Tag: Poetry

#ThursdayReads: Ann Petry


Born into a family of pharmacists in a small Connecticut town, Petry graduated in 1931 with a degree in pharmacy from the University of Connecticut. From 1931 to 1938 she worked in the family’s drugstore before moving to New York City to become a writer. She began her career as a journalist, writing for the Amsterdam News (1938–41) and the Peoples’ Voice of Harlem (1941–44), and then studied creative writing at Columbia University (1944–46).

Her first novel, The Street (1946), became a best-seller and was critically acclaimed for its portrayal of a working-class black woman, Lutie Johnson, who dreams of getting out of Harlem but is inevitably thwarted by the pressures of poverty and racism. It was one of the first novels by an African-American woman to receive widespread acclaim. Country Place (1947) depicts the disillusionment and corruption among a group of white people in a small town in Connecticut. Her third novel, The Narrows (1953), is the story of Link Williams, a Dartmouth-educated black man who tends bar in the black section of Monmouth, Conn., and of his tragic love affair with a rich white woman. Although often criticized for its melodramatic plot, it has been lauded for its supple style and its sympathetic characterizations.

Petry’s short stories were collected in Miss Muriel and Other Stories (1971). She also published several historical biographies for children, including Harriet Tubman, Conductor on the Underground Railroad (1955) and Tituba of Salem Village (1964).


#ThursdayReads: Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Poet and writer, Paul was born in Dayton, Ohio, to Joshua Dunbar and Matilda Murphy. He was the eldest of two children born to Joshua and Matilda, who were former slaves, and had two half-brothers through his mother. Paul attended Dayton’s public schools. He was the only African American in the Central High School class of 1890; so few African Americans attended high school at the time that segregated public secondary schools were financially unfeasible in Dayton. At Central High, Paul edited the school newspaper and was a member of the literary and debate societies. Future aviator, Orville Wright, was a member of Paul’s high school class but did not graduate. However, Wright printed a newspaper that Paul published and edited for the African American community of west Dayton, the Dayton Tattler; this paper ceased publication after three issues in December of 1890.

Paul hoped to attend college or secure a job in journalism upon graduating from high school, but he did not have enough money for additional education and job prospects for a young African American man were limited in Dayton. He eventually secured a position as an elevator operator for the Callahan Building in downtown Dayton. Paul wrote poetry and short stories in his spare time and received a fortuitous break in 1892, when a former teacher invited him to speak at the convention of the Western Association of Writers in Dayton. Poet James Newton Matthews applauded Paul’s reading at that meeting in an article published throughout the Midwest. Attention generated through Matthews’ article encouraged Paul to publish his first poetry collection, Oak and Ivy, in 1893. Paul continued to write at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, where he received the praise of civil rights leader Frederick Douglass. A review of Paul’s dialect poems for Harper’s Weekly by prominent literary critic William Dean Howells in 1896 brought Paul national acclaim and sales, and he began touring the United States and Great Britain to deliver public readings.

In 1897, Paul accepted a job as a research assistant at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. However, his health deteriorated as his literary success grew, and he soon left this job. After a stormy engagement, Paul eloped with fellow poet Alice Ruth Moore, whom he courted for several years chiefly by letter. They married in New York on March 6, 1898. The couple had no children. Physicians diagnosed Paul as having tuberculosis in 1899. This diagnosis – in an age without antibiotic medications – disrupted his relationship with Alice. Paul medicated himself by drinking heavily and developed into an alcoholic; his alcoholism and continued abuse of Alice led her to leave him in 1902. While Alice refused to have contact with Paul for the remainder of his life, the couple did not divorce; she retained his name and promoted his writing until her death in 1935. Paul, who wrote novels, play, and song lyrics in addition to poetry, lived the last three years of his life with his mother in a house on Summit Street (today Paul Laurence Dunbar Street) in Dayton, where he died on February 9, 1906. His poetry influenced Harlem Renaissance writers James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and Claude McKay during the 1920s and continues to influence contemporary American literature. Paul is buried in Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery.

#ThursdayReads: Claude McKay

Claude McKay was born in Jamaica on September 15, 1889. He was educated by his older brother, who possessed a library of English novels, poetry, and scientific texts.

In 1912, McKay published a book of verse called Songs of Jamaica (Gardner), recording his impressions of black life in Jamaica in dialect. That same year, he traveled to the United States to attend Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He remained there only a few months, leaving to study agriculture at Kansas State University.

In 1917, he published two sonnets, “The Harlem Dancer” and “Invocation,” and later used the form in writing about social and political concerns from his perspective as a black man in the United States. McKay also wrote on a variety of subjects, from his Jamaican homeland to romantic love, with a use of passionate language.

During the twenties, McKay developed an interest in Communism and traveled to Russia and then to France, where he met Edna St. Vincent Millay and Lewis Sinclair. In 1934, McKay moved back to the United States and lived in Harlem, New York. Losing faith in Communism, he turned his attention to the teachings of various spiritual and political leaders in Harlem, eventually converting to Catholicism.

McKay’s viewpoints and poetic achievements in the earlier part of the twentieth century set the tone for the Harlem Renaissance and gained the deep respect of younger black poets of the time, including Langston Hughes. He died on May 22, 1948.

#ThursdayReads: Nikki Giovanni

Poet Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943. Although she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, she and her sister returned to Knoxville each summer to visit their grandparents. Nikki graduated with honors in history from her grandfather’s alma mater, Fisk University. Since 1987, she has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. 

Don’t Cheat Yourself

“When you get what you want in your struggle for self And the world makes you king for a day Just go to the mirror and look at yourself And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife Whose judgment upon you must pass The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest For he’s with you, clear to the end And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years And get pats on the back as you pass But your final reward will be heartache and tears If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.”


  • – Author unknown

You’re Worth Much More Than That!

A one-night stand with a man who told you
he would call you the next day after he made
you breakfast in bed but didn’t.
You’re worth much more than that. 
A roll in the hay with a man you later
found out liked to play both ways. 
You’re worth much more than that. 
A call at 2 a.m. from an ex wanting you
to come over and catch up on old times
meaning sex. 
You’re worth much more than that.
A diamond bracelet around your arm and
flattering charm with a wink and a smile
asking you to stop by his place to hang
around for a while.
You’re worth much more than that.
Your beauty on the outside does not equate
to your worth on the inside, as your worth
on the inside was set forth and determined
by God above who gave you His greatest
love in the form of His Son.
No strings attached, no soul ties after goodbyes,
only pure unconditional, unadulterated and
never complicated… Love.
Your price and your worth can never
be determined by man.
God loves you so much that He set
your price way higher than any man 
can afford.
More than any diamonds, rubies or pearls
your price is set at the cost of another
man’s blood.
But not just any man…
He’s the one who died for you because He saw
you and believed in you before you even
believed in yourself.
He loves you with an everlasting love and
only wants what’s best for you and only
wants to see you happy more than you do.
His love is pure, gentle, sweet and kind and
because He already paid the price, you don’t
have to work or perform to earn His love.
Why?  Because He loves you…just because…
just because you’re His and just because you’re you.
There’s no greater love on this green earth
than this…no greater love than any man would
ever have for you.  
Why?  Because you’re worth much more than that.
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying,
Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.
Jeremiah 31:3 
*Originally published on Kim on the Web.

To All The Beautiful Black Mothers!

On this Mother’s Day, we give honor to all our female ancestors who survived the middle passage…endured the unspeakable horror of enslavement and who had the courage to live, laugh and love in a post-slavery America so we can be here today….

On this Mother’s Day, we release your pain from our genetic DNA so we can fully embrace all that your vibrant spirits have divinely brought to our existence on this day. YOU WERE….so I CAN BE.

We thank you for all that you were –
Resilient…courageous…kind….loving…..intelligent…..dedicated…..resourceful…dynamic…..outspoken….pioneering…..talented…..sisterly…….motherly……spiritual…..everything always to everyone…especially to me.

We Honor You Mother
We Thank you Mother
We Love you Mother
And GOD We Thank You…Honor You….and Praise You for Our Mothers.

Mothers Day1


Twas The Night Before Jesus Came!

‘Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house
Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care
In hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed.
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter.
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray
I knew in a moment this must be THE DAY!

The light of His face made me cover my head
It was Jesus! returning just like He had said.
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His hand
Was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;
When He said “it’s not here” my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love
He gathered to take to His Father above.
With those who were ready He rose without a sound.
While all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late;
I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight;
Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;
The coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There’s only one life and when comes the last call
We’ll find that the Bible was true after all!

Jesus poem