#NaPoWriMo2016 – Day 12

The Judgement Day (1 of 8)

The Judgement Day begins the crown of sonnets based on famed Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas’ illustrations for James Weldon Johnson’s “God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 18.21.03

It’s more than just a painting for a poem –
or even a sonnet for a painting
(we’d be so vain to suggest!).  The story
is far greater than the sum of its parts.

The judgement day is what we seek, and fear:
in no hurry to pay for our misdeeds,
give us reparations now for insults,
moral crimes against us, past and present.

There is a discrimination – between
the sinners and the saved, darkness dwellers,
those who see the light. Salvation’s shining
ray uplifts the soul; lightning bolts reveal
the lumps of lead the wicked thought were pots
of earthly gold. And time shall be no more.


Aaron Douglas’s The Judgement Day served as illustration for the final sermon in James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones.


Author: Raymond Maxwell

https://raymmaxx.wordpress.com/ Librarian, archivist, retired foreign service officer and Navy veteran.

One thought on “#NaPoWriMo2016 – Day 12”

  1. If it’s April, it’s NaPoWriMo, that is, National Poetry Writing Month, a month when poetry devotees (like me and many of you) commit to writing at least one poem per day. There are several blogs, sites, etc., that offer daily prompts, and folks are free to go off on their own and write “as the spirit leads them,” as my mother would say.

    This year I have been pretty much in the latter category, drawing inspiration from things, events, happenings in the immediate environment. As it happens, early in the month I attended three events that have had a huge impact on my April writing. The first one was a writing salon at a local art gallery, a short, three hour “class,” that looked at one piece of art from various perspectives and encouraged attendees to write about the experience. The second was a poetry reading at a local library by three sonnet writers, who read and spoke about the “sonnet” craft. The third was a lunch time exhibition talk about a single piece of art, which became the basis for my daily poetry submissions.

    So, to ease your suspense, I’ll cut right to the chase. I decided to try my hand at a “crown of sonnets,” also called a “corona.” All the sonnet writers I saw at the reading talked about it! Then, I decided to base each unique sonnet on a piece of art, implementing the tools we used in the writing salon. Finally, I decided to use as the art work a series of paintings used as illustrations for poetry, and the exhibition talk I attended provided such an example, a series of paintings by the famed Harlem Renaissance painter, Aaron Douglas, used to illustrate James Weldon Johnson’s “God’s Trombones, Seven Negro Sermons in Verse,” one of which was on exhibit. You can find the original, in electronic edition with illustrations, here.

    OK. Here is the thing about a corona. The final line of each poem becomes the first line of each succeeding poem, and the first line of the first, the final line of the last. Additionally, I tried as closely as possible to make each final line align with a line from the actual original poetry that the art work illustrated. Finally, because the example I saw in exhibition was the illustration for the final poem in the series, I worked my way through the original poems from back to front, giving the whole thing a slightly different twist.

    Enough chat. I have posted the whole crown of sonnets on my poetry blog here. Please check it out and let me know what you think.


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