Classical Poetry: Read poems inspired by William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American": III. Animato

Read poems inspired by William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American": III. AnimatoAniket Bhattacharya/Unsplash

Symphony No. 1


May 01, 2020

April is National Poetry Month, and we're celebrating in a uniquely classical way. Each Monday, we post a musical selection. Listen, and then send us your original poem inspired by the music. We publish our favorites the following week. Give it a try!

Poems inspired by William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American": III. Animato

Three Haikus

In nineteen thirty,
Half of all blacks unemployed-
Great depressions suck.

In twenty twenty
Covid nineteen kills more blacks.
Pandemics suck too.

Will we ever learn-
When things get bad, really bad,
Blacks suffer the most.

— AJ Smith, Wayzata


"I've got rhythm, I've got music;
Don't know if they got me first...
Sliding, striding, bouncing to the cadence,
One foot east, one steps west.

All day I am myself,
Whether myself is whom I show;
Joy and life find me fully
Dressed in robes that glow."

— Conor Cook, Chaska


Going in a time machine, going way back when fancy French parties were a thing.

Watching people collide and jump and slide as they waltz, how do I do that I wonder?

Then some fancy French dude and takes me by my hand, he turns and twirls me and finally I dance.

He sets me down, I had so much fun, I want to stay but my time is done

I jump back to the time machine waving goodbye

I'm in the time machine closing the door, then the French boy says au revoir.

— Vivian Igelman, Plymouth

Nights in shining armor

Nights in shining armor
On their horses they travel farther
Than any other man alive
Until they get to the other side
For they joust and fight
With winning in sight
Deep into the night
Until they feel tired
Of hearing 'sire'
And decide to sleep
While counting sheep
Then finally dose off into slumber
Dreaming dreams full of color
Then they wake up and do it again
And then again and again and again
For it never gets old
For a position they hold
It is the highest honor
For nights do not wander
They have a place to be
And the most wonderful things to see
And plenty more to see yet
Galloping off into the sunset

— Sophie Milstein, Shorewood


It's one of those festivals
People who adore you
Bring you all kinds of presents
Colorful cards, fragile flowers
And tasty wine.

You walk toward me
'Didn't you say you love me the most?'
I remain silent
Look at my empty palm
And shake my head

'Darling, I do love you most,
I gave you the most preciouss'
You curl your lips
'Your heart? No, I want anything,
but your love.'

— Yafeng Lin, Port Orange


Pay attention to the heartbeat, the sustaining energy of life.
The vibrant spirit, the foundation of hope, the generator of moment-to-moment pleasure in our existence, in spite of everything.
The blues remind us,
Do not fear life.
Instead, respect the complicated, welcoming,
often thorny,
raucous and joyous path
on which we make life's journey.

— Deborah Clemmensen, Minneapolis


short flight to the moon
jump on nearest magic branch
dreams will do the rest

— Richard Curney, Prior Lake

swimming through la serenissima

venice is a ghost town
the waters have turned a wild breath
taking blue

dolphins have been seen dancing
through the channels
giddy gondolas with dorsal fin flags

yesterday, a herd of wild turkeys
plump & preening
waddled through our city

clucking in ecstatic

standing at the wastebasket
thinking about the dolphins
& turkeys
I work the gristle off a chicken bone

what if I will need this chicken bone
in the near future?

what if I look back at all this
when the dolphins & turkeys
were so happy
& think to myself

why didn't I save that chicken bone?

foxes wrestle in the empty
ball park frisky delighted
love-biting each others paws

buds are popping out on the lilac bush
they push & shove at each other
for a better view

of the sun
they have never known it
so crisp & bright
meanwhile I stare at a chicken
bone in my hand
contemplating survival

what it means
to lose what you thought
was eternal

how it feels
to go from a have
to a have not.

— Audrey Colasanti, Minneapolis


Adoring young locks to silver strands;
bookmarks of a revolution??!!
Dusting off dreams of ""taking it to streets""
while living on dusty empty streets!

Activism has come home- asked to rest
in rooms mostly for remembering.
Is napping an ultimate resistance strategy?

— Richard Graham, Hastings

small wonder

it is a small wonder that this world is still intact
small wonder that birds still fly and sing their merry songs
small wonder that water still stumbles over sand and rocks to the sea
small wonder that the wind still blows fiercely
small wonder that Spring remembered to come
small wonder that flowers remembered to bloom
small wonder that the world still spins amid all this chaos

— Jay Coleman, Madison

Rise Up

Mother Earth tightens her grip in
frozen turf
harbors embedded life
latent and nascent
roots seedcoats microbes molecules
earthbound creatures hibernating
waiting waiting
Knowing Knowing
nature's signs will come
warming sun warming wind warming rain melting soil muddy waters
Stirrings wormwiggles croaks sighs burps bubbles
buds birds bees will soon do their thing

Rise up! Spring forth, Persephone! Mother Demeter's love has freed you! Reunite for this is your Season

Mother Earth loosens her cold fist awakens and washes herself with technicolor life harmonious music
rhythmic dance

Love Renewed

— Sharon Hulett, Minnetonka


Pull me through your

past the ghostly

under the blue
over the blues

across a landscape of
trill and swing

into the offbeats,
pulling and driving

Show me a history,
a rising, a victory

sing it in a dazzle,
woven with question

ride a high road,
answer in the augmented
key of

— Katrin Talbot, Madison


an urgent opening fades away into the mask
donned each day to keep the man at bay
No, i'm not fine, I never asked you
to ask, anyway. ""oh hi there neighbor!""
""I hope you have a nice day""
is this what it means to be an American?
at war with who you know you are and what's around you?
Smile to me my happy face, and try not worry so much about Nero's disgrace.
Which is more American? scandal or a NASCAR race?

— Peter Eschweiler, Golden Valley


The horns blast
Telling me
She is here

Town quiets
Tip Toes

She walks
The queen


Small girls

Soldiers - March

Horns, march
to the melody

end. she
is gone.

— Emma Larson, Rochester


On the day quarantine is lifted
We will be dancing in the streets
Hugging each other with wild abandon
Until we start to notice

The empty chairs in the coffee shop or diner

The empty desks in the classroom and office

The missing voices in the choir

Then we will understand why

— Ann Maria Mattila, Rock Springs

A Child's Fantasy of Dance

A child's dance is a refuge of bliss.
Stomping and jumping madly

they skip and spin, but not
to the rhythm

But to the feel inside
their chest

They waltz in the brook
that flows through a field
of sedge,

And as they collapse on their back
and lie in the tall grass

They raise their fingers to the sun
And a giggle bubbles out with
every breath

— Laura Martin, Braham


On the screen
On the film
Figures dancing, figures prancing
Stop! Someone' coming!
Is it friend or is it foe?
Till you see them
You don't know
Cartoons in the papers
Pictures in books
Never moved before
Until now
They have the spark of life
Seeing this for the first time ever
I can't believe what I see
That flickers in front of me
Is it magic, spells or woo
Something a sorcerer would do
And maybe his apprentice, too?
I have no words
There are no words
Only music to set the score
The music sets the score
Until it is
The End

— Mason Green, Savage


Oh, Lord, please
dance beside me when I'm happy,
stay close to me when I am down,
listen to me when I am praying,
stand with me when I'm on shaky ground.
Guide me on my journey;
give me strength along the way.
Let me be your hands to help the needy.
Help me give comfort when others cry.
Teach me to be your servant so that I,
can share your word until I die.

— Juliana Schacherer, Litchfield

Music in the Park

There he is, in his straw hat,
dancing, enjoying where he's at;
moving & spinning,
tapping & twirling,
arms, legs in sync
with dance partner, his girling.

I cannot imagine myself like that--
dancing like he, in his straw hat.

— Webb, St. Paul


Reminiscent of a simpler time
when people didn't travel far from home
where entire lifetimes
were spent in one small town.

One only needed an 8th-grade education
to be successful.
You knew where your food and neighbors
came from.

People weren't really free
caged by religion and judgment
held to societal notions of
the right way to be.

Blues was born in hearts and hands
of people pushing against fences
and building walls,
real or otherwise.

Nostalgia for simpler times,
an illusion.

— Laura Kozy Lanik, St. Paul


Tip top tappy marching song and
Click tack tickety zoom
Play those happy boppy dots and
Dance about the room

Step then tap and tap then step and
Swing so wide and out
Zip dip flow then zip dip jump and
Shimmer fly and shout

Lift the beats in double time and
Sway the tune and tone
Snap it right then snap it left and
Bring it home sweet home

Take me back to long goodbyes when
Birdies sing all night
We'll tip toe back to neverland
Where music holds the light

But time is late as stars come out yet
Dreams forever show
That tip top tappy marching song
Keeps hearts forever full

— Kristi Larsen, Atlanta