Thursday, February 25, 2021

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

Happy Friday,

I gifted myself a copy of Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury 2021). Legacy is a companion or sister book as Grimes says, to One Last Word (Bloomsbury 2017) and is every bit as fabulous. 

Grimes, Nikki, and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Bloomsbury Children's Books, Bloomsbury Publishing Inc., Part of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2021. 

It's hard to imagine that I've been in love with the golden shovel form only since my introduction to the form in One Last Word. Grimes made the form so enticing that I and about every poet I know has written at least one golden shovel. Poems of Legacy are also golden shovels with striking lines from the poems of Harlem Renaissance women.

The poets of Legacy did not gain much fame or financial gain from their work. These talented women wrote alongside Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and helped produce their work as editors, typists, and readers. They were women whose poetry was a thread of a full life, not a dedicated pursuit. As a consequence, many of them are left off the cast list of that glittering, literary era.

Grimes finds these women after hunting down poems they wrote.  It is a pleasure for us to also discover them. Grimes honors their words, artfully lacing past issues with ours today in her golden shovel response poems.

I read Legacy for poetry and, illustrations. Each poem of the work is illustrated by a contemporary Black female artist --every piece a wow. My favorite is Before Eukka Holmes (17). I stare at her work and want to know, how does she do that?

One of the happiest discoveries of Legacy for me is the work of Georgia Douglas Johnson

Atlas, Nava. “Georgia Douglas Johnson, Harlem Renaissance Poet & Playwright.” Literary Ladies Guide, Search Here.. Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest Rss Youtube nava1 Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life, 7 Aug. 2020,

Born in Georgia, she was educated at Atlanta University Normal School, Oberlin Conservatory as well as Cleveland College of Music and lived several decades in Washington DC. Her house, where she held a literary salon, known as the S Street Salon, still stands. I'll visit someday after this crazy pandemic. I would love to bump into her ghost. For sure, I need to know more about this writer and read more of her work. 

“Georgia Douglas Johnson.” DC Writers' Homes, DC Writers' Homes , 26 Nov. 2018,

Grimes included Your World in Legacy. Find eight more of Johnson's works at The Poetry Foundation.

Your World

Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side.
But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.
I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!

The striking lines Grimes takes for her response are bolded within Johnson's work above. I won't give away what Grimes writes...but will share that the title of her golden shovel poem is Mother to Daughter. It is perfect in word and style.

If you haven't picked up a copy of Legacy yet, ask your public library to order it. It's a gem for yourself and for our communities. 

This week, one of Poetry Friday's finest poetry curators, Karen Edmisten, is hosting our round-up. Be sure to stop by for a scoop of beautiful poetry. Thank you, Karen.

*Saturday is the last day of Chinese New Year. This is a traditional time for lantern festivals. Find an Ox-lantern poem on the padlet complete with festive riddle. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

As Perseverance Lands on Mars

Good Friday Poets,

Outside my house is a slick, solid sheet of ice on top of the snow we got earlier. Thankfully, we have power and snow shovels. 

Today, I watched the Mars Rover Perseverance landing. It was more exciting than I expected and I was filled with joy watching the team in the control room monitor the landing and communicate with reporters what was going on. The joy in the celebration of science and scientists with the landing was just the best. 


I found myself scribbling words as I watched, wondering if there was a poem to share about Mars today. I found Here's Mars by William Dickey. It's delightful...and, it shows me poetically how far we've come today.

Here's Mars
By William Dickey

Over the office building
rising across the street
from my parents' house
in the warm August night
Mars comes as close
as I shall see it.

Not knowing much
     --read the rest here--

I responded with a poem of my own to mark the occasion. It's pretty drafty as my friend, Molly would say. But, it was important to me to capture this win for science, this win for the team.

Landing on the Red Planet 

Today’s poem is a Mars Rover 
half an Earth-year 
from home 
sending readings 
to a control room 
of nerdy kids 
who once dreamed 
of space frontiers. 

Heartbeat tones pulse 
everything’s nominal 
until maximum deceleration
parachute deployed. 

Jet Propulsion Lab controllers 
feel every G 
of Perseverance's descent. 

When she confirms touchdown 
Martian regolith at Jezero Crater 
appears on screen. 

Our Poets of astrophysics,
rocketry, astrobiology,
geology, astrology, 
bump fists and cheer 
as Ingenuity comes to life. 

More will be written 
in Mars time 
after the rover
has had a rest. 
Today’s poem
is Perseverance --
she made it.

(c) Linda Mitchell -- draft

Please join our friend Ruth for our round-up of poetry for this week at There's No Such Thing as a God Forsaken Town. She has a not-to-miss review of Braiding Sweetgrass.

Ox Poem Padlet: 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Year of Ox

Hooray -- Ox is being celebrated!

On Friday, February twelfth, Chinese New Year begins -- a celebration of the characteristics of Ox for a whole year -- diligence, honesty, hard-working.

There are lots and lots of stories, traditions, and rituals for this two-week-long lunar holiday. I'm not ethnically Chinese -- I won't pretend to offer a full understanding of the celebration. But, I can't help a little celebration -- because of my friend, OX!

I've learned that spring couplets, Chunlian, are popular decorations at doorposts to scare away evil. 


As spring light and warmth increase
so hearts with a wealth of joy, and peace

(c) Linda Mitchell

I didn't make the full two scrolls...just the window decoration in the upper right picture. I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole looking for Chinese poetry forms and learned that some Chinese Poetry in the Tang Dynasty was modeled after Japanese haiku. But, there is a difference between syllable counting and character writing...things got a bit fuzzy for me after that. 

I moved on to a short description of how the Chinese Ox came to earth and found haiku syllable line count within it. The orange lines are 5 syllables and the blue lines are 7. The basic story hijinks are preserved.

according to myth
plow oxen lived in Heaven
the message mixed-up

oxen to the earth
working the farms helping
people with farm work

All in all, Ox and I are having a blast with poetry this year. We've still got many adventures ahead. Wish us luck!

Hamish and Hector have a new friend, Niu, on the padlet. They'd love for you to visit. 

Visit Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone for lots more poetry and a rest from the official busy-ness of our week. 

Xin Nian Kuai Le
(Happy New Year)

Do you know an Ox? I'd love a pic of an Ox that you can get in person. I have a seemingly unlimited number of images of Ox and Oxen on the internet. But, I would love a pic from my poetry friends of an ox they meet in real life to use as a poetry prompt. If you have one or get one before next year, let me know!

A girl taking a photograph with a Kodak box Brownie camera (circa 1935). (Photo by Keystone View Company/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Poetry Friday

 Happy February,

Are you shivery? I am! I have taken to lap blankets--with electric heaters inside. Jone is warmly hosting our Poetry Friday round-up at her beautiful blog. Thank you, Jone!

This month, my SWAGGER pals have taken up a challenge posed by Catherine.

My mentor poem is, The Ox Cart Man, By Donald Hall

In October of the year,
he counts potatoes dug from the brown field,   
counting the seed, counting   
the cellar’s portion out,   
and bags the rest on the cart’s floor.

He packs wool sheared in April, honey
read the rest here

My poem...

What the Ox Cart has to Say 


In the shearing season, I rested

as sheep cried, shorn thin

kicking up their heels before

escaping to the fat green fields

where lambs nibbled innocently


By July I was pressed into service

carrying boys to haying

filling me to groaning with

bales of sunny stalks piled high

topped with raucous laughter


All of those trips out of the barn

pulled by Ox, my constant companion

to flax and cornfields in August

later to potato hills

into the winter woods for sap, 

and honeycombs in May


I’ve faithfully fetched and carried

for Farmer for a year until--

my boards shine smooth and silver

now heavy under the weight of goods

for Portsmouth Market


Each handshake signals farewell

to fields, Farmer, barn, and Ox

where I watched sheep

and creaked after a long day

of bringing  

bounty after bounty.

(c) Linda Mitchell

Lim, Adolf. “Hay Harvest, Farmer Couple with Ox Cart.” Mutual Art, © 2021 MutualArt Services, Inc., 2018,

Find more responses to this challenge:

Reading to the Core

Nix the Comfort Zone

My Juicy Little Universe

Reflections on the Teche

Hamish's padlet now has four Ox poems. Hooray!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Take Heart - Spiritual Thursday


Take heart...isn't that a wonderful exhortation? I know it from the Bible. But, it's a phrase that is broader than biblical times or, religious texts. Thanks to Fran at her blog, Lit Bits, and Pieces, for inviting us to take heart this month. 

This week, I've been making Valentine's cards from recycled book pages and assorted other papers. Paper hearts are easy and thinking about loved ones I'll send them to makes me happy for the connections I have with dear ones.

Valentine's cards by Linda from recycled papers '21

Take a heart...with love and prayers for you and yours from me today.

Valentine's cards by Linda from recycled papers '21

I take heart too, from cards sent over the past year to a dear one that passed away a week ago from pancreatic cancer. We had been separated by circumstances beyond our control. But, when I heard of the illness, I decided to send a card and a note once a month. I didn't know I'd only send a year's worth. I'm terribly sad to have lost this loved one...but I take heart that my last card was made with blues and a story about a connection we both had to blue. 

A last card made & sent...blues. I take heart that we shared this blue

Take another heart...why not? 

Valentine's Kitty from recycled papers by Linda