Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange Poems

my father is a retired magician
which accounts for my irregular behavior
everythin comes outta magic hats
or bottles wit no bottoms & parakeets

every 3 minutes a woman is beaten
every five minutes a
woman is raped/every ten minutes
a lil girl is molested

you are sucha fool/ i haveta love you
you decide to give me a poem/ intent on it/ actually
you pull/ kiss me from 125th to 72nd street/ on
the east side/ no less


at 4:30 AM
she rose
movin the arms & legs that trapped her
she sighed affirmin the sculptured man

where we come from, sometimes, beauty
floats around us like clouds
the way leaves rustle in the breeze
and cornbread and barbecue swing out the backdoor

Fragrant breezes in the South
melt to melodies round small fires
mount tree limbs
with bodies black

one thing i don't need
is any more apologies
i got sorry greetin me at my front door

Ntozake Shange Biography

an American playwright, and poet. As a self proclaimed black feminist, much of the content of her work addresses issues relating to race and feminism. Shange is best-known for the Obie Award-winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. She also wrote Betsey Brown, a novel about an African American girl who runs away from home. Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize. Shange lives in Brooklyn. Early life Shange was born Paulette L. Williams in Trenton, New Jersey to an upper-middle-class family. Her father, Paul T. Williams, was an Air Force surgeon, and her mother, Eloise Williams, was an educator and a psychiatric social worker. When she was 8, Shange's family moved to the racially segregated city of St. Louis. As a result of the Brown v. Board of Education court decision, Shange was bused to a white school where she endured racism and racist attacks. Shange's family had a strong interest in the arts and encouraged her artistic education. Among the guests at their home were Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, and W. E. B. Du Bois. When Shange was 13, she returned to New Jersey, where she completed high school. In 1966 Shange enrolled at Barnard College. She graduated cum laude in American Studies, then earned a master's degree in the same field from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. However, Shange's college years were not all pleasant. She married during her first year in college, but the marriage did not last long. Depressed over her separation and with a strong sense of bitterness and alienation, Shange attempted suicide.[5] In 1971, having come to terms with her depression and alienation, Shange changed her name. Ntozakhe means she who has her own things (literally things that belong to her in Xhosa) and shange means he/she who walks/lives with lions (meaning the lion's Pride in Zulu). Career In 1975, Shange moved to New York City, where in that year her first and most well-known play was produced—For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. First produced Off-Broadway, the play soon moved on to Broadway at the Booth Theater and won a number of awards, including the Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award. This play, her most famous work, was a 20-part poem that chronicled the lives of Black women in the United States. The poem was eventually made into the stage play, was then published in book form in 1977, then made into a movie in 2010 (For Colored Girls, directed by Tyler Perry). Since then, Shange has written a number of successful plays, including an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children (1980), which won an Obie Award. In 2003, Shange wrote and oversaw the production of Lavender Lizards and Lilac Landmines: Layla's Dream while serving as a visiting artist at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Individual poems, essays, and short stories of hers have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Black Scholar, Yardbird, MS, Essence Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, VIBE, and Third-World Women. Awards NDEA fellow, 1973 Obie Award Outer Critics Circle Award Audience Development Committee (Audelco) Award Mademoiselle Award Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop Award, 1978 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, 1981 (for Three Pieces) Guggenheim fellowship, 1981 Medal of Excellence, Columbia University, 1981 Obie Award, 1981, for Mother Courage and Her Children Nori Eboraci Award Barnard College, 1988 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund annual writer's award, 1992 Paul Robeson Achievement Award, 1992 Arts and Cultural Achievement Award National Coalition of 100 Black Women (Pennsylvania chapter), 1992 Taos World Poetry Heavyweight Champion, 1992, 1993, 1994 Living Legend Award, National Black Theatre Festival, 1993 Claim Your Life Award WDAS-AM/FM, 1993 Monarch Merit Award National Council for Culture and Art Pushcart Prize Nominations Tony Grammy Emmy award nominations (all 1977, all for For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf) Works Plays For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1975) Nominated for a Tony Award, Grammy Award, and Emmy Award. A Photograph: Lovers-in-Motion (1977) Produced Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre. Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1979) First produced at Frank Silvera's Writers' Workshop in New York, then on Broadway at the Symphony Space Theatre. Spell #7 (1979) Produced Off-Broadway at Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre. Black and White Two Dimensional Planes (1979). Mother Courage and Her Children (1980) Produced off-Broadway at the Public Theatre. Winner of a 1981 Obie Award. Three for a Full Moon (1982) Bocas (1982) First produced at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. From Okra to Greens/A Different Kinda Love Story (1983). Three views of Mt. Fuji (1987) First produced in San Francisco at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre; first produced in New York at the New Dramatists. Daddy Says (1989). Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon (1977) A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (1977) Mother of Courage and Her Children (1980) Whitewash (1994) Poetry Melissa & Smith (1976). Natural Disasters and Other Festive Occasions (1977) Nappy Edges (1978) A Daughter's Geography (1983) From Okra to Greens (1984) Ridin' the Moon in Texas: Word Paintings (St. Martin's Press, 1987) The Love Space Demands (a continuing saga) (St. Martin's Press, 1987) A Photograph: Lovers in Motion: A Drama (S. French, 1977) Some Men (1981) Three Pieces (St. Martin's Press, 1992) I Live in Music (1994) The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African-American Family (Atria Books, 2004). Photography by Kamoinge Inc Enuf With no Immediate Cause you are sucha fool People of Watts (First published in Nov 1993 in VIBE Magazine) Blood Rhyhms Poet Hero Novels For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf (Shameless Hussy Press, 1976) Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo (1982) Betsey Brown (St. Martin's Press, 1985) The Black Book (1986, with Robert Mapplethorpe). Liliane (1995) Some Sing, Some Cry (2010) (with Ifa Bayeza) Children's books Coretta Scott (2009) Ellington Was Not a Street (2003) Float Like a Butterfly: Muhammad Ali, the Man Who Could Float Like a Butterfly and Sting Like a Bee (2002) Daddy Says (2003) Whitewash (1997) Essays See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (1984) If I Can Cook You Know God Can (1998))

The Best Poem Of Ntozake Shange

My Father Is A Retired Magician

(for ifa, p.t., & bisa)

my father is a retired magician
which accounts for my irregular behavior
everythin comes outta magic hats
or bottles wit no bottoms & parakeets
are as easy to get as a couple a rabbits
or 3 fifty cent pieces/ 1958

my daddy retired from magic & took
up another trade cuz this friend of mine
from the 3rd grade asked to be made white
on the spot

what cd any self-respectin colored american magician
do wit such a outlandish request/ cept
put all them razzamatazz hocus pocus zippity-do-dah
thingamajigs away cuz
colored chirren believin in magic
waz becomin politically dangerous for the race
& waznt nobody gonna be made white
on the spot just
from a clap of my daddy's hands

& the reason i'm so peculiar's
cuz i been studyin up on my daddy's technique
& everythin i do is magic these days
& it's very colored
very now you see it/ now you
dont mess wit me
i come from a family of retired
sorcerers/ active houngans & pennyante fortune tellers
wit 41 million spirits critturs & celestial bodies
on our side
i'll listen to yr problems
help wit yr career yr lover yr wanderin spouse
make yr grandma's stay in heaven more gratifyin
ease yr mother thru menopause & show yr son
how to clean his room

YES YES YES 3 wishes is all you get
scarlet ribbons for yr hair
benwa balls via hong kong
a miniature of machu picchu

all things are possible
but aint no colored magician in her right mind
gonna make you white
i mean
this is blk magic
you lookin at
& i'm fixin you up good/ fixin you up good n colored
& you gonna be colored all yr life
& you gonna love it/ bein colored/ all yr life/ colored & love it
love it/ bein colored/
Spell #7 from Upnorth-Outwest Geechee Jibara Quik Magic Trance Manual for Technologically Stressed Third World People

Ntozake Shange Comments

tanya 05 February 2019

These poems make me think, how do I express how i really feel inside.I AM not happy or sad, mad or glad rich or poor, fat or skinny, black or white, liked or hated, tall or short, pretty or ugly, i am an acquired taste, you have to let me grow on you, i am neither liked or disliked, i guess i am an puzzle.

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Mattie M. Butler 03 January 2018

My favorite after James Weldon Johnson's God's Trombones. I was lady in red. It is what I am remembered for in my community! I sure would love to use it as a read for a scholarship fundraiser later this year. How do I obtain rights to direct this exceptional work!

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Charmaigne Scott 08 June 2013

I was in the choreopoem, For Colored Girls... many years, ago at a local, UC theatre. It was awesome trying to perform a role and accomplish the intricate details of the character identified by her Red garments. My monologue was Enuf. I could relate to practically all of it. It was not too far off from an ordinary woman's recount of some indelible moment that was washed away, down the drain of her recollections. It was a very intimate portrayal that had the audience on the edge of their seats. Wait...a minute...I could feel the thunderous tension and knew the lines would not come out. So, I improvised and cut to the end. OMG! That was the most difficult moment for my acting career. I almost quit after that. But, after reliving what on earth happened to me that night, I can say it was educational and made me empathetic to other actors whose roles take them beyond their capacities into a realm where they have absolutely no control over any of it. That is scary but will pass and leave you, albeit, scarred or not scarred for life. Try to memorize all of those lines from Enuf and see if you can recite it for an attentive audience. Do you make it through? Regardless, how could you not love the writings of the wonderfully self-possessed, Ms. Ntozake Shange? Become educated by her works and you, too may experience quantum leaps of personal growth and development as a a bona fide human being with a cache of analog and digital memoirs. Enjoy this forever.

30 1 Reply
A.B. 24 February 2022

Thank you, such deep thoughts....connects me even more deeply to the humanity of her poems!

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Maleke Haynes 31 May 2013

Thes poems maek meh barf I haet dem wit a pashun

11 72 Reply
no one 22 February 2021


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