Yellow Honeysuckle

Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today we are reading a poem by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Pratt is an American essayist, poet and activist, and a professor at Syracuse University in New York. Born in 1946 and raised in the Southern United States, Pratt’s work explores her life and work as a lesbian and feminist and the struggles she has faced, such as her husband gaining custody over their two children due to her sexuality. Pratt worked with other women producing books and zines that at first had to be hand-delivered to their readers for fear of censorship and confiscation if sent through the US Postal Service. Among other works, they produced several chapbooks of poems. Chapbooks are short collections of poems, normally well under 100 pages, that are often printed, sewn and distributed by the authors themselves. Now that documents can easily be scanned and produced electronically, many chapbooks are available online by both modern and historically important authors.

The poem we are reading today is from Pratt’s book “The Sound of One Fork.” Originally published in 1981, this is Pratt’s first book of poetry, and the poems within deal with growing up in a racially divided South, her marriage and subsequent relationships, and the place of women in society. It has been uploaded online under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 license, meaning we are able to share her work with you.

My Cousin Anne

My cousin Anne taught me
how to eat honeysuckle,
shook the dust from the tangled vines,
guided my hand to the frilled petals.
She snapped each calyx
and pulled through the stamen
so I could tongue from it
the one drop of nectar
shining there.

We were girls when this happened,
when we leaned with our shoulders together
to quench our thirst with flowers
in the furnace of an Alabama summer.

We were still girls then.
Years had not burned between us.
We saw only each other
and the yellow honeysuckle.

You can find this poem in “The Sound of One Fork,” which you can read online. Find more information about Pratt at the Poetry Foundation.

Join us tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!