Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Friday, January 31, 2014

Some African American Poems/Black History Month

As Black History Month, originally the idea of historian Carter Woodson (Negro History Week), is upon us, I thought I'd provide a link to some African American poems recorded for Youtube. Around this time of year, one sometimes hears a couple of complaints about Black History Month: 1) Why isn't there a White History Month? Well, the whole idea is that African American history was buried for a long time under a more-or-less White narrative about the U.S., and some aspects of that history are still buried or under-emphasized. Moreover, just because we concentrate on Black History this month (if we choose to) doesn't mean we're neglecting or degrading other perspectives on history. It isn't an either/or proposition. 2) Why don't we celebrate Black history all the time? Again, the dichotomy is false. Paying particular attention to celebrate or highlight a history during one month doesn't preclude celebrations and studies the rest of the year.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Men Who Leave," by Wendy Bishop

Corresponding With Nostalgia

(re-posting one from 2009)

Corresponding With Nostalgia

The correspondence used to be
Composed of pulp and ink,
Now seems elaborate and slow,
Indeed antique, I think.

The mail comes digitally now,
Encoded on the air.
Yes, personality persists.
And no, it isn't fair

To say we write robotically.
The wait and weight of post--
The palpability of what
I read, I miss the most.


Yet now I'm totally plugged in,
Am tethered to my screens.
I send and post, receive and text.
("Text" now's a verb, it seems.)

A letter to Nostalgia, yes:
I think that's what I'll write.
It will come back: "No such address."
Electrons are Nostalgia's site.
*
*
Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

To the Band With One Hit

We loved it, et cetera. It was the one
we loved. It had that sound, et cetera,
and that et cetera beat. What they called
a hook. What they called a hit. Hook
and hit. You hit the charts. You charted.
Back then there was radio and so on.

None of the rest of what you recorded
sounded quite like the one we loved.
How does that happen? Better question
is how does that not happen, what
with managers and producers, the
distractions of youth, and everything
moving at the speed of sound or light
or Earth or people? The charts

hit you. You all are giving music
lessons now or still in the business
producing or playing in bars or
you became lawyers or electricians.
In the end, who cares? You do, we do,
and nobody does. We loved it. It
made a sound-print on time. Lovely
and permanent and ephemeral,
wow what a word that is, et cetera.
Wishing you well in obscurity from
obscurity; love, us.


hans ostrom 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You've Been One of Those

After you don't, in fact, get it
done, or after they don't let you in,
you sit at a table and look across
at yourself. You stare, shrug, and smile.

For you know it's all been a comedy,
a practical joke:
you knocked on a door and produced
no sound, then found out
it was the wrong door anyway.

You then come to think that
you've been one of those
who sometimes help others
get what they want to do done,
who hear the knocking
and open up.


hans ostrom 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Buttons

Click on the Submit button.
Button up.
Leave the top button unbuttoned.
Never button the bottom button.
He has his finger on the button.
If you could just, if you could just
unbutton it a little bit and oh
a little bit more.
Under the trees, yes,
the button mushrooms arose
like blobs of ghostly paint.
Some dolls and sociopaths
have buttons for eyes.
For some reason, as she waited
for the bus, she thought
of all the lost buttons
in the world, sinking
into soil or stuck
in cracks of pavement,
wood, and concrete.
The extra buttons
on a garment wait
like tiny moons in reserve
for a sky that might need them.



hans ostrom 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Four By the Clock,' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Edge Noir

They were good, the film-noir movies.
They're like a simple but important meal
cooked well. The noir of life

(and remember that noir is full of light),
however, often lurks around edges. So

you are sitting at a kitchen table,
a low drop-light making your drink
of bourbon a featured performer. You
look up and see and hear a woman
talking on a telephone. She has
one of those great 1950s figures--
stylish, so the clothes still fit,
tight enough to show the goods,
modest enough to repulse
losers, no fear of an ample belly,
one knee turned slightly in.

And there's a cat. Here it comes.
It looks at you and yawns as if to
say not one goddamned thing. It is
then that you say to yourself, "I
don't know where I am or who she
is, but I like my hat, I like
the bourbon, and I just have this
feeling everything is going
to turn out fine."



hans ostrom

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I Have

I have a mind
I have a voice
I have a hand
I have a fist
I have a big fist
I have a stick
a rock a blade
I have partners
who have all this.
We have spears.
We have bows.
We have traps.
Oh, we have guns.
We have bombs.
We have ships.
We have planes.
We have rockets.
We have missiles.
We have what it takes
to make our sphere
of everything
nothing.





hans ostrom 2014

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sugar Blues

If I cry for the sugar,
that don't mean the sugar's mine.
Say if I cry for the sugar,
doesn't mean the sugar's mine.
But if you should own the sugar,
doesn't mean the system's fine.

Did you work for the sugar?
I bet your answer's Yes and No.
Ah, did you work for your sugar?
Oh, yeah: the answer's Yes and No.
You didn't do a lick of work,
but yes you put up half the dough.

Wealth don't have a conscience.
It gets as far as maybe guilt.
Wealth don't have no conscience,
only gets as far as guilt.
Right-and-wrong will never bother
the fortress that the wealthy built.

Sugar blues, sugar blues.
Somebody else has got the sweet.
Sugar blues, sugar blues.
I'll never get enough of sweet.
I'm a lost soul on a corner,
a fallen saint out on the street.


copyright hans ostrom 2014

When A Poem Rebels

. . . So anyway, there I was, several

lines into a poem. And the poem

says to me, “That’s it. I quit.”

And I say, “Whoa, I’m just getting

started.” Poem says, “Exactly.”




hans ostrom 2014

Lost Characters

A dock at a lake at night:

the moon. We’ll talk there—

yes: they will have

decided to send us there.


We can’t plan what to say,

and we have no author.

But on the dock, we’ll be

and, being, we’ll know

then what to say.


hans ostrom 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

Paranormal Boredom

The ghost

fell asleep on

the couch

watching a

"reality" TV-show

about paranormal

activity.



hans ostrom 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Agoraphobic New Year

(to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne")


Will agoraphobics please

come out and help

bring in the Year?


No, that's all right. Thanks

anyway; we can see from

here just fine!




hans ostrom 2014