UAlbany professor Dr. Slade hosts ‘An Evening of Poetry’
By JON MILLER
April is National Poetry Month, a time for bookworms and aspiring writers to celebrate the work of some of the greatest poets the genre has to offer.
In correlation with National Poetry Month, the University at Albany’s own Leonard A. Slade, Jr. held “An Evening of Poetry” on Tuesday, April 19 to read and discuss his works.
Slade is a professor in Africana Studies and English and the director of the Doctor of Arts in Humanistic Studies Program and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program. An expert in black literature and poetry, he is also a renowned writer with several published books of poetry.
Slade read some of his best work to the crowd from his books “Sweet Solitude,” “God Put a Rainbow in the Sky” and his most recent book, “Nobody Knows.” In between each poem, Slade referenced quotes from a diverse group of poets.
Some of the quotes from the mentioned poems included “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility” by William Wordsworth, and Slade’s personal favorite, “Poetry is the human soul, entire, squeezed like a lemon or lime, drop by drop into atomic words” by famed African-American poet Langston Hughes.
Beginning the night with a reading of “Acquittances,” much of Slade’s work tied back to his experiences as well as the people that he considers valuable to his life and work. Acknowledging those who inspired his work, he noted that many of his poems are dedicated to them. His wife, Roberta Hall Slade, to whom he dedicated his book “Sweet Solitude,” was also the inspiration for one of Slade’s poems in “God Put a Rainbow in the Sky.”
George Hendrick, who donated to the Africana Studies scholarships that Slade is very much associated with, also influenced Slade’s poem, “My Professor.” The poem is a tribute to someone that Slade considered a mentor and true inspiration when he was a studying student.
One of the most significant poems of the night was titled “Black Madonna” from “Sweet Solitude” which he owes his inspiration to his mother, Elizabeth Langford Slade, who he considers to have been his best friend.
Much of Slade’s poetry covers social and racial issues of past and present. Significant in his work, it requires no arduous effort to see his true passion of African-American history and the ways he incorporates it in his literature truly echoed throughout his three books. “Nobody Knows” featured references to the controversy in Ferguson, Missouri and the social injustices that accompanied it.
By far, the fiercest of Slade’s work, “The Country Preacher’s Folk Prayer” was equipped in an almost gospel song and southern accent. As Slade sang and shouted the words, the crowd was able to feel and understand the compelling meaning behind each stanza. “The Country Preacher’s Folk Prayer” resonated with much of the listeners before Slade closed the evening again with Langston Hughes’ iconic quote.