Nothing so frightens me as writing, but nothing so satisfies me. It’s like a swimmer in the [English] Channel: you face the stingrays and waves and cold and grease, and finally you reach the other shore, and you put your foot on the ground—Aaaahhhh!

Maya Angelou, 1989

Still I Rise

For February’s Mindful Poetry Night, we celebrated the Black American poets who have shaped our literature and enriched our understanding of struggle and triumph. From Phillis Wheatley in 1767 to Amanda Gorman in 2021, these steady hands of verse have sustained and inspired readers.

We looked first at A Hymn to Evening by Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved American who arrived from Gambia, Africa, in 1761. Later poets, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes, explore the developing Black consciousness and expose the institutional racism that oppresses Black Americans, with We Wear the Mask, Theme for English B and Mother to Son. Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black American author to win the Pulitzer Prize, addresses both the yearnings of youth and the dangers of growing up too soon in We Real Cool and A Song in the Front Yard. Civil rights leader and world ambassador of the spoken word, Maya Angelou laments the loss of freedom in her famous poem, Caged Bird, and honors the resilient spirit of Black America in Still I Rise. See additional resources below.

Check out these short videos for additional background…optional, of course.

Harlem Renaissance
Langston Hughes
Caged Bird with a variety of voices.
Still I Rise performed by Maya Angelou

Mindful Poetry usually meets the fourth Tuesday of each month at 6pm PT, via Zoom.

Meeting ID: 975 0515 6720 One tap mobile +12532158782,,97505156720# US (Tacoma)

Our Curator and Guide:

Poetry has been a life-long passion and solace for Rebecca Echert-Lennstrom. The beauty and playfulness of verse captured her heart early and became a well-spring of reflection and inspiration. For the last 25 years, she’s been sharing that love with high school students as an English teacher and creative writing instructor, steeped in words and imagery. She’s coached students in the National Poetry Out Loud Competition for ten years, paired with professional poets in the classroom to inspire student writing, and published high school creative writing magazines. This is her second year curating the Mindful Poetry Series as a ministry of the Episcopal Church.

Questions? Please email Sylvia Sepulveda.

Learn more at our Mindful Poetry page.

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Mindful Poetry – Feb. Notes