Dailies 12/5/17


Nicky Beer – Most Bizarre Beauty Queens of the 1950’s 

—after an article by Elyse Wanshe

It’s easy to snicker at the Sausage Queen,
draped in a stole of glistening, tumescent weenies,
a quintet of bratwurst bristling from her pasteboard crown.
Or 1954’s Miss National Catfish Queen, posed with a monster

Read rest of poem 



CM Burroughs – Gwendolyn as Lover

We fix you maternally in the mind, orient you in a case of “tut-tut,”
“there there,” and “you’re young yet,” but how many times did
you posture yourself for the broad body of him or him and open





We will count on these walls
*****tto whisper
**********our resumes
to the strangers who take up

Read rest of poem 



Caroline Clark – Odysseus is Gone

*****And slendering to his burning rim

*****Into the flat blue mist the sun
*****Drops out and all our day is done.


I see it happening late—
*****************your face becomes elsewhere

Read rest of poem 



The miraculous Phillis Wheatley & Gwendolyn Brooks


The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America

Something like a sonnet for Phillis Wheatley

“It was not natural. And she was the first. Come from a country of many tongues tortured by rupture, by theft, by travel like mismatched clothing packed down into the cargo hold of evil ships sailing, irreversible, into slavery. Come to a country to be docile and dumb, to be big and breeding, easily, to be turkey/horse/cow, to be cook/carpenter/plow, to be 5’6” 140 lbs., in good condition and answering to the name of Tom or Mary: to be bed bait: to be legally spread legs for rape by the master/the master’s son/the master’s overseer/the master’s visiting nephew: to be nothing human nothing family nothing from nowhere nothing that screams nothing that weeps nothing that dreams nothing that keeps anything/anyone deep in your heart: to live forcibly illiterate, forcibly itinerant: to live eyes lowered head bowed: to be worked without rest, to be worked without pay, to be worked without thanks, to be worked day up to nightfall: to be three-fifths of a human being at best: to be this valuable/this hated thing among strangers who purchased your life and then cursed it unceasingly: to be a slave: to be a slave. Come to this country a slave and how should you sing? After the flogging the lynch rope the general terror and weariness what should you know of a lyrical life? How could you, belonging to no one, but property to those despising the smiles of your soul, how could you dare to create yourself: a poet?”

Read rest of essay. Found via Against Miracles by Evie Shockley at The Poetry Foundation–a mini-essay which talks about the miracles of Wheatley and Gwendolyn Brooks. Shockley urges

“poets, lovers of poetry, and teachers of poetry to keep Gwendolyn Brooks’s name and work alive for the next hundred years and the hundred years after that.  May it still be read, memorized, recited, and shared in that future time, when life—black life—is no miracle, but as quotidian as the revolution of the earth.”

Unknown person performs a random act of kindness for Gwendolyn Brooks

Cool story:

“Brooks was in her living room when she learned she had won [the Pulitzer Prize], she recalled in a Library of Congress interview, and it was growing dark. She didn’t turn on the lights, because she knew what would happen. Money was tight, and the bill hadn’t been paid.”

Read what happened next:  Remembering The Great Poet Gwendolyn Brooks At 100 – Karen Grisby Bates – KUNC.org – May 29, 2017 

This week’s NY Times Magazine poem




-Timothy Yu


That cloud-hid moon made a silent Oh
every night my daughter asked for her mother
and maybe I told her the moon was her mother

Read rest of this “Golden Shovel” poem in Matthew Zapruder’s New York Times Magazine column. 


The original Gwendolyn Brooks poem that Yu’s is based on is called “the sonnet-ballad.” The last word of each line in Yu’s poem comes from the first line of Brooks’ poem.

the sonnet-ballad

Gwendolyn Brooks

Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
They took my lover’s tallness off to war,
Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess
What I can use an empty heart-cup for.
Read rest of poem at Poets.org 

The Golden Shovel: “an entirely new literary form”


“The poems of this anthology do not pay homage to Brooks in a traditional way. Instead, they seek to carry on her words through an entirely new literary form, called the ‘Golden Shovel.’ In a Golden Shovel poem, a poet takes a line or lines from a Brooks poem, and then uses each word from those lines, in order, as the end words of their new poem. Hayes invented the form in his 2010 poem called ‘The Golden Shovel,’ which used the lines of Brooks’ well-known poem ‘We Real Cool,’ as the ending words in his.”  – Elizabeth Flock – How Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry is connecting Emmett Till with the violence in Chicago today – 3/7/14 – PBS Newshour

The Golden Shovel
Terrance Hayes 
after Gwendolyn Brooks
I. 1981
When I am so small Da’s sock covers my arm, we
cruise at twilight until we find the place the real
men lean, bloodshot and translucent with cool.
His smile is a gold-plated incantation as we

“If artists everywhere were to give themselves over to agitprop, something essential would be lost.”


-Gwendolyn Brooks

“At the other extreme are those who believe that, in a time of crisis, the ordinary rituals of making art must cease. [In VARIATIONS: AFTER NOVEMBER 8 –
MUSIC IN MOMENTS OF CRISIS, Lucy] Caplan notes that some of her friends have been quoting Gwendolyn Brooks’s 1949 poem ‘First Fight. Then Fiddle’:

. . . Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.

These are invigorating words, although Caplan pinpoints an inherent paradox: Brooks’s poem is ‘art sending the message that it is not yet time for art.’ If artists everywhere were to give themselves over to agitprop, something essential would be lost. To create a space of refuge, to enjoy a period of respite, is not necessarily an act of acquiescence.

-Alex Ross, MAKING ART IN A TIME OF RAGEThe New Yorker – 2/8/17

Dailies 2/13/17: Regret nothing. What would Gwendolyn Brooks do right now? Becoming a shrine. A carabao.



Antilamentation – Dorianne Laux

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one

Read rest of poem 


What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do – Parneshia Jones 

Dawn oversees percolating coffee
and the new wreckage of the world.

I stand before my routine reflection,
button up my sanity,
brush weary strands of hair with pomade
and seal cracked lips of distrust
with cocoa butter and matte rouge.

Read rest of poem 




We, As Other People – Kelli Allen 

We’ve been very happy in the small open area
we named alter. When we lay down
it is a fragile offering, ellipses of arms,
galaxies of fox-light hairs, moving,
a division between tremble and bristle.

Read rest of poem 


Grace – Joseph O. Legaspi  


The carabao arrived on our street bearing the world,
pulling a wooden cart hill-high with watermelons.
Its handler, a man the rich color of coffee, tugged

Read rest of poem 



We /Jazz June

For Banned Books Week, the Academy of American Poets has a round-up of poems and books of poetry that have been banned at one point or another:

Poetry’s Place in the History of Banned Books

This list includes Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” because of the line “We / Jazz June.” According to Poets.org, some “…school districts banned the poem for the supposed sexual connotations of the word ‘jazz.'”

Brooks said that she meant that the boys in the poem were contesting summertime, as it is “something that is accepted by almost everybody.” and that instead of respecting and enjoying they “wanted instead to derange it, to scratch their hands in it as if it were a head of hair.”

Brooks went on to say that

“However, a space can be permitted for a sexual interpretation. Talking about different interpretations gives me a chance to say something I firmly believe—that poetry is for personal use. When you read a poem, you may not get out of it all that the poet put into it, but you are different from the poet. You’re different from everybody else who is going to read the poem, so you should take from it what you need. Use it personally.”

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