Amplifying Black Poetry

Welcome back to the 255. A brief message to all our student: keep going and you got this! This part of the semester is particularly stressful and we wish all our students the best of luck in the final stretch of the semester. On the 255 this week, we continue our celebration of National Poetry Month by amplifying the Black poetry. Specifically we highlight the awesome work of Black female poets some of whom you may or may not already know about. Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

Ego Trippin’ by Nikki Giovanni

I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
    the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
    that only glows every one hundred years falls
    into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
    drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
    to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
    the tears from my birth pains
    created the nile
I am a beautiful woman

I gazed on the forest and burned
    out the sahara desert
    with a packet of goat’s meat
    and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
    so swift you can’t catch me

    For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
    He gave me rome for mother’s day
My strength flows ever on

My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
    as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
    jesus
    men intone my loving name
    All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
    the filings from my fingernails are
    semi-precious jewels
    On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
    the earth as I went
    The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
    across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended
    except by my permission

I mean . . . I . . . can fly
    like a bird in the sky . . .

“These Poems” by June Jordan

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?


These words
they are stones in the water
running away


These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.


I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me
whoever you are
whoever I may become.

“Poetry is not a luxury” by Audre Lorde (excerpt! the full piece can be viewed here)

I speak here of poetry as the revelation or distillation of experience, not the sterile
word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean — in order to
cover their desperate wish for imagination without insight.


For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the
quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and
change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.


Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external
horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences
of our daily lives.

“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

“In this Place (An American Lyric” by Amanda Gorman (excerpt! read the full piece here)

How could this not be her city
su nación
our country
our America,
our American lyric to write—
a poem by the people, the poor,
the Protestant, the Muslim, the Jew,
the native, the immigrant,
the black, the brown, the blind, the brave,
the undocumented and undeterred,
the woman, the man, the nonbinary,
the white, the trans,
the ally to all of the above
and more?

Tyrants fear the poet.
Now that we know it
we can’t blow it.
We owe it
to show it
not slow it
although it
hurts to sew it
when the world
skirts below it.       

Hope—
we must bestow it
like a wick in the poet
so it can grow, lit,
bringing with it
stories to rewrite—
the story of a Texas city depleted but not defeated
a history written that need not be repeated
a nation composed but not yet completed.

Thank you for joining us this week on the 255. Today, tomorrow, this week, and forever, is always the best time to amplify black voices, black art, and black lives. We hope you enjoyed these selections of our fav poems and writings from badass poets of color! If you are interested in learning more about poetry by black authors, check out this attached link. We here at HUMSOC wish you all the best in the upcoming week. As always a gentle reminder to be kind, stay safe, and embrace your creative side!

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