Friday, April 4, 2014


I was raised by poets.

When the Goose Mother
offered nonsense and rhymes
that made sense to my ears
if not my mind,
I was hooked
on words that cut shapes
on the paper
and drew images
on my eye
and made me laugh.

I was raised by poets.

Swings and mirrors
India rubber balls
and shadows,
were the stuff
I craved in the pink book
that soldered
onto my soul
the addiction
to poetry.

I was raised by poets.

Ferlinghetti, cummings and Jordan
were my break from bondage.
Hughes, McKay and Hurston
were my time of  renewal.
Baraka, Sanchez and Giovanni
were my revolution.
Poetry I found
could speak
to me
for me
through me
like words
in neatly arranged
could not.

I was raised by poets.

They keep coming
and coming...

new each year

each day

new this moment
each reading
each hearing

I was raised by poets.


April is National Poetry Month.
I love this celebration each year.  It is a time when poetry resources abound and  I discover at least one or two new poets and new collections of poetry.

This month is an opportunity to reassess and celebrate my eternal love for this genre.

Initiated by the American Academy of Poets in 1996, this national month-long celebration has grown to be an anticipated, exciting part of our cultural life.  Schools, libraries and community arts organizations all take part in a variety of ways.

For more information about National Poetry Month and ways that you can be involved click here.

As we usher in National Poetry Month 2014,  I remember, thank and honor the women in poetry who have fed me with their creativity, opened my mind to new ways of thinking and writing, buoyed my spirit in uncertain times--and taught me-- as I  appreciated their work and strove to analyze precisely how they made me sigh or laugh or cry or wrestle with truth.

This list of gratitude is not exhaustive.  I fear I have forgotten an important name, an inspirational muse, a poet friend in my head--- but this is my list today:

Maya Angelou's voice mesmerizes as her poetry hands us a mirror and says Woman, drink in your lifeShe is an amazingly prolific Phenomenal Woman.  Read her inspirational Still I Rise.

Lucille Clifton captures the power and pain in the experiences of black women  and makes us laugh through our tears and cry for those still in pain during our good times.  Listen as she pays Homage to her Hips.
Click  to read this poem. and Blessing the Boats.

Nikki Giovanni is chief mentor in my head always. She has taught me to appreciate the ordinary along side the political and the sublime. She has taught me that words can play and dance, as well as bear witness, and take to task. EgoTripping remains one of my favorite poems.

June Jordan  broke barriers with her novel, His Own Where, a modern Romeo and Juliet written entirely in Black  dialect.  Jordan's  poetry grabs this narrative and marches  across the page along with her characters.

Marilyn Nelson's  new book of poems, How I Discovered Poetry, is uniquely based on what she did not  know as a young girl growing up. I can't wait to try this approach in my own writing.  A Wreath for Emmett Till  is the most perfectly structured book I know-- its container is amazingly complex and beautiful.. Folks that know me, know that manage to work that book into as many writing prompts, lessons and suggestions as possible.

Naomi Shihab Nye writes of middle eastern culture--  familiar and unfamiliar-lost, transported and  misunderstood, recognized and regained.  In  response to 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, we consider our own culture--customs, languages, and all that makes us who we are individually and collectively-- as Nye takes us inside her culture.

Mary Oliver teaches me to look down, to look up, to look around-- to see the world that I might otherwise ignore in my busy distractedness.  Nature comes alive in her astute observation and quiet meditations.  She teaches me to take a second and third look at my surroundings.

Anne Sexton took the first tales, the fairy tales, Grimm's tales, that I love and turned them inside out, letting them reach out to God and return again to earth as poem-stories with new insights. Transformations challenges me to remember that all stories can offer something more, something else--something new.

Sonia Sanchez's intense revolutionary rhythms, tempered with love, danced me into thoughts of change and potential lives. Her praise songs caused me to look again at writers I love. Her poems in Morning Haiku  slow us down, captures our everyday lives in simple form, yet complex beauty.

Wislawa Szymborska's poem, The End and the Beginning  forces me to get down in the dirt, reminds me that the end is not the end, that we are all have to consider the ramifications and impact of what we do.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

As we enter this National Poetry Month, reflect and remember those female poets that have offered you enjoyment, life lessons and writing insights.

Make a list of 5- 10 of these poets.

Which poems/books/lines have deep-reaching  influence on you?

Write a thank-you letter to one of the poets on your list, letting her know just how much you have learned from her, ways you have applied the lesson,s and specific actions that her writing has fostered.

Write a poem to honor all of the poets on your list.

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