Q:

What poems are suitable for Black History Month?

A:

Poems suitable for Black History Month celebrate changes that have occurred, as in "Booker T. and W.E.B." by Dudley Randall and Lucille Clifton's "Won't you celebrate with me?" Other fitting poems discuss past events. These include "Ma Rainey" by Sterling A. Brown, "For My People" by Margaret Walker, "Letter to Brooks: Spring Garden" by Major Jackson and "Lonely Eagles" by Marilyn Nelson.

Poems that observe the world and call for action are appropriate for Black History Month. Examples of these are "My Country ’Tis of Thee" by W.E.B. Du Bois, "Elliptical" by Harryette Mullen and "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou.

Some poems explore individual characters, such as Terrance Hayes' "Ode to Big Trend," Melvin B. Tolson's "The Birth of John Henry" and Cornelius Eady's "Nina's Blues." Others explore relationships between men and women, as in "Unholy Women" by Chris Abani, "A Negro Love Song" by Paul Laurence Dunbar and "Lothar’s Wife" by Colleen J. McElroy.

Poems like "Skinny-Dippin’ in the Gene Pool" by Thulani Davis," "Black Boys Play the Classics" by Toi Derricotte and "I, Too" by Langston Hughes consider contemporary situations. "Praise Song for the Day," written by Elizabeth Alexander for Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, also fits into this category. By contrast, traditions are explored in Honorée Fanonne Jeffers' "The Gospel of Barbecue."


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