Poetry Moment: Haki Madhubuti
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, census forms are about to land in your mailbox. We'll talk about why you should fill them out, why some people really don't want to, and what the government is doing to encourage them to fill them out. That's coming up.
But first, today kicks off the start of National Poetry Month. Throughout the month of April we'll feature both names you know and new voices we think you want to hear.
For our first selection we bring you poet Haki Madhubuti. He is the founder and publisher of Third World Press and the Director Emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University. Haki tells us what poetry means to him.
HAKI MADHUBUTI (Poet): This poem is called "Poetry," which is a part of my new collection, "Liberation Narratives," and in this poem I try to give definitions as well as direction for the place I see poetry in my life.
Poetry. Poetry will not stop and delay wars, will not erase rape from the landscape, will not cease murder or eliminate poverty, hunger or excruciating fear, poems cannot command armies, run school systems or manage money. Poetry is not intimately involved in the education of psychologists, physicians, or smiling politicians. In this universe, the magic, the beauty, the willful art of explaining the world and you, the timeless, the unread, the unstoppable fixation with language and ideas, the visionary, the satisfiable equalizer (unintelligible) the vitality of dreams, interrupting false calm, demanding fairness in a new, new world, other poets and their poems.
Poetry is the wellspring of tradition, the leading connector to yesterdays and the free passport to futures. Poems bind people to language, link generations to each other and introduce cultures to cultures. Poetry, if given the eye and ear, can bring memories, issue in laughter, reign in beauty, and cure ignorance.
Language in the context of the working poem can raise the minds of entire civilizations, speak to two-year-olds, and render some of us wise. To be touched but living poetry can only make us better people. The determined force of any age is the poem, old as ideas and as life-giving as active lovers.
The part of any answer is in the rhythm of the people. Their heart beat comes urgently in two universal forms - music and poetry. For the reader, for the quiet seeker, for the many willing to sacrifice one syllable mumblings and easy conclusions, poetry can be that gigantic river that allows one to recognize in the circle of fire the center of life.
MARTIN: That was Haki Madhubuti reading his poem titled "Poetry" from his latest collection, "Liberation Narratives." To hear Professor Madhubuti read another poem from his book titled "Art," please check at our Web site at npr.org/TellMeMore.
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