Thursday, October 4, 2012

25 Poems by Black Women about the City

By Cindy Lyles 

A recent conversation with a friend revealed that she takes a course called “African-American Life in the City,” which is taught by Professor Tricia Rose. The name alone spurred me to contemplate my research on black people in urban contexts and produce a list of verse about the city written by black women poets.

In the following list, some of the poems merely graze the surface by referencing a city, while others unfold complete scenes in a metropolitan milieu. Either way, the city situations in each poem offer readers another way to categorize and consider black poetry and life within the urban American experience.

1. “Haircut” by Elizabeth Alexander
2. “a song in the front yard”  by Gwendolyn Brooks
3. “kitchenette building” by Gwendolyn Brooks
4. “Patent Leather” by Gwendolyn Brooks
5. “Matthew Cole” by Gwendolyn Brooks
6. “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks
7. “in the inner city” by Lucille Clifton
8. “I Am New York City” by Jayne Cortez
9. “Nikka-Rosa” by Nikki Giovanni
10. “Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem” by Helene M. Johnson
11. “Pedestrian Blues” by Allison Joseph
12. “Really Mean Girls” by Allison Joseph
13. “While Poets Are Watching” by Coleen McElroy
14. “Black Statue of Liberty” by jessica Care moore
15. “Project Princess” by Tracie Morris
16. “On Becomin Successful” by Ntozake Shange
17. “improper(ty) behavior” by Evie Shockley
18. “Hip-Hop Ghazal” by Patricia Smith
19. “Motown Crown” by Patricia Smith
20. “Man on the TV Say” by Patricia Smith (click title on site for audio)
21. “Won’t Be But a Minute” by Patricia Smith
22. “Superdome” by Patricia Smith
23. “Thankful” by Patricia Smith
24. “Loot” by Patricia Smith
25. “For my people” by Margaret Walker

Cindy Lyles is a program coordinator and contributing writer for Black Studies @ SIUE.

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