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A guest post by Dmitry Samarov — author of Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab — fourth in a series on Chicago writers. Dmitry also painted the portraits.

No one reads the poems of Carolyn Rodgers (Dec. 14, 1940-April 2, 2010). She was a key member of the Black Arts Movement and a student of Gwendolyn Brooks. As so often happens with women in the arts, she was chastised for what men were celebrated for. Here she addresses the use of profanity in a poem:  

—from "The Last M.F."

they say,
that i should not use the word
muthafucka anymo
in my poetry or in any speech i give. 
they say,
that i must and can only say it to myself 
as the new Black Womanhood suggests 
a softer self
a more reserved speaking self. they say, 
that respect is hard won by a woman 
who throws a word like muthafucka around 
and so they say because we love you 
throw that word away, Black Woman …
i say,
that i only call muthafuckas, muthafuckas 
so no one should be insulted.

ovah

How I Got Ovah: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award (1976). Over time she shifted away from revolutionary and militant themes to more personal concerns but she never neglected the plight of being poor and black in America: 

"East of New Haven"

you see so many
       graveyards around
    these little towns
       out in the open
         spaces & places.

            i guess big cities
         have not enough space for the
           living,
              let alone the dead.

there is so much
water here
and back home in
chicago we would call
them rocks, lying all on the ground(s)
lots of rocks around / but
you would call them
stones here.
see how much smoother
the world is.

the farther east we
go
   the more frequent
are the stops at rich small
quaint towns and the more frequent
are the admonitions to “watch one’s
ticket on the rack above the seat
or to be very sure to take it with
you if you leave your seat!”
    apparently,
              the very wealthy,
                                steal.

as i ride the train
watching the many white students
eating out of brown paper
sacks, saving their now
money so that they can
be the very wealthy later
on, also. 

Carolyn Rodgers will be inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2012. 
Perhaps a few more people will read her poems now.

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    Her name sounds really familiar…I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m pretty sure people have been reading her poems. I’m...
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    PLEASE NOTE THIS POST CONTAINS FOUL LANGUAGE AND IS RECOMMENDED FOR ADULTS ONLY. ALSO REMEMBER, ALL REBLOGGED POSTS ON...
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