What Would Gwendolyn Brooks do by Parneshia Jones

I subscribe to an email list called Poem-a-Day. Sometimes the poems I get in my inbox are old favorites and sometimes I’ve never heard of them before. Sometimes I read them and sometimes I don’t. It’s nice, though, that I always have one there that I can choose to read if I’m in the mood for it.

So, when I got to school on Monday morning, I had this poem waiting for me in my inbox. The title caught my eye, and I’m glad I took the time to read it… and then to go listen to Parneshia read it on poets.org (click the speaker button near the top)… and then to share it with our 7th and 8th grade ELA teachers in the hopes that they might pair it with a Gwendolyn Brooks poem from their textbooks.

I hope that you, too, take the time to read it. This poem eloquently and fearlessly describes so much of what’s going on in our country today that I just had to share.


What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do

Dawn oversees percolating coffee
and the new wreckage of the world.

I stand before my routine reflection,
button up my sanity,
brush weary strands of hair with pomade
and seal cracked lips of distrust
with cocoa butter and matte rouge.

I ready myself once again
for morning and mortify.
Stacking poetry and bills in a knapsack;
I bundle up hope (it’s brutal out there).

For a moment, I stand with ghosts
and the framed ancestors surrounding me.
I call out, hoping she can hear me
over the day-breaking sirens—
hoping she’s not far away,
or right down the street,
praying over another dead black boy.

How will we make it through this, Ms. Brooks?

                     Hold On.

When she held a body,
she saw much worse than this.
I know she was earshot and fingertip close to oppression.
She saw how hateful hate could be.
She raised babies, taught Stone Rangers,
grew a natural and wrote around critics.

She won a Pulitzer in the dark.

She justified our kitchenette dreams,
and held on.
She held on to all of us.

                    Hold On, she whispers.

Another day, when I have to tip-toe
around the police and passive-aggressive emails
from people who sit only a few feet away from me.
Another day of fractured humans
who decide how I will live and die,
and I have to act like I like it
so I can keep a job;
be a team player, pay taxes on it;
I have to act like I’m happy to be
slammed, severed, and swindled.
Otherwise, I’m just part of the problem—
a rebel rouser and rude.

They want me to like it, or at least pretend,
so the pretty veils that blanket who we really are—
this complicated history, can stay pretty and veiled
like some desert belly dancer
who must be seen but not heard.

                     Hold On.

We are a world of lesions.
Human has become hindrance.
We must be stamped and have papers,
and still, it’s not enough.
Ignorance has become powerful.
The dice that rolls our futures is platinum
but hollow inside.

Did you see that, Ms. Brooks?
Do you see what we’ve become?
They are skinning our histories,
deporting our roots,
detonating our very right to tell the truth.
We are one step closer to annihilation.

                   Hold On, she says, two million light years away.

She’s right.
Hold On everybody.
Hold On because the poets are still alive—and writing.
Hold On to the last of the disappearing bees
and that Great Barrier Reef.
Hold On to the one sitting next to you,
not masked behind some keyboard.
The one right next to you.
The ones who live and love right next to you.
Hold On to them.

And when we bury another grandmother,
or another black boy;
when we stand in front of a pipeline,
pour another glass of dirty drinking water
and put it on the dining room table,
next to the kreplach, bratwurst, tamales, collards, and dumplings
that our foremothers and fathers—immigrants,
brought with them so we all knew that we came from somewhere;
somewhere that mattered.
When we kneel on the rubbled mosques,
sit in massacred prayer circles,
Holding On is what gets us through.

We must remember who we are.
We are worth fighting for.
We’ve seen beauty.
We’ve birthed babies who’ve only known a black President.
We’ve tasted empathy and paid it forward.
We’ve Go-Funded from wrong to right.
We’ve marched and made love.
We haven’t forgotten—even if they have—Karma is keeping watch.

Hold On.
Hold On everybody.
Even if all you have left
is that middle finger around your God-given right
to be free, to be heard, to be loved,
and remembered…Hold On,
and keep
Holding.


Copyright © 2017 by Parneshia Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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GREAT opportunity for Charlotte area teens!

crazyCharlotte, NC based author, Linda Phillips, is leading a writing workshop for teen and adults with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library system this summer. For any students ages 12 and up who have expressed an interest in poetry and stories told in verse, this is an amazing opportunity! Click here to register (space is limited!), and click here to check out Linda’s beautifully written novel in verse, Crazy. You can purchase Crazy here on Amazon or at your favorite book retailer.

A Resolution for 2015…

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I don’t typically share New Year’s resolutions. Actually, I don’t typically MAKE New Year’s resolutions. To me, it always feels like a promise I make to myself that I’ll probably break within a week, and so it’s easier to just make small changes to my life and lifestyle whenever necessary than to essentially lie to myself for the sake of a holiday.

But, anyway… One of my author friends, Cassie Mae, asked yesterday what my number one goal for 2015 was. I almost just didn’t answer because of what I just explained, but this question felt different. A goal doesn’t feel like a probable lie. It feels like something I’ll work toward throughout 2015.

So, here it is. My ultimate goal for this year is to get signed by a literary agent. In order to do that, though, I need to finish the manuscript I’m working on… I don’t know why, but I have this feeling that it could really be something special. I have to say that this goal feels daunting in light of medical issues I’ve been battling for the past four months, but I’m hoping to be healthy enough to continue the pursuit of my ultimate dream: to become a successful, published author. I want to walk into Barnes and Noble and see my books on the selves. I want to go on book release tours and meet readers. I want to write books that will positively impact the lives of teenagers all over the place. I want to go to book conventions and meet (and fangirl over) the authors that have been my inspiration. I want to see myself on a bestseller list someday.

The journey to get there won’t be easy, and in many ways I ultimately have no control over where my dream ends up, but I sure have the passion to try.

How about you? What big goals are you working toward this year?

Behind the Scenes with Me, in honor of Dalhia Adler’s Book Birthday! #BtSWeek

BehindtheScenesBlogTour3

 

I’m so excited for Dahlia’s book release and honored to be a part of her book blitz for release week! So, for the release of her Behind the Scenes, here’s a behind the scenes with me…

I want to give you a glimpse into where it all begins for me: Inspiration. Where do ideas come from? How do little sparks of inspiration turn into entire novels and stories worth being told? There are lots of ways ideas come to me, but I’d say these three are the main ones that really set me off when it comes to a new project:

  •  Music. I love music with smart, descriptive lyrics. Nothing gets my imagination off and running like clever phrasing in a catchy song – it basically begs for a story to be written. Once I actually start thinking about that story, creating characters in my head and visualizing their stories, I build a playlist of songs and artists reflective of the feeling I’m going for with that particular story. Throughout the writing process, the playlist changes depending on the course the plot takes until, by the end, it finally becomes a finished list of songs that match up with the plot arch – it’s pretty cool. This is a small sampling of the playlist for the book I’m working on now:

playlist 1playlist2

  • Teenagers. As an English teacher, I spend a ridiculous amount of time with teenagers, and I never seem to get tired of them. They’re fun. Hearing their stories, their hopes and dreams, their struggles… They’re smart and they care about life and the world in general way more than most adults realize.I’m never at a loss for ideas because of them, and writing dialogue is as simple as listening to my students.
  • Pinterest. What did we do before Pinterest existed? I can tell you that I am definitely a visual thinker, so having a virtual bulletin board to organize what things are going to look like is such a huge help to me. I love that I can search for just about anything in the world and find a related pin. For example, for my current work in progress, one of the main characters is a Latino senior in high school who talks about her quinceanera… and, because Pinterest is awesome, I found a picture of a girl I’ll use as inspiration for my character. My boards for this WIP is still private, but here’s a small glimpse just for you:

pinterest 2

 

So what inspires you? What gets your creativity going? I’d love to hear it!

Make sure you also check out Dahlia’s book, Behind the Scenes. I really, really enjoyed it and highly recommend it for high school readers and up! All the links you could possibly need are pasted below: