Category Poetry

Kick-Ass Black Woman Tells It: Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”

Before she died in 2014, Maya Angelou had for decades enjoyed oil wells pumping in her living room, gold mines spewing riches in her backyard, and for a nice sexy touch, she appeared to keep diamonds at the meeting of her thighs. (No word on whether they came from a diamond mine in her bedroom…)

We know this because she described these mighty assets in her 1978 volume from Random House, “And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems,” one selection simply dropping the “And” to make “Still I Rise” the near-title poem in the collection. (The poem is printed in full below.)

Angelou was a seeming force of nature over the course of her 50+ year career as a memoirist, essayist, poet and civil rights activist. Morally serious, unafraid, measured and eloquent, her voice resounded both on the page and into microphones, making her compulsively listenable.

She was a kind of James Earl Jones of the literary set, giving nothing aw...

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Not Just Splashing Around: Maxine Kumin’s “Morning Swim”

Swimming is a fine and salutary activity—aesthetically pleasing, easy on joints, good for heart and soul, huge fun for kids exhausting themselves on a summer day splashing around, playing “Marco Polo” and hoisting themselves onto the deck for endless cannonball jumps into the water as parents keep an eye out from nearby chaise lounges, the drink holders securing their refreshments of choice.

What’s not to love?

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) loved swimming too, but her “Morning Swim” poem, first published in “The New Yorker” magazine in 1962 and later in a couple of collections, isn’t about any of the swimming described above.

Kumin was a lifelong swimmer (on the team all four years at Radcliffe) who took to the water with a poet’s sensibilities. The particular swim she describes—in the “chilly solitude” of dark morning fog in a lake, “oily and nude” after hanging her bathrobe on ...

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On Walking in Barren Woods, Alone


       By Andrew Hidas

If these leaves were raindrops fallen to earth I would be slogging through mud above my shins, but dried and golden they instead yield with a delicate shrush, my only concern being to lend them my weight gingerly lest my ankle land on a hidden root or rock that sends me tumbling through the hushed forest where no other sound intrudes. Barely off the busy thoroughfare, these barren woods a sanctuary, a quietude, no engine roar nor backlit screen suggesting the constant thrum of all the otherness one shakes off one’s boots in pursuit of another rootedness, of self and silence, untethered under pure autumnal skies. This falling-fallen-decaying-renewing cycle, old as time itself, playing out from treetop to forest floor in an endless vertical loop, unmoved by humankind but subject nevertheless to its assaults...

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Two Kim Addonizio Poems About Desire

Kim Addonizio wants it. To hell with all the constraints and niceties, the prim and proper, the “Oh no, don’t worry about me”-isms, the good Christian girl’s reticence and restraint, bland wallflowerism reigning supreme.

Ditto Buddhist non-attachment. Bosh! on all that pretending not to care or hope or want because you might not get it, or might fall short, or it might not be that good anyway, or it will just make you want more, and then you’ll be disconsolate, sobbing quietly into your pillow in some corner of your upstairs bedroom so as not to bother Mom and Dad.

“Damn right I’ll want more!” Addonizio has been roaring, often in desperate, despairing, haunting, but rarely wordless and never quiet straits through a now long writing career focused initially and still on poetry, but also coming to include well-received fiction, short stories, writing guides and memoir.

A kind of resident bad girl of ...

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For the Broken-Winged Bee In Search of Its Hive


                                        By Andrew Hidas

Such nobility in its helplessness,
Not desperate, merely determined,
Heeding no other impulse,
Following no other program
But the relentless quest
To rejoin its mates and
Once again serve its queen.

Crossing vast swaths of concrete,
Like a nomad in the Sahara
Shorn of water and shade,
Exposed and alone in the world.

Surely, such an epic endeavor
Deserves no less than a film score
With mournful violins and a cello
Accompanying each tortuous step.

Instead, an audience of two,
The only music our murmurings
Of admiration and lamentation
For this most primitive of struggles
Against the encroaching doom.

We see ourselves, of course,
In the bee’s long journey,
Seeking home and the solace of our tribe,
The temple of our familiars*
Who wait with words of balm.


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