Haiku

By Etheridge Knight 1931–1991 Etheridge Knight
1
Eastern guard tower
glints in sunset; convicts rest
like lizards on rocks.

2
The piano man
is stingy, at 3 A.M.
his songs drop like plum.

3
Morning sun slants cell.
Drunks stagger like cripple flies
On jailhouse floor.

4
To write a blues song
is to regiment riots
and pluck gems from graves.

5
A bare pecan tree
slips a pencil shadow down
a moonlit snow slope.

6
The falling snow flakes
Cannot blunt the hard aches nor
Match the steel stillness.

7
Under moon shadows
A tall boy flashes knife and
Slices star bright ice.

8
In the August grass
Struck by the last rays of sun
The cracked teacup screams.

9
Making jazz swing in
Seventeen syllables AIN’T
No square poet’s job.

Etheridge Knight, "Haiku" from The Essential Etheridge Knight. Copyright © 1986 by Etheridge Knight. Reprinted with the permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (2004)

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Poet Etheridge Knight 1931–1991

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

 Etheridge  Knight

Biography

Etheridge Knight began writing poetry while an inmate at the Indiana State Prison and published his first collection, Poems from Prison in 1968. "His work was hailed by black writers and critics as another excellent example of the powerful truth of blackness in art," writes Shirley Lumpkin in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. "His work became important in Afro-American poetry and poetics and in the strain of Anglo-American . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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