Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two Black Poets, Two Different Expressions of Love

"One of Mrs. Johnson's literary virtues is condensation. She often distills the trite and commonplace into an elixir. Following the old-fashioned lyric strain and the sentimentalist cult of the common emotions, she succeeds because by sincerity and condensation, her poetry escapes to a large extent its own limitations."
--Elain Locke, book reviewer
"Wanda Coleman’s poetry stings, stains, and ultimately helps heal wounds like the old-fashioned Mercurochrome of her title. No easy remedy for the lacerating American concerns of racism and gender bias, Coleman’s poetry transforms pain into empathy.... These searing, soaring poems challenge us to repair the fractures of human difference, and feel what it is to be made whole again."
--Stanley Plumly, Chair of 2001 The National Book Award

Today, the daddy is feeling two great poets who express love in different ways: Georgia Douglas Johnson and Wanda Coleman.

Musician, playwright, intellectual, poet, mother, wife, Georgia Douglas Johnson was born Georgia Blanche Camp sometimes between 1880 and 1887. No one is certain of her age. She was the first widely recognized black poet since Frances E.W. Harper. She wrote skillfully crafted poems about love, disillusionment and loneliness.The poem “I Want to Die While You Love Me” is taken from her book, “An Autumn Love Cycle,” which is considered her best. The poem is also anthologized in “American Negro Poetry” edited by Arna Bontemps. Douglas Johnson was active into her eighties. She died suddenly of a stroke in 1966. Because her papers were not saved, much of her work is lost.

Poet, columnist, poet laureate nominee, spoken word artist, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize (the first African American to receive the award), Wanda Coleman was born in Los Angeles in 1946 and has spent much of her life in Watts, known for the “riot.” She has written several books for Sparrow Press, including: “Mad Dog Black Lady,” “Bathwater Wine,” and “Mercurochrome.” One of her more recent poetry collection is “Ostinato Vamps” with the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Whereas Douglas Johnson wrote delicate poems about love, disappointment and loneliness in traditional form, Coleman writes about life as a woman of color living on society’s margin. Her writing is free form, a mixture of blues/jazz and street dialect. Her poems may sting and stain, but the truth can be healing.

I Want to Die While You Love me
by Georgia Douglas Johnson

I want to die while you love me
While yet you hold me fair,
While laughter lies upon my lips
And lights are in my hair.

I want to die while you love me,
And bear to that still bed,
Your kisses turbulent, unspent
To warm me when I’m dead.

I want to die while you love me.
Oh, who would care to live
Till love has nothing more to ask
And nothing more to give!

I want to die while you love me
And never, never see
The glory of this perfect day
Grow dim or cease to be.

The Language Beneath the Language
by Wanda Coleman

under your belly
there’s gnawing in the bones
subterranean & abysmal
the bite that’s more the unsratchable/coldfire
now he penetrates me against the landscape
of my own blood and demands escape from
the rotting tongue in which he’s caged

This is the form i wear

out of my pernicious reason
and my slam-driven mind
comes the clay i shape into pleasures
for your knowing
the angles of his body
cut at my grasp-starved hands
his bone hard as young granite at my softness
the authority of his beauty demanding
the familiarity of my flesh

thus you hold me
frozen in your doubtful vision
in your study of my brownness. believe
my curious fingers. trust my
daring fingers
as they probe your opened wound
to find a roundness


rainywalker said...

If we could each love one another daily, like we were dying. Wonderful feeling poems to be read on a rocky crag, leaving memories only two share for life.

Anonymous said...

Daddy, this is a little heavy for me on a Saturday. I still like Douglas poem. That Coleman, I don't know.

Nicki Nicki Tembo said...

Wow! Intensely powerful! Took a break from housework to visit the daddy and in usual style you on here delivering!

Anonymous said...

Breathtaking, especially the Douglas poem. It made me want to spend the day grieving, yet again, the human condition, and the twists of fate that keep us apart. It made me want to shout ENOUGH at the top of my lungs and re-order my life, to what should have been.

I must learn to celebrate and savor each love and each moment as reflexively as I've learned to grieve and regret.