Thursday, November 23, 2017


It seems kind of funny to be hosting Poetry Friday, when I haven't even been participating recently. I'm hoping that hosting will get me back into the groove or participating each Friday. Originally, I thought I would probably do something holiday-related; either a Thanksgiving poem or maybe poetry books that shoppers could buy for holiday gifts. Then, in my CYBILS reading this week, I came across Carole Boston Weatherford's SCHOMBURG: THE MAN WHO BUILT A LIBRARY. I'm sharing this book today because I think it's really important, and I want a lot of people to see it. 

SCHOMBURG is poetry-- it's a story in verse-- about Arturo (Arthur) Schomburg, a Puerto Rican who immigrated to New York in 1891. According to the book jacket, "Schomburg's life passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and from people of African descent." His collection became so large that he turned it over to the New York Public Library. Today it is known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 

This is an important book. I want my students (and my own sons) to read it, but I am not sure it's one they will fully appreciate on their own. I wonder, for instance, if they will notice the dates embedded into the pictures. I wonder if they will notice Schomburg's words in italics, "True scholarship requires time and calm effort; Tell our stories, proclaim our glories." I wonder if they will take time to read the end page, that says that each of Schomburg's books had a bookplate pasted into the front, and that's why this book also has a book plate in the front. That's why I'm looking forward to sharing it with them, a little at a time. 

UPDATE: Michelle H. Barnes actually interviewed Carole Boston Weatherford about SCHOMBURG in September. You can read that interview and more poems from the book at Today's Little Ditty. 

Arturo Schomberg was more than a book lover,
more than a mailroom clerk at Bankers Trust,
where he supervised eleven white men,
unheard-of authority for a black man at that time.
He recognized early on that history was not history
unless it was complete from all angles.
Like a detective, he hunted for clues and found facts
affirming the role of African descendants
 in building nations and shaping cultures.
Fellow book collector Arthur Spingara noted
     that Arturo would approach 
an immense pile of apparently worthless material
and unerringly find…one or two treasures
which would have been lost to a less inspired collector. 
Arturo believed that those facts, once unearted,
would speak loud and clear in halls of knowledge,
daring another teacher to tell a black child
that the Negro has no history. Time and again,
through print, music, and art, Schomberg proved otherwise.
(Page 1)

…So when his fifth grade teacher
told him that Africa's sons and daughters
had no history, no heroes worth noting,
did the twinkle leave Arturo's eyes?
Did he slouch his shoulders, hang his head low,
and look to the ground rather than the horizon?

No. His people must have contributed something
over the centuries, a history that teachers did not teach,
Until they did, schoolchildren like Arturo
would not learn of their own heritage,
ignorance shackling them like chains. (2)

I wanted to find out, said Arturo Schomberg,
what my own racial group had contributed.
He could not get his hands on enough books.
His curiosity about Africana- insatiable
Arturo had what he called the book hunting disease.
No one volume told the whole story,
and no library specialized in the subject.

So he hunted rare book stores,
poring over fragile pamphlets with torn covers
and leather books with paper mites between pages.
Most of what he bought early on came cheap
because white collectors considered it junk.
Still what he hunted was not easy to find.

…Arturo found African roots in the family tree
of artist, ornithologist, and naturalist John James Audubon.
His masterpiece was the book Birds of America.
With watercolors, pastel crayons, charcoal, and pencils,
he depicted North American birds in stunning lifelike poses.
Yet for all Audobon's fame, there was rarely mention
that he was born to a French plantation owner
and a Creole chambermaid

…Even German composer Ludvig von Beethoven
had ties to AFrica. He was often described
as dark, a mulatto, or a Moor. His mother
was said to be a Moor-- North African.
Gifted beyond belief, Beethoven
still composed after he'd lost his hearing.
How could this maestro's African heritage
     have been muted?(18-20)

Rumor has it that Schomberg's wife put her foot down:
Either his books or their family must go. Only a threat like that
could make him part with his prizes.
There were bookshelves filled with books all over the house,
a family member said, even in the bathroom.
The books were carefully catalogued,
inventoried in Arturo's head,
and arranged by color and size of bindingl
But Arturo's library had outgrown private hands.
He had turned down a very handsome author
because the collection deserved a wider audienc.
Arturo had already lent items to libraries
and staged exhibitions for community groups.
He approached the New York Public Library,
but it lacked the funds
to purchase his vast holdings.
So the Carnegie Corporation
for $10,000 and in 1926 donated it to the library.

Happy Poetry Friday! Leave your comments and I'll approve them and share them!


Robyn Hood Black said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Carol! Thank you for hosting and for sharing this looks-sounds wonderful new book. I've got some altered/found text ornaments again this year -

Jone MacCulloch said...

Happy thanksgiving. I am posting early. "After Thanksgiving"

Jone MacCulloch said...

Here are some student haiku:

Mary Lee said...

I'm gearing up for another Haiku-a-Day in December using the hashtag #haikuforhealing.

Thanks for hosting, and thanks for shining a spotlight on this important book!

Alan Wright said...

Thank you for hosting Carol. Thank you also for alerting us to an important story about Arturo Schomberg's passion for books. He was clearly a man of great vision.

KatApel - said...

What a powerful, inspiring, hope-filled story. I have seen snippets of this book in a previous PoetryFriday post (can't put my finger on it at the moment) - and your detailed post highlights the importance of the read. I particularly like that it is one that will be made richer with adult interaction - and rereads. Thank-you for sharing! (And for hosting us today. I hope your busy day has been special!)

During October, the Younger Sun Bookshop Kids’ Book Club read ‘Too Many Friends’. They had some questions for me, after the read, so I've posted them (and my answers) on the blog today.

Sally Murphy said...

What an inspiring post! Arturo sounds like an amazing man, and this is a story which kids needs to hear. I love that it is told in verse.
My post today continues my series on looking back at poems of our childhood. This time, i have a poem dedicated to Linda 'PoetryPoor'

Mitchell Linda said...

I love the entire idea of Schomberg. I heard Carole Boston Weatherford read one of the poems at a recent conference and I was hooked! This week, I'm reviewing a new biography of Miriam Mekeba by Kathryn Erskine with poetry. In between bites of pie, enjoy some bites of poetry!

Doraine Bennett said...

I've been wanting to read this book. I have enjoyed many of her other books. Thanks for hosting. I'm playing catch up today and sharing a lovely book for advent.

Diane Mayr said...

Happy to see you back again, Carol! And sharing such an inspiring book!

I've gone off on a rant today at Random Noodling, but I've done it in a poem, which, I hope, saves it from being too preachy.

Buffy Silverman said...

Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for hosting, Carol. And thank you for featuring Carol Weatherford's story about Arturo Schomburg--sounds like a terrific book!
I'm sharing a poem about an old cherry tree:

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

I've heard about this book but have not seen it yet, so these excerpts make me want to read it more now! Thanks for sharing, Carol - and for hosting! I have exciting news from the NY Public Library AND more #PoetryCubed entries to share: (Link goes live shortly after midnight)

Mrs. Bennett said...

Fresh from NCTE, and seeing many of the #PoetryFriday poets made me want to share this one moment I experienced:
As for the Schomberg book, I went back to get a copy in the exhibit hall...but Catherine Flynn got there first! I will have to borrow hers! Thank you, Carol, for hosting.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

It's a wonderful book, isn't it? I featured Carole and Schomburg last September. Here's the link in case you're interested in reading her interview:

My post for today, however, is the wrap-up celebration for Carol Hinz's November challenge: a collection of poems that find beauty in things aren't usually considered beautiful.

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, Carol. Thank you for hosting this week!

Linda B said...

I have heard of this book, Carol, am glad to read some of the words, and it is on my list, now requested from the library. I hope you've had a lovely Thanksgiving with your family and thanks for hosting. I have one more autumn poem to share and this time it's a "golden shovel".

Carol Varsalona said...

Carol, I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was one filled with life living moments with your family. I have much to be thankful for and so I dedicate my post, "So Much to Be Thankful For," with an attitude of gratitude. Thank you for hosting the Thanksgiving Poetry Friday Round-Up. I enjoyed learning about this book in verse-what an amazing man, Arturo (Arthur) Schomburg. Thanks for sharing it.

Michelle Kogan said...

I enjoyed reading about this fascinating book again, thanks for reviewing it Carol! I remember reading about it on Michelle's blog at "Today's Little Ditty." He was quite a fascinating individual. Thanks for hosting Poetry Friday, hope you have had a wonderful time with your family. I too have a "golden shovel" poem to share on Giving Thanks for Poetry and Music:

Alan Wright said...

My link omitted from my earlier comment.

Wishing all my American friends a happy and safe Thanksgiving celebration.

Brenda Harsham said...

I've heard of this book, and I plan to read it soon. I love what you've excerpted here. An important story, indeed. I'm sharing a short poem on thankfulness at Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for hosting!

Holly Thompson said...

I'm looking forward to reading this book--thank you for bringing it into the Poetry Friday spotlight.
This week on my HATBOOKS blog, I fiddled with some short Insinuation poems from daily life in Japan.

Molly Hogan said...

Thanks for hosting this week, Carol, and for sharing Arthur Schomburg's fascinating story. I'm sharing a Thanksgiving poem that popped up in my Inbox this week and really resonated for me as I adapt to an empty-nest life with adult children.

Irene Latham said...

Carol, I'm so glad you are hosting today! I, too, just read this book. I think many a child has wondered, but what have MY ancestors done that's worthy of celebration? It's worth our time to find out. And you've pointed out things about this book I didn't notice! Thank you. I only posted once this week, but it does include a poem and some moments from NCTE17. Happy Poetry Friday!

Margaret Simon said...

Thanks for sharing this new important book. I didn't have a chance to get to her signing at NCTE. I wrote a poem for the Ditty of the Month Challenge using a form Violet Nesdoly introduced me to on her blog, shadorma.

Violet Nesdoly said...

Thanks for hosting, Carol, and for introducing this interesting-looking book. My post today is an entry for this month's Today's Little Ditty blog (where the challenge is to write a poem that finds beauty in something that is not usually considered beautiful). It's here:

Ruth said...

Thank you for hosting! I have my annual post on odes today.

Jane @ said...

This book looks so fantastic, and so needed. I can't wait until I can get my hands on a copy! I'm writing about fall in Japan this week:

jama said...

Thanks for featuring this book. With all your excerpts and intro, now I *must* read it!

At Alphabet Soup I have a review and giveaway of Carrie Clickard's PB biography of Joyce Chen, Dumpling Dreams.

Thanks so much for hosting this week, nice to have you back.

Tara Smith said...

Thanks for hosting today, Carol, and for sharing this wonderful book with us. I'm sharing a poem about cats, because mine is a source of such amusement today (and every day!):

Kay said...

I was so excited when I first heard of this book, and can't wait to read it. Thanks for hosting today and for sharing more about this book. I agree that it is a very important book. I hope your sons enjoy it and learn to appreciate it.

Tabatha said...

Hi Carol! Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for hosting. Looks like a great book.
I've got a poem about trees:

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

Thank you for hosting, Carol. It's good to see you again! I am looking forward to reading this book as well. I love picture book poem story books...true and not true.

Today at The Poem Farm, I am celebrating the quietness of a day after a holiday.


Little Willow said...

What an incredible story!

I posted Ted Kooser's poem A Letter in October at my blog, Bildungsroman:

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Thank you, Carol, for updating your blog post with a link to my interview with Carole Weatherford. I appreciate it. :)