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

Richard Wright Native Son Movie Trailer

How did I miss this??

Native Son is a movie based on one of my favorite books out of High School, back when I first started college and began my journey of literally devouring Black Literature. So, the first thing I noticed about this trailer is that it’s a modern adaptation. If you’ve read the book, you know the story was written in 1940 and takes place in the 1930s. Bigger Thomas is a young black man of only 20-years-old and is living in extreme poverty on Chicago’s South Side. The movie appears to have a modern spin and Thomas doesn’t appear to be as poor as he was in the book.

My torn and overly read Native Son book

I won‘t lie. In the first three seconds of seeing the trailer, I was surprised to see the military look of the jacket and beret bigger wears because that is not the persona of the Bigger in the book. Bigger in the book is more so laid back (at least that’s how I pictured him). Like all book adapted films, I am expecting everything not to be exactly the same while hoping the plot resembles the book and that things aren’t too modern even with the modern adaptation. I admit I kinda hoped it did take place in the 1930s. I’m a Historical Fiction writer after all so of course I think they could have left the timeline alone. I guess I fear the whole “black revolutionary” thing is becoming too much of a trend. Like he’s gotta be militant because being “black” is cool now and everybody’s “woke” or whatever.

Anywho, excited to see this though!

Apparently, it has already aired so I’ll be looking for it. I might just reread the book before I do and of course, I’ll be sure to blog my thoughts.

In the meantime, have you seen this? Looks like it premiered two days ago (4/6). How was it?

 

Now Available: Even Salt Looks Like Sugar – a short novel

Sneak Peek:

Edited by Lynette Davis

“What’s got you so happy?” said the dark-skinned, toothless woman. She was smoking a cigarette. But Lavenia was on that stuff and it had made her skin darken and cling to her bones. A lot of their neighbors was like this. They nodded, bowing low enough to be inches from the floor before jerking back again, brushing away bugs, only they could see as they unnecessarily cleaned, picking imaginary lint from their clothing, and laughing at jokes only they were in on—the real walking dead. Their skeletal bodies roamed the country roads early mornings, afternoons and late at night. Or they stood next to gas stations waiting for customers to come out, so they could collect change, their long skinny fingers curled into tight fists around the crack they sold their souls for.

Wanda cringed on the inside. Seeing her people like this made her physically sick. Lavenia was once pretty.

“It’s a good day. That’s all.”

Lavenia frowned and inhaled the cigarette like it was the last one she would ever smoke.

“Hmm. Yea. How Abby doing?”

Diversion. Lavenia never asked about Abby. Lavenia only cared about one thing. Getting high. Wanda frowned at the thought. She was so excited, she hadn’t noticed the signs.

“Oh, Abby is doing good, Miss Lavenia. I think she’s adjusting real nice. You seen her mama any?”

Lavenia let the cigarette breathe some, exhaling smoke into the air before sucking on it again.

“Naw. Ain’t seen her since that day.”

She was talking about the day she carried Abby into Cassaundra’s prison. Lavenia eyed the young lady in front of her. She had a shape like that once.

“You got some money? Let me borrow a couple dollars till my paycheck hit.”

“I’m sorry Miss L. I ain’t got nothing on me.”

“I can walk with you to the house. All I need is a lil change.”

“I can’t. I’m broke.”

Lavenia frowned. “You ain’t no damn broke.”

“Miss L. I am. For real. You know if I had it, you’d have it. I gotta get going. Tell Brandon I said hey.”

Lavenia walked off in a hurry. Brandon was her son. She’d probably left him in the house by himself again.


NOW AVAILABLE!!

EVEN SALT LOOKS LIKE SUGAR

a short novel

Order the eBook for 99cents HERE

preorder a signed paperback HERE

or mark as want to read on Goodreads here

About. Wanda wants nothing more than to escape the oppressive upbringing of life with her abusive foster mother. Miss Cassaundra manipulates the system by bringing lost children into her home turned whorehouse and collecting the money. Wanda knows what it’s like to be abandoned and has no doubt Abby is Cassaundra’s next case. When an opportunity arises, that could save them both, Wanda must find a way to get the paperwork that will secure their freedom. But Cassaundra’s got eyes everywhere and no one can be trusted when even salt looks like sugar.

I Knew it Was a Mistake the Moment It Was Over

Portia Banks smoothed out the wrinkles forming in her dress, and picked at imaginary lint. She took it all in, snapping imaginary pictures of memory with her eyes as she scanned the room. Bachelors in Computational Journalism from Stanford University, Exceptional Research and Development, the list goes on and on. She wondered if it was all worth it, her name on the door, this office, or the prestigious position she found herself in. She’d come a long way from the dirt roads of Mississippi to a position as one of New York’s top Journalists. And while the check would be huge, she knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.

“Come on now, I know that look. You do know this is the biggest client we’ll ever have; ever.”

Simon fixed his glasses and stared intently at Portia, trying to understand her logic. The woman had talent no doubt, but as Assistant News Editor he had worked side by side with this talent for over two years and a mule could not be more stubborn. Of course he couldn’t say that, Portia was always on a prowl for any glint of racism from her white counterparts, even finding it where it didn’t exist. She believed all Europeans were born racists and that no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t help themselves in their feelings toward blacks. Still, she had managed to become one of his best friends which awarded him the truth concerning her level of racism. Although she wanted him to believe she held this grudge against whites, their friendship told him otherwise. In any event, to take on this case would put The Journal Chronicles on the map and Portia knew it.

“We’re talking about the biggest dollar signs you’ve ever seen in your life. Huge,” he spoke with his hands.

“Trying to persuade me with money is never a good idea Simon you know that. Besides, you do know money is not everything?”

“No, as a matter of fact I don’t.”

Portia laughed, “You’re such a liar.”

“And your such an idiot,” said Simon standing.

“Whatever”, said Portia gathering paperwork from her desk. It was Friday, the most exciting yet busiest day of the week, everyone trying to take weekend vacations and submit final story ideas to the big dogs at the same time.

“I just don’t care much about the man,” she said continuing, “What is there to know about a man we already know everything about?”

Simon looked at his watch; he had exactly two minutes to convince her to take this case. Otherwise it would go to the competition and Anne, the wicked witch of the west who pretended to be their boss, would never let him hear the end of it.

“That’s just it. How do you know we really know him? Because the TV says so? I’m not going for it.”

Portia smiled at Simon as he went on. She was wondering where he’d put his soap box and knew it was only a matter of time before he stood on it. She stopped daydreaming and turned the mental volume back up on Simon’s voice.

“We’ve got an opportunity to present a fresh story, a new look. To gather information about the success of the world’s biggest fragrance chain since Victoria’s Secret, Scentology. By delving deeper into Xavier’s most intimate thoughts, we have the opportunity to present a fresh story. We don’t care about his written rebuttal, let CNN fight over that. Anderson can hold that down…”

“Don’t try to be black Sy…” laughed Portia.

“Portia! WHAT WE WANT is the exclusive hard core truth. WHO is Xavier Thomas?

That was a year ago and Portia cursed herself for having to live the answer to that question. With every nerve in her brain there was an explosion threatening to obliterate pieces of reason. Painfully, Portia sought desperately to understand how she’d allowed herself romantic involvement with this man. Her face contorted, as she floated in and out of consciousness. The womanly intuition she’d always counted on to save her, could not assist her now as she tried not to choke on her own blood. Laying on the bathroom floor, a tattered mess in this abandoned building, where Xavier had just tried to kill her for discovering that he was a clone.

Black American History: Why It Matters

It is no secret. Racial tension in the United States has not dwindled. In fact, not only does racism, discrimination, and police brutality continue today but it does so with just as much vigor as if it had been torn from the pages of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. It is today’s current events that will add to the history our children will one day read about. However, to understand one’s future one must first understand the past.

I spend a lot of time speaking about ancient black history but the truth is that many of us do not even know our current American history. The past is filled to the brim with African American contributions but our understanding of these endeavors is either unknown or utterly flawed. Uncle Tom was not a sell out, Christianity was not beat into black people, Rosa Parks is not the first person to refuse to give up her seat on a bus, Negro spirituals was not made up babble, and black people did not die for the right to vote (we died for Freedom). These are just a few of the common misconceptions that are not only regurgitated as truth, but even taught in our schools. And it is the inspiration behind why I write black.

Not only is slavery being taken out of school textbooks, but many people have no idea concerning what these times were truly like. Nor can many people name more than a handful of individuals in relation to black history itself. Many African Americans in particular have no idea of their rich and glorious past which started long before slavery. I write these books because we cannot guarantee that our present will preserve the rich legacy concerning the true birth of a nation. Today Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are the only names many people know and it is a disservice to the many other influential individuals in the black community. Even so, what happens ten years from now? Will Martin King and Rosa Parks names ring foreign? What would have happened if someone long ago did not write about them? Would we have known? Can we depend on modern society to teach history? What happens ten years from now? Will we understand what slavery was really about? Sharecropping? Tenant Farming? Does the black man and woman know who they were before slavery?

The Stella Trilogy is a series of short stories about one family and their search for identity amidst the African American fight for freedom. These books are my attempt to remind all people of our  forgotten legacy so we never forget what freedom looks like.

Stella: The Road to Freedom – Joseph’s Story (Book 3)
Stella: Beyond The Colored Line (Book 2)
Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom (Book 1)

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Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – The Mistreatment of Zora Langston by Lisa W. Tetting

Title: The Mistreatment of Zora Langston (Paperback)
Author: Lisa W. Tetting
Website: https://rebirthoflisa.wordpress.com/
ISBN 13: 9780996142908
Published: March 15, 2015
Publisher: Lisa W. Tetting
Pages: 158 pages
Genre: Coming of Age, Young Adult, Drama, Fiction

Blurb:

“Zora Langston is nine years old when her father dies, leaving her in the hands of a mother who is anything but loving and siblings who never considered her family. Without her father, she is truly alone. Before the dirt has settled on her father’s grave, there’s a new man of the house, and he has no interest in being Zora’s father. Despite her hardships, Zora remains true and allows faith to help free her from this new, horrible life she’s found herself in. She finds solace in her aunt and uncle and, for the first time, starts to discover what it’s like to have a real family. However, just when she thinks she has escaped her tormentors, new abusers emerge, old ones return from hiding, and she must find the strength to survive.”

The Mistreatment of Zora Langston is a Coming of Age novel surrounding the abuse experienced by nine year old Zora Langston. Set in Goldsboro, North Carolina, there is so much to relate to and so much to learn in this powerful testimony of abuse, betrayal, and through it all the ability to still love and to be loved. Ironically, the cause of her father’s death becomes the epitome of tragedy for Zora in more ways than one. His enemies become hers and everywhere she turns, when it seems things are getting better, they only worsen. To start, Zora is not given the chance to mourn her father before her mother’s boyfriend moves in. Her mother, who is supposed to be her shinning example of womanhood and best friend, despises her very existence. Her sister burns with an intense jealousy, and her brother’s nonchalant attitude further illuminates Zora’s invisibility. As a result of continual physical and emotional abuse, she is sent to live with her Aunt Terri and Uncle Jim and for the first time gets to experience what it means to be happy and to have a family. I was excited to see her get excited at those little things that children love.

I think what makes this a moving piece is that it is told from the eyes of a nine year old. I did not expect Zora to endure what she did and the abuse she encountered is shocking. Children have a tendency to be very open and honest even in the midst of grown-up experiences, and Zora is no different. She approaches the situations of her youth with the same level of naïveté as most children. Yet, while Zora’s perspective is rightly child-like, the tragedies she endured makes her stronger and thus her reaction to the situations surrounding her is in many ways also mature, surprising the adults around her who are often taken aback.

What I found especially educational, is how the author incorporated the life lessons of Zora’s dad and the parenting of her Aunt and Uncle into the tragedies of her life, and how those lessons were used to strengthen Zora in the moments she needed them most. In this way, despite the hardships she encountered she was still capable of holding on to a level of innocence deserving of a nine year old. “I usually wore a swim cap…but that made me look like an alien” (pg. 102, Ch. 16) is just one of the many sayings of little Miss Zora that made me laugh out loud. I could have sworn I thought the same thing at her age!

The Mistreatment of Zora Langston is a book of shocking revelations, and raw emotion. As adults, I believe we have a lot to learn from children like Zora. It is not just a book about her, but we also get to see how  adults view situations. How we stress over them, overcome them and react to them compared to how these same situations are viewed and experienced from the eyes of a child who is not yet an adult, but whose life is filled with adult themes. In this way,  debut Author Lisa Tetting proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that “it’s not the love that hurts; its the denial of love.”

Ratings:
Plot Movement / Strength: 4/5
Entertainment Factor: 4/5
Characterization: 5/5
Authenticity / Believable: 5/5
Thought Provoking: 4/5
Recommendation: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

The Mistreatment of Zora Langston is available now on Amazon!

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Book Trailer – Stella Book #3: The Road to Freedom: Joseph’s Story

Coming to Print, Amazon Kindle, B&N NOOK, iBooks, Google Play, Goodreads, and Kobo Friday, February 26, 2016.

Wealthy and clueless are just some of the words Joseph uses to describe his family. Deeply concerned about the state of Black America, a fight with his brother compels a young Joseph to leave his mother’s house and join his friends for a trip to Atlanta for SNCC’s (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) second conference. Excited to live life on their own, Jo and his friends have left school and the lives they were living for a chance to become part of the movement. With no money and essentially no plan the seven friends, three black and four white, set out for the road when they are stopped by a racist cop who makes them exit the car. The teens are unaware that a mob of Klansmen also awaits them at the New Orleans bus terminal.

Discover what life was like for Joseph when he left his mother’s house in the 3rd installment of the Stella Trilogy, years before a mixed race Jo knew that he was mixed race. Determined to be apart of the movement Joseph McNair, son of “Sidney McNair”, and his friends abandon their lives in search for answers in the Jim Crow south on The Road to Freedom.