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Four poems by James B. Golden, author of BULL: The Journey of a Freedom Icon (Silver Birch Press, 2014), are featured in the current edition of Cultural Weekly. Find the article at this link. Thank you to Cultural Weekly poetry editor Alexis Rhone Fancher for selecting the poems and for her stunning photograph of the author.

James B. Golden was born and raised in Salinas, California, and received his M.P.A. and B.A. in English and Pan-African Studies Arts & Literature from California State University, Northridge. He has edited Kapu-Sens Literary Journal and the Hip Hop Think Tank Journal, and is the author of The Inside of an Orange, Sweet Potato Pie Underneath The Sun’s Broiler, and 2012 NAACP Image Award Winner Afro Clouds & Nappy Rain. He currently lives in Los Angeles and works as freelance music journalist. His articles have appeared in such periodicals as Vibe, The Root, Clutch Magazine, Jazz Times, and Los Angeles Our Weekly. Golden is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Salinas, California.

 “A power-poetry here — a liberation heart-fire collection by our Salinas Poet Laureate, James P. Golden — no other like it.” JUAN FELIPE HERRERA, Poet Laureate of California

Find BULL, poems by James B. Golden at Amazon.com.

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EVENING HAWK
by Robert Penn Warren

From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through
Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds,
Out of the peak’s black angularity of shadow, riding
The last tumultuous avalanche of
Light above pines and the guttural gorge,
The hawk comes.
His wing
Scythes down another day, his motion
Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear
The crashless fall of stalks of Time.

The head of each stalk is heavy with the gold of our error.

Look! Look! he is climbing the last light
Who knows neither Time nor error, and under
Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings
Into shadow.

Long now,
The last thrush is still, the last bat
Now cruises in his sharp hieroglyphics. His wisdom
Is ancient, too, and immense. The star
Is steady, like Plato, over the mountain.

If there were no wind we might, we think, hear
The earth grind on its axis, or history
Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.

PHOTO: “Evening Hawk” by Tony Hisgett

Poet Robert Penn Warren reads “Love Recognized.”

LOVE RECOGNIZED
by Robert Penn Warren

There are many things in the world and you
Are one of them. Many things keep happening and
You are one of them, and the happening that
Is you keeps falling like snow
On the landscape of not-you, hiding hideousness, until
The streets and the world of wrath are choked with snow.

How many things have become silent? Traffic
Is throttled. The mayor
Has been, clearly, remiss and the city
Was totally unprepared for such a crisis. Nor
Was I yes, why should this happen to me?
I have always been a law abiding citizen.

But you, like snow, like love, keep falling,
And it is not certain that the world will not be
Covered in a glitter of crystalline whiteness.

Silence.

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April 24, 2014 marks the 109th anniversary of the birth of multi-hyphenate Robert Penn Warren — a poet-novelist-essayist-editor-critic — the only person to win a Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and poetry, and likely the most decorated American author of all time.

Warren (1905-1989) received the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for his novel All the King’s Men and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1958 and 1979. From 1944-1945, Warren served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His other honors and awards include Presidential Medal of Freedom (1980), MacArthur Fellowship (1981), designation as first U.S. Poet Laureate (1986), and National Medal of Arts (1987).

PHOTO: Robert Penn Warren working on the revisions of a book in a barn near his home (April 1956 by Leonard McCombe, Time/Life, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED).

Let’s celebrate this remarkable writer’s birthday with one of his most beautiful poems.

TELL ME A STORY
by Robert Penn Warren

Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.

I could not see them, there being no moon
And the stars sparse. I heard them.

I did not know what was happening in my heart.

It was the season before the elderberry blooms,
Therefore they were going north.

The sound was passing northward.

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“Cervantes and Shakespeare occupied almost the same lifespan. In fact, they both died on the same day, April 23, 1616, by the Gregorian calendar. Don Quixote was published in 1605, and the first edition of Hamlet was probably published in 1603 or 1604. It is as if the two men stood back to back, Cervantes looking backward and Shakespeare looking forward. Cervantes pointed his genius backward and illuminated the medieval consciousness that was just ending in Europe…Shakespeare, in Hamlet, looked forward and made a statement about the modern man who was to come.”

ROBERT A. JOHNSON, Transformation: Understanding the Three Levels of Masculine Consciousness

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“I have a one-volume Shakespeare that I have just about worn out carrying around with me.”

WILLIAM FAULKNER

Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner (1897-1962) stated many times that William Shakespeare served as his single greatest influence. An article entitled “A Casebook on Mankind: Faulkner’s Use of Shakespeare” by Robert W. Hamblin explores the connection between the two authors. An excerpt is included below.

  • Throughout his career William Faulkner acknowledged the influence of many writers upon his work — Twain, Dreiser, Anderson, Keats, Dickens, Conrad, Balzac, Bergson, and Cervantes, to name only a few — but the one writer that he consistently mentioned as a constant and continuing influence was William Shakespeare…In one of his last interviews shortly before his death in 1962, Faulkner said of all writers, ‘We yearn to be as good as Shakespeare.’
  • The parallels in the lives and careers of the two writers are remarkably striking. Both were born in provincial small towns but found their eventual success in metropolitan cities, Shakespeare in London and Faulkner in New York and Hollywood…Neither received a great deal of formal education. Both started out as poets but shortly turned to other narrative forms, Faulkner to fiction and Shakespeare to drama…
  • Each wrote both tragedies and comedies..A number of dominant themes and emphases are common to both writers, including the imaginative use of historical materials, the incorporation of both tragic and comic views of life, and the paradoxical tension between fate (in Faulkner’s case, determinism) and free will.”
  • Moreover, both writers exhibit a fascination for experimental form and language, flouting conventional rules to create new narrative structures and delighting in neologisms, puns, and other forms of word play. Finally, both writers were acutely interested in the paradoxical relationship of life and art.”

Read the entire article at this link.

Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) performs Hamlet’s soliloquy from Act III, Scene 1:

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
Th’ Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would these Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveler returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action…

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It’s still April — and it’s still National Poetry Month in the United States. The American Academy of Poets has developed a list of 30 ways to celebrate. One of the suggestions is to memorize a poem. Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare is a perfect candidate — because it’s “short…with a strong rhythmic underpinning” as the National Poetry Month site suggests.

SONNET 18
by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

NOTE: “Sonnet 18″ and other summer-related poetry and prose from over 70 authors appears in the Silver Birch Press Summer Anthology, available at Amazon.com.

IMAGE: 2014 National Poetry Month poster by Chip Kidd.

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Happy 450th birthday to William Shakespeare, born April 23, 1564. (Interesting fact: Shakespeare also died on April 23 — in 1616, at age 52.) To honor the esteemed author, here are some of his most eloquent lines…

PORTIA’S MONOLOGUE (Excerpt)
from The Merchant of Venice (1597)

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice…

IMAGE: “William Shakespeare” by Wingsdomain Art and Photography. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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EARTH DAY
by Jane Yolen

I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.
Each blade of grass,
Each honey tree,
Each bit of mud,
And stick and stone
Is blood and muscle,
Skin and bone.

And just as I
Need every bit
Of me to make
My body fit,
So Earth needs
Grass and stone and tree
And things that grow here
Naturally.

That’s why we
Celebrate this day.
That’s why across
The world we say:
As long as life,
As dear, as free,
I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.

SOURCE: “Earth Day” appears in The Three Bears Holiday Rhyme Book by Jane Yolen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995) available at Amazon.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Science fiction and fantasy writer, editor, children’s author, and poet Jane Yolen is the author of more than 300 books. Yolen has received the Daedelus Award and the Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal, and her books have won two Caldecott Medals, two Nebula Awards from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, two Christopher Medals, and the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Yolen has served on the board of directors for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for more than 25 years. She divides her time between homes in Hatfield, Massachusetts, and Scotland.

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