Women have forged ahead with an incredible number of accomplishments past and present. For the first time women anchor two of the three national news networks: CBS and ABC, and women lead universities, business and industry, and own businesses. Women writers' ranks continue to rise, bringing women issues, stories that matter to them and affect them, as well as for their interest and entertainment. Women walked through fire and rain in the groundwork struggle, women have succeeded against the greatest odds. They’re balancing work and home responsibilities  -- along with obstacles of unequal pay, unequal health care. Sailing rough waters takes courage, tenacity, perseverance, wisdom, motivation, inspiration, and many other factors to achieve success. They have paid exorbitant tuition for their success and grim relatives in the face of failures, yet women keep moving mountains. These phenomenal women are informidable, struggling with optimism because failure is never optimal. Women aren't likely to ever, ever, ever, ever quit. That determination wasn’t a birth right;  neither was prigilege. We know the marble or glass ceilings can and have been broken, and we must praise the trailblazers, tireless foot soldiers, of the women’s movement. We know the journey is never over, and supporting each other makes roads less rocky and waters  less choppy.   

 

Warrior
For Sojourner Truth

By Joyce Evans-Campbell

By the time I knew you, you were dead
but you are still a part of our house;
everywhere a voice, like sorghum

& sting of a bumble bee,
wanders urban streets,

Your words watch over scarred women.
Threads of a war-torn world
tornadoes rip through fields;
Straw huts washed away by
torrential rains before you
planted seeds for race

& women rights, roasting

words to set history right side up.

You were born a slave – now your name on street signs,
a memorial highway
& patchwork of your life with a statue,
a marker and plaque in Hall of Justice;
a bust of the first black woman in U. S. Capitol
& the stone of truth at Women’s Studies.

You still stand up for those locked out.


© 2005 Joyce Evans-Campbell

Billie’s Blues 

By Joyce Evans-Campbell 

 

Blues a rhythmic reflection
of your life from raspberry lips
that croon “Willow Weep for Me.”
Your life stands on hot coal,
but music runs through blood --
You belt the blues: pearls
rubies, or gold on your tongue;
Gut-tugging sound
swathed in lyricism at its best;
A jasmine of music,
you swing and dazzle audiences
as you sing “Don’t Explain.”
A voice as sweet as sugared
buttermilk on Sunday mornings.

 

Yellow & red sparkle

on that juke joint dance floor,

fire runs through dancers’

pores as they swirl & twirl

to jazz/blues tunes.

Billie knew how to set

the joint afire – no question --

& at 4 a.m. she had

her own time marked

by demonic blues --

certain to destroy her.

 

© 2005 Joyce Evans-Campbell


These poets have written some of my favorite poems. JE-C

 

I Want to Die While You Love Me

 

By Georgia Douglas Johnson

I want to die while you love me, 

  While yet you hold me fair, 

While laughter lies upon my lips 

  And lights are in my hair. 

 

I want to die while you love me,        

  And bear to that still bed, 

Your kisses turbulent, unspent 

  To warm me when I’m dead. 

 

I want to die while you love me 

  Oh, who would care to live        

Till love has nothing more to ask 

  And nothing more to give? 

 

I want to die while you love me 

  And never, never see 

The glory of this perfect day      

  Grow dim or cease to be!


Copyright © 1928 Georgia Douglas Johnson

 

Praise Song for the Day

 

By Elizabeth Alexander

A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration

 

Each day we go about our business,

walking past each other, catching each other's

eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

 

All about us is noise. All about us is

noise and bramble, thorn and din, each

one of our ancestors on our tongues.

 

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning

a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,

repairing the things in need of repair.

 

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,

with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,

with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

 

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky.

A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

 

We encounter each other in words, words

spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,

words to consider, reconsider.

 

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark

the will of some one and then others, who said

I need to see what's on the other side.

 

I know there's something better down the road.

We need to find a place where we are safe.

We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

 

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.

Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,

who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

 

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built

brick by brick the glittering edifices

they would then keep clean and work inside of.

 

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,

the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

 

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,

others by first do no harm or take no more

than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

 

Love beyond marital, filial, national,

love that casts a widening pool of light,

love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

 

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,

any thing can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day was published on February 6, 2009.

Homage to My Hips

This my favorite poem by Lucille Clifton whose verbal version is on http://www.Poets.org. And oh, that voice!

By Lucille Clifton 1936-2010

 

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.

they don't like to be held back.

these hips have never been enslaved,   

they go where they want to go

they do what they want to do.

these hips are mighty hips.

these hips are magic hips.

i have known them

to put a spell on a man and

spin him like a top!

 

Copyright ©1987 by  Lucille Clifton

 

A prolific and widely respected poet, Lucille Clifton's work emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life. She won many prestigious awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist

For two books of poetry in 1987.

 

Tributes to Lucille Clifton  

 

 

Voices

 

 

By Sharon Olds

 

 

 (for Lucille)

 

Our voices race to the towers, and up beyond

the atmosphere, to the satellite,

slowly turning, then back down

to another tower, and cell. Quincy,

Toi, Honoree, Sarah, Dorianne,

Galway. When Athena Elizalex calls,

I tell her I'm missing Lucille's dresses,

and her shoes, and Elizabeth says "And she would say,

"Damn! I do look good!'"  After we

hang up, her phone calls me again

from inside her jacket, in the grocery store

with her elder son, eleven, I cannot                       

hear the words, just part of the matter

of the dialogue, it's about sugar, I am

in her pocket like a spirit. Then I dream it —

looking at an illuminated city

from a hill, at night, and suddenly

the lights go out — like all the stars

gone out.  "Well, if there is great sex

in heaven," we used to say, "or even just

sex, or one kiss, what's wrong

with that?!"  Then I'm dreaming a map of the globe, with

bright pinpoints all over it —

in the States, the Caribbean, Latin America,

in Europe, and in Africa —

everywhere a poem of hers is being

read.  Small comfort.  Not small

to the girl who curled against the wall around the core

of her soul, keeping it alive, with long

labor, then unfolded into the hard truths, the

lucid beauty, of her song.

          

Copyright © 2010 by Sharon Olds. Used by author’s permission. All rights reserved.

 

Born in San Francisco on November 19, 1942, Sharon Olds earned a BA at Stanford University and a PhD at Columbia University.

Tribute to Lucille Clifton

 

by Rita Dove

Citation for the 2001 Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award


My fondest meeting with Lucille Clifton occurred in an unlikely place: a public lavatory. We were both guest poets at the biannual Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey, a week-long celebration with readings, lectures, and workshops occurring in an open-air heritage museum called Waterloo Village. At any time during the day (or night, for that matter), a participant might stumble upon a panel discussion in the Weaving Barn Tent or a workshop on blankets down by the Gristmill, or a poetry reading in the Concert Pavilion. An enchanted setting, to be sure, but one that required walking from one event to the next via bridge and footpath, from one location to another as aspiring poets lurked behind bush and tree, waiting to snag a few words of wisdom from the hapless celebrity guests who passed by. I had just skirted the Olde Smithy and backtracked to my goal, only to find Lucille already standing at the sink, tossing cool water on her face. We exchanged a frazzled look; then she let out a deep sigh and said, "Lordy, Lordy—they won't even let you go to the bathroom!" We both burst into laughter.

Lucille's laugh is like her spirit—large and full, warm and open. And her poems, for all their surface compactness, burst at the seams with this generous spirit. There are the early ones whose revelations resemble the epiphanies of childhood, when one’s lack of preconceptions about the self -allowed for brilliant slippage into the metaphysical, a glimpse into an egoless, utterly thingful and serene world. Her more recent work has grown darker, yet even in the contemplation of illness and death, her taut and quietly fierce poetry achieves a Zen-like clarity of understanding which can guide us through tragedies that would otherwise prove overwhelming.

Lucille Clifton's palette embraces all the colors of life. She's the closest thing we still have to a griot: A trusted—and yes, infinitely wise—chronicler of our hopped-up age, a guide who shows us how to navigate with a smile and an open heart. We love you, Lucille, we need you—and today, we celebrate you!

Rita Dove is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a former Poet Laureate of the United States. Her latest collection:  Sonata Mulattica.

 

Tribute to Lucille Clifton

 

By Gerald Stern

I want to give thanks to the dear woman who suffered so much. To her wisdom—like no other; to her presence—like no other.

I want to thank her for her humor, her memory, her stubbornness, her honesty, her grace, her anger.

She will walk along some river—where else?—and she will know her way home by how the air feels, by the wind.

There was nothing like her; there was no one like her. No one will cry mercy like her.

This is the poem of hers I am reading today, from The Book of Light.


it was a dream

By Lucille Clifton

in which my greater self

rose up before me

accusing me of my life

with her extra finger

whirling in a gyre of rage

at what my days had come to.

what, i pleaded with her, could i do,

oh what could i have done?

and she twisted her wild hair

and sparked her wild eyes

and screamed as long as

i could hear her

This.  This.  This.

 

Copyright Lucille Clifton

About his work, the poet Toi Derricotte has said, "Gerald Stern has made an immense contribution to American poetry. His poems are not only great poems, memorable ones, but ones that get into your heart and stay there.

 

Still I Rise

 

By Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod 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 backyard.

 

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.


From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc. For online information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, visit the website at http://www.randomhouse.com/.

Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” is a favorite poem.

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Tags: Angelou, Billie's, Blues, Clifton, Dove, Poems, Warrior, history, women's

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Comment by Annette Jaco on April 2, 2012 at 7:04am

Nice

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