2 Poems: “September Elegies” by Randall Mann and, “Still I rise” by Maya Angelou

I was glad to see that the Academy of American poets Poem-a-day selection on January 21st was in memory of the gay teenage boys who committed suicide last fall.

September Elegies by Randall Mann

in memory of Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas, and Tyler Clementi

There are those who suffer in plain sight,
there are those who suffer in private.
Nothing but secondhand details:
a last shower, a request for a pen, a tall red oak.

There are those who suffer in private.
The one in Tehachapi, aged 13.
A last shower, a request for a pen, a tall red oak:
he had had enough torment, so he hanged himself.

The one in Tehachapi, aged 13;
the one in Cooks Head, aged 15:
he had had enough torment, so he hanged himself.
He was found by his mother.

The one in Cooks Head, aged 15.
The one in Greensburg, aged 15:
he was found by his mother.
“I love my horses, my club lambs. They are the world to me,”

the one in Greensburg, aged 15,
posted on his profile.
“I love my horses, my club lambs. They are the world to me.”
The words turn and turn on themselves.

Posted on his profile,
“Jumping off the gw bridge sorry”:
the words turn, and turn on themselves,
like the one in New Brunswick, aged 18.

Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.
There are those who suffer in plain sight
like the one in New Brunswick, aged 18.
Nothing but secondhand details.


Randall Mann

Randall Mann was born in Utah in 1972.  The Poetry Foundation describes his poetry as vulnerable, unflinching, and brave in its ambivalence, it explores themes of loss, attraction, brutality, and expectation.

He is the author of Breakfast with Thom Gunn (University of Chicago, 2009), Complaint in the Garden (Zoo Press, 2004), winner of the 2003 Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry, and co-author of the textbook Writing Poems (7th ed. Pearson Longman, 2007).


and to follow it

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise. 

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Now if you ever thought you didn’t understand poetry, or perhaps you didn’t understand this poem, do yourself a favor and take the two plus minutes to watch Maya Angelou reading her poem…

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She is an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer, and civil rights activist.
She’s best known for her autobiographical books: All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), The Heart of a Woman (1981), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976), Gather Together in My Name (1974), and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).
Among her volumes of poetry are A Brave and Startling Truth (1995), The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994), Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987), I Shall Not Be Moved (1990), Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? (1983), Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well (1975), and Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie (1971), which was nominated for the Pulitzer prize.

[special thanks to the Absurd Old Bird blog aka Val Erde where I found Maya Angelou’s marvelous reading].


About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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6 Responses to 2 Poems: “September Elegies” by Randall Mann and, “Still I rise” by Maya Angelou

  1. Val Erde says:

    Very moving. I already know the Maya Angelou poem (I’ve been a fan of her poetry for years) and I’ve got the video on my own blog, posted a while back.

    Teenage suicides and child suicides are always a shock, but I know firsthand how it feels to be bullied, to want to die. Not for being gay, but for all sorts of other things. There will always be bullies, the problem is how to reach their victims before it’s too late. I don’t actually believe it’s possible to get through the thick skulls of bullies…

    I’ve bookmarked the ‘blue eyes, brown eyes’ piece to read when I’ve got a bit more concentration. Thank you.

    • dearrosie says:

      I’m very sad to learn that you know what it’s like to be bullied or want to die. I hope it never happens again.

      I actually found the Maya Angelou video on your blog and thanked you with a link. Have a look.

      • Val Erde says:

        Thanks so much for this and – oh dear, sorry – my brain’s not been great lately (our central heating’s been off for over a week and temps in the house of 6 degrees celcius in parts of it with stuffy overheated rooms with fan heaters in others… affects my concentration!)

  2. So terribly sad and so awfully beautiful — thanks for the Maya Angelou poem as an antidote to the Randall Mann one that left me sobbing … great post, Rosie!

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