THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Thursday, February 26, 2009
JAKI SHELTON GREEN: Poet of the Week
I'm happy to feature my friend Jaki Shelton Green as my NC Laureate's Poet of the Week.
As the first Piedmont Laureate, she offers the following poem, “who will be the messenger of this land,” as her February “poem of the month.”
The Piedmont Laureate program is dedicated to building a literary bridge for residents to come together and celebrate the art of writing. Co-sponsored by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission, and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, the program’s key goal is to: “promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont region.”
Jaki's publications include “Dead on Arrival,” “Masks,” “Conjure Blues,” and “breath of the song,” which was cited as one of two Best Poetry Books of the Year by the Independent Weekly. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Ms. Magazine, Essence, The Crucible, and Obsidian and she has performed her poetry and taught writing workshops throughout the United States, Caribbean, Europe, Central and South America. Her poetry has also been choreographed by groups such as African American Dance Ensemble, Two Near the Edge, and the ChoreoCollective, and awards include the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2003, 2006 Artist in Residence at the Taller Portobelo Artist Colony, and the 2007 recipient of the Sam Ragan Award.
Poems from her most recent book, breath of the song (Carolina Wren Press), follow her February poem. ****************************************
who will be the messenger of this land
by Jaki Shelton Green
who will be the messenger of this land count its veins speak through the veins translate the language of water navigate the heels of lineage who will carry this land in parcels paper, linen, burlap who will weep when it bleeds and hardens forgets to birth itself
who will be the messenger of this land wrapping its stories carefully in patois of creole, irish, gullah, twe, tuscarora stripping its trees for tea and pleasure who will help this land to remember its birthdays, baptisms weddings, funerals, its rituals denials, disappointments, and sacrifices
who will be the messengers of this land harvesting its truths bearing unleavened bread burying mutilated crops beneath its breasts
who will remember to unbury the unborn seeds that arrived in captivity shackled, folded, bent, layered in its bowels
we are their messengers with singing hoes and dancing plows with fingers that snap beans, arms that raise corn, feet that cover the dew falling from okra, beans, tomatoes
we are these messengers whose ears alone choose which spices whose eyes alone name basil, nutmeg, fennel, ginger, cardamom, sassafras whose tongues alone carry hemlock, blood root, valerian, damiana, st. john's wort these roots that contain its pleasures its languages its secrets
we are the messengers new messengers arriving as mutations of ourselves we are these messengers blue breath red hands singing a tree into dance
razor blades did not slash rainbows hands did not steal light from the dawn prayers spoken in tongues did not dissolve into silk pocket linings air could be bartered for fire war could reinvent itself as a prayer of silence
for darnell arnoult
perhaps it is the joy of tomato sandwiches the smell of jergens and jean nate at thirteen or our love still for grandmothers aunts who enter rooms largely sideways hips broad enough to use as sideboards maybe it is the value we place on duke's mayonnaise the sandwich spread for queens . . .
whatever wherever and for ever more we are little girls revisiting space rebuilding houses renaming mothers . . .
perhaps it is the secret knotted inside the pleats of skirt hems sewn along scarf edges fringed secret whispers that whisper a familiar smell . . .
whatever we become sisters stealing a moment to cast word spells undress our mothers repaint their lips with anything red anything italian drench their heads with ancient clairol wisdom anoint their hands with herstorical bronze queen of the nile henna . . .
we reembrace lace full petticoats white linen skirts sailor dresses patent leather
for the pretty pirates swans ballerinas we will become . . ..
perfumed necks wrists adorned in vintage memory cut carefully along the edges of this madness this magic . . .
we lie down and wait for the moon to trace us.
i know the grandmother one had hands
i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always in bowls folding, pinching, rolling the dough making the bread i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always under water sifting rice blueing clothes starching lives i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always in the earth planting seeds removing weeds growing knives burying sons i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always under the cloth pushing it along helping it birth into skirt dress curtains to lock out night i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always inside the hair parting plaiting twisting it into rainbows i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always inside pockets holding the knots counting the twisted veins holding onto herself lest her hands disappear into sky i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always inside the clouds poking holes for the rain to fall.
in the season of rising up in the morning granddaughters give new meaning to great day in the sky sky with small fists, pinching clouds reshaping stars into skirts wearing moon shadows like capes we turn raindrops into buttons stitch hair balls along the hems of dresses fire dresses new granddaughters wear new earth clothes spell their name sistuh prepare new warriors to prepare new earths check skirts for hems lined with hail dust never admitting to treason
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.