Columbia's Favorite Poetry - Today, featuring Cassie Premo Steele

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In celebration of National Poetry Month the Jasper Project invited several artists, writers, and leaders in the Columbia arts community to share with us their favorite poems and most of them generously accepted.

We’ve put together this collection of our favorite poems and will be sharing them with you, poem by poem, day by day, over the month of April. Some of the poems are old and traditional, others are new and inventive. Some are whimsical, others are insightful. Some rhyme. Some don’t.

What they all have in common is that someone you know loves that poem – and this gives us such lovely insight into the soul of our community.

Thank you to everyone who shared their poetry with us.

And Happy National Poetry Month from Jasper.

 

Our fist poem is from poet and author Cassie Premo Steele.

 

Cassie Premo Steele

 

"My favorite poem is For Each of Us by Audre Lorde. Audre Lorde's poetry has been important to me throughout my life, so much so that I remember being in my twenties and feeling like life was worth living because I hadn't yet read everything she'd written. I love this poem especially because it is fierce and wise and supportive, but with the paradox of truth that makes Lorde a poet-philosopher. Power and pain exist together. Preparing a meal is essential, but there is more to life. The best politics come when we quiet down and do the work. Nothing is eternal, even the deepest love. And yet, we go on loving and nurturing in a spirit of pride and strength."

 

FOR EACH OF YOU

By Audre Lorde

 

Be who you are and will be

learn to cherish

that boisterous Black Angel that drives you

up one day and down another

protecting the place where your power rises

running like hot blood

from the same source 

as your pain.

 

When you are hungry

learn to eat

whatever sustains you

until morning

but do not be misled by details

simply because you live them.

 

Do not let your head deny

your hands

any memory of what passes through them

nor your eyes

nor your heart

everything can be used

except what is wasteful

(you will need

to remember this when you are accused of destruction.) 

Even when they are dangerous examine the heart of those machines you hate

before you discard them

and never mourn the lack of their power

lest you be condemned

to relive them.

If you do not learn to hate

you will never be lonely

enough

to love easily

nor will you always be brave

although it does not grow any easier

 

Do not pretend to convenient beliefs

even when they are righteous

you will never be able to defend your city

while shouting.

 

Remember whatever pain you bring back 

from your dreaming

but do not look for new gods

in the sea

nor in any part of a rainbow

Each time you love

love as deeply as if were

forever

only nothing is

eternal.

 

Speak proudly to your children

where ever you may find them

tell them

you are offspring of slaves

and your mother was

a princess

in darkness. 

 

 

Cassie Premo Steele is the author of fifteen books, including six books of poetry, and her new novel, The ReSisters, will be out later this year.

 

 Cassie Premo Steele

Cassie Premo Steele