Spencer was a prominent lyric poet of the Harlem Renaissance and the New Black Movement, and the first black writer to have poetry included in the Norton Anthology of American Poetry. Visited and befriended by many notables, she lived in the house on Pierce Street in Lynchburg until her death in 1975.
Deemed a Virginia Historical Landmark in 1976, the tours of her house, preserved with Spencer's things, and the gorgeous garden and little retreat room (where Anne did much of her writing and revising - her poems and ideas are found in little spots - on walls and scrap paper throughout) are now run by the gracious and warm Shaun Spencer-Hester.
Here are some of Anne Spencer's poems...
Lines to a Nasturtium (A Lover Muses)
Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa,
I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar,
Into your flaming heart;
Then did I hear crisp, crinkled laughter
As the furies after tore him apart?
A bird, next, small and humming,
Looked into your startled depths and fled. . . .
Surely, some dread sight, and dafter
Than human eyes as mine can see,
Set the stricken air waves drumming
In his flight.
Day-torch, Flame-flower, cool-hot Beauty,
I cannot see, I cannot hear your flutey;
Voice lure your loving swain,
But I know one other to whom you are in beauty
Born in vain:
Hair like the setting sun,
Her eyes a rising star,
Motions gracious as reeds by Babylon, bar
All your competing;
Hands like, how like, brown lilies sweet,
Cloth of gold were fair enough to touch her feet. .
Ah, how the sense reels at my repeating,
As once in her fire-lit heart I felt the furies
Maker-of-Sevens in the scheme of things
From earth to star;
Thy cycle holds whatever is fate, and
Over the border the bar.
Though rank and fierce the mariner
Sailing the seven seas,
He prays as he holds his glass to his eyes,
Coaxing the Pleiades.
I cannot love them; and I feel your glad,
Chiding from the grave,
That my all was only worth at all, what
Joy to you it gave,
These seven links the Law compelled
For the human chain--
I cannot love them; and you, oh,
Seven-fold months in Flanders slain!
A jungle there, a cave here, bred six
And a million years.
Sure and strong, mate for mate, such
Love as culture fears;
I gave you clear the oil and wine;
You saved me your hob and hearth--
See how even life may be ere the
Sickle comes and leaves a swath.
But I can wait the seven of moons,
Or years I spare,
Hoarding the heart's plenty, nor spend
A drop, nor share--
So long hilt outlives a smile and a silken gown;
Then gaily reach up from my shroud,
And you, glory-clad, reach down.
For Jim, Easter Eve
If ever a garden was Gethsemane,
with old tombs set high against
the crumpled olive tree--and lichen,
this, my garden, has been to me.
For such as I none other is so sweet:
Lacking old tombs, here stands my grief,
and certainly its ancient tree.
Peace is here and in every season
a quiet beauty.
The sky falling about me
evenly to the compass . . .
What is sorrow but tenderness now
in this earth-close frame of land and sky
falling constantly into horizons
of east and west, north and south;
what is pain but happiness here
amid these green and wordless patterns,--
indefinite texture of blade and leaf:
Beauty of an old, old tree,
last comfort in Gethsemane.
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