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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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As Miles Davis plays ballads / In the background, like tonight,

There's only irony




Books by Yusef Komunyakaa

I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head / Dien Cai Dau / Magic City / Neon Vernacular / Toys in a Field

Thieves of Paradise / Talking Dirty to the Gods  /  Pleasure Dome Jazz Poetry Anthology  /  The Second Set  /  Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy

Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries

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Yusef Komunyakaa 



Invisible catches & secret hooks, bone

Within bone & trick locks.

If a man needs this to hold

Love in place, the master of keys

Will always bite his nails

To the quick. Tooled leather,

Laced mail & jeweled bronze.

Before his departure over a body

Of tremulant water, he turns

The key in the lock as they kiss.

Like something alive, it sways

Beneath his armor from a gold chain

Around his neck, to the rhythm

Of galloping hooves. Two days

Later, with a dagger in his belly,

Thick fingers tear the key from his throat.

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BODY OF A WOMAN (Cadavere di Donna)

Here you are, still

Reposed behind glass

Like a work of art. Yes,

Body of precious aloneness,

There are times I desire you

In a lover's arms. Sometimes

I want you making fierce love,

With moans like thought-bubbles

Of pleasure forever in Pompeii's

Lava & ash. Yet, other nights,

As Miles Davis plays ballads

In the background, like tonight,

There's only irony: I see

You're gazing out toward

The House of the Faun,

Waiting for someone.

*   *   *   *   *


The batfish hides there

At the bottom of desire.

A fleshy, wormlike lure

Dangles freely, luminescent

As a French tickler or line

From a love song personified.

Without eyes or guts, the male

Grows into the female, a Jonah

Inside a scaled-down Moby Dick.

She's bewitched among sea hair

& kelp, filled with forbearance

& a silent singing bitten in half,

In a holy world of mouths

Speaking watery reprieves

In needful hush, down where

His first breath was an open wound.

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When a young man dedicates his life

To hydraulics, he can grow into a godhead

Overnight. Because ram, pile, lift, jack,

& pressure gauge own this man's tongue,

Hercules goes on a long vacation.

Hera's magic finds him on Saturday

Nights when he's drinking rum & Coke,

But Amazons on Hollywood & Vine remember

Hippolyta. He's broken many guitars

Over the heads of bouncers. Mountains

Tremble, buildings cave in, & water

Begins to drift uphill. Apollo

Arm wrestles his shadow in a dream,

As he describes the forests of Cerynitia,

& next day the lions at the city zoo

Cover their eyes with heavy paws.

*   *   *   *   *


Elizabeth, I must say,

Pan wasn't raising Cain among the reeds.

He had taken off his mask,

& was lying there, puffing ganja,

Blowing Rasta smoke rings

& nibbling on a golden mango,

When he glimpsed three naiads

Prancing beside the lily pond.

He rolled over & watched two ants

Struggle up a Sisyphean incline

With a moth. Silenus's brother

& father, scapegoat & earthly god,

He felt divided. The nymphs frolicked

As he played love & panic on his flute

Till Arcady drifted out of his head,

& then a whisper opened all the buds.

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Feet of petty chances, you

Came out on the other side

Of love & mercy. No one

Cares if you rise from the lower world

Or not, as something to grind up

For cat food, & even the hunger

Of gods can't wish you away.

In your cave of primordial mud,

Window through slow water,

We pray only ghosts & goblins

Look at you. The untouchables

Tattoo your image on the soles

Of their feet. The monkey

God swears you don't exist,

& in the house of good tidings

The devil is blessed before you.

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Mockingbirds at Jerusalem (poetry Manuscript)

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011


#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Black Arts Movement
Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s

By James Edward Smethurst 

Emerging from a matrix of Old Left, black nationalist, and bohemian ideologies and institutions, African American artists and intellectuals in the 1960s coalesced to form the Black Arts Movement, the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement. In this comprehensive analysis, James Smethurst examines the formation of the Black Arts Movement and demonstrates how it deeply influenced the production and reception of literature and art in the United States through its negotiations of the ideological climate of the Cold War, decolonization, and the civil rights movement.

Taking a regional approach, Smethurst examines local expressions of the nascent Black Arts Movement, a movement distinctive in its geographical reach and diversity, while always keeping the frame of the larger movement in view. The Black Arts Movement, he argues, fundamentally changed American attitudes about the relationship between popular culture and "high" art and dramatically transformed the landscape of public funding for the arts.Publisher, University of North Carolina Press

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 8 November 2011 




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Related files: Yusef Table  Yusef Speaks 2   Yusef Speak 3    Rudy Interviews Yusef   Other Yusef Poems  Talking Dirty/Blue Notes Review  Pleasure Dome/Talking Dirty