A new twist on blues poetry

By Cornelius Eady

When people talk about the blues they usually think about it as a complaint or a moan. But actually it’s a survival mechanism. It’s there so you don’t blow your top and turn to something worse. You need to get it out. And you also need to have people who feel sympathetic listening to it and hearing.

Generally, the blues and blues poetry has had a “male voice,” a male point of view. Langston Hughes and the other poets of the Harlem Renaissance were wonderful at using the blues form—which traces back to slavery, to the songs, rhythms and storytelling brought over from Africa—to talk about the interior life of African Americans in America. So we have wonderful poems about street life and the dealings between men and women and how it feels to be alive. With Honorée Jeffers’ poetry (an example below) we hear the woman’s story, a whole new twist on what the blues is supposed to be about. She adds to that tradition, is deeply in it, but not bound by it.…

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