I wanted to be a stunt double. Everyone I knew was so afraid of danger, but danger was everywhere. I reasoned that it didn’t make sense to be afraid, the only way ’round was through. I wanted to be a dancer, but even before that there was poetry. I loved with a love that was more than love.

National Poetry Month was created in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. Celebrated each April, it is a time to honor and appreciate the impact of poetry nationwide. When April hits, I get nostalgic for the writers and poets who felt so much like friends, poets who showed me what it meant to be free.

Choices
If i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do
It’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can
do

If i can’t have
what i want . . . then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want

Since i can’t go
where i need
to go . . . then i must . . . go
where the signs point
through always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

When i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express

and none of it is equal
I know
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry

By Nikki Giovanni

 

Climbing
a woman precedes me up the long rope.
her dangling braids the color of rain.
maybe i should have had braids.
maybe i should have kept the body i started,
slim as possible as a boy’s bone.
maybe i should have wanted less.
maybe i should have ignored the bowl in me
burning to be filled.
maybe i should have wanted less.
the woman passes the notch in the rope
marked Sixty. I rise toward it, struggling,
hand over hungry hand.

By Lucille Clifton

 

Who Said It Was Simple
There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex
and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

By Audre Lorde

 

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

By Robert Frost

Jacket Notes
Being a colored poet
Is like going over
Niagara Falls in a
Barrel

An 8 year old can do what
You do unaided
The barrel maker doesn’t
Think you can cut it

The gawkers on the bridge
Hope you fall on your
Face

The tourist bus full of
Paying customers broke-down
Just out of Buffalo

Some would rather dig
The postcards than
Catch your act

A mile from the drink
It begins to storm

But what really hurts is
You’re bigger than the
Barrel

By Ishmael Reed

What are your favorite poems? Whose poetry inspires you? 

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