Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Mama's Promises by Marilyn Nelson Waniek
I discovered this poet at the AP English Literature grading session in Louisville, KY this past June. The poem “The Century Quilt” had all the qualities of poetry I like to read and emulate. Most of the poems in the collection share these qualities. The poem is long, but the first two stanzas provide a good idea of Waniek’s work:
My sister and I were in love
With Meema’s Indian blanket.
We fell asleep under army green
Issued to Daddy by Supply
When Meema came to live with us
She brought her medicines, her cane,
And the blanket I found on my sister’s bed
The last time I visited her.
I remember how I’d planned to inherit
that blanket, how we used to wrap ourselves
at play in its folds and be chieftains
Now I’ve found a quilt
I’d like to die under;
Six Van Dyke brown squares,
Two white ones, and one square
the yellowbrown of Mama’s cheeks.
Each square holds a sweet gum leaf
Whose fingers I imagine
Would caress me into silence. (37)
Another good example of a clever, humorous poem is “A Strange Beautiful Woman”:
A strange beautiful woman
Met me in the mirror
The other night.
What are you doing here?
She asked me
The same thing. (1).
A few are a bit obtuse and long, but I think a second reading might repair that view. So, I will hold back a star until I come around to these again. Four Stars