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Read Poems by Poet M.e.

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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 
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...

Copyright © Poet M.e. | Year Posted 2017


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