Thursday, August 9, 2018

"On Contemplating the Breasts of Pauline Lumumba" by Brenda Marie Osbey

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August 9, 2018

On Contemplating the Breasts of Pauline Lumumba

Brenda Marie Osbey
Brenda Marie Osbey reads "On Contemplating the Breasts of Pauline Lumumba."

About This Poem


"I wrote this poem in response to the famous photo of Pauline Lumumba walking through the streets of Leopoldville following the January 1961 assassination of her husband. Patrice Lumumba had been the first prime minister of the newly independent Republic of Congo. This work interrogates the early euphoria of African nations achieving independence from colonial rule after decades of resistance, balanced against the personal costs of such activism. Situated at the juncture of public mourning and private grief, the poem examines Pauline Lumumba's most powerful statement: her bare-breasted walk through the streets in mourning for and in protest against the murder of her husband. Juxtaposed alongside her refusal to be made invisible in the face of rank injustice is the image of her own quiet death."
—Brenda Marie Osbey


Brenda Marie Osbey is the author of six books, including All Souls: Essential Poems (Lousiana State University Press, 2015) and History and Other Poems (Time Being Books, 2013). She is a 2018 Virginia Foundation for the Humanities fellow and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. A former Louisiana state poet laureate, Osbey is a native of New Orleans.


Photo credit: H. Baquet


Poetry by Osbey


All Souls

(Louisiana State University Press, 2015)

"Ota Benga at Edenkraal" by Yusef Komunyakaa


"Ode to the Happy Negro Hugging the Flag in Robert Colescott's 'George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware'" by Anaïs Duplan


"Frederick Douglass" by Robert Hayden


August Guest Editor: Evie Shockley


Thanks to Evie Shockley, author of semiautomatic (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), who curated Poem-a-Day this month. Read more about Shockley and our guest editors for the year.

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