Congratulations to our new friend, the U.S. Poet Laureate!

We had so much fun when Natasha Trethewey visited, we thought it couldn’t get any better. Then she became the U.S. Poet Laureate.

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Cave Canem

Cave Canem is a home for the many voices of African poetry, and they are dedicated to the growth and development of African American poets. Cave Canem is latin for “Beware of the Dog”, and their symbol that can be traced back to house of the tragic poet in  Pompeii. The symbol is supposed to represent protection for poets while releasing new poetic voices into the world. Toi Derricote and Cornelius Eady founded it in 1996, and it is based in Brooklyn, New York.  Some of their other poets include Claudia Rankine and Natasha Trethewey.  They give out an annual award called the Cave Canem Poetry Prize.  This is awarded to the first book of an author, and it is dedicated to the finding of exceptional writings by an African American author.  The past winner was Spit Back a Boy by Iain Haley Pollock.  There is also the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize, and it is offered every other year.  This is awarded to the second book by an author.  The award celebrates literature that displays long lasting cultural value and literary excellence. The last winner was Through the Stonecutter’s Window by Indigo Moor.

For more information click here.

O Brother Where Art Thou?

O Brother Where art Thou? is set during the Great Depression and follows the lives of three men who had recently broke out of jail. They are attempting to find treasure that one of them had stolen before going to jail. The only problem is they only have four days until it is lost forever. Now, you might not know just by watching that this movie is based off a book. You may even be more surprised that it is loosely based from Homer’s The Odyssey.

The directors do a tremendous job in correlating the two stories so that some people can see the similarities. This method of movie making is very unique and not many people do it. It is hard enough to interpret a story into a movie, let alone using a completely different setting and story-telling style.

Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine is the author of Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, in which she blends poetry, essays, and images. Here is an excerpt from Don’t Let Me Be Lonely:

There was a time I could say no one I knew well had died. This is not to suggest no one died. When I was eight my mother became pregnant. She went to the hospital to give birth and returned without the baby. Where’s the baby? we asked. Did she shrug? She was the kind of woman who liked to shrug; deep within her was an everlasting shrug. That didn’t seem like a death. The years went by and people only died on television—if they weren’t Black, they were wearing black or were terminally ill. Then I returned home from school one day and saw my father sitting on the steps of our home. He had a look that was unfamiliar; it was flooded, so leaking. I climbed the steps as far away from him as I could get. He was breaking or broken. Or, to be more precise, he looked to me like someone understanding his aloneness. Loneliness. His mother was dead. I’d never met her. It meant a trip back home for him. When he returned he spoke neither about the airplane nor the funeral.

Every movie I saw while in the third grade compelled me to ask, Is he dead? Is she dead? Because the characters often live against all odds it is the actors whose mortality concerned me. If it were an old, black-and-white film, whoever was around would answer yes. Months later the actor would show up on some latenight talk show to promote his latest efforts. I would turn and say—one always turns to say—You said he was dead. And the misinformed would claim, I never said he was dead. Yes, you did. No, I didn’t. Inevitably we get older; whoever is still with us says, Stop asking me that…

This book uses a mixed genre style that some may argue that it will remain a lasting legacy for future poets. Claudia Rankine flows effortlessly, and intuitively from the different writing styles and images that she uses.

Emancipation Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln gave his “Emancipation Proclamation” speech on January 1st, 1863. It is presumed by the American public that this order given by the president freed all slaves, but those who were freed were those under confederate control. Lincoln’s Secretary of State, WIlliam Seward, said in reply to Lincoln’s address, “We show our symapthy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach.” Although not all states were considered free, ex-slaves who were given their freedom saw hope in the union and their fight to abolish slavery. The proclamation allowed blacks to fight for union as well. Many ex-slaves took this chance to fight against slavery as a whole and to abolish it from the nation. About 200,000 black soldiers fought for the union in the attempt to end slavery completely. To this day, the Emancipation Proclamation is considered one of the best examples of freedom in the United States.

These links will give you more information about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation as well as images of the document:
http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/library/features/ep/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h1549.html
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/emancipation_proclamation/

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