Friday, April 20, 2012

Hope Anita Smith - Education/Application

Hope Anita Smith

I learned that
Bessie Coleman was
the first African American woman
to fly
I could hardly stay in my seat
White folks had me believin’
black folks was chained to the earth
weighted down by the color of our skin
And now this
I was wearin’ my Sunday go to meetin; dress
and my black patent leather shoes
but I couldn’t resist
climbing up on the wall
at Benson Street Park on the way home
I spread my arms and walked to the edge
imagining Bessie sailing above
cutting through clouds
and when I could stand it no longer
I bent myself at the knees
and propelled myself into
why, I do believe
I flew

© Hope Anita Smith. All rights reserved.

Hope Anita Smith has a rather remarkable way with words. I mean, really now, "propelled myself into possibility" is one of those perfectly placed and formed phrases that will never leave my mind and will always be associated with this poem, its story, and the emotional rush I felt at the end. Emotions, in fact, are something that I associate with her poetry in general -from the powerful story of a family in crisis in The Way a Door Closes right through the sadness and healing in Mother Poems, her words pack a powerful punch.

A few years ago here in LA, I decided to go to an SCBWI schmooze where Hope was the featured guest. I didn't know anything about her or her poetry at the time, but I figured I should go and listen since I kinda like writing poetry, too. I was totally blown away not only by what she shared, but how she shared it... the openness, the humor, the honesty, the words. It was a casual evening, but the impact was, like her poetry, quite strong. It's a fond memory for me, and one of many reasons I'm so happy to be able to have Hope Anita Smith here today, sharing her poetry at 30 Poets/30 Days.

The Poetry Friday roundup is over at Random Noodling today. There's a ton of great stuff in the Kidlitosphere this month, so head on over and check it out for another jolt of poetry fun.

Yesterday here at GottaBook we had Something Sweet from Ed DeCaria. Tomorrow... Burning Hot Banana from JonArno Lawson! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.


tanita✿davis said...

I became familiar with this poets MOTHER POEMS, but I hadn't heard others - this I love most of all because of the title. Even IT matches all the words perfectly.

laurasalas said...

This is fabulous! That ending...and "chained to the earth/weighted down by the color of our skin" are my favorite parts!

Hearing Hope read out loud is a powerful thing, isn't it? And she's wickedly funny, to boot.

Thanks for bringing her great poem our way!

KateCoombs said...

I've been reading some painful South Carolina history for a project at work; this makes such a great counterpoint of hope! No pun intended... Thanks, HAS! (I like the shape of the poem on the page/screen, too. It billows like a sail.)

Unknown said...

God, this is gorgeous. Heading to the library to read more.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

so, so wonderful.
thank you Hope, and thank you Greg for sharing this with us!

Martha Calderaro said...

Bessie Coleman inspired the narrator; Hope Anita Smith inspires me today. What a poem! Thank you for this and for the many great poems this month, Greg.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Another "wow" post in this series - Thank you, Greg and Hope. Those last two lines float in the air as you say them, no?

Liz Brownlee said... use the vernacular, it's wizard, it's smashing, it's keen.. (borrowing form Chitty Chitty Bang Bang here).

Ruth said...

It's always great to be introduced to a new poet! Thanks.

BookChook said...

We're so privileged to have poets to help US fly too.

Amy LV said...

The hope and strength in this perfect moment takes one's breath away. Thank you so much to both of you. a.

Charles Waters said...

Oh this put a smile on my face right quick! We need more children's poets with the heart and goodness of Hope Anita Smith.