Posts Tagged ‘Jupiter Hammon’

Celebrating the goodness of God on Black Poetry Day

October 17, 2019
A Black poet celebrates God’s miracle-working power on National Black Poetry Day

Today’s blog post spotlights a special celebration. Although not recognized as a national holiday, October 17 is designated as Black Poetry Day. During this time we celebrate poets of African American heritage and their contribution to the literary landscape of the nation and of the world. Why was this particular day selected for the celebration? For the answer we go back to the America’s literary beginning and the “Father of Black Poetry.”

Jupiter Hammon, the first person of African descent to publish a poem in colonial America, was born October 17, 1711. Publishing a literary work of any kind during this period was a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but for a man born into slavery, writing and publishing “An Evening Thought” in 1761 was nothing short of a miracle.

Born on the estate of merchant Henry Lloyd of Oyster Bay, NY, Hammon was believed to have been a lay minister. As a devout Christian, he expressed his religious convictions in all of his poetry and prose. In addition to An Evening Thought, his works include An Essay on the Ten Virgins, 1779; A Winter Piece, 1782; An Evening’s Improvement, 1783; An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York, 1787. In 2013 a University of Texas at Arlington English professor and his doctoral student located an unpublished poem, “An Essay on Slavery,” handwritten by Hammon around 1786.

Some believe Hammon may have experienced a powerful conversion during the Great Awakening, the religious revival of the mid 1700s, as he hammers out the word “salvation” more than twenty times throughout this first poem, An Evening Thought. Written in hymn stanzas or common meter, the same metrical pattern as many of the hymns of John and Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts from the same period, the structure of the poem leads some to speculate that Hammon’s poetry may have been set to music.

Black Poetry Day was first proposed in 1970 by Stanley A. Ransom. As author of America’s First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon, Ransom has sought to bring wider recognition to Hammon and his works. Professor Ransom was among the scholars cited in my dissertation which examined the poetry of Hammon and three other black poets: Phillis Wheatley, George Moses Horton, and Frances E.W. Harper. Indeed, the poetry of Jupiter Hammon has profoundly influenced me as a practicing poet whose literary style also mirrors an attraction to the Bible for inspiration.

Recently, I went to my oncologist for a follow-up visit after starting hormone therapy and a new dietary/nutritional protocol as part of his most recent response to prostate cancer which had metastasized to my hips and thighs. I received some good news when I learned that my PSA reading had dropped significantly–from 90+ down to 0.7! As the situation miraculously unfolded, I was inspired to write this:

Look at God!

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
Isaiah 40:9 (ESV)

I am turning a new page, stepping out into the more,
Reaching far beyond anything I have ever thought of;
Beyond anything I have even dared to ask for;
Through Christ, God is able to do exceedingly above,
Way beyond anything my finite mind could ever see.
Recently, God Himself opened the windows of heaven
And poured out a blessing–a miracle crafted for me:
My PSA had skyrocketed to more than ninety,
But within a month it plummeted to zero point seven.
Nothing is impossible–all things are possible with God.
When we pray, it is no secret what Father God can do;
What He has done for others He can do for me and you.
Behold! The outpouring of the Spirit of the Living God
As we now witness signs, wonders, and miracles: “Look at God!”

For all my family and friends in the Columbus, Ohio area, I will be sharing my testimony at 10 a.m. Sunday, October 20, 2019 

Equippers City Church Apostolic Resource Center
6954 Americana Parkway
Reynoldsburg, OH 43068

Following my presentation, I will be signing copies of Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. I invite you to follow me down the road less traveled in a journey that weaves original poetry, Scripture, and a holistic battle plan, sharing how I emerged, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. Readers can apply my message of hope to overcome any adversity.

For more details about Embracing Your Life Sentence check out 

https://www.lonnelledwardjohnson.com/

We close with J J Hairston and Youthful Praise singing “Miracle Worker.”

Black Poetry Day: A dual celebration

October 17, 2018

This photo copy shows the first poem published in 1761 by Jupiter Hammon, the Father of Black Poetry.

Today’s blog post spotlights a special celebration. Although not recognized as a national holiday, October 17 is designated as Black Poetry Day. During this time we celebrate poets of African American heritage and their contribution to the literary landscape of the nation and of the world. Why was this particular day selected for the celebration? For the answer we go back to the America’s literary beginnings and the “Father of Black Poetry.”

Jupiter Hammon, the first person of African descent to publish a poem in colonial America, was born October 17, 1711. Publishing a literary work of any kind during this period was a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but for a man born into slavery, writing and publishing “An Evening Thought” in 1761 was nothing short of a miracle.

Born on the estate of merchant Henry Lloyd of Oyster Bay, NY, Hammon was believed to have been a lay minister. As a devout Christian, he expressed his religious convictions in all of his poetry and prose. In addition to An Evening Thought, 1761, his works include “An Essay on the Ten Virgins,” 1779; “A Winter Piece,” 1782; “An Evening’s Improvement,” 1783; “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York,” 1787. In 2013 a University of Texas at Arlington English professor, Cedric May, and his doctoral student, Julie McGowan, located an unpublished poem, “An Essay on Slavery,” handwritten by Hammon around 1786.

Some believe that Hammon may have had a powerful conversion experience during the Great Awakening, the religious revival of the mid 1700s, as he hammers out the word “salvation” more than twenty times throughout this first poem, “An Evening Thought.” Written in hymn stanzas or common meter, the same metrical pattern as many of the hymns of John and Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts from the same period, the structure of the poem leads some to speculate that Hammon’s poetry may have been set to music.

Black Poetry Day was first proposed in 1970 by Stanley A. Ransom. As author of America’s First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon, Ransom has sought to bring wider recognition to Hammon and his works. Professor Ransom was among the scholars cited in my dissertation which examined the poetry of Hammon and three other black poets: Phillis Wheatley, George Moses Horton, and Frances E.W. Harper. Indeed, the poetry of Jupiter Hammon has profoundly influenced me as a practicing poet whose literary style also mirrors an attraction to the Bible for inspiration.

Black Poetry Day 2018 also marks a dual celebration as a “doubly lovely day” since I submitted the final approval for the release of my new book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. I share my response to a diagnosis of prostate cancer as I developed a holistic battle plan, weaving original poetry and Scripture to show how to I emerged, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. Here is one of the poems from the book revealing Hammon’s influence:

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

“Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD!”
—Psalm 27:14

Reassured once more we will not be left behind,
But with patience we must still learn to watch and wait.
We look into the mirror of God’s word and find
Our God has ever been faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job we wait until at last our change shall come,
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
May we not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times we remain yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all of God’s will.

In celebration of Black Poetry Day and the poetry of Jupiter Hammon, we close with a rendering of “I Love the Lord” arranged by Richard Smallwood. The original composition  was written by Isaac Watts in hymn stanzas, the same metrical pattern used by Hammon in all of his poetry. While living on the Lloyd estate, Hammon had access to the family library which contained a collection of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs by Dr. Watts, the “Father of Hymnody,” revealing a possible influence on the poetry of Hammon:

For more details about Embracing Your Life Sentence and its publication, stay tuned to Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe and see https://www.lonnelledwardjohnson.com/

Celebrating Four Black Poets on Black Poetry Day

October 17, 2017

As the beauty of the day began to unfold with the morning sunrise, I recalled that today has been designated Black Poetry Day, a time to celebrate poets of color and their contribution to the diverse literary landscape of America and beyond. October 17 was selected since Jupiter Hammon, the first poet of African descent to publish a poem in America, was born October 17, 1711 in Long Island, New York.

Given the undeveloped and primitive conditions of the colonies, for any person to publish any literary work in colonial America in 1761 would be an extraordinary accomplishment, but for a slave to write as well as to have published a poem is nothing less than a miracle. Here is an excerpt:

An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penetential Cries

Salvation comes by Jesus Christ alone,
The only Son of God;
Redemption now to every one,
That love his holy Word.

Dear Jesus we would fly to Thee,
And leave off every Sin,
Thy Tender Mercy well agree;
Salvation from our King.

Salvation comes now from the Lord,
Our victorious King;
His holy Name be well ador’d,
Salvation surely bring.

Dear Jesus give thy Spirit now,
Thy Grace to every Nation,
That han’t the Lord to whom we bow,
The Author of Salvation.

Dear Jesus unto Thee we cry,
Give us the Preparation;
Turn not away thy tender Eye;
We seek thy true Salvation.

Clearly, Hammon in relating his salvation experience in poetry, offers an exuberant testimony of his close encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Given the metrical pattern of Hammon’s poetry all of which was written in hymn stanzas (think of the lyrics to “Amazing Grace,” and you will see the same pattern). Having closely studied Hammon’s poetry, I think that Hammon either “flat-out” sang his poetry as you would sing a hymn and/or he recited it with a passionate expression that is comparable to what we might think of today as a “rapper” or “spoken word” artist. The  intensity of his life-altering “salvation experience” so “rocked his world” that he couldn’t keep his feelings to himself. The words seemed to overflow, erupting into a passionate song of praise from the depths of the soul of this extraordinary poet. Since its publication the world has been blessed and refreshed and enlightened by his pioneering literary work, “An Evening Thought.”

On Black Poetry Day, 2017 we close with a tribute to Jupiter Hammon, the “Father of Black Poetry,” along with three other noted African American poets who have greatly influenced me. I recognize their contribution to my life, as I ask:

Did They See Me?

In tribute to Jupiter Hammon, Phillis Wheatley,
George Moses Horton, and Frances E.W. Harper

At night as he began to write
And looked to God on high,
Could he have known that one like he
Would read his works and be
Inspired by the same desire
To love God’s holy Word.
I read works by Brother Hammon
And wonder did he find
Any comfort and assurance
That his works would still be read
Three hundred years beyond his time:
And in his mind did he stretch forth
The hand of fellowship
To greet a man of kindred mind
Eons beyond his time?

I read works by Jupiter Hammon
and wonder did he see me?

A fragile gentlewoman, did she know
The enduring value her words would show?
When she lifted her eyes toward open skies
And posed with quill, did she realize
The power of her words to kindle fire,
To enlighten souls to marvel and admire?
Did she muse on those who were yet to sing
And seek to leave a lamp for her offspring?
Surely she knew death could not entomb
Seeds bearing fruit beyond the barren womb.

I read works of Phillis Wheatley
and wonder did she see me?

Did he soar far beyond his time
To reach a place of tranquil clime
To gain a grander view?
Beyond that place could he foresee
A man like him who would be free,
The poet’s calling to pursue?
Did he invite a distant friend
To flee together and ascend,
To join him in his cherished flight,
Leaving behind the chains of night
To soar into the poet’s world,
To uncover and unfurl
The naked genius of his soul?

I read works of George Moses Horton
and wonder did he see me?

When she made songs for her people
Did she have me in mind?
One who would join the chorus
In years beyond her time?
Though she left no sons behind,
Her poems continue to remind
Those who read and heed the message
That justice speaks to every age.
When she made her songs, did she feel
Kindred to come would share her zeal?
Did she know such songs would stir my heart
With the wisdom they impart?

I read works of Mrs. Harper
and wonder did she see me.

Through an infinity of mirrors
I look back and ask
did they look ahead;
I look ahead and ask
will others look back
and be inspired by
the self-same fire;
will they marvel as I,
marvel at the power
of the printed word,
the power of a single light,
like a cloven tongue of fire,
to shatter the darkest night.

I read their works and wonder did they see me?

We conclude with John Michael MacDonald reading “An Evening Thought”