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To Gregory Pardlo, Pulitzer Prize Winner
As soon as I heard You were the First African American Male To win the Pulitzer prize for Poetry I wanted to run out and celebrate I wanted to wake up Hughes and Dunbar And Baraka and say we made it No one would have been prouder than Maya She sold ten million books And didn’t win a Pulitzer And you win after selling one thousand-five hundred books Surely this is even more incredible They finally let us in their world of literature After a hundred years You did good Gregory Our fourth Black Pulitzer prize winner in all But the first African American Male The more I stared at your picture I thought My he looks Cuban or Chilean And I read that your wife is from El Salvador And Pardlo is far from a Black name But that doesn’t really matter Close enough We made it You are Black enough for me I was so thrilled I ran To read all of your poems I could find And then my champagne glass tipped As the pages of the poems flipped Not shocked that none of the major articles Mentioned you being an African American More confused that you only mentioned it In the context that the White media won’t correctly honor you as they did Hughes So an NAACP image award had to do But I know you didn’t pick the Pulitzer It picked you. Still I am happy for you. You mentioned your battle with alcohol And that your family was dysfunctional Alcohol and dysfunction Are metaphors for African American So again close enough But not even that was my greater issue I listened to you on You Tube And the thing that made me gasp Is that you could never read your poetry To An African American fifth grade class They wouldn’t understand your syntax And would be lost in your anapest Never get your personification The more I listened the more I heard Rita Dove again The last time Africa America has heard from her Well I can’t say when But I am still happy you won the Pulitzer For the next twenty years of your life You will feature at Harvard near a Ghetto At Stanford near a ghetto In Detroit and Chicago near Ghettos But mostly White audiences will celebrate you Because your sponsors Don’t want to stop their cars in BedStuy The very neighborhood you live in And you will impress people with your Iambic discourse Of course But city blocks away In a ghetto dreary Where the Halogen dreams burn dim They will hear that the man of words Has no words for them And growing up in suburban Wilingboro You will never write a PREFACE You’ll Never know RIVERS And you will never know why MALINDY sings Or why the CAGED BIRD beats its wing But still I am so happy that you won. And assuming being an African American Had something to do with you winning Please be an African American Be like Gwen and refuse Sponsorship from Taco Bell and Pepsi Be like Langston or Baraka and Get charged for being Un American Or be accused of being crazy like Claude McKay Or even like Nikki and cuss somebody out Even if you have to do it gracefully And even if you do it only once I too am honored by your NAACP image award And I know you will fight up there for more African Americans to be included in the “86% White Publishing World.” Please Mr. Pardlo remember that we just need more Black people down here Just to be included in the eating world And in the employment world Please use your beautiful words for us too And so I close with these words: In the Guardian, you asked why Black Writers are so Invisible to White people? Well I say, If they don’t hear your poems Or if they don’t see you or hear you Far beyond the posh Harvard hills There are forty million who will 2017 A Letter To Gregory Pardlo.. (Pulitzer) Michael Ellis...
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