New clothes, new schools, new schedules, new school year. It’s Back to School time! If you’re not in Back-to-School mode yet, here are some poems to get you in the mood, and to honor this time-honored fall tradition:): “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes, “There is no frigate like a book (1263” by Emily Dickinson and “Art Class” by James Galvin.
Theme for English B
by Langston Hughes
The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.
There is no frigate like a book (1263)
by Emily Dickinson
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.
by James Galvin
Let us begin with a simple line,
Drawn as a child would draw it,
To indicate the horizon,
More real than the real horizon,
Which is less than line,
Which is visible abstraction, a ratio.
The line ravishes the page with implications
Of white earth, white sky!
The horizon moves as we move,
Making us feel central.
But the horizon is an empty shell—
Strange radius whose center is peripheral.
As the horizon draws us on, withdrawing,
The line draws us in,
Requiring further lines,
Engendering curves, verticals, diagonals,
Urging shades, shapes, figures…
What should we place, in all good faith,
On the horizon? A stone?
An empty chair? A submarine?
Take your time. Take it easy.
The horizon will not stop abstracting us.