for Philip Levine
Donald Justice has died twice:
once in Miami, in the sun, on a Sunday,
and once in Iowa City, on a Friday
in August, which was not without
its own sun—if not bright spot.
The first time he died, he was thinking
of Vallejo, who died in Paris, maybe
on a Thursday, surely in rain.
Vallejo died again in Paris,
in April, of an unknown illness
which may have been malaria,
as fictionalized in Bolaño’s
Monsieur Pain. “There is, brothers,
very much to do,” Vallejo said
between his deaths, and Phil,
you must have died once
in Seville, in the land of Machado,
before going again last Saturday
in Fresno, so you no longer write
to us or bring in trash bins filled
with light. Phil, I will die, maybe
on a Sunday in Wellfleet, because
today it is Sunday, and ice
is jamming the eaves, and there
is nowhere to put the snow
that keeps recalling all
those other snows—
or the stones on more stones.
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 backyard. 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.
This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.
To celebrate Academy of American Poets Chancellor Juan Felipe Herrera's appointment in 2015 as the twenty-first Poet Laureate of the United States, we’ve compiled the following collection of photographs, essays, exclusive video, and poems.