3 Poetry Lessons from Amanda and Angelou

Lesson #1: Study

Amanda Gorman, 22, became the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles at sixteen years old in 2014 and the first national youth poet laureate three years later. On Wednesday, she became the youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a presidential inauguration, following Maya Angelou and Robert Frost’s considerably more experienced footsteps. (Los Angeles Times)

Random fun fact: Amanda is a twin!

In her CNN interview with Anderson, Gorman spoke about the power of words and all the research that went into her poem, such as reviewing texts from poets of previous inaugurations and studying other orators like Frederick Douglass.

“I did a lot of research ever since I found out I was going to be the inaugural poet in late December. Really doing a deep literature dive of other orators.”

I highlight this because research is not a word we hear often associated with poetry, but the best poets do it. It is not only about stringing some rhymes together. The best poets are avid researchers, readers, and students.

While writing “The Hill We Climb,” the poet listened to music that helped put her “in a historic and epic mind-set,” including soundtracks from “The Crown,” “Lincoln,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Hamilton.”

“I wasn’t trying to write something in which those events were painted as an irregularity or different from an America that I know,” said Gorman of the events of January 6th. “America is messy. And I have to recognize that in the poem. I can’t ignore that or erase it.”

I think we can all agree that Maya Angelou had talent, but Angelou also studied the art. In her muteness, she listened to how people spoke, the inflection of their voices, the way their arms and hands moved. She listened to the black ministers and the melody of the preachers, musicians, and performers. She read books of all kinds, traveled to different countries, and learned other languages.

What is the lesson here?

Good poetry is a good study. It is more than the rhyme of a creative mind, but how that creativity can take elements of real life, history, and experience and weave it together with language that is so fluid and precise that it enters the heart and goes right down to the soul.

Lesson #2: When You Are Not Writing/Speaking, Read

In the five years, Angelou was mute, she read every book in the black school library and every book she could get from the white school library. She memorized James Weldon Johnson, Paul Lawerence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. She memorized Shakespear, whole plays, and fifty sonnets. Angelou memorized Edgar Allen Poe and all the poetry.

When Angelou decided to speak, she had a lot to say and many ways to say it.

Gorman is also a reader.

“When she’s not watching cooking shows, Gorman copes with isolation by reading books to prepare her for that future. She picked up former President Obama’s “A Promised Land” the day it came out. She’s also reading Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s “Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History,” which interrogates long-standing historical narratives from the Haitian Revolution to the Alamo.”

Lesson #3: Learning from Others

I am not going to say that I agree with every lyric of Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb.” Still, I enjoyed the intelligence of the delivery, the poetic techniques used, the alliteration, and the metaphoric skill. I have listened to other poems of Amanda’s, and I love the sound of her voice and the movement of her hands at pivotal points. It is not overly dramatic but poised and elegant.

At the Roar, Grand Slam Gorman said, “The air smelled of Hollywood and desperation.” Gorman’s enunciation of words and clarity of speech speaks to her comprehension of the information. Rather from her speech impediment or the love of poetry, you can tell that Gorman has studied language, and it comes through beautifully in her speech.

Maya Angelou has one of the most powerful voices I had ever heard. We are so blessed that she did not stay silent! What I noticed about Angelou was how she did not limit her reading. Maya embraced different voices and cultures, and I believe this nurtured her perspective so that it stretched wide, and from her poetry, you can hear the wisdom of understanding shine through.

Lesson number three is perhaps the most important one of all.

You do not have to agree with everything someone says or does to learn from them. Remember that Yah spoke to Balaam through the mouth of a donkey. (Numb. 22:28)

Lol. These bitmojis are just funny to me

“I am the daughter of black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.”

– Amanda Gorman

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3rd Annual Poetry Contest Spotlight 2019: Kiyana Blount Returns

Kiyana Blount is not new to the spotlight. She’s a returning winner, placing fourth in Yecheilyah’s 2nd Annual Poetry Contest 2018.

Blount is a hard working, dedicated and strong single mother who is on a journey of living through self love, self awareness and true divinity. She is seeking her true purpose and living it to make an impact on the world.

“Keep watching me I’m coming like the Lioness of the jungle
Hunting the wanting of my universal platform
Perspiring strength while I join the revolution for my evolution
Fighting my way through the shed layers of my old self”

-Excerpt from “Lioness Strength”

Kiyana! Good to have you back.

Lioness Strength is such a powerful title and we are excited to read the whole piece in next years Literary Magazine. For now, please tell us, what inspired your poem?

The major life changes that I had to endure this year led me to a path of realizing I needed to love myself more. Even though much had happened, I used those down moments to build myself back up and be the Goddess I am. Now I am working towards building my empire and legacy to leave my mark and leave for my SonShine to carry.

Right now I have my own business of promoting a healthy lifestyle and providing whole food natural products to help aid in weight loss and a healthy, natural you from the inner to the outer.

Eating healthy is big right now. How does this relate to or help you with your writing?

Working on my inner has really helped me to express externally. Taking the healthy approach along with strengthening myself spiritually and emotionally has made it easier for me to tap into my art and connect with my poetry on another level! I read my poetry and see the growth from being an unhealthy me to working towards and being closer to a better version of me inside and out.

Beautiful. Any books in the works Kiyana?

I am not a published author YET but I am working on some pieces. Peace, love and light Kings and Queens! You’ll see me soon!

You heard it here first people! Look for her. She’s coming.

 

Be sure you are following Kiyana online!

Web. kiyanablount.itworks.com

IG: @kueen7

Facebook: Kiyana Blount


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Peace and hair grease!

The Harlem Renaissance No One Talks About – Guest Post by, Yecheilyah Ysrayl…

For some reason I can’t reblog from my mobile anymore.

However, that’s not why you’re here…

Do be sure to check out my latest article on The Story Reading Ape Blog at the link below. We are covering some basic history on The Harlem Renaissance movement, to include what no one talks about.

Click through to the original post at the link below.

http://wp.me/p3mGq7-guo

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Renaissance and if you’ve read it, and you’re so obliged to do so, I’d be honored if you could leave an honest review!

 

Thanks,

Yecheilyah 💕

Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Chicago Black Renaissance

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Many of us have heard of The Harlem Renaissance, the literary, musical, and artistic movement that exploded during the 1920s in Harlem New York. Also known as The New Negro Renaissance, the New Negro Movement, the Negro Renaissance, and the Jazz Age, the Great Migration of blacks from the south to northern cities like New York produced a national movement centered around black culture and tradition.

Music, poetry, literature, art, and theatre was brought to the mainstream from a black perspective in a huge way. Magazines such as The Crisis (the NAACP monthly journal) and Opportunity (the monthly publication of the Urban League) employed Harlem Renaissance writers on their editorial staff, published their poetry and short stories, and promoted African American literature through articles, reviews, and annual literary prizes. Names like Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston come to mind.

However, though termed Harlem Renaissance, the time was much more complex than Harlem itself (which in many ways can make it hard to define). While standing as the anchor for the movement, Harlem was just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Across the United States and the Caribbean, The Renaissance was taking place. In fact, only some of the writers, musicians, and artists were native to Harlem itself. The Renaissance did not just happen in Harlem but a Black Metropolis was brewing in other big cities as well, such as Chicago.

Gwendolyn Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks

As the Harlem Renaissance was winding down, The Chicago Black Renaissance was getting started, or rather, continuing. Creativity and activism was blooming from the great number of blacks coming up from the south to escape Jim Crow and The Great Depression. While it’s true many blacks did not suffer as much during the depression due that many of us were already struggling (having been depressed since we got here) there were some who came to Chicago from southern states like Mississippi and secured well paying jobs that were no longer available. While at first blacks could work at factories, meat packing places, and steel mills, the great depression shut this down.

Blacks were also dealing with extremely poor living conditions and fighting housing discrimination. As more and more blacks moved to Chicago the city was also still getting a large immigrant population pouring in from Europe so there was always competition for jobs and since segregation was in full effect, many blacks found themselves at a loss. However, there is great beauty that often springs from the depths of struggle and The Black Mecca of Chicago’s South Side was quite literally a diamond in the rough.

The black belt of Chicago’s South Side, as it was called, was the location for such diamonds.  Jazz, Blues, and Literature flourished as an outlet for blacks to voice their discontent not only about the city but also the whole of the black experience in America in general, and when Gwendolyn Brooks passed a pool hall in a Chicago neighborhood and took notice of a group of young men standing around, “We Real Cool” (a poem that speaks from the point of view of these seven young men, see my analysis of the poem here) was born. Chicago exploded in culture from the 1930s through the 1950s and the south side remains the most cultured part of city today.

Music, art, literature, and journalism were all part of The Chicago Renaissance. Though never deemed “Chicago Renaissance” officially, there are many who contributed to the movement whose names we’ve grown to know. The writers: Richard Wright (born in Mississippi but moved to Chicago in 1927), Frank Yerby, Margaret Walker, Willard Motley, John H. Johnson (publisher of Ebony), St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton (who later co-authored Black Metropolis), Gwendolyn Brooks, Arna Bontemps, and Lorraine Hansberry; entertainers Nat King Cole, Ray Nance and Oscar Brown, Jr.; dancers Katherine Dunham and Talley Beatty; photographer Gordon Parks, and the artists Elizabeth Catlett and Hughie Lee Smith.


Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of eight books, most notably The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story -Book One” is due for release summer, 2017. For updates on this project, sneak peek of chapters and the pending book cover release for this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Jan Matzeliger

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Growing up, my brother was a collector of the latest Nikes. He was the Air Force One version of the Air Jordan lover. He’ll collect all kinds of pairs of “Air Ones” and stack them in his room or in the basement. It was truly a work of art and since he actually is an artist, sometimes he even drew on them! In any event, it’s no secret, black people love shoes! I don’t say that in a discriminatory way, for African Americans are known to set the trend. There’s nothing wrong with our love for fashion which is often mimicked all over the world. It makes sense then, why it was an African American man who helped to revolutionize the shoe making industry. Meet Jan Matzeliger.

jan-matzeliger

Jan Matzeliger was born in Surinam, formerly known as Dutch Guiana, in South America. Of mixed ancestry, Jan’s father was a Dutch engineer and his mother of African ancestry. Naturally, since his dad was an engineer, Jan would accompany his father to work and developed a skill for repairing complicated equipment.

At nineteen, Jan left home to explore the rest of the world, and began work aboard an Indian ship. He found his way to America and settled in Pennsylvania where he became interested in shoe making and worked at a shoe making factory.

Jan Matzeliger Machine
The Lasting Machine

Though Jan was interested in improving how shoes were made, two obstacles were in his way: He could barely speak English and at that time shoes in the U.S. all came from the small town of Lynn, Massachusetts where “Hand Lasters” (people who could attach the different parts of the shoe together by hand), could only produce 50 pairs of shoes per ten-hour day. Though paid well, Jan had the discernment to see that what Hand Lasters were doing was not as good as everyone thought. There had to be a better way.

Specifically, there was no machine that could attach the upper part of a shoe to the sole and this is basically what the “Hand Lasters” were doing and they were the experts. According to them, “No matter if the sewing machine is a wonderful machine. No man can build a machine that will last shoes and take away the job of the Laster, unless he can make a machine that has fingers like a Laster – and that is impossible.” Jan Matzeliger thought they were wrong and set out to build a machine that would do just that.

Jan's Finished Lasting Machine
Jan’s Finished Lasting Machine

Jan is a great inspiration for setting out to achieve something that no one thought would work. He worked hard on this machine using whatever he could find – cigar boxes, nails, paper, scrap wire—and after six months had a workable model. Jan however, did not have much money. He also kept his project secret. Still, the “expert” Hand Lasters found out and made fun of him for his project. Someone offered him $50.00 for the machine but Jan wasn’t having it. They tried to play him, but he was smarter than that. He turned down more and more offers and continued perfecting his machine until a better offer came from which he could acquire the tools to perfect the machine even more.

In March of 1883, the United States Patent Office issued a patent for Jan’s machine, which could produce 700 pairs of shoes a day, to the Hand Lasters 50 pair and the rest is history. Jan had officially revolutionized the shoe making industry.

Some of my brother’s art, “The Shoe King”

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How does Jan’s invention help us today?

Today, shoe making involves four departments: Clicking or Cutting, Closing or Machining, Lasting & Making, Finishing Department and the Shoe Room. The Lasting and Making part is where Jan’s invention would come in. “In the early days of shoe making, shoes were made mainly by hand. For proper fit, the customer’s feet had to be duplicated in size and form by creating a stone or wooden mold called a “last” from which the shoes were sized and shaped. Since the greatest difficulty in shoe making was the actual assembly of the soles to the upper shoe, it required great skill to tack and sew the two components together. It was thought that such intricate work could only be done by skilled human hands.” (Wikipedia)

That is until Jan’s machine. Today, soles, which were once laboriously hand-stitched on, are now more often machine stitched or simply glued on by shoe making manufacturing.

In Case You Missed It:

Black History Fun Fact Friday: Sarah Rector

Sources.

Jan Ernst Matzeliger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Ernst_Matzeliger

Now Everyone Can Afford Decent Shoes.”5 Dec 2012. https://web.archive.org/web/20120821203314/http://www.users.fast.net/~blc/xlhome9.htm Archived from the original on August 21, 2012.

“Jan Matzeliger”. The Black Inventor Online Museum.

Jan H. Liedhard. “No. 522: Jan Matzeliger (transcript of radio show Engines of Our Ingenuity episode)”. University of Houston.

“Jan Ernst Matzeliger ‘Lasting Machine'”. Lemelson-MIT. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 29 February 2016.

Reference: Hayden, Robt. C., Eight Black American Inventors. Addison-Wesley, 1972

Writer’s Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge – Poetic Justice

Today I’m using one of my own quotes for Colleen and Ronovans weekly Writer’s Quote Wednesday Challenge. Today’s theme is Art or Artist:

I've always loved the look of wings on a pagethe way the wind blowswhen they flap against the airthe way they soartaking my mind with themThe wings are symbolic of freedom. To me writing is the most important kind of art because words live. To me, ink meets paper to create something spiritual. Not only can we see the beauty of words, but we can feel it. I would define my style of writing, poetry or otherwise, as poetic justice because I am always seeking to free people, to include myself, from the limited ways we tend to think and to feel. This is not always an easy task and so as I write, the keystrokes are heavy with the responsibility my purpose carries. The weight of the kinds of things that I write always looms in the background of the page as if daring me to go on. And this is always the moment when I know that I must.

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