Etheridge Knight

Etheridge Knight Poems

(or Blues for a Mississippi Black Boy)

I was born in Mississippi;
I walked barefooted thru the mud.

Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead) , grand-
fathers (both dead) , brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd) , nieces, and nephews.They stare

Shiny record albums scattered over
the living room floor, reflecting light
from the lamp, sharp reflections that hurt
my eyes as I watch you, squatting among the platters,

He sees through stone
he has the secret
eyes this old black one
who under prison skies

Exchange in greed the ungraceful signs. Thrust
The thick notes between green apple breasts.
Then the shadow of the devil descends,

Night Music Slanted
Light strike the cave of sleep. I alone
tread the red circle
and twist the space with speech

Beyond the brown hill
Above the silent cedars,
Blackbirds flee the April rains.

Etheridge Knight Biography

Etheridge Knight was an African-American poet who became a notable poet in 1968 with his debut volume, Poems from Prison. Biography Etheridge Knight was born on April 19, 1931 in Corinth, Mississippi. He was one of seven children in a poor family, and only completed a ninth-grade education. Spending many of his adolescent years working in pool halls, bars, and juke joints, he mastered the art of "telling toasts". Toasts are long narrative poems coming from an oral tradition which are performed from memory and with spirit. This environment honed his poetic experience, however, it also introduced him to drugs. He became addicted to drugs at an early age. He joined the U.S. Army, serving as a medical technician in the Korean War.he was discharged from service in 1951, after suffering from a shrapnel wound that caused him to fall deeper into his drug addiction. After his time in the Army he settled in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he picked up the art of telling toasts, which are traditional, black, oral narrative poems acted out in a theatrical manner. During this time, he still maintained his addiction to heroin. Arrested in Indianapolis for stealing a purse in 1960, Knight was imprisoned for eight years. He recounts this experience in verse in Poems from Prison and in prose in the anthology Black Voices from Prison (1970; originally published two years earlier in Italian as Voce negre dal carcere). He emerged as the voice of the black aesthetic movement with his first volume of verse Poems from Prison (1968). His poetry was a combination of "toasts" and a concern for freedom from oppression. After his release from prison he married fellow poet Sonia Sanchez only to divorce her two years later. Knight taught at various universities and contributed to several magazines, working for two years as an editor of Motive and as a contributing editor of New Letters (1974). He experimented with rhythmic forms of punctuation in Belly Song and Other Poems (1973), which addressed the themes of ancestry, racism, and love in Born of a Woman (1980) - a work that balances personal suffering with affirmation - he introduced the concept of the poet as a "meddler" who forms a trinity with the poem and the reader. Much of his verse was collected in The Essential Etheridge Knight (1986). Knight's books and oral performances awarded him both popular and critical acclaim. He received honors from such institutions as the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America. In 1990 he earned a bachelor's degree in American poetry and criminal justice from Martin Center University in Indianapolis. He married Mary McNally in 1972, and fathered her two children. They settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota until they separated in 1977. He then resided in Memphis, Tennessee where he received Methadone treatments. Knight rose from a life of poverty, crime, and drug addiction to become exactly what he expressed in his notebook in 1965: a voice that was heard and helped his people. Knight died in Indianapolis, Indiana, of lung cancer on March 10, 1991.)

The Best Poem Of Etheridge Knight

A Poem For Myself

I was born in Mississippi;
I walked barefooted thru the mud.
Born black in Mississippi,
Walked barefooted thru the mud.
But, when I reached the age of twelve
I left that place for good.
My daddy chopped cotton
And he drank his liquor straight.
Said my daddy chopped cotton
And he drank his liquor straight.
When I left that Sunday morning
He was leaning on the barnyard gate.
Left my mama standing
With the sun shining in her eyes.
Left her standing in the yard
With the sun shining in her eyes.
And I headed North
As straight as the Wild Goose Flies,
I been to Detroit & Chicago
Been to New York city too.
I been to Detroit & Chicago
Been to New York city too.
Said I done strolled all those funky avenues
I'm still the same old black boy with the same old blues.
Going back to Mississippi
This time to stay for good
Going back to Mississippi
This time to stay for good-
Gonna be free in Mississippi
Or dead in the Mississippi mud.

Etheridge Knight Comments

long boi 26 February 2018


4 2 Reply
Paul Ganz 04 May 2014

I can feel the rhythm of the deep South and the banjo blues of the wonderful lyrics.

5 9 Reply

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