Poetry Stumps Me

poetry classics jpg

I have a sad deficiency
Because I can’t grasp poetry
All I can think is, Woe Is Me
For this strange lack of clarity

I’m a life long reader.  I love reading and have not been without a book at all times for the past 4o years.  Literally.  I thank my mother for instilling within my heart this love for reading.   She gifted me with my first book.  She’s not a literary reader herself, but she understood the power of literature.   My family was poor, but my mom invested her pennies in children’s literature for her daughters.  She must have been a member of a few book clubs because she delighted in ordering sets of story books for me.  There was Grimm’s fairy tales, Aesop’s Fables, Alice in Wonderland, and other classics. I’m sure she took great pride in the plump little library that she built for me.

My elementary schools didn’t put the same diligence into the children’s classics as my mother, but they did teach us grammar and the art of sentence diagramming.  Of course, it all depended on which of our teachers had a love for teaching.  Not all of them did.  As I remember, we did not study the classic literature in my poor community school and we certainly did not study black classic literature.  I had no knowledge of black literature until I was in my late teens.

Nonetheless, in spite of my deficiencies, I have had a wonderful love affair with books.  When my mother introduced me to the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, the affair deepened.  I remember thinking as a child how I would love to work at that library right in my neighborhood when I grew up.  The place was wonderful for me because it nurtured my young heart.  I grew of age in my library.    When I turned 19 years old and actually did get a job at the Library two weeks after applying, my childhood came to its conclusion and at that point I continued to read to grow as a woman.  Maya and Paule, J. California and Alice were there to usher me through.

I explored many subjects during my breaks while working.  Except poetry.  I did try though.   Somehow, poetry just did not speak to me, and in my disappointment and impatience, I side stepped it.  I discovered of all these wonderful black women writers and learned that many were poets.   It was a little sad for me to not be able to connect with these poets.  At times I felt that I was just not up to par and was missing an essential piece of my black narrative because of my deficiency.  Other times I felt poetry, especially black poetry was forced, simplistic, pretentious, flat, ugly.  Poetry simply did nothing for me.

Now I’m thirty years older. I feel that I want to write, and I’m working diligently to tie up loose ends, such as grammar and syntax.  I’m reminding myself of the basic rules of english.  But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing an important link in my development with my lack of poetry love.

I’m not completely bereft though.  I love the poetry of the King James and the Message versions of the Bible.  I also love the poetic voice of Zora Neale Hurston and Nasir Jones, and numerous others.  But…

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I need an intervention of some sort.  😥

11 Comments Add yours

  1. GASP!!!!!

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Thanks for this link and for intervening, K! If I say I love this poem you’ve linked to, will I sound fake? It’s beautiful, stark, spare, perfect.

  2. There are so many different forms of poetry. My favorites are Shakespeare’s sonnets, Keats, Shelley, Byron. Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, etc…. As you can see I have a preference for British poets who live from the 15th to the 18th centuries. My Dad and I both loved Langston Hughes. His poems really resonated with me, however it was a long time before I could really get into the poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. The cadence and rhythm threw me for a loop. However once I had the opportunity to meet and correspond with Gwendolyn Brooks, she was really inspired me with her poetry and helped me to find my own voice. To this day Poetry remains my strongest writing genre. The most beautiful Love Poem I’ve ever read was the Song of Solomon. Greatest ode to erotic love between a man and woman ever written.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      I think that maybe I just haven’t found my poetry groove. I haven’t put in much work. I read a few over the decades that fell completely flat with me. I love Song of Solomon too. Its so sensual, which is sexy.

  3. You just haven’t found your kind of poetry yet, Anna Renee. Just keep looking and eventually you’ll find something that moves you. It took me a long time too. And then I found June Jordan!

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Thanks Val! I think Im brave enough to jump back into the black end of the poetry waters

  4. This is not my best example of my poetic expression, but I think you will feel it:

    There are no more villages
    No none to be seen
    No village with elders
    No wisdom to glean
    No rights to be won
    No trials to be test

    It takes a village to raise a child they say
    There are no more villages
    No, not today
    Only wards linked by
    Underground channels
    Of muck and filth
    Spewed from the rear
    Snaking through to slit
    Ghettos of unconscious

    There are no more villages
    What you see are hordes clustered
    With a visual likeness
    A fallacious commonness in crisis

    There are no more villages
    No spreading chestnut trees
    No smithy there to stand
    No proud hardworking fathers
    No wise, or nobleman

    There are no more villages
    What you see are
    Images labeled as animals
    Dogs in heat
    In a steady and unsatisfactory rut
    Gyrating to please a need
    Unneeded, and unpleasing
    As it is unfulfilling, and

    Pigs eating
    At troughs of
    Greedy corporations
    With statements of ethical
    Visions, while raping the nation

    Crawdads backing up
    In poses of aggressive retreat
    Cats growling, with backs hunched
    Stark terror displayed
    In their lessening
    And defeat
    There are no villages
    Only colonies, settlements, squares
    Groups inflicted, or infected
    With the curse, of blisters
    And boils of neglect
    the outcast, the undesirable
    The un-teach-ables
    The un-reach-ables
    Communities of the

    There are no more villages
    There are no tales
    Of brave refrain
    No cause to fight
    No honor to claim
    For there is no mesh,
    A bastard name
    A hate of self,
    A rejected fame…

    There are no villages
    No maternal guide
    Only the bark
    And bucking eyes
    Claims of abuse, sires
    Of no use,
    Best years denied

    There are no villages
    No, no more today
    Only medicated hamlets
    Occupied by
    Rodents being led

    When played a tune
    Of funky bliss
    The enamel sparkles
    The hips will twist

    There are no more villages
    No not today
    Dancers, jesters
    And fools
    Dangling on a string
    As the piper plays…

    Maurice Copeland 2001

    1. Anna Renee says:

      I do feel it, brother. Thanks for sharing with me

  5. Lin says:

    I don’t think poetry can be taught. It’s like asking someone to teach you how to be naked. You simply allow your thoughts, your natural voice, your rhythms and most of all your emotions to be stripped down and to run free. Well, at least in Free Verse poetry, and that’s my personal favorite form. Read Walt Whitman. I sometimes think the man just smoked a jay & then let his ego & super-ego come out to play. He pretty much invented the form. Each time I read his stuff, I’m re-inspired to create the perfect poem. Never happens, but at least it gives me something to strive for.

    Meanwhile, methinks you are already a poet. You just have to cease giving it a name, and simply allow your essential Anna Renee-ness to flow.


    1. Anna Renee says:

      Thanks, Lin. I may have come to the wrong conclusions about poetry as a young woman, and ran scared. I read a poem or two by authors I respect and I hated those poems. Then I just stopped, thinking it was me. I never progressed past that childish position, I guess. Intimidated by poetry. 😐

  6. Poetry is an expressing of the soul, and everyine has the gift of expression, because they have soul, all do. Look at Anna, and express what you see, that will be the greatest expression of your master of poetry:This is why most reject the poet within!
    There is true Equal Opportunity
    in the poet’s fame
    dead you are lifted
    they remember your name
    our rants and raves
    when standing erect
    fly over the head
    you get no respect

    they frown and wink
    and say how silly
    the phases and gestures
    are so Willie nil lie

    Yes, think about it my friends
    you don’t get your
    rating until the end

    you find yourself
    pouring out your gut
    to the clamor of
    Huh! He said what?

    The poet’s fame comes in the
    final hour, after a life lived
    taking gutter showers,
    posing to the people, surrendering
    rhythmic prose
    coloring scenic experiences
    to a thumbed up nose

    then one day someone says
    Hey! did you hear that poet is dead!

    Hopefully it was not tragic, no flight from
    a tree, no piecing missile in the cranial cavity.

    However the dreadful faith was met
    there is one thing that
    this poet will bet
    everyone will remember your name
    you’ll finally have your fame

    everything you did and said
    will have been heard
    when you are dead.


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