Friday, November 30, 2012

Alice B.'s Autobiographer

The modernism of/
“Pigeons on the grass alas"/
Affirms her sainthood. 

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), by Van Vechten, 1934.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Great Career

Master syncretist/
American dance icon/
"Katherine the Great."

Katherine Dunham (1909-2006), by Van Vechten, 1940.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Legends Week

Muses never die/
This modern-day Terpsichore/ 
True legend of dance. 

 Agnes de Mille (1905-1993), by Van Vechten, 1940.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Resounding Praise

Artist and scholar/
Whose output clarified her/
Love “for her people.”  

 Margaret Walker (1915-1998), by Van Vechten, 1942.

 Below is a reprint of one of Walker's most famous works:

For My People

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs

     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
     unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
    gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
    dragging along never gaining never reaping never
    knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
    Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
    people who and the places where and the days when, in
    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
    were black and poor and small and different and nobody
    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
    be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
    play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
    marry their playmates and bear children and then die
    of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
    Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
    Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
    people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
    people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and
    land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
     being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
     burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
     and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
     who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
     the dark of churches and schools and clubs
     and societies, associations and councils and committees and
     conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
     devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
     preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
     false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
    trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
    loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
    healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
    in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
    rise and take control.

Margaret Walker, “For My People” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press. Source: Poetry (November 1937)

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Girl Named Vincent

The mettle of a/
“Conscientious Objector”/
In a crucible. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), by Van Vechten, 1933.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

American Poetry

“we do not admire/
what we cannot understand”/
Writeth the poet. 

Marianne Moore (1887-1972), by Van Vechten, 1948.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Prevalence of Ritual

"Enchanter in time"/
Exploring art's  linkages/
A true conjure man.

Romare Bearden (1911-1988), by Van Vechten, 1944.