Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Contemporary Black Poetry

Welcome to Week 4 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.
This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy writing poems inspired by the Black Arts Movement? Were your poems angry? Defiant? Did your poems protest racism and the oppression of your people? Did you write your poems for and to your people? Did you “stick it to the man”? Did you put your fist in the air and shout, “Black Power”?

This past week of BlaPoWriMo was quite interesting because it coincided with the release of Black Panther, which was revolutionary itself! I swear, I didn’t plan that, but it’s wonderful how those things work out sometimes. ūüėČ

By the way, if you missed last week’s Black Arts theme, don’t fret. Remember, these weekly themes are only optional, so if you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the Black Arts Movement, or last week’s era of the Harlem Renaissance, or even our first era of slavery, feel free to do so! Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!
Now, let’s journey on to the next era: TODAY!

How can we best describe contemporary black poetry? That is, black poetry of today. While we’ve seen the cultural artistry continue from many poets since the Black Arts Movement, including from some of my favorites—Gwendolyn Brooks, Toi Dererricotte, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton—in recent years, some have begun to question whether black literature, as we’ve come to study it, still exists today.

African-American literature was the literature of a distinct historical period, namely, the era of constitutionally sanctioned segregation known as Jim Crow. . . . Like it or not, African-American literature was a Jim Crow phenomenon, which is to say, speaking from the standpoint of a post-Jim Crow world, African-American literature is history. While one can (and students of American literature certainly should) write about African-American literature as an object of study, one can no longer write African-American literature, any more than one can currently write Elizabethan literature.

Kenneth W. Warren, “Does African-American Literature Exist?” The Chronicle of Higher Education (2011)

Did it die with the Black Arts Movement? With the fall of Jim Crow? Does it deserve to still have its own section in the bookstores? Is it even its own genre today? Are we still “fighting the good fight”? Does our art still provide a voice to the disenfranchised African American? Do the characteristics of today’s contemporary black literature make it stand out specifically as black literature, or is it just American literature written by black people? Should I even continue with Black Poetry Writing Month next year? Is it a waste of time? A redundancy?
For our final week of BlaPoWriMo, let’s prove that there’s still a need for black poetry/literature in today’s generation.

There is still so much to talk about. Whether it’s politically—i.e. Black Lives Matter, this generation’s Civil Rights Movement against police brutality and the justice system’s unfair targeting of people of color. Or socially—the success of movies like Black Panther shows how essential it is for blacks to see themselves represented on the big screen in roles other than the subservient or criminal ones we’re used to seeing. Or financially—despite America being one of the richest countries in the world, many blacks still live in poverty, struggling to survive paycheck-to-paycheck, resorting to drug abuse and criminal behavior, etc. And what’s wrong with going back to the past every once in a while? The neo slave narrative, a genre all its own did just that, allowing us to revisit and deal with our past traumas in a fictional/poetic way.

Black poetry/literature may not be what it used to, but there’s still a purpose for it. So continue the discussion. This week and moving forward. And to get you started, here’s a poem that’s sure to find a spot in every black person’s heart, for those who do and who [embarrassingly] don’t know how to play Spades…

We Should Make a Documentary About Spades

And here is all we’ll need: a card deck, quartets of sun people
Of the sort found in black college dormitories, some vintage
Music, indiscriminate spirits, fried chicken, some paper,

A writing utensil, and a bottomless Saturday. We should explore
The origins of a derogatory word like spade as well as the word
For feeling alone in polite company. And also the implications
Of calling someone who is not your brother or sister,

Brother or Sister. So little is known of our past, we can imagine
Damn near anything. When I say maybe slaves held Spades
Tournaments on the anti-cruise ships bound for the Colonies,
You say when our ancestors were cooped on those ships

They were not yet slaves. Our groundbreaking film should begin
With a low-lit den in the Deep South and the deep fried voice
Of somebody’s grandmother holding smoke in her mouth
As she says, “The two of Diamonds trumps the two of Spades

In my house.‚ÄĚ And at some point someone should tell the story
Where Jesus and the devil are Spades partners traveling
The juke joints of the 1930s. We could interview my uncle Junior
And definitely your skinny cousin Mary and any black man

Sitting at a card table wearing shades. Who do you suppose
Would win if Booker T and MLK were matched against Du Bois
And Malcolm X in a game of Spades? You say don’t talk
Across the table. Pay attention to the suits being played.

The object of the game is to communicate invisibly
With your teammate. I should concentrate. Do you suppose
We are here because we are lonely in some acute diasporafied
Way? This should be explored in our film about Spades.

Because it is one of the ways I am still learning what it is
To be black, tonight I am ready to master Spades. Four players
Bid a number of books. Each team adds the bids
Of the two partners, and the total is the number of books

That team must try to win. Is that not right? This is a game
That tests the boundary between mathematics and magic,
If you ask me. A bid must be intuitive like the itchiness
Of the your upper lip before you sip strange whiskey.

My mother did not drink, which is how I knew something
Was wrong with her, but she held a dry spot at the table
When couples came to play. It’s a scene from my history,
But this probably should not be mentioned in our documentary

About Spades. Renege is akin to the word for the shame
You feel watching someone else’s humiliation. Slapping
A card down must be as dramatic as hitting the face of a drum
With your palm, not hitting the face of a drum with a drumstick.

You say there may be the sort of outrage induced
By liquor, trash talk, and poor strategy, but it will fade
The way a watermark left on a table by a cold glass fades.
I suspect winning this sort of game makes you feel godly.

I’m good and ready for who ever we’re playing
Against tonight. I am trying to imagine our enemy.
I know you are not my enemy. You say there are no enemies
In Spades. Spades is a game our enemies do not play.

Terrance Hayes

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Black Art” poems to this post) so others can read your poem. You can also tag your posts BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Black Arts Movement

Welcome to Week 3 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.

This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy writing your Harlem Renaissance-inspired poems? Did you have an explosion of creativity? Did you use other genres like art or music to inspire your writing? Did you improvise your work, showing off the innate genius that has always resided within you?

Did you get sick in the middle of the week like I did and miss out on all the fun? Well, you’re in luck. Remember, these weekly themes are only optional, so if you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the era of the Harlem Renaissance, or even go back another week to revisit the era of slavery, feel free to do so! Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!

Now, let’s journey on to the next era: The Black Arts Movement!

The Black Arts Movement began in 1960 and lasted through about 1975. These years were troubling politically, especially for blacks in America. This was also the era of the Civil Rights Movement, when leaders and outspoken orators like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X rose to speak out for the freedoms of their marginalized black brothers and sisters. There were sit-ins and marches, boycotts, peaceful and violent protests. Black freedom seekers were often sprayed down with firehoses, attacked with police dogs, their churches and homes bombed by white supremacists.

As a result, blacks became angrier, more militant and radical in their activism. This decade also saw the birth of the Black Power Movement and the notorious Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. With all of this going on, it would be foolish to limit the Black Arts Movement to just that, an “arts” movement. No, it was just as much political and social as it was artistic.

The Black Arts Movement is radically opposed to any concept of the artist that alienates him from his community. Black Art is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept. As such, it envisions an art that speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of Black America . . . The Black Arts and the Black Power concept both relate broadly to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood. Both concepts are nationalistic.

—Larry Neal (quote pulled from the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Second Edition, edited by Henry Louis Gate, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay

The Black Arts Movement is without a doubt one of my favorite artistic and literary movements.

Not only because it was pioneered by black writers like myself, but because it was so unapologetically BLACK! These were people who were FED UP, and they didn’t give a flying fuck about political correctness. They were going to provide a voice to the revolution, a voice to the people who had been beaten and shut down by white supremacy. They were going to fight by any means necessary for the liberation of black people in America. Slavery might have ended 100 years prior, but they were by no means free…yet.

Likewise, the poetry produced in this era was revolutionary. Famous poets of the time include Amiri Baraka, Etheridge Knight, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and many others. The poems of the Black Arts Movement were simple, their messages made plain as the words written on the page. These writings weren’t meant to prove to whites that blacks were competent, or could understand sophisticated literary tropes. Nah, writers of the Black Arts Movement were done kissing up to Uncle Sam! Their poems were a communication to their fellow African Americans… Rise up. Be proud of who you are, of what color you are. Stand. Fight. Poems were usually performative, almost like what spoken word or SLAM is today. Usually written in free verse, the poems were very conversational, often musical, and adapted the vernacular characteristics of “black mass speech,” like a preacher’s sermon, for example.
One of my favorite poets of this time period was Amiri Baraka, who recently passed away in 2014.

His poem, appropriately titled “Black Art” sums up what this literary, artistic, social, and political movement was all about. To fully understand the scope of this powerful poem, you really must hear it, which is why I’m switching things up and giving you an audio poem to inspire your week of writing Black Art. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Black Art” poems to this post) so others can read your poem. You can also tag your posts BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Harlem Renaissance

Welcome to Week 2 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.

This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy your first week of writing slavery inspired poems? I’ll admit some days were harder to write than others. Having to open those wounds that run deeper than the generations can be troubling. The fact that human beings could commit such atrocities against other human beings, often using Christianity as a defense of their actions, is still baffling to me.

If you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the era slavery, feel free to do so! The themes I provide each week are only optional. Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!

Now, let’s skip¬†ahead to the next era:¬†The¬†Harlem Renaissance!

I know. I’m brushing over about 50 years worth of great literature from the post-Civil War /¬†Reconstruction era, but I need to leave something to be desired for next February, right? ūüėČ

If you want to do your own research on the poets of this era, one of the most well-known was Paul Laurence Dunbar. (His poem¬†“Sympathy” inspired Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.) Another poet from this era was James Weldon Johnson, who wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem.

The Harlem Renaissance took place during the 1920s and lasted until about 1940.

The Harlem Renaissance was like a great awakening of art and literature¬†for Black Americans. During this period, Black America saw a cultural explosion of creativity. It’s center was in Harlem, a district in New York¬†City, though it wasn’t¬†limited¬†to black writers and artists living in New York. In fact, it inspired a similar movement¬†known as N√©gritude among French-speaking blacks across the African diaspora, including in France, the Caribbean, and the West Indies.

While the era of slavery can be described as a time when most whites questioned the intelligence of blacks (remember those authentication papers written for Phillis Wheatley), the Harlem Renaissance was the confirmation of black intelligence, black excellence, black achievement, black genius, and all the above. There was an outpouring of publications not only in poetry, but also in the genres of fiction, drama, personal essay, music, dance, and visual art.

The Harlem Renaissance laid the ground work for black expression.

The creativity of black writers and artists of this period was driven by a sense of purpose, the artists using their craft to express a response to social conditions and to proclaim their dignity and humanity in the face of poverty and racism.

The most famous poet of this time period is of course Langston Hughes. Others include Countee Cullen—whose Color (1925)¬†was the first book of poetry written by an African American to be published by a major American publishing house (Harper¬†& Brothers)¬†since Paul Laurence Dunbar—Jamaica-born Claude McKay (though he wasn’t the first “African American,” his Harlem Shadows was published in 1922 by Harcourt, Brace), Anne Spencer, Jean Toomer, Sterling A. Brown, and many more.

To get you started with this week’s Harlem Renaissance-themed poems, I won’t share a poem by Langston Hughes. No, that would be too easy. Everyone knows Langston Hughes!¬†Instead, I’m giving you this poem by the lesser-known Anne Spencer to inspire you for this next week of writing. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

White Things

Most things are colorful things—the sky, earth, and sea.
Black men are most men; but the white are free!
White things are rare things; so rare, so rare
They stole from out a silvered world—somewhere.
Finding earth-plains fair plains, save greenly grassed,
They strewed white feathers of cowardice, as they passed;
The golden stars with lances fine
The hills all red and darkened pine,
They blanced with their wand of power;
And turned the blood in a ruby rose
To a poor white poppy-flower.

There are many different versions of this poem online. The above version came from the Vintage Book of African American Poetry (2000), edited by Michael S. Harper & Anthony Walton

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space¬†for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and¬†your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Harlem Renaissance” poems to this post) so others can¬†read your poem. You can also tag¬†your posts¬†BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time… Slavery

February is finally here! Did anyone else think January was way too long?

…And too cold; it was definitely too cold!

If February is your month to reset your New Year’s goals¬†(particularly your writing goals),¬†here’s a suggestion for you…

Why not join a new writing challenge?

That’s right. Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) has returned for a third year, and this time I hope to see lots more participation. ūüėČ

For the uninitiated, BlaPoWriMo is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.

Over these three years, I’ve explored various themes for the challenge. During its inaugural run in 2016, I gave you daily prompts based on poems from some of my favorite black poets, and last year, we spent a fortnight writing black love poems.

This year, I want to take you on a journey through the eras of black poetry/literature and art.

We’ll look specifically at the eras of slavery, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and contemporary/today…

…Does black literature (as we know it)¬†still exist today? Some will make the argument that it does not

What are some of the reoccurring themes in these particular eras? Do poems from certain eras stand out more than others? Can you name the poets best known for their works written during a particular era?

Let’s kick off our first week of poems by exploring one of the most difficult and painful era’s of our country’s history: Slavery.

Not America’s brightest moment, when human beings were put in chains and treated (or should I say mistreated) as property all because their skin complexion was a few shades darker. But despite the hardships, the abuse, the oppression, many bright stars shined through.

I talk a lot about Phillis Wheatley, but did you know she wasn’t the first African American to publish a poem? While she does hold the titled of first African American to publish a book of poetry (Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773), the trophy for first African American slave to publish a poem belongs to Jupiter Hammon. Other poets of this era include George Moses Horton, also a¬†slave, James Monroe Whitfield, Benjamin Banneker, and Frances Harper, just to name a few.

Black poetry written during this period typically opposed slavery. The theme of freedom/longing for freedom ran deep within the lines. Some poems were often spiritual/religious in nature while others¬†revealed a strong influence¬†by the classics, signifying the intelligence and genius of blacks, which was pretty unbelievable to the whites of that time. In fact, Phillis Wheatley’s Poems¬†on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral opens with several authentication letters signed by white men to confirm that she, a black enslaved woman, truly¬†wrote the poems!

Ever since I was a child, Phillis Wheatley has always been an inspiration when it comes to poetry writing. And when I learned that I had a little Senegal and Gambia in my DNA, it basically solidified in my mind that I am related to her in some way or another. (A distant auntie, perhaps?)

To get you started with this week’s slavery-themed poems, I’m being a bit biased here and¬†sharing with you a poem of¬†Wheatley’s that I’ve posted in the past. It’s truly my favorite, and so eloquently written. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

On Being Brought from Africa to America

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

I truly hope you will join me for another month of writing black poetry. You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space¬†for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and¬†your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “slavery” poems to this post) so others can¬†read your poem. You can also tag¬†your posts¬†BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

X is for Xenophobia

Originally published April 28, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. For this post, I used the word, “xenophobia,” ¬†in reference to Whitmore’s ghost coming back to haunt Jessica in her guilt. The poem pretty much describes the fear and insanity she’s descended into since Whitmore’s suicide. This poem won’t appear in the novella (maybe). Like V is for Visitor, it veers into a different [paranormal] direction that doesn’t really fit into how “Love Poetry” has developed.¬†

This is also a re-working of a poem, “Necro-Lovers” originally published in FishFood Magazine.


He was dead before I met him
A walking corpse
His discolored skin clung
To his bones like bed sheets hanging
On a clothesline

His vacant, gray eyes revealed no soul
Only memories of deceased relationships
A mother’s abandonment
A lover’s betrayal

He sought a woman whose essence he could feed on
Drain her of life
replace it with misery


He arises from the sinister world beneath
Hovers over my sleeping body
Ejaculates rivers of possession into me
You belong to me
He whispers
Nibbles on my ear
Gnaws on my breasts
Bites my bottom lip

Let’s drown together in this memory foam

I scream and he cups my mouth
I beat his concave chest and he spread my legs
He feels his foreskin peeling
I am inside of you

He stays there to morning
Until he feels the last, faint throb in my neck
Then he rises, taking my skin with him

—Nortina

N is for Nice Guys

This poem, originally published April 16, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge, received a major revision last month (see “Chivalry is Dead”). The revision will be in the novella as part of Chapter 2. In fact all of Chapter 2 will¬†see some significant changes from the A to Z Challenge. While I didn’t break the original challenge up into chapters, G is for Girlfriend Whisperer, I is for Insecure, J is for Jealous, and this post are all part of Chapter 2. When I finish the novella, you’ll see how¬†much they’ve changed. ūüėČ

While I did revise the poem, I still enjoy reading the original. It describes Whitmore and his “priorities” so well! I hope you enjoy it too. ūüôā


Jessica stared into her blurred reflection as the steam filled the bathroom and condensation accumulated on the mirror. She thought about something that Alex once told her:

“It’s the ‘nice guys’ you have to watch out for. They think that because they don’t curse, or drink, or smoke, or do drugs, or beat you, or cheat, or do whatever, they deserve special privileges. And when they don’t get those special privileges, when they don’t get the girl, when they don’t get the mind-blowing sex from the beautiful damsel that misogynist TV promised them, they go nuts. Whitmore is a ‘nice guy,’ and he’s going nuts right now because you won’t give him what he wants.”

Whitmore wasn’t a nice guy. He wouldn’t be so cruel as to make a woman feel guilty for not loving him. She did care for him in the beginning, but it was so hard to fall in love with a man¬†who tried to make¬†her become¬†his personal savior, who would die if¬†she weren’t near. Why put her under so much pressure? Why give her so much control? Why have his life and happiness so dependent on whether she loves him back?

“Nice guys always finish last,” Whitmore had told her¬†when they were still getting to know each other. They were on their third date and had arrived to the movie theater half an hour early. Jessica¬†had suggested they play in the small arcade in the lobby while they waited. Because that was the type of woman she was. She liked to dive back into her childhood whenever she could. She wanted to race, shoot hoops, play air hockey, battle in Mortal Kombat,¬†swing her hips and jump on arrows while Dance Dance¬†Revolution played “It’s Raining Men.” Whitmore was too serious. After she beaten him in a motorcycle race through the streets of Los Angeles, he wanted to talk about why all his past¬†relationships failed.

“I think it’s because we go for the wrong kinds of women. The ones who can’t see how lucky they are. They’d rather chase the dirt they’ve been with most of their lives¬†than cherish the¬†good thing they have in us.”

Jessica turned around and unplugged the tub drain for the second time that night. At this rate, she would never take her bath, but she needed to write how she was feeling while it was still fresh on her mind. Maybe a poem could assuage her torment better than a hot, bubble bath.

 

Last in the Race

A poem by Jessica Ryan

He runs.
And runs.
And keeps running.
But there’s never a finish line.
Never a blond, busty babe
Waving a checkered flag,
Indicating he’s won.
And why should there be?

Why should he expect the
Congratulatory kiss from
A woman who’s last love interest
Was his reciprocal?
A 6’5 delinquent who
Blanketed himself in tattoos,
Wore his hat cocked to the side,
Held his pants up by the crotch
Because he didn’t believe in belts,
Had a drawer full of wife beaters,
And become one himself.

He runs.
Runs towards his unattainable dream girl
At the end of the tunnel.
A woman he believes he can
Save from all the heartbreaking, abusive
Cheaters of the world.
His heart driven only by
the smile on her face.
Until he realizes heartbreak and abuse
Are what she craves.
She jerks her hand away
When he leans to kiss it.
She speaks of feminism
When he opens doors,
Guides her through.
Chivalry is dead.
Chivalry is an excuse for men
To treat us as objects.
She breaks into hives
When he sends her daisies.
She complains.
Why ask me what I want all the time?
Stop being so nice.
I can’t stand a Yes Man!

He runs blindly,
Chasing after an angel
With a devil’s attitude,
Not realizing her independence
Will drive him away,
Too desperate to have
Her lustful appearances
Strike jealousy in the hearts
Of the boys back home
Whose definitions for beauty
And booty are the same, and
Intelligence is of no relation.

He competes against able-bodied men
Who can hoist their conceited winnings
Above their heads
Without trembling.
His only trophy is an hourglass.
Each grain of sand
Falling to the base,
Counting the hours, minutes, seconds
He runs in a race he’ll never finish.

H is for Heaven’s Angel

Originally published April 9, 2017,¬†this¬†poem was written by Whitmore and dedicated to Jessica. If you read the prequel post, “Love Poetry,” you¬†know that “Heaven’s Angel” was edited down to just four lines:

When the sun sets, I still have light
Because your moon brightens my nights.
My precious angel descended from Heaven above,
saved me from the heartache of unrequited love.

Since Whitmore actually proposes before the novella starts, these lines will appear in the novella in a flashback memory.


Heaven’s Angel

When I thought God
Had abandoned me,
Left me to wallow in pity,
Heartache consumed
My body in darkness.
I had no pulse,
Until an angel
Descended from heaven.
She kissed me with lips
Red as apples.
She resuscitated me
With her magnetic touch.
She shocked my skin with
The electricity of her love.
Fresh blood raced to my heart
As she breathed her divine
Oxygen into my lungs.
And I arose.
Living and breathing
In the silk-clothed bosom
Of heaven’s angel.
May she never again
Let me plummet
To the hellish grave
Of love unrequited.

—Nortina

 

BlaPoWriMo: Oh, How I Love Jesus

after “slaveship” by Lucille Clifton

not to be stripped
from Mother’s womb
chained to corpses
and the near dead
cargo traded for
tobacco and rum
in the Hope*  of our
Lord. the heat the
sweat the release
of bowels the stench
of food we never ate
filling our lungs.

Oh, how I love
Jesus*  shipped us
across hostile seas
tossed to and fro
with every wind and
torrent. flung
overboard some of
our own accord into
a world of red faced
savages**  who preached
divine providence—
Sons of Ham
predestined to bow
under the whip.

Oh, how I love Jesus
heard my back
break from the ground
heard arise a wail
song for deliverance
like those who
crossed the Sea of
Reeds on dry land
heard us sing low
from our bellies—
trouble the waters
flush out our pursuers—
and I’ll hope on
the Lord because
He first loved me.

—Nortina

* “Hope of the Lord”; “Jesus” — Hope and Jesus were names of slave ships

** “red faced savages” — in his Narrative, Olaudah Equiano¬†described his captors having “red faces and loose hair” and behaving in “so savage a manner.”


Written for Black Poetry Writing Month, 2017‚ÄĒ¬†a¬†fortnight of ‚Äúblack‚ÄĚ love poetry. Join the challenge and share your love poems today!

#BlaPoWriMo – Fridays

I know how to count to 10 in Swahili, say “Great is the Lord” in Yoruba (a rough translation I think), and love in Swahili (thanks to the Lion King II).

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do—learn an African language and feel just a little more connected to my roots. But having knowledge of a tongue other than one’s native English is always a great way to broaden one’s horizons. By the way I love the Japanese poetry form. I write a lot of haiku and tanka myself.

Ok, time to visit Ray’s blog. This poem is all about the love of culture and language. A great example of what BlaPoWriMo is all about!

#ThisIsMyPoetryBlog

Friday mornings always take me back in time
to foreign language classes & my turn coming
to say what I‚Äôm doing for the weekend ‚Äst

I used to regret not learning an African language
while living overseas ‚Äď but no more.
More Portuguese is spoken in Africa
than in Portugal. More Arabic than in Arabia.
Numbers speak. What are the Ghanaians saying
on Twitter today? Is it in English or Twi? 

See what I mean? So I’m feeling fulfilled
this Friday morning, recalling phrases
& words in Arabic & Portuguese,
& writing in Haiku. My list of weekend
activities is ready for recitation.

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BlaPoWriMo: Love is Plucking Splinters

Love is plucking splinters
from underneath fingernails
after we carved our initials
into the bark of the old oak

tree, brown like our skin.
You suck the blood from my
finger—a form of foreplay,
your tongue dancing a pirouette

in your mouth. Prickling taste
buds crawl over the wound like
the feet of centipedes. Fall on
top of me into a pillow of white

cotton fields, where just last
June we snatched crop into
our sacks until our backs
cracked under the cowhide

lash. I trace the scars down
your spine, that extend out
across your shoulder blades
over your ribcage, curling

around your torso, and make
out a hand. And it’s as if the
hand of God pressed you down
into the ground. Into me.

—Nortina


Written for Black Poetry Writing Month, 2017‚ÄĒ¬†a¬†fortnight of ‚Äúblack‚ÄĚ love poetry. Join the challenge and share your love poems today!