Sunday, February 25, 2018

Special Feature: Black Haiku: The Uses of Haiku by African American Poets

My Dear Readers:

In celebration of Black History Month,  an annual observance in the United States and Canada in February,  I am pleased to introduce you to an insightful two-part essay, "Black Haiku: The Uses of Haiku by African American Poets," written by Charles Trumbull and first published in Modern Haiku, 47:1 and 47:2, 2016. Part I ("Establishing A Tradition") of the essay "trace[s] the origins of the African American haiku tradition in the early years of the 20th century, show[s] how the haiku consciousness of the Harlem Renaissance poets led to the Black Arts movement and haiku of black awareness, and examine[s] the work of a number of black poets ..." (p. 29, Modern Haiku, 47:2, 2016). Part II ("Jazz and Blues Haiku") of the essay "trace[s] another important legacy of the Harlem Renaissance, haiku grounded in quintessential African American lyrical forms, jazz and the blues" (ibid.).

Below are the haiku selected from the essay for your reading pleasure:

I am nobody:
A red sinking autumn sun
Took my name away.

From a tenement,
The blue jazz of a trumpet
Weaving autumn mists

In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his hands
Until they turn white.

Richard Wright

slave quarters ...
the shapes of their shadows
in this dust

white only -- knowing the season before she crossed it

bitter night -- smelling the heat of a burning cross

Duro Jaiye

the autumn morning
a worm's hole
filled with dew

Dwight L. Wilson

bobbing and bobbing
on the jazz club wall --
the bassist's shadow

hot afternoon
the squeak of my hands
on my daughter's coffin

Lenard D. Moore

Eastern guard tower
glints in sunset; convicts rest
like lizards on rocks

Etheridge Knight

black faces ashen
in summer night commotion
handcuffs gleam

L. Teresa Church

his face like chiseled
china his eyes clotting
around rubber asses.

when i die
i shall take
your smell
inside me.

Sonia Sanchez

April sunrise --
my finger in the cleft of
a peach

DJ Renegade

Bottomless, one word
he said while enveloped
by folds of woman.

Tara Betts

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