Come sit on the porch awhile. Enjoy a glass of sweet iced tea as you peruse my thoughts, memories, dreams and images of family and friends - things trivial and not so trivial - past, present and future. I write and post for the simple pleasure of doing so. If you reap some small amount of pleasure from what you find here please come back again soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More About Gwendolyn Brooks...

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize and the first black woman to hold the position of poetry consultant to the Library of Congress - this in addition to being chosen as the Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois. At age 13 her first published poem appeared in American Childhood and by 17 her poetry was often published in the Chicago Defender newspaper. Her many other honors and positions held are far too numerous to mention here.
Her prolific body of work was largely about being black in urban America, especially during the 60s and beyond, and reflected her strong commitment to racial identity and equality. It has been reported that she considered visiting elementary schools and community colleges one of her most important roles in social edification. Her self described "folksy narrative" included varied forms of free verse, sonnets, and other models. One of her well known works is a haiku titled "We Real Cool" which is as relevant in today's society as when published in 1966.
'Gwen' Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, June 7, 1917, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Her father was a janitor, who had aspired to be a doctor, and her mother was a school teacher and classical pianist. While being very strict and not allowing her to even play with the neighborhood children both parents fully supported and encouraged their daughter's love of books and reading.
Brooks considered herself "essentially an essential African" and understood that "the black emphasis must be not against white but for black." She envisioned a future with "the shaking of hands (very important in African society) in warmth and strength and union."
Although she passed far too soon for those who admired, respected and loved her, Gwendolyn Brooks did not "die soon." She passed from this earth December 3, 2000 at the age of 83.

We Real Cool
By Gwendolyn Brooks

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shared Wisdom, Evolving Experience

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
Photo by Di Pugh

While attending Roane State Community College (1983-85) I was privileged to meet and photograph Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. As a budding photojournalist, I was impressed by this kind and stately lady. She touched my heart and soul.
Sometime later on, I dreamed about a funeral and rose early from my bed to write it down while the memory was fresh. The words flowed in poetic form which I titled simply "The Funeral." Writing down what I had dreamt the night before used to be a fun and interesting hobby of mine but it was very time consuming and I have since gotten out of the habit.
For many years "The Funeral" remained in my old wire-bound, handwritten journal and occasionally, when I ran across it while searching for some other perceived treasure, I thought of Gwendolyn Brooks and how her life experiences evolved into words on paper...her wisdom thus shared freely with a world in much need of it.
Unlike her volumes of well recognized and published work, my poetry is largely unpublished and I feel privileged to post a piece of it here. I dare not compare my work to hers for I would fall far short.

by Di Pugh

They marched up the street in rhythm jive
held together by the black box burden they each had part to.
up the way they came
the burden they carried had not even a name
just some old dude with silver hair.
The neighbors watched
yet it did not seem strange
looking out doors with holes where the dog wants in they only watched
it was an every day game.
When they reached the corner to turn the last mile they suddenly stopped
and gone were all smiles.
They began to chant another slower rhythm jive
Swing Low
Sweet Chariot
Everyone Sing!
You didn’t sing to the drums.
We must go back where we started from.
Swing Low
Sweet Chariot
Sing! when you see us come’n.
Sing! as we pass on by.
Sing! till we’re gone plumb out’a sight.
Swing Low
Sweet Chariot
Sing! till the wind sighs with a fevered scream.
Sing! till this old black box rest in the angels wings.