The creative, amazing poetry of Ceola James
I haven’t yet read this collection of poetry by Ceola James, but I’m very anxious to, and soon will. It affirms that the poet lives in the lawyer and judge and that numerous lives lurk in us all. For it is a demonstrated polarity we seldom address, much less discover because callings become jobs far too often in life; a way to make a living, many would say. A way to make money, most of us think.
So it is edifying to remember that T.S. Eliot was a bank clerk when he wrote “The Waste Land,” and that it really doesn’t matter that no one reads him anymore. The truth is he changed our lives.
And for those who don’t know her, Ceola’s had many lives before this one, as a lawyer and a Mississippi appellate judge, as a speaker of flawless French, and now as an addition to the black women poets who’ve made an army of succession to Phillis Wheatley and Gwendolyn Brooks.
And she lives here in Vicksburg.
Most of us don’t know about her hidden life as a poet though most of us have heard of poets laureate and such. But most of us don’t know “poets in residence” as such. And we have one, on our streets and in our lives every day.
Her presence here is more wonderful still because she is the latest to a dizzying array of other women poets and a deepening sense of how much we need them. Black women poets like Pulitzer Prize winner, Tracy K. Smith, was Poet Laureate of the United States and Jamila Woods, raised in Chicago, who has written a truly unforgettable work called “Blk Girl Art.”
Eve L. Ewing, also from Chicago, is a sociologist at the University of Chicago, but whose poetry has been printed in Poetry, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation and The Atlantic magazines.
Then there is Morgan Parker who was the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and member of Cave Canem (meaning “Beware the Dog” that too few of us know or have even heard about).
All these, and more, are today’s black women poets. They are the outgrowth of a very deep desire, and proof of superior English. They are like a picture I discovered recently online of last year’s (2019) women graduates at West Point — a group of 32, the largest graduating class of black women in the history of West Point.
Who says we can’t do what?
And they can write poetry too.
One of them lives here in Vicksburg. And I know her well. Many of us do.
Fellow lovers of words written, Ceola James’ poetry, Nine Days of Moody Weather, is available everywhere, on Amazon, at Walmart, at Barnes & Noble, and on Google and eBay. Not to mention Kindle.
Join me. Go get it. Turn a page.
Yolande Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post.