Friday, May 30, 2014

Poetry Friday Roundup

Earlier this week, a sixth grade teacher asked me for help pulling together some resources for a lesson about Maya Angelou. In my research, I came across a poem by Kevin W. Riley, the principal of El Milagro, a charter high school in California.  It's not by Maya Angelou, but it's based on her words and her thinking.

Riley said this about his poem:
"A flurry of blogs—including Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant”– have invited their readers to write an open letter to President-Elect Obama.  It is a cool idea so I decided to write one.  If you scroll down to the next post you will find it.  But then I saw Larry King interview Maya Angelou about her poem “On The Pulse of Morning” which was written for Bill Clinton on the occasion of his first inauguration.  Dr. Angelou said she has not yet been asked to write an Inaugural Poem for President Obama but said she would write one for him anyway– which is also a cool idea.  So I wrote one of those too. 
This is my Poem on the Inauguration of America. It was written moments after CNN announced Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. It gives voice— at least for me— to the deep emotions, the catharsis, and the extraordinary pride I feel in him. And in America.  And the very long road we have walked."

January 20, 2009
Written for Barack Obama,  the 44th President of the United States
By Kevin W. Riley

“Here on the pulse of this new day, you may have the grace to look up and out and into your sister’s eyes, into your brother’s face, your country and say simply, very simply, with hope, good morning.”

–Maya Angelou “On The Pulse of Morning” 

I am
Hope– tempered, with no guarantee.
But if ever He loved a people
Surely now He has heard our prayers…
Whispered through days and years and generations–
Through all America’s time
To let us be who we must be;
To even once know what it means to be ONE nation.

I am only Hope.
My arms are thin.
I speak as if all of God’s angels have somehow filled my lungs
with righteous air.
I am your mouth. His voice.
Our hands–
That the promise of humankind might at last be realized.

But I cannot be who YOU will not be…

Read the rest of Riley's poem here

One of the things that I have loved about Maya Angelou is that she was such a bringer of hope, such an "overcomer." I could share her brave, strong words with kids and tell them about all of the hardship she had overcome. I could share with kids how courageous she had been.

And I could say to my students, who have lives so hard that it regularly takes my breath away, "Look, you can do it too…"

Diane, at Random Noodling, has the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Linda B said...

I like how you connected there at the end, using Maya Angelous as a beacon for your students, Carol. "Look, you can do it too." And the poem is so filled with emotion and fervor. We were so excited, weren't we?
"I ride a mighty wave."

Diane Mayr said...

We need others to come forward and take up her work. Hers was one large voice that will be hard to replace. I think the President is doing well in bringing more voices of people of color to the White House and its functions.

Tricia said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful poem. The line "I stand on shouldered giants, most for whom history has not reserved a name" harkens back to Isaac Newton who said he stood on the shoulders of giants, all scientists who can be named. I like the notion of all those unnamed men and women who paved the way to the bright future and hope mentioned in the poem.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Powerful, powerful words. I love that she has been a role model for your students-- that's as it should be. She was a role model for us all.

Mary Lee said...

What an amazing poem, although it's a bit hard to read it, remembering all that hope we felt and seeing how it all has turned out these 6 years later.

But still, we HOPE...

Tara said...

Bittersweet, reading this. Perhaps there was simply too much hope, unrealistic hope. I still admire our President, though, and marvel at his unerring grace in the face of so much unrelenting hatred from some.