As much as I enjoy tuning into HBO's Def Poetry, my taste in poetry tends to lean toward the "old school." Some of my favorite poets are folks like Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Etheridge Knight and Carolyn M. Rodgers.
The first two on my list, Hughes and Giovanni are names most of you probably recognize. There can hardly be a discussion of the Harlem Renaissance without some mention of Langston and his work. The same goes for Nikki when it comes to the Black Arts Movement of the 60's and 70's.
On the other hand, the names and works of the other two poets, Etheridge Knight and Carolyn M. Rodgers aren't as widely known. But it is my sincere hope that you will take a look (if only a quick peek) at their work via the links embedded in the following commentary.
LANGSTON HUGHES There are no words to describe how much I admire Langston Hughes. His love of the oral and musical traditions of African Americans and emphasis on them in his work mirrors my own. My favorite poems by Hughes include, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "I, Too" and "My People."
NIKKI GIOVANNI While better known for her more strident work, I have always been fond of Nikki Giovanni's softer, more personal poems, like "Nikki-Rosa" and "Poetry" the latter of which is my all time favorite Nikki G. poem.
CAROLYN M. RODGERS My favorite poem by Carolyn Rodgers is one entitled, "Poem For Some Black Women." (note: after you get to the site, click on "featured works" and "Carolyn Rodgers" in order to view this poem ) Even though the poem was written way back in the 60's, it is a timeless gem that could very well serve as an anthem "for some" if not most of the artistically-driven, community-minded Black women I know (smile).
ETHERIDGE KNIGHT Etheridge Knight's "The Idea of Ancestry" is a poem that holds the TOP spot on my list of favorite poems. "The Idea of Ancestry" is a poem that nearly always moves me to tears, especially when I listen to the recording I own of Knight reading the piece. I FEEL that poem somewhere way down deep in my soul.
The more observant of you have probably already noticed that in addition to being "old school" all of the poets I've mentioned, thus far, are African American. Just so you know, I do like and read the work of non-African American poets, among them a dear friend of mine, Michael Radcliff.
I'm sure there will be those who will find my inclusion of Michael on my list of favorite poets, perplexing, to say the least. But Michael's poem "Dry Hill" hits me at the same visceral level as Etheridge's, Nikki's, Carolyn's and Langston's. In an upcoming post and with his permission, I intend to give you a closer look at my friend's work. Stay tuned.