Black History—Early Friday Night Poetry Corner #272

Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer lived her entire life in Virginia, where she tended her garden, worked as a librarian and teacher, hosted luminaries of Black intellectual and cultural life, and fought for equal rights for African Americans. 

Spencer was born Annie Bethel Scales Bannister near Danville, Virginia on February 6, 1882. She was the only child of Sarah Louise Scales and Joel Cephus Bannister, a former slave with Black, white, and Seminole Indian ancestry. Soon after her birth, the family moved to Martinsville, VA, where Spencer’s father opened a saloon. Spencer began studying at the Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, VA (now Virginia University of Lynchburg) at the age of 11. She distinguished herself as a student of literature and languages and graduated as valedictorian in 1899…

(Click on link below to read this article in it’s entirely)

Life-Long, Poor Browning—by Anne Spencer

Life-long, poor Browning never knew Virginia,
Or he’d not grieved in Florence for April sallies
Back to English gardens after Euclid’s linear:
Clipt yews, Pomander Walks, and preached alleys;

Primroses, prim indeed, in quiet ordered hedges,
Waterways, soberly, sedately enchanneled,
No thin riotous blade even among the sedges,
All the wild country-side tamely impaneled . . .

Dead, now, dear Browning, lives on in heaven,–
(Heaven’s Virginia when the year’s at its Spring)
He’s haunting the byways of wine-aired leaven
And throating the notes of the wildings on wing;

Here canopied reaches of dogwood and hazel,
Beech tree and redbud fine-laced in vines,
Fleet clapping rills by lush fern and basil,
Drain blue hills to lowlands scented with pines . . .

Think you he meets in this tender green sweetness
Shade that was Elizabeth . . . immortal completeness!

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