The poet Langston Hughes was a great inspiration to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Examples of their connection are expansive. In 1956, King recited Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son” from the pulpit to honor his wife Coretta, who was celebrating her first Mother’s Day. That same year, Hughes wrote a poem about Dr. King and the bus boycott titled “Brotherly Love.” At the time, Hughes was much more famous than King, who was honored to have become a subject for the poet. To honor MLK’s legacy today, here’s Langston Hughes’s famous poem “I, Too.”
Ego Tripping (there may be a Reason)
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad
I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman
I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat's meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can't catch me
For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on
My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save
I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents
I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission
I mean...I...can fly
like a bird in the sky...
Such collections are always subjective- you'll always wonder why something was left out, and I noticed a couple of absences myself- but that's part of the fun, and I discovered a few gems I'd never seen before such as Old Lem, Mercy Killing, Freedom Candy and those Winter Sundays, as well as the immortal standards Harlem, Nikki-Rosa, Lift Every Voice and Sing and of course Giovanni's own magnum opus: Ego Tripping- There May Be A Reason Why, which I will always consider to be one of the finest examples of not only African-American but American culture ever created (see above). The cd is a treat- readings of about a third of the selections done by the authors themselves and notables like Ruby Dee and of course, Giovanni.
It's an excellent collection of poetry and very much a time travel device, taking you for a look back to those days when... though sometimes they don't seem all that distant. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone of any age or race but especially to African-Americans. Like singing in the cotton fields it's a chorus of bright, strong voices from our past to lighten the load a little and help guide the way as you ease on down the road.
Every year, I like to set a few reading goals for myself: number of books, specific titles, and so forth. Because my whims change with the days and new books always catch my attention, I have yet to have one year where I complete my intended goals. So, I've decided that this year I'm going to keep it simple. I intend to read less, to slow down and really focus on and enjoy what I'm reading.
...But I love lists too much. And I cannot resist the urge to make a list of books I “will” complete this year. It's a practice I began in 2012—to identify ten books that will be read by the end of the year. Guess what? I've never read all ten in a year. I still have four holdouts from 2017, plus two others from farther back. So my only concrete goal this year is to complete my 2018 list in its entirety and to read the books from prior years. Other than that, my only goal is to enjoy what I'm reading. I'll set a reading challenge of so many books like I always do, but I'll keep it low so I don't become consumed with it.
So what will I be reading in 2018? These are the ten books that I am committing to. I think I'll be able to complete my challenge this year, assuming the world doesn't go up in smoke first. This year's list has more non-fiction than any prior list because I've had a desire to read more non-fiction lately. I mostly read fiction and I'd like to branch out some.
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
My interest in New Zealand and its literature goes back many years. I've made it a point to read more works by New Zealanders, but despite good intentions, I have avoided this Man Booker winner. I'm expecting good things from this one.
Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman by Cathy Wilkerson
In undergrad, I watched the documentary about The Weatherman Organization and was very intrigued. I told myself I'd learn more about them and would possibly write a novel focused on them. I've been saving these Weatherman memoirs until I began researching for that novel, but now I'm not sure I'll ever tackle that project. Project or no project, I've decided to stop putting it off.
The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
I really want to like Doris Lessing, but my first and only experience with her so far (The Cleft) was so off-putting that I've avoided her for more than a decade. I never want to judge any author by one book, so I'm making a point to read her debut novel in 2018. I'm hoping for better results.
Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath by Paul Ham
I have a strong interest in the WWII destruction of Japan, particularly the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I've read some of these historical accounts before and will likely come across much of the same information in this large volume, but it's time to brush up on the subject.
Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean
Dean's previous work was a novel about a girl's obsession with spaceflight during the days surrounding the Challenger disaster. Her second book is this exploration of the rise and fall of NASA. I've had this one on the top of my to-read pile since its publication in 2015, but haven't made time for it.
Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes is one of the more notable authors to have resided in my part of the world. I've always had the best intentions of reading local authors, especially those who were pioneers and helped shape the way for others, but I've never read more than the occasional poem by Hughes.
The Sky Unwashed by Irene Zabytko
When I first started working at the library more than ten years ago, I saw this book on the shelf and was attracted to its sepia cover, its gorgeous title, and its intriguing description. It was one of the very first books to be added to my to-read list at my new job. Ten years later I still work at the library and I still haven't read this short novel about the Chernobyl accident.
The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
We loved A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, didn't we? Yet I, like many readers apparently, did not transition well to Marra's follow up two years later, this collection of short stories. Even though I absolutely loved his debut novel, I just wasn't interested in this volume. Adding it to my list will force my hand, I figure.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
There's been so much praise heaped on this book. It's time I give this historical gem a try.
This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann
Last year, I read and absolutely loved McCann's Letters to a Young Writer. I'd spent some time with the author previously, but it was this slim volume about writing that made a big fan out of me. I told myself I'd make it a point to return to the author as soon as possible. And I figured I might as well start with the novel that launched his career.
And my unfinished books from prior years:
The Counterfeiters by Andre Gide
The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Mama Day by Gloria Naylor
Union Dues by John Sayles
Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley
Seeing all sixteen of these listed, I'm already feeling overwhelmed. I've learned the key to completing my list is to not put off the list to the middle of the year. I really need to be checking off one or two of these titles every month. Intention set.
While I'm making an already long post longer, here are some of the top titles, old and new, I hope to get around to in 2018: The Temple of the Dawn by Yukio Mishima, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton, Erasure by Percival Everett, The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro, Winter by Ali Smith, Parnucklian for Chocolate by B.H. James, 1996 by Gloria Naylor, Hot Pink by Adam Levin, and... I can keep going forever. See how I get myself in trouble?
Do you set reading goals for your year? Do you find it helpful to do so, or imposing? What do you look forward to reading in 2018?
Square 9 - Winter Solstice
Book: Selected Poems of Langston Hughes
Task: I read Reasons Mommy Drinks in one night earlier this month.
Bonus Task: 3 things I like about my grandmothers
Since my grandmothers have left this world, this is more of a memory of each of them.
1. Nana Trunzo
Technically, my great-grandmother who came over from Italy when she was a baby with her family. She ensured that the Italian traditions our family celebrated stayed true to the Old World. She remained loyal to her friends, regularly meeting up with them for gab sessions over strong coffee and cookies.
2. Nana Rotolo
Daughter of Nana Trunzo and my paternal grandmother. She had the most chic style in fashion. She could throw a party - kids' birthday, cocktail, family reunions - with effortless style. She also had brains and could knock out crossword and logic puzzle books with ease. I got her reading gene and she took me to the public library every two weeks.
3. Grandma Cowles
My maternal grandmother. She handled being a military wife while raising four kids (my mom is the youngest). She was left a widow early and remarried to keep her family intact while working full time in the 60s and 70s. She was widowed again before my mom graduated high school, but no matter what life threw out at her, she handled it with aplomb and a plan of action. She moved in with us while my mom went through a painful divorce from my birth father and stayed until my mom was emotionally, mentally, and financially stable to live on her own with two teenagers.
Square 13 Christmas
Task: Pictures of stockings (my son's, my daughter's, my dog's) and our Christmas tree sans gifts because I don't trust my kids not to get into them before the big morning.
Bonus Task: Family Christmas traditions
With my Italian family, we had the Feast of the 7 Fishes for supper, followed by board games and cards until it was time to bundle everyone into the cars for a trip to church and Midnight Mass, complete with candlelight. Then we went to our respective homes to sleep and enjoy our Christmas mornings, followed by getting together for Christmas Day dinner, more unwrapping of gifts, more board games and cards. No TV was allowed to be on except for the Yule log - Nanas' orders. Music was allowed, but on low volume so that conversation could flow.
When my parents divorced, my Irish mother got rid of the never-ending seafood buffet and instituted a new tradition on Christmas Eve - the open house party. Friends and family would come to our house after getting off work for the holiday and we would eat appetizers and holiday drinks and watch It's A Wonderful Life. Once it was close to the time to go to Midnight Mass (thankfully at a different church), the house guests were welcomed to come with us or went home. The next day would be all about just the three of us (mom, me, and my younger sister).
With my own kids, we just eat antipasta and cookies, watch movies, and get into new pajamas.