National (USA) Poetry Month is slowly coming to an end! In honor of this month dedicated to poetry, I’ve decided to showcase some of my favorite poems.
I’m not a huge poetry fan, but below are three poems: (one each) African-American, Caribbean and African poems that I love. Hope you enjoy!
In 2008 during my freshman year of undergrad (Middlebury College), my first year seminar class was on Urban Chicago (shout out to Prof. Will Nash!). We learned a lot about Chicago and read a lot of literature from there as well, including the works of Richard Wright, Ida B. Wells and Gwendolyn Brooks. The poem below was my favorite from Brooks. It’s speaks volumes on society’s warped perceptions of beauty and colorism even among children. Enjoy!
The Ballad of Chocolate Mabbie by Gwendolyn Brooks
It was Mabbie without the grammar school gates.
And Mabbie was all of seven.
And Mabbie was cut from a chocolate bar.
And Mabbie thought life was heaven.
The grammar school gates were the pearly gates,
For Willie Boone went to school.
When she sat by him in history class
Was only her eyes were cool.
It was Mabbie without the grammar school gates
Waiting for Willie Boone.
Half hour after the closing bell
He would surely be coming soon.
Oh, warm is the waiting for joys, my dears!
And it cannot be too long.
Oh, pity the little poor chocolate lips
That carry the bubble of song!
Out came the saucily bold Willie Boone.
It was woe for our Mabbie now.
He wore like a jewel a lemon-hued lynx
With sand-waves loving her brow.
It was Mabbie alone by the grammar school gates.
Yet chocolate companions had she:
Mabbie on Mabbie with hush in the heart.
Mabbie on Mabbie to be.
Caribbean poem: Saint Lucia
The next poem is one I recently stumbled upon by Saint Lucia native, Derek Walcott. I loved it’s calmness and reassurance. Enjoy!
Love After Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott is a Saint Lucian playwright and poet. In 1992 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, amongst other awards throughout his successful career. Source: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/love-after-love/ (accessed April 22nd 2015).
African poem: Uganda
My two friends from college – Harrison Kihonge, from Kenya and Motlatsi Nkhahle, from Lesotho used to call me ‘Lapobo’. It used to irritate me because I didn’t know whether ‘Lapobo’ was a compliment or an insult! I finally got them to tell me what ‘Lapobo’ meant and they told me it’s a name/term used in a poem they studied back at their respective United World College (UWC) high schools by Cliff Lubwa p’Chong. Enjoy!
The Beloved by Cliff Lubwa p’Chong
Tall but not too tall,
Short but not too short,
Her teeth are not as ash
Nor the colour of maize flour,
Her teeth are as white as fresh milk.
The whiteness of her teeth
When I think of her
Makes food drop from my hand.
Black but not too black,
Brown but not too brown,
Her skin colour is just between black and brown.
Her heels have no cracks,
Her palms are smooth and tender to touch,
Her eyes—Ho they can destroy anybody.
Lubwa p’Chong was a playwright and poet from Uganda. This poem can be read in a 1960’s anthology: Poems from East Africa edited by David Cook and David Rubadiri.
I actually really love this poem! Now I know ‘Lapobo’ surely is not an insult. My friend Harrison Kihonge recently posted it on my Facebook wall, hence my access to the full poem.
What are some of your favorite African-American, Caribbean and/or African poems? Please do share!