Before we get started, be sure to visit Jan at bookseedstudio to read the next line of this year's Progressive Poem!
Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with Aaron Douglas who was often called the “official artist of the Harlem Renaissance," or the “Father of Black American Art.”
Aaron Douglas illustrated many books during the 1920's, and I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! by Laban Carrick Hill that his work came to embody all that the Harlem Renaissance stood for – the culturally rich aspects of African-American life and heritage. So for the first week of this project, I will be writing after his work.
Aaron Douglas poems so far:
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas
Today's piece is a powerful one. I love it so much that I very nearly made it the cover image for my project. Indeed, I DID make it my cover image, but then I showed it to some others, and they didn't think it screamed "Harlem Renaissance," so I went with another image (which I also love!).
Anyhow, this piece seemed perfect to me to do double-duty on this Spiritual Journey Thursday, in which we are talking about the spiritual practice of poetry.
What are we, if not creators? And where do these words come from anyway? What is more important to a spiritual life than gratitude? Isn't the best part sharing the words with others? So I tried to put all of that into today's poem. :) Which means my poem is longer than the ones I typically write for this series... which is fitting, right?
Let There Be Poetry
On that first bare day,
God said, these words are yours
and letters and syllables came
tumbling from his hands,
a monsoon of words –
some words were swallowed,
some were swept away; others hid,
and the rest declared themselves:
rainbow butterfly heartbeat
The bulging, soggy world
began to crumple,
so you said to God, what now?
And God was quiet for a long time.
Finally you heard it: Listen,
and the words will create you anew.
You did listen, and words
swarmed your skin,
nestled themselves into your eyes,
your ears, every crevice
until your beehive heart
was so swollen with words
you couldn't even cry out –
but God heard, and he said,
words are for giving away
and so you began with small words
yes we love
Soon you could breathe again,
and then words became phrases,
phrases evolved into poems –
poems and poems and poems
Yet somehow words didn't dry up,
they multiplied, spilled over,
and you didn't need God to tell you
that when it comes to poetry
there's always enough
- Irene Latham