Poetry Wednesday: “The Rose that Grew from Concrete” and “In the Event of My Demise”

Image result for 2pac

I claim to know very little about Tupac Shakur, but, in addition to being a legendary rapper, he was an artist and a poet. Despite a hard life, young Tupac was enrolled in various programs where he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and even ballet. He used his words to raise awareness of the harsh realities of minorities and to decry social injustice (systematic racism). His murder in 1996 remains a tragic mystery, but his legacy is perhaps even stronger in death. After the recent shooting of unarmed Terence Crutcher by a Tulsa police officer, Tupac’s influence is especially relevant. Below are two of his poems followed by a hauntingly moving song by the Outlawz commemorating his poetry and legacy.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

In the Event of My Demise

In the event of my Demise
when my heart can beat no more
I Hope I Die For A Principle
or A Belief that I had Lived 4
I will die Before My Time
Because I feel the shadow’s Depth
so much I wanted 2 accomplish
before I reached my Death

I have come 2 grips with the possibility
and wiped the last tear from My eyes
I Loved All who were Positive
In the event of my Demise

Poetry Wednesday: “Death, be not proud”

Resultado de imagen para death be not proud

 

John Donne, a 17th century English poet, wrote “Death, be not proud,” a sonnet, in 1609. This particular poem was published posthumously along with a group of other poems in a collection known as his Holy Sonnets. These sonnets explore deep religious themes and are thought to have been written in a period of personal trial in Donne’s own life.

Another piece of life added to Donne’s poem is the composition of nine holy sonnets by composer Benjamin Britten in 1945. Though the poems are melancholy, there is a note of redemption, especially poignant in “Death, be not proud.” It is said that Britten was inspired to compose his work after witnessing the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. Both the poem and the musical composition are posted here.

Personally, when I first came across Donne’s poem I was deeply moved by its words and message. Though perhaps a bit gloomy, I have often been drawn to the imaginative personification of Death, the creative macabre (Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman perhaps). Death has been at times depicted as the great devil himself, Satan. At times Death is merely an angel or supernatural entity doing his duty (think of Zusak’s narrator in The Book Thief). At times he is kind and empathetic of life’s tragedies, and at times he is the instigator. For some reason, when I think of Death personified, I hear the last track of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida running through my mind: “No, I don’t wanna battle from beginning to end; / I don’t want a cycle of recycled revenge; I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends.” But Donne’s words are clear and are our hope: “Death, thou shalt die.”

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

 

#HappyWednesday

Poetry Wednesday: “Do not go gentle into that good night”

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Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet who died in 1953 at the age of 39, wrote (among other significant works) “Do not go gentle into that good night.” It is one of my favorite poems and feels truly inspired especially when one considers the strict form it is written in: the Villanelle. Please read and listen to this hauntingly riveting poem.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Additionally, I believe that adaptations are art in their own right, and we need to treat them separately, allowing them to communicate their own life. Thus, here are a few verses recited by Michael Caine’s character in the hit movie Interstellar.

Do you prefer one over the other?

Personally, though I like what Caine was doing in interstellar, I still prefer the original voice of Thomas himself.

#HappyWednesday

Poetry Wednesday: “Theme for English B”

There’s been a lot of controversy brewing again, and again it involves race. Is America as free as we’ve always been taught? Is Colin Kaepernick a nuisance or a hero for refusing to stand during the national anthem? Is the hidden stanza of The Star Spangled Banner directly racist after all?

No matter where you stand on the controversy in the States right now, nearly everyone can agree that throughout America’s history minorities have not been given an equal voice. Please, let’s agree that race is still an issue in the U.S. and, I would say, in all our hearts because we fear what is different from us.Thus, I felt as though this Poetry Wednesday would be ideal to highlight a famous minority voice: Langston Hughes.

(February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that "the negro was in vogue" which was later paraphrased as "when Harlem was in vogue":

Langston Hughes, a Harlem, jazz poet in the early 20th century, embodies the difficult reality and identity of a black man. But he also comments on what makes America who she is: “That’s American. / Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me. / Nor do I often want to be a part of you. / But we are, that’s true!”

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you.
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?

Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

[Used from Poetry Foundation]

 

Poetry Wednesday: “The Peace of Wild Things”

[Here is my first post entitled “Poetry Wednesday.” This is a pretty new blog to begin with, but this particular idea is fresh-outta-the-oven-new. I like the medium of poetry. I once heard someone describe dance as a pure art since dancers rarely get famous and the peak of a dancer’s life is so short (they’re bodies literally cannot handle the grind forever). So you know there’s something embedded in the soul that wills them to make art regardless of notoriety or even longevity. Similarly, I think of poetry as the purest form of writing because poets are so dedicated to their craft. They can’t NOT write poetry. You know this because poets, unlike serial novelists (potentially), can have no grand illusions of wealth/fame. It’s not that kind of field. But it’s important. I thought Wednesdays would be good since poetry has the power to lift us out of our stations and our weeks momentarily, to connect us with the heavens or to remind us of the hells… or all the in-betweens. That’s it for now.]

 

“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

I was first introduced to Wendell Berry by a friend. I haven’t ever sat down and simply read through his collection. I’ve probably read about thirty of his poems, though. I pick them up when I need something. I often find the peace of his writing, the nature-ness of it, is a balm and a quite spot. I want to share a diversity of poetry, but this is one of my favorite poems, a classic, and I knew it would fit rather well as the first on this blog.

A band whose music I enjoy titled an album after this very poem, listing Berry as an influence. They are called Paper Route, and I’ve added a song from that album which I think captures some of the essence of Berry’s writing.

#HappyWednesday #HappyHumpDay