As I pondered and thought and scrambled my thoughts all over for this week’s Poetic Sunday theme or form, I kept going back to W. E. B. Du Bois. His birthdate is February 23rd. I finally decided that I would read his poems (and I had never done so before), and pick one to pay homage to him. And now, I am doing so by saluting The Song of the Smoke poem, and it – his poem, I mean – is so very cool. Read on for my attempt at a tribute of sorts to the poet and his poem.
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Poetic Sundays: Saluting The Song of the Smoke
The Poet (?)
Calling W. E. B. Du Bois a poet is like calling an encyclopedia a page. Well, not the best parallels but you can probably guess that I mean Du Bois was so much more.
Born on February 23, 1869, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois wore many mantles. He was a sociologist, an author, civil rights leader, an academic, socialist, historian, an anti-war activist, and yes, also a poet, among a few other things I am sure I have missed. He was the first African-American to earn a doctorate at Harvard University, and after completing this, he went on to become a professor of history, sociology, and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois co-founded the NAACP in 1909. This are just some of his achievements, and I am now inspired to learn more about him.
The Poem: The Song of the Smoke
You can read the entire poem here at Poets.org. I have the first stanza below for you.
The Song of the Smoke
by William Edward Burghardt DuBois
I am the smoke king,
I am black.
I am swinging in the sky,
I am ringing worlds on high;
I am the thought of the throbbing mills,
I am the soul of the Soul toil kills,
I am the ripple of trading rills.
Up I’m curling from the sod,
I am whirling home to God.
I am the smoke king,
I am black.
My Thoughts on the Poem: Form and Feeling
First, the form and all things related:
Du Bois employs the story-song style of the ballad here to talk of the African-American with pride, and embracing black history with all its ups and downs. The rhyme and rhythm in The Song of the Smile help establish and enhance the musicality that is inherent in a ballad.
Du Bois employs the rhyme scheme of abccdddeeab used in the first stanza (shown above) in each following stanza of the poem. In addition, he used indenting to highlight the lines. While I need to find a source which shows the original, encyclopedia.com mentions that “the original version of the poem has the stanzas in three line-blocks each.”
Alliteration plays a strong role adding to the musicality. As you can see in that first stanza itself, there are many examples, including, ‘swinging’ and ‘sky’, ‘throbbing’ and ‘thought’, ‘ripple’ and ‘rills’.
Second, the feeling:
Reading the poem for myself, I was awed by: first, the rhythm in the poem that lends itself to singing or saying it out loud, like a chant! And then, I found myself drawn to the truth and the power of the words. Like in this line below:
What’s the hue of a hide to a man in his might?
Du Bois speaks for the populace when he says ‘I am The Smoke King/ I am black’ or anywhere else where he says ‘I’ and thus helps readers of color identify with the words and sentiments in the poem. Alliteration, as I mentioned earlier, adds power and impact to the poem throughout, as do different ways to reference color. Like ‘purpl’ing midnights’ and ‘ruddy morn’.
My Attempt at Saluting The Song of the Smoke
Just one stanza for now, but will try to add more to this.
Harbingers of Happy Hereafters
They are the Change Makers,
They are the future!
They are laughter on the air,
They are smiles singing everywhere;
Within each child, is a chance
For humankind to further advance
Within them, a happy dance.
They are hope and delight,
They are beacons of light.
They are the Change Makers.
They are the future.
~ Vidya @ LadyInReadWrites
References, h/t, and Further Reading
- W. E. B. Du Bois (Wikipedia page)
- Poetry Foundation’s page about Du Bois
On My Blog And the Homefront
Here are the posts this week since my last Scribblings on Sunday:
- Little Thieves Stealing Letters at the Tip of the Tongue
- 13 Wonderful Books About Kindness: Picture Books and More
- Delightful Picture Books About Love
- Sunday Scribblings #134: Candy Heart Poetry For Your Love
On My Blog and Homefront
A couple of posts related to this week’s celebrations…
We are doing a little bit of remodeling around the home, and while I had no idea when it would happen (hence it did get a mention last week), we should be ready with the biggest updates done by mid-week. Then my daughter is off to snow-camp for the weekend as this week is winter break for them. We will most likely end up driving the scouts (just a little more than a couple hours away).
This Week’s Celebrations
Literary Celebrations (close-to-it also!)
- Literary birthdays this week of February include: Richard Matheson and Sally Rooney on the 20th of February; Anais Nin, Chuck Palahniuk, Erma Bombeck, W.H. Auden on the 21st of February; Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edward Gorey on the 22nd; W.E.B. Du Bois and Francesca Simon on the 23rd; Gillian Flynn, Wilhelm Carl Grimm, Laila Lalami, and Rainbow Rowell on the 24th; Anthony Burgess on the 25th; Victor Hugo on the 26th
- International Mother Language Day is on the 21st of February
- World Thinking Day is on the 22nd of February (#WTD2023): The theme for World Thinking Day 2023 is Our World, Our Peaceful Future.
- National Tell a Fairy Tale Day is on the 26th of February
- The 20th of February starts the week with something for all with a sweet tooth; it is both National Cherry Pie Day and National Muffin Day
- February 21st is National Grain-Free Day and National Sticky Bun Day
- It is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day and National Margarita Day on the 22nd of February
- I am sure many of us will enjoy National Banana Bread Day on the 23rd (certainly the baked good I have made most often over the past few years!!), and being the last/fourth Thursday in Feb apparently also makes the 23rd National Toast Day and National Chili Day!
- February 24th is National Tortilla Chip Day
- A day to enjoy: it is National Chocolate Covered Nut Day on the 25th
- And since the 26th is National Pistachio Day, we can maybe celebrate chocolate covered nut day once again 🙂
- February 20th is World Day of Social Justice and this year’s theme is Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice. It is also National Love Your Pet Day, National Comfy Day, and National Leadership Day
- February 26th is National Set a Good Example Day
- The week of George Washington’s Birthday (Feb. 22) is celebrated as National Engineers Week (Saturday to Saturday)
Wrapping up my Sunday Scribblings
So dear reader, you have reached the end of this Sunday Scribblings! As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about this post. And do let me know if you plan to celebrate any of these mentioned celebrations this coming week/month?
Linking this to the Sunday Post over at the Caffeinated Reviewer and the Sunday Salon
2 thoughts on “Sunday Scribblings #135: Saluting The Song of the Smoke”
A lovely tribute to a lovely man! Thank you, Vidya.
My husband would love this he is in to poetry. Will forward it to him. It’s such a beautiful poem.