Maya Angelou: Hero, Poet, Voice

Today is a sad day, and on this sad day we remember a beautiful, indeed magnificent hero, poet, voice for the voiceless, a great woman, Maya Angelou.  Without doubt we will hear great elegies and so many who were touched by her life and her work will speak, both the famous to the unknown. But I will let her speak for herself in one of many powerful poems, so many sharing the technique of this one, the repetend that gains power as it is repeated. I could hardly choose one, so in fact I just chose one that made me, at this moment, cry the most irrepressibly, for her poetry does, in spite of my will sometimes, make me cry. Not that this is what her work is validated by of course, but just as a sign of how powerfully she can move us.

Still I Rise

By Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Poem in Raintown Review

A lovely print venue for formal poetry (somewhat loosely defined), the Raintown Review, has published my sonnet, “Going to Work With a Black Eye.” Yes, and it’s a true story. Along with many other excellent poems as well as reviews and a discussion of the late, great Paul Stevens, poet and publisher. All fascinating and well worth checking out, here.


Tragedy Remembered Through Sonnets

imageThe Great River Shakespeare Festival, itself an amazing event that takes place from July 25-August 3, 2014, in Winona, Minnesota, also holds a sonnet contest each year in memory of Maria W. Faust, who was an avid supporter of the Festival, of poetry and the arts in general. She died in December, 2011—— her husband then had the sonnet contest renamed in her honor, and since then the contest has taken off.

An anthology of the winning poets is also available at a very low cost. Judging by the quality of the winners, it should be an excellent anthology. This link will get you to both the contest details and information on the anthology.

Cricket (Insect) Poems

And while on the subject of crickets (see previous post), here’s a few poems (one never before published! scroll down) about crickets (as opposed to cricket poems about the sport, apparently a whole genre in itself).

Something old:

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

By John Keats

The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s — he takes the lead
In summer luxury, — he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

Something new: A never-before-published poem about crickets:


By Martin Elster

Somewhere in the bedroom a common cricket
trills with inhibition like something bashful,
quavers growing ever more metronomic,
shaking the shadows,

rousing the rat terrier, height of fierceness,
blessed with ears of keenness and legs of lightness,
denticles of devilry. Hear it? Hear it?
Where is it hiding?

There it is! The acme of bouncy vigor
lacquered in the lamplight between the bookshelf,
bed, and table, preening its tarsal toenails,
taking a breather,

nonchalant — its glistening tar-black noggin
wigwags side to side as if deep in daydream,
pondering the blizzards that soon will bluster,
rattle the windows.

Dauntless Duncan, jittery as a jailbird,
promptly breaks the calm with a strident barking,
rushes like Sir Galahad toward the bug and,
savagely pouncing,

shreds its heart, blue hemolymph slowly seeping.
Quietude returns as the hero slumbers
heedless of the others beyond these ramparts,
scraping and crooning,

warbles growing longer and longer, evenings
cooling like an animal lately fallen.
Fangs and hoarfrost: equally skilled and eager
killers of trillers.

Something borrowed (As in “Can I borrow your Emily Dickinson?”):

The cricket sang,

By Emily Dickinson

The cricket sang,
And set the sun,
And workmen finished, one by one,
Their seam the day upon.

The low grass loaded with the dew,
The twilight stood as strangers do
With hat in hand, polite and new,
To stay as if, or go.

A vastness, as a neighbor, came,–
A wisdom without face or name,
A peace, as hemispheres at home,–
And so the night became.

And of course, something haiku!

A Cricket Haiku by Basho

Such utter silence!
even the crickets’
singing . . .
Muffled by hot rocks