April is National Poetry Month, and I promised myself to read a poem a day. Some poets of the black experience immediately came to mind: Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, Sonia Sanchez, Audrey Lorde, to name a few. But then I decided to venture unto new territory and immerse myself into recent works.
I selected four great poets — and distinguished scholars training new generations — who published collections in 2010 and 2011. I found history, current events and the future in their works; and grace, beauty, heartache, struggles and joy.
Nikky Finney, a dear friend of the Schomburg Center said it, of course much better, in an interview with the National Book Foundation. "I am incredibly drawn to history; personal history, American history, Southern history, family history, the history of a community, the history of secrets, the history that has gone missing, the history that has been told by the lion hunter but not the lion, the history of pencils, of loss, of tenderness, the history of what the future just might be if we would only... I believe our many beautiful ways of saying and communicating and the telling of our stories has been taken for granted and we can't let that happen. All of us who make something with our hands and hearts must step into every arena that we possibly can and bring with us the most eloquent, charged, radical (radical only means grabbing it by the root), tender, truthful words spilling from our arms. Our children deserve this from us."
Nikky Finney, 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor of English at the University of Kentucky
Finney at the National Book Award Ceremony
Terrance Hayes, 2010 National Book Award for Poetry, Professor of Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon University
Hayes reading from Lighthead
Thomas Sayers Ellis, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College
Ellis reading "All their Stanzas Look Alike"
Tracy K. Smith, 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University
Smith reads some of her poems
On April 17, come celebrate National Poetry Month at the Schomburg Center with Yusef Komunyakaa, Distinguished Senior Poet at New York University.
What else can you do? The Academy of American Poets — which inaugurated the National Poetry Month in 1996 — shares some ideas.