Before we get started, be sure to visit Laura at Writing the World for Kids 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:
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas
Today's piece has a different look. It's an ink and graphite illustration entitled Sadhji (Tribal Women). I learned Douglas illustrated this for a ballet called Sahdji, which is composed by William Grant Still (another Harlem Renaissance star) and features a love triangle in the rainforest. You can learn more about it here.
Something that stood out to me about my research of the music for the ballet is that it included lots of drums. Perhaps my poem should include a drumbeat as well? And the women, who I immediately recognized as sisters... I knew I wanted to include them.
To a Dancer
it's your sisters
who urge you
to own your nightskin
who guide you past sunflash
Go go go
when it's your turn
to tango with tigers
- Irene Latham
Another note: when I went to record my poem for Soundcloud, I stumbled on a word in the third line... instead of "own" I had "shed." This was me thinking about being a shy person, coming out of the shadows... but as I am learning to be more sensitive to inclusive language, I realized a reader may see shedding of "nightskin" as a racial shedding, as in "we need to shed our black skin." And that of course is not what I mean at all! So I went back in to the image and changed the word and then re-recorded the new poem. My original message still stands, only now it is more sensitive. I am learning...