Friday, February 22, 2008

A Poem for Harriet Tubman

For this Poetry Friday in February, I wanted to compose a special poem in honor of Black History Month. I wrote a cento in the voice of Harriet Tubman. I used only the titles of books written by African American authors or books about the African American experience…with one exception—Come with Me, a book of poems that was written by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Cento for Harriet Tubman
by Elaine Magliaro

My Brown Angels,
Listen to The Distant Talking Drum.
Hear it Spin a Soft Black Song
Under the Quilt of Night

I’m Only Passing Through,
Goin’ Someplace Special
To The Other Side
Where there’s A Sweet Smell of Roses
And Freedom Like Sunlight.

I’ve Seen the Promised Land
A place for All the Colors of the Race.
Now Is Your Time
To be Freedom Walkers.
Follow me on The Road North
To Liberty Street.

Come with Me
To The Other Side

Where we will Make a Joyful Sound.
We will Lift Every Voice and Sing
Sing to the Sun.
Sing Free at Last!

by Jacqueline Woodson
Brown Angels by Walter Dean Myers
The Distant Talking Drum by Isaac Olaleye
Spin a Soft Black Song by Nikki Giovanni
Under the Quilt of Night by Deborah Hopkinson

Only Passing Through by Anne Rockwell
Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. Mckissack
The Other Side by Angela Johnson
A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson
Freedom Like Sunlight by J. Patrick Lewis

I’ve Seen the Promised Land by Walter Dean Myers
All the Colors of the Race by Arnold Adoff
Now Is Your Time! by Walter Dean Myers
Freedom Walkers by Russell Freedman
The Road North by Bettye Stroud
Liberty Street by Candice F. Ransom

Come with Me by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Make a Joyful Sound: Poems for Children by African-American Poets edited by Deborah Slier
Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson
Sing to the Sun by Ashley Bryan
Free at Last! By Doreen Rappaport

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a list poem entitled Possibilities by Wislawa Szymborska.

Kelly has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Big A, little a.


Anonymous said...

Elaine, that's beautiful. What powerful book titles, huh, that they can be arranged in such a manner into such a stirring poem?

I've had this HUGE work project (that will be never-ending, so I'm having to seriously readjust blogging and work time, though Kid Time always comes first), and so I'm terribly behind on blog-reading and miss Wild Rose Reader. I need to fix it so that blog-reading doesn't suffer so. When I don't get to read my favorites, I feel like I'm blogging in a vaccuum. Ah well, it'll work out.

Thanks for the cento!

Tricia said...

I love this cento. It beautifully puts me in that place with her and allows me to see the world through her eyes. Well done!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I have tons of things to do in the next couple of I just may have to do less blog reading & blogging until all those things get done.


Thanks for introducing me to the cento. I enjoy working with book titles. Many of them lend themselves so well to poetry.

Tricia & Jules,

I'm glad you like the Harriet Tubman cento.

jama said...

This is wonderful, Elaine. You've hit just the right tone, and the last stanza just lifts up the heart.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks, Jama! I wanted to write a poem for Black History Month--but I didn't know where to start. Fortunately, using the titles of books about the Black experience in a cento came to mind. As I began working on the poem, the voice of Harriet Tubman began speaking to me.

Mary Lee said...

Beautiful! It's making me think I need to go back and list my book titles with authors after my poem, too!

Andromeda Jazmon said...

This is really wonderful. It pulls the power and beauty of all these stories together in a dynamic way. Great use of the Cento form!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Mary Lee & Cloudscome,

Thanks! I have had a lot of fun with the cento form since I learned about it in one of Tricia's poetry stretches. I was just hoping I could find enough appropriate book titles to write a decent poem.

Saints and Spinners said...

This is lovely, Elaine.

laurasalas said...

Elaine, this is gorgeous. So poetic and cohesive!

I'm reading Freedom Like Sunlight now. It's wonderful.

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