William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘The Harlem Renaissance’

Tragedy, Triumph, Hope

On the street just south of us, the owners of three houses have already put up Christmas lights. They do so every year, but this is early even for them. They usually wait until Thanksgiving. Two of the houses are homes to families with young children. The other is occupied by a woman and her young adult son. Whatever their lights mean to them — a more cheerful present, a […]

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Prune, Persimmon, Plum Bun

This afternoon I swept the walk, the driveway, and the moss-covered patio area behind the house, which was buried in dry, frosted birch leaves. Then I ate two dates, two prunes, a piece of dried mango, and a fresh ripe persimmon. Lately I have had to delete several telephone messages, in which were the recorded voices of people telling us in ignorant, angry tones how we should vote. One man […]

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Juncos, Seaweed, and Mold

Poor Helga Crane. I must confess, I did not expect that within its last thirty pages, Nella Larsen’s Quicksand would turn into an out-and-out tragedy. But that is exactly what it did, all seemingly the result of an ill-timed walk in the rain. Heartbreaking it was, to this reader at a distance of nearly a century, that even death would say, No, you have not suffered enough — heartbreaking especially […]

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Smoke and Quicksand

Yesterday afternoon, after reading several chapters of Nella Larsen’s novel, Quicksand, I had put the book aside to rest my eyes when a question came to mind: how long, I wondered, has it been since I would rather be doing something else? As I thought about this, the days, weeks, and months of my strange quiet life quickly gave way to years — so it is, at least, that long. […]

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Reply

Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem, the second offering in the Library of America’s two-volume collection of nine Harlem Renaissance novels, is an outstanding, refreshing, exhilarating, musical work full of sweet longing and suspense, an artful record of the timeless love affair between pain and laughter in which each, mutually and gratefully dependent on the other, flowers and bleeds. The source of pain: American history, ignorance, hatred, prejudice. The source of […]

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Cane

Now that I’ve finished it, I hope I am able to remember Jean Toomer’s novel, Cane. It has been this way for a great many years. The books I read have a way of passing through me. I retain impressions and moods, and lose most of the details. But the deep, dark poem that is Cane, the story of it, the play, is mood, is impression, is nightmare, stirring and […]

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Long Gray Train (I Pay the Porter)

I woke up in the middle of the night needing a sip of water. I walked down the hall, and as I passed through the dark sitting room, a sentence sprang to mind, or the beginning of a sentence — a phrase, a breath, a sound, a combination of sounds — a powerful suggestion, insistent, dreamlike, meaningful, profound, but I didn’t have the focus to pick up a pen and […]

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Life and Renaissance

I met G.H.W. this morning while tending our garden. He stopped, per his daily habit, to rest on our retaining wall where it’s shaded by the juniper, cedar, and lilac. He’s eighty-four years old, walks several miles each morning, and collects cans for the ten-cent deposit. He doesn’t need the money. But the walk does him good, and he likes to talk to people along the way. Some think he’s […]

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