Sunday, July 27, 2014

#TBT // Grandmother, May I // Poetry

Here's a poem I did as a small part of my senior anthology project in high school. I was very much inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes, whom I've loved ever since I discovered him in my 9th grade English class.

The poem is a rumination on black women, slavery, mothers and daughters and the passing of time. I remember having a really great experience writing it, the words flowed easily, even after as I did some editing for the project. I remember being super excited about my work and the thought of sharing it with people. (I also remember my teacher at the time was surprised I had wrote something so sophisticated.)

It was one of those moments that, as an artist, I live for...the moment when what you envision in your head and what you put down on the paper are completely in sync.

I also submitted this poem to my school's literary art magazine. I was Editor-In-Chief of the magazine my senior year of high school. I had loads of fun designing the magazine, editing the poetry and artwork of my fellow students and ultimately helping build a really cool memento. Working on the magazine and being in a creative publication environment definitely provided me with the inspiration for what I want to do in my future career - more reading, more writing, more art.

I'd love to know your thoughts. What is your interpretation of the poem? :]


Grandmother, May I
I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
- Langston Hughes, “The Negro speaks of Rivers” (1922)

I have grown old on this plantation
With my children in the cotton fields.
The snow has taken my heart
And the summer has taken my fear.
My old bones are creaking lovely
For the day I thought I was born
I would be a free black bird 
But I am trapped, tortured, and forlorn. 
But over the white fence, I see the river.
I see the river and it calms me so.

I have seen you birth babes. 
Babes, so dark, so young,
Who know nothing but the sun on their back
And a whip at their hides
And the master at their tongues.
Have you seen my Grandmother?
My Grandmother has seen the rivers.
She’s run on the African soil.
She’s fed the babes of the world.
She’s grown her hair long 
To wade in the river.

I have seen you run through the field.
Running from your Mother,
Running from your Grandmother,
Running from the master’s whip
And straight into the river.
You’ve become one with the river
And it calms me so.

- lizzvisions

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