Sunday, December 14, 2008

Upcoming: God's Trombones by James Weldon Johnson, Texas State University at the Wine Cellar Bistro, San Marcos, December 28

Found on-line:


A Collection of Poems in Free Verse By James Weldon Johnson

Produced by Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance Professors Eugene Lee and Sandra Mayo in Collaboration with
The Wine Cellar Bistro and Boutique, San Marcos, Texas

Sunday, December 28th at The Wine Cellar
4:00 - 6:30 pm

Light Hors d' Oeuvres To Be Served


A Collection of Seven Negro Sermons in Verse

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), held a number of positions over his 67 years. Among these were: school principal, journalist, lawyer, composer, poet, novelist, editor, literary critic, diplomat, civil rights worker, and professor. Johnson became the field secretary for the NAACP in 1917, and founded local chapters both in the South and in other parts of the country, helping to increase the membership from10,000 to 44,000 in one year. In 1920, he was made the General Secretary of the NAACP, its chief operating officer. Then ten years later, in 1930, Johnson resigned from that post and became a professor of creative writing at Fisk University.

James Weldon Johnson's major contribution to the Harlem Renaissance explosion of black American writing was his book of poems, God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, published in 1927. For almost ten years Johnson worked on these folk sermons in verse whenever the demands of his work with the NAACP relented enough to make writing possible. "The Creation" was published in 1918, and two others were published in magazines during the mid-1920s. In this work he followed the principles he had developed in writing the long preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry:

"What the colored poet in the United States needs to do is something like what Synge did for the Irish; he needs to find a form that will express the racial spirit by symbols from within rather than symbols from without, such as the mere mutilation of English spelling and pronunciation. . . . He needs a form that is freer and larger than dialect . . . a form expressing the imagery, the idioms, the peculiar terms of thought and distinctive humor and pathos, too, of the Negro. "(Quoted in Johnson's introduction to God's Trombones)

The completed book presents seven sermons - "The Creation," "The Prodigal Son," "Go Down Death--A Funeral Sermon," "Noah Built the Ark," "The Crucifixion," "Let My People Go," and "The Judgment Day"- preceded by an opening poem, "Listen, Lord - A Prayer." While the book as a whole does not have a narrative structure, as the sermons stand independent of one another, the sermons as poems bring together the narrative element of the stories from the Bible on which they are each based, the narrative/dramatic moment of the sermon, and the lyric quality of the folk preacher's language. - Joseph Skerrit Jr.

The seven poetic "sermons" that constitute God's Trombones are written in free verse, and they make use of African rhythms and the intonations of southern folk idioms. That free-verse style enables Johnson to focus attention on the metaphoric and ironic creativity of the African-American oral tradition. - The Reverend Dr. Byron E. Schafer, Rutgers Presbyterian Church.

The poems in the collection are:

Listen, Lord -A Prayer - an invocation

The Creation - a retelling of the creation story of the Bible

The Prodigal Son- from the biblical parable of the prodigal son

Go Down Death - A Funeral Sermon - in which Jesus is depicted as sending his servant, Death, to bring to heaven a weary woman who is old and ready to die, so that she can rest

Noah Built the Ark - retelling the biblical stories of Adam and Eve, a story of how sin entered the world, and of Noah and the Great Flood sent to cleanse the earth

The Crucifixion- telling the story of Jesus' crucifixion

Let My People Go - echoing Johnson's favorite spiritual, while at the same time addressing both black readers and white.

The Judgment Day - the prophetic story of the Apocalypse

More Info: The Wine Cellar

Date: Dec 28, 2008 (Sun)
Time: 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM
Cost: Free


Place: The Wine Cellar Bistro and Boutique
202 N. LBJ Suite 101
San Marcos, TX 78666

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Phone: 512-805-9463

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