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Poetry Month

A Poem A Day


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.


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Poetry Month

Some poets who are excellent are Langston Hughes who writes with great emotion about civil rights. His writing is so profound that I cried when I first read his poems! Maya Angelou is wonderful at writing love poems. Emily Dickinson, was a highly acclaimed writer of another centrury, who lived in Amherst Massachusetts. Her writing is known for its ambiguity and abstractness. Christina Rossiti wrote prayerful poems. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a romantic poet, whose husband Mr. Browning was also a famous poet. One poet that immediately comes to my mind is Francis Thompson. He wrote a poem on spirituality and mankind's quest for God called, "The Hound of Heaven." Excerpt from it: I fled Him down the nights and down the days, I fled Him down the arches of the years, Adown titanic glooms of chasmed fears from those strong feet that followed, followed after but with unhurrying stride and unperturbed pace... This poem is about God and about man's fear and honor of Him. I hope that those who like poetry shall research Francis Thompson and the other above mentioned poets. Poetry is like music in as much as it can add great new dimensions to a person's life, and greater understanding of humanity. Have a great summer! Geraldine Nathan

Going to visit Africatown on May 24, 2012

I am enjoying re reading your book Dreams of Africa in Alabama. I teach at Miles College in Birmingham. I will be accompanying a group of archeologists and people from tha Alabama Historic Commission to begin the process of seeking a National Historic Registry for Africatown. We will be traveling there on Thursday, May 24, 2012. As an artist and an African American who values the idea of African retentions in America, I wondered, are there any visual references to look for when at the site? Would the people who were brought to the Africatown site have used something in the space, perhaps near the water, to remember their rituals from Benin? This is just the beginning of my thoughts about the Africatown - Benin connection.

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