Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrating Toni Morrison & June Jordan

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Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrating Toni Morrison & June Jordan

March is Woman’s History Month, and in celebration today’s Thoughtful Thursday features two powerful poems by two artistic powerhouses: Toni Morrison and June Jordan.

Toni Morrison (1931–2019), while best known for her critically acclaimed and prize winning novels, wrote one volume of poetry, Five Poems (Rainmaker Editions, 2002), which features poems alongside illustrations by Kara Walker. The first of these poems, “Eve Remembering”, gives Eve’s unapologetic view of that fateful day in the Garden of Eden.

June Jordan (1936-2002) was a beloved and award winning poet, playwright, activist, children’s book author, and political essayist who had an unwavering commitment to human rights and political activism.  She believed that “the task of a poet of color, a black poet, as a people hated and despised, is to rally the spirit of your folks.” She did so with her numerous volumes of poetry, plays and essays, and by teaching at many universities including Yale, State University of New York-Stony Brook, and the University of California-Berkley.  Her extensive list of fans includes Toni Morrison, who wrote of Jordan’s career:  “I am talking about a span of forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art.”

Jordan’s poem “Oughta Be a Woman” reminds us that the women who raised us and cared for us, our rocks, deserve care, compassion, and rest.  Once you’ve read it, listen to how it  was beautifully set to music by the acapella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Share these with your children, and enjoy.

 

Eve Remembering

1

I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.

2

Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see.

3

I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be.

Toni Morrison

 

Oughta Be a Woman

Washing the floors to send you to college
Staying at home so you can feel safe
What do you think is the soul of her knowledge
What do you think that makes her feel safe

Biting her lips and lowering her eyes
To make sure there’s food on the table
What do you think would be her surprise
If the world was as willing as she’s able

Hugging herself in an old kitchen chair
She listens to your hurt and your rage
What do you think she knows of despair
What is the aching of age

The fathers, the children, the brothers
Turn to her and everybody white turns to her
What about her turning around
Alone in the everyday light

There oughta be a woman can break
Down, sit down, break down, sit down
Like everybody else call it quits on Mondays
Blues on Tuesdays, sleep until Sunday
Down, sit down, break down, sit down

A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Courage that cries out at night
A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Bravery kept outa sight
A way outa no way is too much to ask
Too much of a task for any one woman

June Jordan

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