Cool as the other side
Of several pillows
It is as full of sweetness
As a dessert buffet


Another Weeping Woman – Wallace Stevens

As I said last week I am a lifelong student. I still crave knowledge so I am constantly exploring the world of poets and poetry. This week I wanted to share this poem that speaks to loudly to my spirit. I stumbled across this piece while looking for writing inspiration for a short story. I hope you all enjoy it.


Pour the unhappiness out
From your too bitter heart,
Which grieving will not sweeten.

Poison grows in this dark.
It is in the water of tears
Its black blooms rise.

The magnificent cause of being,
The imagination, the one reality
In this imagined world

Leaves you
With him for whom no phantasy moves,
And you are pierced by a death.


For A Poet

American Poet Countee Cullen was a prominent participant of the Harlem Renaissance. Like this poet he developed a love and affinity for the art at an early age and began writing when he was 14. One of the things that set him apart from his Renaissance counterparts was his avoidance of racial issues but I still find his voice deserving of praise.
Countee Cullen’s “For A Poet” is a piece that I spent years trying to emulate. It contains the type of rhyme pattern and voice that appealed to the young developing poet of my teenage years. This poem’s attributes and imagery are ample in the single stanza that Cullen wrote.


I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth;
I hide no hate; I am not even wroth
Who found the earth’s breath so keen and cold;
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold.

-Countee Cullen