Saturday, April 21, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "To a Water Boy"

Welcome to day #21 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am still enjoying events with Charles Waters in New York City... Pen World Voices Festival this morning and Poets House this afternoon. :)
Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with a look at sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller. Today is our last day with Fuller... tomorrow I'll be introducing William Johnson!

Back to Fuller: talk about a woman ahead of her time! Fuller was a poet, artist and sculptor -- the first African American woman sculptor to rise to any sort of prominence. She was also a feminist and activist. Her works celebrated African American heritage and focus mostly on themes of identity -- never shying away from the horrible (see A Silent Protest Against Mob Violence). Even Auguste Rodin admired her work. And here is a favorite quote from Fuller herself:

“Let us train ourselves to see beauty in 'black.'”

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"Storytime" after Storytime by Meta Warrick Fuller
"Sorrow" after Sorrow by Meta Warrick Fuller
"My John Henry" after When John Henry Was a Baby by Palmer Hayden
"Night Music" after Untitled by Palmer Hayden
"A (Sub)way of Looking" after The Subway, 1930 by Palmer Hayden
"Girl to Mama" after Madonna at the Stoop by Palmer Hayden
"For Love of the Game" after Checkers Game by Palmer Hayden
"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"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 called The Water Boy. This boy sure is struggling with his load... I started thinking about my wishes for him, how I'd like to help ease his journey. This is where I landed.

To a Water Boy

I would give you
camel's legs
to cross the desert

baboon's arms
to cradle the jug

gazelle's grace
should you drop it

cheetah's speed
in recovering your courage

elephant's heart
to find your way

- Irene Latham

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