PrAisesONgs for tHe DaY

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1990 - 2008


Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth.
No, give me them back, as they were, instead,
with faults and all, I cried.

“Sea Canes”
Derek Walcott, 1976

Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.

“On the Pulse of Morning”
Maya Angelou, 1993

I bit sweet power to the core [...]
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master's call.

“Eve Remembering”
Toni Morrison, 2002

'Good' hair has no body
in this country; like trained ivy;
it hangs and shines. Mine comes out
in clusters.

Rita Dove, October 1992

They have women's names,
With mouths like where
Babies come from.

Yusef Komunyakaa, 2001

Susan Smith has invented me because
Nobody else in town will do what
She needs me to do.

“My Heart” (from Brutal Imagination)
Cornelius Eady, 2001
Lucille Clifton wins the National Book Award for Poetry for Blessing the Boats, a collection that includes her poem “jasper texas 1998”—a response to the brutal, racially-motivated murder of a Black man there.

why and why and why
should i call a white man brother?
who is the human in this place,
the thing that is dragged or the dragger?

“jasper     texas      1998  (for j. byrd)” Lucille Clifton, 2000

I carried my life, like a stone,
in a ragged pocket, but I
had a true weaving song, a sly
way with rhythm, a healing tone.

“The Healing Improvisation of Hair”
Jay Wright, 2000
Jay Wright becomes the first Black writer to receive the Bollingen Prize in Poetry.

I wander now among names of the dead:
My mother's name, stone pillow for my head.

“Graveyard Blues”
Natasha Trethewey, 2006

All of the books in my head
have made me cynical and distant, but there’s a choir
in him that calls me forward my disbelief built as it is
from the bricks of his belief not in any America
you might see on network news or hear heralded
before a football game but in the quiet
power of Sam Cooke singing that he was born
by a river that remains unnamed that he runs
alongside to this day, some vast and future country [. . .]

“America Will Be”
Joshua Bennett, 2018