Thursday, February 20, 2014

Celebrating Black History Month

Today for Poetry Friday, I'm celebrating the wonderful contributions people of color have brought to our culture.

Stop over at Karen Edmiston's blog for oodles of poetic words as she hosts the round up.

I have loved reading, yet again, Marilyn Nelson's Carver: A Life in Poems. I think he is on my list of people I'd like to sit down with in heaven and have a long conversation.

File:George Washington Carver c1910.jpg

From Nelson's poem, "Veil-Raisers," on the relationship between Carver and Booker T. Washington.

You saw them sometimes
if you were sneaking in past curfew,
after a tête-à-tête on a town girls porch:
shoulder to shoulder
and dream to dream,
two veil-raisers.
Walking our people
into history.

One of the books in my stack from the library is The Great Migration: Journey to the North by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.

Greenfield was only three months old when her father took a train north looking for a better life. Like so many other black families, the Greenfield and her mother and siblings followed when he had found a job and a place to live.

I love the way Greenfield has organized this book. In the first section, mask poems express the hopes and fears of individuals caught up in the great migration. In my favorite page spread, illustrator Jan Gilchrist, uses a photograph of a real child's face in her striking illustrations.

The middle section tells the story of the journey by rail in narrative poetry. As the end of the journey and the end of the book near, part four asks the question in every mind.

from "IV. Question"

Will I make a good life
for my family,
for myself?
The wheels are singing,
"Yes, you will,
you will, you will!"

Greenfield ends the collection with a free verse narrative poem about her story, her family: "We were one family/ among the many thousands."

A beautiful book, published in 2011, by Amistad (Harper Collins imprint).

This is a poem I wrote, a sort of tribute to Joyce, a sweet African American friend I made in Chautauqua, 2007, who tried her best to teach me to dance!


images rock step, cha-cha-cha
words heel click and slide
heartbeats ball change in my chest
light  moonwalks behind my eyes

it isn’t the hips gyrating
a pirouette on pointed toes
it isn’t in my feet
the way Joyce can jive and sway
it isn’t from the knees

when I dance

           © Doraine Bennett

And finally this. These girls are the Divine Praise Dancers of Los Angeles. I just love the freedom!


  1. Lovely poems you have today! And your poem, Dancer, is simply beautiful! The first four lines are my favorite!! Thank you for sharing these, Dori!! =)

  2. Thanks for sharing this deep and uplifting post. Doraine! I'm lucky enough to own a copy of Marilyn Nelson's Carver book, and I will have to find a copy of The Great Migration. Enjoyed your poem and this lively video with those beautiful dancers! Dance on...

  3. Lovely all the way through, Dori. I have the Carver book, just haven't gotten to it yet-will move it up! The Eloise Greenfield book looks wonderful too, & how great to have a connection and write the poem about your friend. Nicely done!

  4. A terrific post, all the way through. I love, love, love your poem, and the way you embedded the dance moves throughout. And I always watch people dance and wish I was a Joyce…

  5. A couple more books just went on my February To-Read-With-Ramona list. Thanks, Dori!