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40th Anniversary Portfolio: Our 40 Favorite Poets

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40 Poets

Alice Walker

Did This Happen To Your Mother? Did Your Sister Throw Up A Lot? "I thought love would adapt itself to my needs. But needs grow too fast; they come up like weeds. Through cracks in the conversation. Through silences in the dark."

Angela Jackson

Practicing Patience "Think of quilting. Think of washing greens. Think of cleaning chitterlings with your face turned away wrinkled up in eager disgust. Scrape the stink from the lining. Scrape and pray the stink away. Think of the curves on the rocking chair. Extend. It is a circle."

Audre Lorde

Naturally "Since Naturally Black is Naturally Beautiful I mus be proud And, naturally Black and Beautiful Who always was a trifle Yellow And, plain, though proud, Before."

Carmen R. Gillespie

Talkin' Back to Mama "Broom in hand, she screamed: "Gal I'll knock your head off And roll it out the back door." Hand on hip, I stood defiant. How far could a broomswept head go anyway?"

Carolyn Rodgers

Slave Ritual "when I asked him about it he said he had to do that. had to knock her down, slap her, beat her up, chastise her... how else would she know he loved her?"

Charlotte Watson Sherman

Roots "...Do not try to make me ashamed of this fact, sorry my hair grows in dry tight cottonfields on my head and will not fly in the wind like the woman I am not."

bell hooks

The Body Inside The Soul "i shall sing a praise song a song my mother taught me the earth it is round there is no edge there is no way to fall off."

Elizabeth Alexander

Praise Song for the Day "Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign, the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables."

Gwendolyn Brooks

Primer for Blacks "Blackness is a title, is a preoccupation, is a commitment Blacks. The word Black has geographic power, pulls everybody in."

Gloria Wade-Gayles

Loving Again "Last night we loved as if the gods had announced only to us that they sky would fall while we slept."

Kelly Norman Ellis

Raised by Women "I was raised by Chitterling eating Vegetarian cooking Cornbread so good you want to lay down and die baking "Go on baby, get yo'self a plate" Kind of Women."

Lucille Clifton

Homage to My Hips "these hips are big hips. they need space to move around in. they don't fit into little petty places. these hips are free hips."

Nikky Finney

Uncles "mahogany men. with massive hands and broad mustaches. who outlived wars. and married feisty oak-imaged women. be tight with money. tender of heart. and close to me."

Nikki Giovanni

Ego Tripping "I was born in the Congo I walked to the fertile crescent and built the sphinx I designed a pyramid so tough that a star that only glows every one hundred years falls into the center giving divine perfect light I am bad."

Mari Evans

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"

Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman "I walk into a room just as cool as you please, and to a man, the fellows stand or fall down on their knees. Then they swarm around me, A hive of honey bees."

Harryette Mullen

Road Map "She wants a man she can just unfold when she needs him then fold him up again like those 50 cent raincoats women carry in their purses in case they get caught in stormy weather."

Margaret Walker

For My People "For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an unseen power;"

Michelle Parkerson

Statistic "In 1944 the lives of black boys were worth nothing and you were no stranger to bloodshed or the drives of men in a Southern sawmill town"

Jayne Cortez

Pray For The Lovers "Pray for the lovers for those who are suspicious for those who are jealous for those who are revengeful Pray for the lovers for those who are unsatisfied for those who are frightened for..."

Jessica Care Moore

the sweetest revolution "of you so afraid to let me show you how a real woman could help you find the man in you my wholeness will guide you to the half of you you thought you didn't have so you only offered the little that your body allowed and in the end it's never enough 'cause I wanna smell like it taste like it feel like it walk barefoot inside it wrap it around my waist wear it in the shower take it home with me..."

June Jordan

Grand Army Plaza "We are not survivors of a civil war

We survive our love because we go on

loving."

Rita Dove

Adolescence-III "With Dad gone, Mom and I worked The dusky rows of tomatoes. As they glowed orange in sunlight And rotted in shadow, I too Grew orange and softer, swelling out Starched cotton slips."

Patricia SpearsJones

Last day of Passover, April 2006 "Spring is the season that demands an abandonment of innocence; Demands we tease out sadness from our petty hormonal clowning."

Sonia Sanchez

To Anita "those who laugh at yo/color have not moved to the blackness we be about cuz as Curtis Mayfield be sayen we people be darker than blue and quite a few."

Tara Betts

For Those Who Need a True Story "Those children should find soft lives that drop pendulums in their dreams and never tell another story about the ghetto until they've had to count rats with their hands."

Tracy K. Smith

Duende "I'm going to braid my hair Braid many colors into my hair I'll put a long braid in my hair And write your name there"

Toi Derricotte

my dad & sardines "my dad loved sardines---right before bed---with onions & mustard. I can't get into my dad's old heart, but I remember that look on his face when he would load mustard on a saltine, lay a little fish on top, & tip it with a juicy slice of onion."

Thulani Davis

Desire 1. "i have been loved in moments i have loved myself having love is the key to having love..."

Pearl Cleage

We Speak Your Names "We are here to speak your names because we have enough sense to know that we did not spring full blown from the forehead of Zeus, or arrive on the scene like Topsy, our sister once removed, who somehow just growed. We know that we are walking in footprints made deep by the confident strides of women who parted the air before them like the forces of nature that you are."

Phillis Wheatley

On Imagination "Thy various works, imperial queen, we see, How bright their forms! how deck'd with pomp by thee!"

Ntozake Shange

My Father Is A Retired Magician "my father is a retired magician which accounts for my irregular behavior everythin comes outta magic hats or bottles wit no bottoms & parakeets are as easy to get as a couple a rabbits or 3 fifty cent pieces/ 1958"

Naomi Long Madgett

Black Woman "My hair is springy like the forest grasses that cushion the feet of squirrels--- crinkled and blown in a south breeze like the small leaves of native bushes."

Safiya Henderson-Holmes

Goodhousekeeping #17 "it was early in the morning before sun or her children rose and she was at the kitchen sink squeezing pink liquid soap over the previous nights dishes and she had pink curlers in her hair and a pink, frayed, terrycloth robe drooped over her shoulders and a worn bra and an over bleached pair of panties peeked from under the pink robe every now and then"

Stephanie Pruitt

Dred-locs "grow locs wild free kink full rope firm lock this mind down don't comb with heat"

Suheir Hammad

What I will "I will not dance to your war drum. I will not lend my soul nor my bones to your war drum. I will not dance to your beating. I know that beat. It is lifeless. I know intimately that skin you are hitting. It was alive once hunted stolen stretched."

Patricia Smith

Asking for a Heart "Ain't your mama never told you how black women collect the world, build other bodies onto their own?"

Marilyn Nelson

Tuskegee Airfield "These men, these proud black men: our first to touch their fingers to the sky."

asha bandele

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