From “Winnie” by Gwendolyn Brooks as we begin April is #PoetryMonth

April is (US) National Poetry Month.  It’s been a while since I celebrated the month here at Kinna Reads and frankly, I miss it.  There is no theme to this year’s celebration. I might, uncharacteristically,  share more “upbeat” poems since the first three months of 2018 have been quite unsettling, to put it mildly.  Illness and a stream of bad news have me feeling vulnerable and unmoored. As I typed that sentence, I reminded myself that sad poetry can be  sweet and haunting. I’m just going to have fun this month. I’ll be reading at least one poem a day and will post poetry here throughout April. Old favourites and new discoveries.

The above is the first paragraph of a post I scheduled to go live today. I was going to kickoff #PoetryMonth with “May this be a House of Joy” by Lucille Clifton.  But yesterday, April 2nd, brought news of two deaths – the first, private, of a family friend, an uncle; the second, public, of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Both are shattering.  While it’s unimaginable that Mama Winnie is gone, we are grateful for her life and will strive to be worthy of her example.  Lucille Clifton’s “won’t you celebrate with me” is the first poem that came to me when I heard about Mama Winnie.

“won’t you celebrate with me/what i have shaped into/ a kind of life? i had no model… come celebrate/ with me that everyday/ something has tried to kill me/and has failed.”

In my canon, Lucille Clifton and Gwendolyn Brooks sit together.  My favs never disappoint.  Gwendolyn Brooks published Winnie (1996), a pamphlet containing a group of poems dedicated to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. I present one today and will post another tomorrow.

Cde Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, rest in peace. Damrifa due. Nyame mfa wo nsie.


Winnie Mandela, she
the non-fiction statement, the flight into resolving fiction,
vivid over the landscape, a sumptuous sun
for our warming, ointment at the gap of our wounding,
would like to be a little girl again.

Skipping down a country road, singing.

Or a young woman, flirting,
no cares beyond curl-braids and paint
and effecting no change, no swerve, no jangle.

But Winnie Mandela, she,
the She of our vision, the Code,
the articulate rehearsal, the founding mother, shall
direct our choir of makers and wide music.

Think of plants and beautiful weeds in the Wilderness.
They can’t do a thing about it (they are told)
when trash is dumped at their roots.
Have no doubt they’re indignant and daunted.
It is not what they wanted.

Winnie Mandela, she
is there to be vivid: there
to assemble, to conduct the old magic,
the frightened beauty, the trapped wild loveliness, the
crippled reach,
interrupted order, the stalled clarity.

Listen, my Sisters, Brothers, all ye
that dance on the brink of Blackness,
never falling in:
your vision your Code your Winnie is woman grown.

I Nelson the Mandela tell you so.

——– by Gwendolyn Brooks




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