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Saturday, July 16, 2016

An icon of 'poetic language'

“I try for a poetic language that says, This is who we are, where we have been, where we are. This is where we must go. And this is what we must do.” Mari Evans 
Today marks renowned African-American poet Mari Evans’ 93rd birthday.
 Best known, perhaps, for her poem "When In Rome,” taught in many high school and college English classes, she also contributed to and edited one of the first critical books devoted to the work of Black women writers, Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation.

Evans published her first and most acclaimed book of poetry, I am a Black Woman, in 1970.  Here for Saturday’s Poem is the title piece for that work.

I am a Black woman

I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
and I
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard
in the night

I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I/with these hands/cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat's swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew .... I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior's beard

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
on me and be

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