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
but do not be misled by details
simply because you live them.
Do not let your head deny
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
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
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
only nothing is
Speak proudly to your children
where ever you may find them
you are offspring of slaves
and your mother was
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.