New Black Poetry: Makalani Bandele

If you remember, last month I introduced a new feature for this blog, New Black Poetry. One reason is, 1) I’m a poet, 2) I just love poetry, and 3) I love Black folks, and so I thought to myself, “Self, just come up with an excuse to present new poems!.” So, I did.

But I have also gotten a bit of positive feedback about the feature, mostly through email. I think some of y’all are shy about leaving comments. But thank goodness, some of y’all aren’t.

Last month, I started this feature with my own poetry. But who wants to read her own work all the time? Well, some poets do, to be honest. My ego isn’t quite that big, though. And plus, there are some completely sassy emerging African American poets out there and I know y’all will love their work.

This month, my first “not-me” poet is Makalani Bandele,  a Louisville, Kentucky native who has recently returned to the city and writing poetry.  He is an ordained Baptist minister and has pastored churches in New Bern and Fayetteville, North Carolina.  He earned his B.A. from the Program of Liberal Studies at University of Notre Dame and his M. Div from Shaw University Divinity School. A member of the Affrilachian Poets Collective since 2008 and a Cave Canem fellow, his poetry has been featured in several anthologies and is forthcoming in African-American Review and Mythium Literary Magazine.  Makalani is a former winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize for Poetry.  He has self-published a chapbook called The Cadence of Echoes, a forthcoming book with Willow Books will be out the Fall 2011, tentatively entitled Third Institution, and he is working presently on a volume of poetry influenced by the recordings and travels of Alan Lomax, the American folklorist and musicologist who conducted research in the Deep South.  (To read more about Lomax, click here.)

Makalani was kind enough to give me a brand new, unpublished poem for this feature. Of course, I think it is completely fabulous, but read for yourself below. And if you like it, don’t be writing me all in secret on the email or Facebook—gather your courage and leave some comments below!


Let Me Ride (in Short Meter)

by Makalani Bandele


tired bones moan, hoe in hand, let me ride,
just a-moaning, so old devil can’t understand, let me ride.

rider on a dappled steed
moves with the wind’s hymn
toward the new light’s
last stand, let me ride.

oh freedom,
freedom is a fire
chariot song swinging
down at blood’s command, let me ride.

said  freedom
is a terraplane anthem tearing
up dusty-throated hollers bound
for tableland, let me ride.

the righteous ride the rails of this glory
bound special with a wail
of worn out knees and humble,
folded hands that demand let me ride.

make it blue for mak, bend, then shave
the interval down till its cleaner
than the sleekest stretch black limo,
and let me ride.


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