“From that cage of fire, such beauty springs, as takes the breath away!”
Born in New York City and educated at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, and New York University, Raymond R. Patterson is the author of 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man and Other Poems (1969) and Elemental Blues (1983). His poetry appeared in The Transatlantic Review, The Ohio Review, The West Hills Review, The Crisis, Beloit Poetry Journal and elsewhere, and many of his poems were anthologized, such as in The Poetry of the Negro (1970), A Geography of Poets: An Anthology of the New Poetry (1979), New Black Voices (1995), and The Best American Poetry (1996). For his poetry, Raymond Patterson received a National Endowment for the Arts Award and a Creative Artists Public Service fellowship, among other distinctions. He also served on the boards of the Poetry Society of America and PEN American Center, and was a trustee of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association. Patterson was a professor emeritus of the City College of the City University of New York, where he taught English and directed its annual Langston Hughes Festival from 1973 to 1993. He died in 2001.
looked at the stars
and saw the page in his almanac
that told how bright tomorrow was.
He saw beyond the sun’s eclipse. He saw
a multitude of men in a new millennium
descend as from celestial ships
to walk an alien shore again.
He charted where the light would fall.
He marked the day by his wooden clock--
how beautiful its radiance,
How luminous and tall.
Knowing the future, he went ahead
with compass and transit to plot
the site. “Capital streets must be broad,”
he said, “-and built right!”
Raymond Patterson, “Forerunner,” in Furious Flower: African American Poetry form the Black Arts Movement to the Present, ed. Joanne Gabbin (University of Virginia Press, 2004), 43.
Sacred Tree Rooted in Sun and Soil
Tree of the Spirits of Children Waiting To Be Born
Tree Who Shelters Caravans
Shade Tree of the Littlest Ones, Who Never Tires of Their Songs
Tree of White, Pendulous Flowers
Tree of the Fullness of Night
Tree-Mother, we thank you
for your fruit, we thank you
for your fiber (to weave
our clothes) we thank you
for your medicine (to treat
our ills) we thank you.
Bees store in your hollows
the sweetest honey, we thank you.
Raymond Patterson, “Baobab,” in Furious Flower: African American Poetry form the Black Arts Movement to the Present, ed. Joanne Gabbin (University of Virginia Press, 2004), 44.