Where dwells the Drama’s spirit? not alone
Beneath the palace roof, beside the throne,
In learning’s cloisters, friendship’s festal bowers,
Art's pictured halls, or triumph’s laurel’d towers,
Where’er man’s pulses beat or passions play,
She joys to smile or sigh his thoughts away:
Crowd times and scenes within her ring of power,
And teach a life’s experience in an hour.

To-night she greets, for the first time, our dome,
Her latest, may it prove her lasting home;
And we her messengers delighted stand,
The summon’d Ariels of her mystic wand,
To ask your welcome. Be it yours to give
Bliss to her coming hours, and bid her live
Within these walls new hallow’d in her cause,
Long in the nurturing warmth of your applause.

’Tis in the public smiles, the public loves,
His dearest home, the actor breathes and moves,
Your plaudits are to us and to our art
As is the life-blood to the human heart:
And every power that bids the leaf be green,
In nature acts on this her mimic scene.
Our sunbeams are the sparklings of glad eyes,
Our winds the whisper of applause, that flies
From lip to lip, the heart-born laugh of glee,
And sounds of cordial hands that ring out merrily,
And heaven’s own dew falls on us in the tear
That woman weeps o’er sorrows pictured here,
When crowded feelings have no words to tell
The might, the magic of the actor’s spell.

These have been ours; and do we hope in vain
Here, oft and deep, to feel them ours again?
No! while the weary heart can find repose
From its own pains in fiction’s joys or woes;
While there are open lips and dimpled cheeks,
When music breathes, or wit or humour speaks;
While Shakspeare’s master spirit can call up
Noblest and worthiest thoughts, and brim the cup
Of life with bubbles bright as happiness,
Cheating the willing bosom into bliss;
So long will those who, in their spring of youth,
Have listen’d to the Drama’s voice of truth,
Mark’d in her scenes the manners of their age,
And gather’d knowledge for a wider stage,
Come here to speed with smiles life’s summer years,
And melt its winter snow with pleasant tears;
And younger hearts, when ours are hushed and cold,
Be happy here as we have been of old.

Friends of the stage, who hail it as the shrine
Where music, painting, poetry entwine
Their kindred garlands, whence their blended power
Refines, exalts, ennobles hour by hour
The spirit of the land, and, like the wind,
Unseen but felt, bears on the bark of mind;
To you the hour that consecrates this dome,
Will call up dreams of prouder hours to come,
When some creating poet, born your own,
May waken here the drama’s loftiest tone,
Through after years to echo loud and long,
A Shakspeare of the West, a star of song,
Bright’ning your own blue skies with living fire,
All times to gladden and all tongues inspire,
Far as beneath the heaven by sea-winds fann’d,
Floats the free banner of your native land.

This poem is in the public domain. 

There is a faith that weakly dies 
When overcast by clouds of doubt, 
That like a blazing wisp of straw 
A vagrant breeze will flicker out. 

Be mine the faith whose living flame 
Shall pierce the clouds and banish night, 
Whose glow the hurricanes increase
To match the gleams of heaven’s night. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

     But it was      Cold in that water!      It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

     But it was      High up there!      It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love—
But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry—
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

     Life is fine!      Fine as wine!      Life is fine!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Knopf and Vintage Books. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

Now thou art risen, and thy day begun.
How shrink the shrouding mists before thy face,
As up thou spring’st to thy diurnal race!
How darkness chases darkness to the west,
As shades of light on light rise radiant from thy crest!
For thee, great source of strength, emblem of might,
In hours of darkest gloom there is no night.
Thou shinest on though clouds hide thee from sight,
And through each break thou sendest down thy light.

O greater Maker of this Thy great sun,
Give me the strength this one day’s race to run,
Fill me with light, fill me with sun-like strength,
Fill me with joy to rob the day its length.
Light from within, light that will outward shine,
Strength to make strong some weaker heart than mine,
Joy to make glad each soul that feels its touch;
Great Father of the sun, I ask this much.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

I knew not who had wrought with skill so fine
    What I beheld; nor by what laws of art
    He had created life and love and heart
On canvas, from mere color, curve and line.
Silent I stood and made no move or sign;
    Not with the crowd, but reverently apart;
    Nor felt the power my rooted limbs to start,
But mutely gazed upon that face divine.

And over me the sense of beauty fell,
    As music over a raptured listener to
        The deep-voiced organ breathing out a hymn;
Or as on one who kneels, his beads to tell,
    There falls the aureate glory filtered through
        The windows in some old cathedral dim.

This poem is in the public domain. 

the hours fly quick on wings of clipped winds
like nonsense blown from mouths of hot air—
people—including my own—form syllables, suds,
words shot through pursed lips like greased sleaze
& bloom inside all these rooms dominated by television’s
babble sluicing idiot images invented in modern test tubes—
clones—blinking, slathering all over controlled airwaves
of an up-for-sale world, blinking a paucity of spirit,
so dance you leering ventriloquists, marionettes,
you greedy counterfeits, dance, dance, dance

Copyright © 2006 by Quincy Troupe. From The Architecture of Language (Coffee House Press, 2006). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. All rights reserved.

Loud laughers in the hands of Fate—
           My People.
Ladies’ maids,
Nurses of babies,
Loaders of ships,
Comedians in vaudeville
And band-men in circuses—
Dream-singers all,
Story-tellers all.
God! What dancers!
God! What singers!
Singers and dancers,
Dancers and laughers.
Yes, laughers….laughers…..laughers—
Loud-mouthed laughers in the hands of Fate.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Northern black
boy traveling
with empty belly;
these are the American
shanties, and fine
big houses, a sad
on a poor man’s tongue
land of cotton and trouble
night sweet as dusk
on its gentle people
until today,
was just a place
where the train
had to stop
and the Southern
was beautiful
I traveled
from Memphis to Georgia
drinking my whiskey
singing my blues

From Folks Like Me (Zoland Books, 1993) by Sam Cornish. Copyright © 1993 by Sam Cornish. Used with permission of the author.