Last week in celebration of International Children’s Book Day, I discussed The Seventh Princess, which is the first book I remember buying for myself, check that post out here. I enjoyed my book nostalgia so much that I’ve decided to make #tbt book nerd style a regular feature on re: read pages.
This week as part of National Poetry Month, I want to bring to your attention the first collection of poems that really made an impact on me. I had read individual poems that made an immediate impact, perhaps by the usual suspects – Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est – but the collection Execution Poems by George Elliott Clarke lingered with me in a way I hadn’t previously experienced.
The collection, which won the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 2001, addresses the real story of Clarke’s cousins, two black men who were convicted of murder and hanged in New Brunswick in 1949. Just the idea that they were hanged so recently, which seems archaic, stuck with me, but the poems also use the experience of George and Rufus Hamilton to a reflect on the effects of systemic racism and cyclical poverty – issues that still need thoughtful contemplation.
Yesterday, as I reread these poems, one line stood out from the first page and I will leave you with those words:
My black face must preface murder for you.