37 Poems

37 Poems


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Somewhere between the grace of haiku and the weight of the epic,

 Sekou has crafted his most elegant work to date



Books by Lasana M. Sekou

37 Poems / Brotherhood of the Spurs / Big Up St. Martin  / Born Here Love Songs Make You Cry

Mothernation: Poems from 1984 to 1987  /  National Symbols of St. Martin / Quimbé: Poetics of Sound

The Salt Reaper: Poems from the Flats

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37 Poems

newest book by Lasana M. Sekou 


GREAT BAY, St. Martin (August 24, 2005)—According to Indian novelist and scholar Tabish Khair, 37 Poems  by Lasana M. Sekou “is significant, vigorous and radical.”

The newest book by the St. Martin, Caribbean poet range in topics and graphic imagery from the homeless in glittering Hong Kong to young people in school or boys on the block seeking to “belong” in green Middle Region. The poems were written while Sekou was an International Writers Workshop visiting fellow in China late last year.

From contemporary love poems to contempt for unjust wars, the 37 poems are “life-affirming in an age when jaded cynicism often passes for wisdom,” writes Khair in his introduction to the slim volume.

Among what are for Sekou seamless “nation,” regional and international topics and themes, he slips in another darkman poem, “dm5,” the latest slingshot from the insurgency-brooding series that began in The Salt Reaper (2004).

In the poem “homework” he challenges “the manner of the talk … that we come to in habit” about the broken Black family. He is not convinced. He heralds why. Recently, he reiterated the avenues to success as “a compound of constant working solutions: love, labor, liberation.”

“Somewhere between the grace of haiku and the weight of the epic, Sekou has crafted his most elegant work to date,” states the poet/artist Drisana Debbie Jack about 37 Poems. So Sekou again does more than champions the cause of “the darkman” and defend “the dark mane” of his  “brothers … locks in the cross hairs.”

But with the current term of terrorism victimizing the innocent as much as being used, in Sekou’s eyes, to intimidate legitimate freedom fighters, he “will not wince.”

Why does the poet not believe in what is to him the new imperial hype of, “who is not with us is our enemy?” “history knows,” he counters in a set of four “nation suite” poems. In that mini-series of verse we might get an idea of why the book is called 37.

Some of these poems are uncommonly playful for Sekou and some are as profound as an “eyeball stare.”

Jack’s comment on the book concludes: “These are the poems we should read to our children, lullabies for this new/old world.

“Each verse reaches across topographical, cultural, and emotional divides and reveals that the heart is home.” Jack is a lecturer at New Jersey City University.

For you lovers of poetry for poetry sake, don’t miss the wonderfully sad but sultry true “city of poetry,” where “he and she and sheet reach in the deep soak/ a wanton geography of sea.”

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Photo caption: The book cover of 37 Poems , capturing contemporary and old symbolism during recital in Beijing, China. (Saltwater photo)

posted 18 September 2005

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title                                                   X


                                 By Lasana M. Sekou


come to be

     +males of military age+

new code for the coders

a codeX.a con-

stitute to “hunt them down”                 :

                                                 +marked man+

come to be

all who look so all alike

my brothers, again, the dark mane

locks in the cross hairs.                   +

© 2004

*   *   *   *   *


by Lasana M. Sekou

the mornings are fewer

the nights longer

love is fine and full

here the fight rewards the future

and everybody else but you

makes bad coffee.

© 2004

*    *   *   *   * 

worker island

by Lasana M. Sekou

i did not see lantau island

the buddha brilliant regime in sun

lighting the way where tourists stray

to shake sticks at their future

for a fated read of each of the same other difference

but cynthia say,

            there is a fishing village beyond the fray

            where  older heads pear out bamboo windows

                        children ride bicycles too

the sea and the scene is this

what we all see to be seen

as pierced longing and longing

eternally at each other’s side


and we are always with people …

© 2004

*   *   *   *   * 

city of poetry

                 (for Medellin)

                              By Lasana M. Sekou

it is you again

in another place, unrobed

bare muse,

in the valley of fat nudes

stark iron soft maidens roundly

fashioned by the hands of the self in exile

see them all waiting the kiss of the men at war

for that day when the armies meet. sin pistoles


bare muse,

looking over the city, the firing volleys in earshot

burst of volition the light to see si

el dorado was not was land.

but here we are.where every man should once in his life

(not in any other life)

have this.a woman who adores him

(stirs in him the consummate black hole to ebullience)

even if blind he sees, she walks barest from the shower,

wet full wonder, her lips, fan of thirst, snare beads of water

she wanders to the dryness of his unsuspecting body,

pressing herself hungrily

until he and she and sheet reach in the deep soak,

a wanton geography of sea 


bare muse,

here she is countless

she wears …             from the shower

                        from the rain

                        from the zinc-curtained bath

                        from the basin’s marble terrain

            wears herself, unrobed, sin verguenza

            the perfume of water

            still coils in the abandon of her hair

            willful water falls from her eyelids

            a cooling, clinging, to the laugher of her hips,

a flight of tongues courses,

                        curves, laps, lyre, longs to the ground

                        feast to famish. 

© 2004

*   *   *   *   * 


                                               By Lasana M. Sekou

the hand of the fathers

ascending the nations

crowns the sleeping sons


the spirit of the fathers

descending, winged as eagle, pelican prowess

graces the waking sons


the sacrifice of the fathers

bears the family of nation, the worlds of wealth

rewards the working son.

© 2004

*   *   *   *   *


                                          By Lasana M. Sekou

there is no broken home

in the manner of the talk,

since it name so,

to self-fulfill the terror

that we now come to in habit.


there is no broken home

when upful images of our fathers are many.

© 2004

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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Pelican Heart—An Anthology of Poems by Lasana M. Sekou

Edited by Emio Jorge Rodriguez

Passion for the Nation is what comes out of Sekou’s poems at a first glance and at a deeper reading. The book is a selection gathered from eleven of Sekou’s poetry collections between 1978 and 2010. Rodríguez is an independent Cuban academic, writer, and essayist. He has been a researcher at Casa de las Américas’s Literary Research Center and founded the literary journal Anales del Caribe (1981-2000). María Teresa Ortega translated the poems from the original English to Spanish. A critical introduction, detailed footnotes, and a useful glossary by Rodríguez are also found in the book of 428 pages. The collection has been launched at conferences in Barbados, Cuba, and Mexico.

Rodriguez’s introduction to Pelican Heart refers to Dr. Howard Fergus’s Love Labor Liberation in Lasana Sekou, which is the critical commentary to Sekou’s work that identifies three cardinal points in his poetics.

I would add as cardinal points: Belief or Driving Force of people in political processes, like his political commitment to make St. Martin independent, as the southern part of the Caribbean island is a territory of the Netherlands, while the northern part is a French Collectivité d’outre-mer; Excitement over his literary passions, which led him to found House of Nehesi Publishers at age 23; co-found the book festival of St. Martin, organized with Conscious Lyrics Foundation and to expand his culture considerably; Enthusiasm, which springs out of his eyes and words when you listen to his poetry being performed or when you speak to Sekou in person.—Sara Florian

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

“Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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The Frock & Other Poems  

By Laurelle “Yaya” Richards

The use of the nation’s mother language, “the way we speak naturally on both parts of our island, is the sweetness to the ear and the heart of Miss Yaya’s spoken word, storytelling, and talks about St. Martin’s folkways,” said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).  Richards had completed working on The Frock with HNP at the time of her death at age 55, on May 26, 2010 – about four months before the book was published. The plan to launch the book on the UNESCO-declared day in 2011 came out of meetings between the culture department, the publisher, and Yaya’s family representatives Priscille Figaro, Adrienne Richards, and Laurellye Benjamin.

“We need to recognize our artists like Yaya who are working so hard for our people and our identity,” said Dormoy. “It’s an honor to be involved with this book as part of Yaya’s legacy that can live on, and to launch The Frock in connection with the International Mother Language Day,” said Dormoy.

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National Symbols of St. Martin—A Primer

By Lasana M. Sekou

The hard cover book, a primer about St. Martin’s culture, historical personalities and natural environment, is listed on the US government department’s Bureau of Administration website. “We think this is a good thing to share with the St. Martin people,” said Sekou. “In fact, House of Nehesi is firstly thankful to the St. Martin people for continuing to read, enjoy and study this book. “Having National Symbols listed as recommended reading in the IPS section of the US State Department adds to the venues where folks abroad can be put in touch with original material about St. Martin and the St. Martin people.” The material from the book continues to be used for popular events such as carnival, for research by scholars, as teaching material in schools, and for presentations by government and tourism departments, churches and civic groups.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 28 June 2012




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