Saturday, June 07, 2008

How Could That Have Happened?

How could two really astounding women poets of the twentieth century have been born on the same date, I wonder? I mean, what was it about that date? Were the stars in some kind of peculiar alignment? According to The Writers Almanac, which I visit online daily, two remarkable women were born on this date: Gwendolyn Brooks in 1917 and Nikki Giovanni in 1943. Perhaps Giovanni looked at the Earth from wherever babies wait for the go-ahead and decided she wanted to tumble into Gwendolyn Brooks' wake. But whatever, it gives one pause. And presents the unusual situation of having TWO stellar individuals to highlight.

The first date I ever went on with my daughter's father was to see Gwendolyn Brooks read from her work in 1981. At the time, all I knew about her was that she was the Poet Laureate of the state of Illinois (where we were) and that she was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize. I wasn't so far removed from my poetry-writing days myself (though hardly deserving of having my efforts called "poetry") and during the question and answer period, I had the audacity to raise my hand and put this icon on the spot by asking, "If you could only give us one line to take with us when we leave here, what would it be?"

Brooks didn't flinch. She just paused for a moment, as if reaching inside herself, and said resolutely, "Conduct your blooming in the noise and the whip of the whirlwind." I've been doing that, clinging to that fragile connection between myself and her, ever since.
Here's one of her shorter pieces, but if you have a minute, you can read "The Lovers of the Poor", as well.

~~My Dreams, My Works, Must Wait Till After Hell~~
by Gwendolyn Brooks

I hold my honey and I store my bread
In little jars and cabinets of my will.
I label clearly, and each latch and lid I bid,
Be firm till I return from hell.
I am very hungry. I am incomplete.
And none can give me any word but Wait
The puny light. I keep my eyes pointed in;
Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt
Drag out to their last dregs and I resume
On such legs as are left me, in such heart
As I can manage, remember to go home,
My taste will not have turned insensitive
To honey and bread old purity could love.

After serving in the revolution of the 1970's with Giovanni (in different battalions, if you will, but the same war), I got reacquainted with her when I created a book for a group of inner city African-Americans teenagers. I included her famous Ego Trippin' and also the following one. And if you watch the YouTube clip after you read, you'll see where her revolution has taken her.

~~Revolutionary Dreams~~
by Nikki Giovanni

i used to dream militant
dreams of taking
over america to show
these white folks how it should be
i used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away with my perceptive powers
of correct analysis
i even used to think i'd be the one
to stop the riot and negotiate the peace
then i awoke and dug
that if i dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman
does when she's natural
i would have a revolution.

4 comments: said...

Hi there! {waves}

Thank you very much for honoring these two extraordinary and cherished sista warriors!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Changeseeker said...

Greetings, Lisa! I'm glad you liked the post. I just visited your blog and it's beautiful. So much great woman power. And with MUCH to think about. You're definitely rockin' over there. What does dunamis mean?

Rethabile said...

I don't know what dunamis means.

My comment is to give thanks for these two powerful writers. I celebrate Nikki's birthday on my blog, but I had no idea that Gwendolyn was born on that day, too.

Changeseeker said...

Ahhh, my brother Rethabile! How nice to find you here! I find interesting bits like this by visiting The Writer's Almanac. Odd notes about authors and/or history are presented daily along with a featured poem. Needless to say, it's all done with a U.S. literary appetite in mind, but it's still worth the trip as a rule.