Archives for posts with tag: African Americans

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SEARS LIFE (Excerpt)
by Wanda Coleman 

it makes me nervous to go into a store
because i never know if i’m going to
come out. have you noticed how much
they look like prisons these days? no display
windows anymore. all that cold soulless
lighting-as atmospheric as county jail-
and all that ground-breaking status-quo
shattering rock ‘n roll reduced to neuron
pablum and piped in over the escalators.
breaks my rebel heart. and i especially 
hate the aroma of fresh-nuked popcorn
rushing my nose, throwing my stomach off
balance. eyes follow me everywhere i go like
i’m a neon sign that shouts shoplifter.
and so many snide counter rats want to
service me, it almost makes me feel rich 
and royal. that’s why i rarely bother to
browse. i go straight to the department of
the object of conjecture, make my decision
quick, throw down the cash and split…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in 1946, Wanda Coleman grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. She is the author of Bathwater Wine (Black Sparrow Press, 1998), winner of the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. A former medical secretary, magazine editor, journalist and scriptwriter, Coleman has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation for her poetry. Her other books of poetry include Mercurochrome: New Poems (2001), Native in a Strange Land: Trials & Tremors (1996), Hand Dance (1993), African Sleeping Sickness (1990),  A War of Eyes & Other Stories (1988); Heavy Daughter Blues: Poems & Stories 1968-1986 (1988), and Imagoes (1983). She has also written Mambo Hips & Make Believe: A Novel (Black Sparrow Press, 1999) and Jazz and Twelve O’Clock Tales: New Stories (2008). Coleman is known as the “unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles.” (Source: poets.org)

Photo: Wanda Coleman, circa 1970s

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June 27, 2013 marks the 141st anniversary of the birth of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), a poet, novelist, and playwright—and the first African American writer to gain national prominence. Born in Dayton, Ohio, the son of ex-slaves, Dunbar lived only to age thirty-three, but in his short life created a large body of work—writing short stories, novels, librettos, plays, songs, essays, and poetry. Maya Angelou took the title of her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings after a line from Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy.”

The just-released Silver Birch Press SUMMER ANTHOLOGY features three summer-themed poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Find the book at Amazon.com.

IN SUMMER
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies’ soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.
And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air’s soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.
I envy the farmer’s boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.
He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another’s ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.
He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o’erfull heart, without aim or art;
’Tis a song of the merriest.
O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.
Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard —
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.
So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.