by Shabnam Nadiya
The following is a translation of the poem "With No Immediate Cause" by Ntozake Shange, the African-Americal poet, performer and playwright. She was born Paulette Williams. The Zulu name Ntozake Shange is an statement of her anger at the double dilemma of being a black woman in America. The name Ntozake Shange means "She Who Comes With Her Own Things"/ "She Who Walks Like a Lion". The first time I read this poem, I was about fifteen or sixteen. The explicit anger of the poem shook me to the very core of my being. It so simply put forth all the rage I was feeling inside. This is one of the poems that changed my life; this is one of the poems that define who I am.
With No Immediate Cause
by: Ntozake Shange
- every 3 minutes a woman is beaten
- every five minutes a
- woman is raped/every ten minutes
- a little girl is molested
- yet I rode the subway today
- I sat next to an old man who
- may have beaten his old wife
- 3 minutes ago or 3 days/30 years ago
- he might have sodomized his daughter
- but I sat there
- cuz the men on the train
- might beat some young women
- later in the day or tomorrow
- I might not shut my door fast
- enough push hard enough
- every 3 minutes it happens
- some women's innocence
- rushes to her cheeks/pours from her mouth
- like the betsy wetsy dolls have been torn
- apart/their mouths
- menses red split/every
- three minutes a shoulder
- is jammed through plaster and the oven door/
- chairs push thru the rib cage/hot water or
- boiling sperm decorate her body
- I rode the subway today
- and bought a paper from an east Indian man who might
- have held his old lady onto
- a hot pressing iron/ I didn't know
- maybe he catches little girls in the
- parks and rips open their behinds
- with steel rods/ I can not decide
- what he might have done I
- know every 3 minutes
- every 5 minutes every 10 minutes
- I boughtt the paper
- looking for the announcement
- there has to be an announcement
- of the women's bodies fond
- yesterday the missing little girl
- I sat in a restaurant with my
- paper looking for the announcement
- a young man served me coffee
- I wondered did he pour the boiling
- coffee on the woman because she was stupid
- did he put the infant girl in
- the coffee pot because she cried too much
- what exactly did he do with hot coffee
- I looked for the announcement
- the discover of the dismembered
- woman's body
- victims have not all been
- identified today they are
- naked and dead/some refuse to
- testify girl out of 10 is not
- coherent/ I took the coffee
- and spit it up I found an
- announcement/ not the woman's
- bloated body in the river floating
- not the child bleeding in the
- 59th street corridor/ not the baby
- broken on the floor/
- "there is some concern
- that alleged battered women
- might start to murder their
- husbands and lovers with no
- immediate cause"
- I spit up I vomit I am screaming
- we all have immediate cause
- every 3 minutes
- every 5 minutes
- every 10 minutes
- every day
- women's bodies are found
- in alleys and bedrooms/at the top of the stairs
- before I ride the subway/buy a paper of drink
- coffee from your hands I must know
- have you hurt a woman today
- did you beat a woman today
- throw a child cross a room
- are the little girl's pants in your pocket
- did you hurt a woman today
- I have to ask these obscene questions
- I must know you see
- the authorities require us to
- immediate cause
- every three minutes
- every five minutes
- every ten minutes
- every day
Anna Andreevna Akhmatova
Sappho & Princess Nukata
Women of the Beat Generation (Adams, DiPrima, Cortez)
Essay on Contemporary Poetry
Anna Andreevna Akhmatova
Akhmatova Page: excellent site with links to her life and several translated poems. Here is the poem In Memory of M. B. and a short biography. Poem: The First Long Range Artillery Fire on Leningrad.
Biography; Writing Philosophy--Atwood's wonderfully amusing autobiographical essay on how she became a poet. Poem: In the Secular Night.
You fit into me (alternate copies here or here or here). Three poems: This is a photograph of me; You fit into me; Daguerreotype Taken in Old Age
Poems: This is a Photograph of Me; The Landlady; Variations on the Word Sleep; Variations on the Word Love; A Visit; Habitation. Variation on the Word Sleep--poem and commentary. Same poem here: Variation on the Word Sleep.
Siren Song; Nine: Bored; another Bored; A Visit; Song of the Fox; Sekhmet, the Lion-headed Goddess of War. Here are five more poems.
Gertrude Talks Back--funny essay
Biography with links to 10 poems (Armadillo, In the Waiting Room, Moose, etc.)
Bishop and the Wordsworth of Lyrical Ballads--scholarly essay
Biography; another biography (with poem Coal); another biography ; this biography includes commentary on her writings; scholarly comments (excerpts) on here poems.
Poems: scroll way down and find The Black Unicorn; Who Said It Was Simple; Never to Dream of Spiders--brief biography also.
Litany for Survival; Recreation; When the Saints Come Marching in. Two more poems: Black Mother Woman & Coal; more poems here.
Selected "new" poems: Making Love to Concrete; Inheritance--His; Electric Slide Boogie.
Information on African Goddesses/religion (referred to in Lorde's writings):
Mawu--goddess of night, Fon people of Abomey (moon, night joy motherhood) partner sungod Liza.
African Mythology--scroll down to Nana Buluku; Mawu-Lisa; Dan;
Goddess Myths--scroll down to Mawu
African Goddesses--general introduction; also scroll down to Gbadu, daughter of Mawu and Mawu, Lady Supreme and Minona, Protectress
More links to African goddesses
Links here--to several scholarly articles on Lorde's other writings.
Poems reprinted below: A Woman Speaks; From the House of Yemanja; 125th Street and Abomey; Dahomey; The Women of Dan Dance.
A Woman Speaks
Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.
I do not dwell within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon's new fury
with all your wide futures
and not white.
From the House of Yemanja
My mother had two faces and a frying pan
where she cooked up her daughters
before she fixed our dinner.
My mother had two faces
and a broken pot
where she hid out a perfect daughter
who was not me
I am the sun and moon and forever hungry
for her eyes.
I bear two women upon my back
one dark and rich and hidden
in the ivory hungers of the other
pale as a witch
yet steady and familiar
brings me bread and terror
in my sleep
her breasts are huge exciting anchors
in the midnight storm.
All this has been
in my mother's bed
time has no sense
I have no brothers
and my sisters are cruel.
Mother I need
mother I need
mother I need your blackness now
as the august earth needs rain.
the sun and moon and forever hungry
the sharpened edge
where day and night shall meet
and not be
125th Street and Abomey
Head bent, walking through snow
I see you Seboulisa
printed inside the back of my head
like marks of the newly wrapped akai
that kept my sleep fruitful in Dahomey
and I poured on the red earth in your honor
those ancient parts of me
most precious and least needed
my well-guarded past
the energy-eating secrets
I surrender to you as libation
mother, illuminate my offering
of old victories
over men over women over my selves
who has never before dared
to whistle into the night
take my fear of being alone
like my warrior sisters
who rode in defense of your queendom
disquised and apart
give the the woman strength
of tongue in this cold season.
Half earth and time splits us apart
like struck rock.
A piece lives elegant stories
too simply put
while a dream on the edge of summer
of brown rain in nim trees
snail shells from the dooryard
of King Toffah
bring me where my blood moves
Seboulisa mother goddess with one breast
eaten away by worms of sorrow and loss
see me now
your severed daughter
laughing our name into echo
all the world shall remember.
"in spite of the fire's heat
the tongs can fetch it."
It was in Abomey that I felt
the full blood of my fathers' wars
and where I found my mother
standing with outstretched palms hip high
one breast eaten away by worms of sorrow
magic stones resting upon her fingers
dry as a cough.
In the dooryard of the brass workers
four women joined together dying cloth
mock Eshu's iron quiver
standing erect and flamingly familiar
in their dooryard
mute as a porcupine in a forest of lead
In the courtyard of the cloth workers
other brothers and nephews
are stitching bright tapestries
into tales of blood.
Thunder is a woman with braided hair
spelling the fas of Shango
asleep between sacred pythons
that cannot read
nor eat the ritual offerings
of the Asein.
My throat in the panther's lair
Bearing two drums on my head I speak
whatever language is needed
to sharpen the knives of my tongue
the snake is aware although sleeping
under my blood
since I am a woman whether or not
you are against me
I will braid my hair
in the seasons of rain.
The Women of Dan Dance with
Swords in their Hands to Mark the
Time When They Were Warriors
I did not fall from the sky
nor descend like a plague of locusts
to drink color and strength from the earth
and I do not come like rain
as a tribute or symbol for earth's becoming
dark and open
some times I fall like night
only when I must die
in order to rise again.
I do not come like a secret warrior
with an unsheathed sword in my mouth
hidden behind my tongue
slicing my throat to ribbons
of service with a smile
while the blood runs
down and out
through holes in the two sacred mounds
on my chest.
I come like a woman
who I am
spreading out through nights
laughter and promise
and dark heat
warming whatever I touch
that is living
what is already dead.
Short biography, with good links at bottom of page to other poems. Another biography.
Marge Piercy Homepage--links to several poems. Study questions (Heath Guide)
Poems: Unlearning to Not Speak; The Friend (or here); The Common Living Dirt. Here is Wellfleet Sabbath, plus two other poems. Here is a short interpretation of Wellfleet Sabbath. The Art of Blessing the Day. Meditation before Reading Torah; The Long Death; Why Marry at all?
5 more poems; several poems/reviews; 8 poems including For Strong Women (also here). Another poem; one more poem
Below are two Piercy poems: The Woman in the ordinary and The Bonsai Tree.
The woman in the ordinary
The woman in the ordinary pudgy downcast girl
is crouching with eyes and muscles clenched.
Round and pebble smooth she effaces herself
under ripples of conversation and debate.
The woman in the block of ivory soap
has massive thighs that neigh,
great breasts that blare and strong arms that trumpet.
The woman of the golden fleece
laughs uproariously from the belly
inside the girl who imitates
a Christmas card virgin with glued hands,
who fishes for herself in other's eyes,
who stoops and creeps to make herself smaller.
In her bottled up is a woman peppery as curry,
a yam of a woman of butter and brass,
compounded of acid and sweet like a pineapple,
like a handgrenade set to explode,
like goldenrod ready to bloom.
The Bonsai Tree
The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
It is your nature
to be small and cozy
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.
Biography/links/poems (Daddy, Lady Lazarus, Morning Song, The Stones)--excellent site. Biography, with internal links to a number of her poems (Daddy, Lady Lazarus, and many others). Scholarly comments (excerpts) on her poems.
Detailed Chronology including excerpts from her journals, letters, and apprenticeship writings; criticism on her poetry.
A Wind of Such Violence with links to 230 poems
The Bell Jar--good commentary on the novel; The Trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg--read about the case that fascinated Plath
The Gothic and Contemporary Poetry--gothic themes in Plath's poetry; Sylvia Plath essay--in Postmodern Culture, May 98.
Short biography/links/poems (Diving into the Wreck, Miracle Ice Cream); scholarly comments (excerpts) on her poetry;
Two poems: Aunt Jennifer's Tigers and From a Survivor, with links to study questions.
Two poems: Aunt Jennifer's Tigers and Diving into the Wreck.
Ideological Reading of Aunt Jennifer's Tigers--text of poem, with commentary.
Poem: from Calle Vision; Lucifer in the Train
Sappho (also Princess Nukata, Japanese "Sappho")
Biography and Poems:--Frankly I wish I were dead; Please come back to me, Gongyla; On the throne of many hues, Immortal Aphrodite; Some an army of horsemen; To Atthis though in Sardis now. Click Example to see several translations of "He is equal to the gods." Sappho Page; biography and poem.
Another good source (biography, links, poems); more poems--see the following in particular: Although they are only breath; Cleis; It was you, Atthis, who said; Standing by my bed; We know this much; To put the urn; With his venom; Without warning; You may forget.
Sappho's Choral Music--commentary and alternate translations of a number of her poems.
Princess Nukata, the early Japanese "Sappho"--other early Japanese women writers included also.
Sara Teasdale's Sappho poems--from Rivers to the Sea.
Biography--with some commentary; biography--with many links; Poet-Hero--poem explaining her name (by Shange? about Shange? unclear).
Biography/poem; here are some poems; more poems; two poems--from For Colored Girls Only. Poem: Enuf
Review of Nappy Edges--some comments on her poetic style.
More links here; and on her drama here (scroll down the page to Shange's name).
Here is Shange's moving poem on violence against women:
With No Immediate Cause
every 3 minutes a woman is beaten
every five minutes a
woman is raped/every ten minutes
a lil girl is molested
yet i rode the subway today
i sat next to an old man who
may have beaten his old wife
3 minutes ago or 3 days/30 years ago
he might have sodomized his
daughter but i sat there
cuz the young men on the train
might beat some young women
later in the day or tomorrow
i might not shut my door fast
every 3 minutes it happens
some woman's innocence
rushes to her cheeks/pours from her mouth
like the betsy wetsy dolls have been torn
menses red & split/every
three minutes a shoulder
is jammed through plaster and the oven door/
chairs push thru the rib cage/hot water or
boiling sperm decorate her body
i rode the subway today
& bought a paper from a
man who might
have held his old lady onto
a hot pressing iron/i don't know
maybe he catches lil girls in the
park & rips open their behinds
with steel rods/i can't decide
what he might have done i only
know every 3 minutes
every 5 minutes every 10 minutes/so
i bought the paper
looking for the announcement
the discovery/of the dismembered
victims have not all been
identified/today they are
naked and dead/refuse to
testify/one girl out of 10's not
coherent/i took the coffee
& spit it up/i found an
announcement/not the woman's
bloated body in the river/floating
not the child bleeding in the
59th street corridor/not the baby
broken on the floor/
"there is some concern
that alleged battered women
might start to murder their
husbands & lovers with no
i spit up i vomit i am screaming
we all have immediate cause
every 3 minutes
every 5 minutes
every 10 minutes
women's bodies are found
in alleys & bedrooms/at the top of the stairs
before i ride the subway/buy a paper/drink
coffee/i must know/
have you hurt a woman today
did you beat a woman today
throw a child across a room
are the lil girl's panties
in yr pocket
did you hurt a woman today
i have to ask these obscene questions
the authorities require me to
every three minutes
every five minutes
every ten minutes
Women of the Beat Generation:
Helen Adam--Apartment on Twin Peaks; very brief background information; The Last Secret; Reluctant Pixie Poole: A Recovery of Helen Adam's San Francisco Years; Poem: I Love My Love--scroll near bottom of page on my Pre-Raphaelite Women web page.
Diane DiPrima--Diane Di Prima--8 poems; page of links; biog/poems; interview; poem Doctrine of Signatures (scroll down from the biography); biography; Rant from a Cool Place; biography (has links); Women of the Beat Generation Links; more on Women of Beat Generation.
Jayne Cortez--Jayne Cortez; poem Summit; Jayne Cortez--a page of links. Commentary here.
Essays about the Beat Generation: Rebel Poets of the 1950s--good concise intro to Beat Poets, San Francisco Renaissance, Black Mountain Poets, and New York School. Margery Perloff Home Page--many essays; How Beat Happened. Ginsberg--excerpts from criticism on his poetry. Comprehensive site here: Beat Generation News--includes women and abstract expressionists. Here is Literary Kicks--many, many links.
"The Genealogy of Postmodernism: Contemporary American Poetry"
by Albert Gelpi from The Southern Review, Summer 1990, pp. 517-541
[Source : http://www.pittstate.edu/engl/nichols/wpoets.html]