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American History – Michael S. Harper

Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
-
Read rest of poem 

(poetry diary 168 – 2/4/17) I’ve read “American History” by Michael S. Harper before, when Harper passed away, but was struck esp. hard by it when I read it yesterday in the Academy of American Poets’

12 poems to read for black history month

It gives a gut-punch.  Rowan Ricardo Phillips says

“this is a poem that in its brevity and power stands tall with the epitaph of Simonides, the haiku of Bashō, Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose,’ Keats’s ‘The Living Hand,’ Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro‘ and Brooks’s ‘We Real Cool,’ to name but a few.”

Philips talks about its craft, showing why it’s so effective.  “Why is it not in every canon?” he asks.

It should be, both for what it says and for how it says it. It’s a poem that other poets can learn from to produce the sort of lit that’s needed now.