Riehlife Bonus Poem of the Day: Linda Jo Smith’s “Jazz Marsalis”, a Sankofet, a poetry form created by the Sisters-Nineties Literary Group

Sankofa Adinkra Symbol, “Return and Fetch It”
Sankofa is an Adinkra Symbol from Ghana meaning “Return and Fetch It.”
Click here to read Riehlife post from December 5, 2007 on how Sankofa has defined the path of my life.

The SANKOFET is a poetry form created by the Sisters-Nineties Literary Group. The format has three verses or stanzas of seven lines each. The first verse represents the past; the second verse is the present; and the third verse represents the future. The last word at the end of each stanza is the first word of the next stanza and the last word of the poem is also the first word in the poem. The fourth line in all three verses is a refrain echoing the call and response motif. The Sankofet correlates with the meaning of the mythical Sankofa, a bird which represnts the theme of “go back and get it.” Go back to the past and retrieve one’s history in order to build a future. The last word of each stanza is the same beginning word in the following stanza, which is symbolic of the Afrikan concept of the cycle of life. (slightly adapted from the Sisters-Nineties Literary Group Handbook of Poetic Forms.)

Linda Jo Smith and I met at The Space when she read for a Women’s History poetry event. I loved her strong presence and bought her chapbook “Involuntary Traveler: Poetry and Prose.” You can reach Linda Jo Smith at theljaysmith2@yahoo.com.

“Jazz Marsalis” is a fine example of this innovative form. I particularly enjoy its ability to connect music and words and food…combining so many senses and art forms. —JGR

a Sankofet by Linda Jo Smith

from “Involuntary Traveler”
copyright 2008 by Linda Jo Smith

for lent I gave up the idiot box
and my insane snacking temptation
causing hindrance to the metaphoric
creations my soul’s entity requires
a breakthrough; classical inspiration
the stategy—create a rhythmic balance
instead of eating, so I think I’ll break
me off a piece of that jazz marsalis!

marsalis; first family
of American
classical music headed by daddy, Ellis
keys of ivory seasoned with ebony striking
creations my soul’s entity requires
punctuated with Delfeayo’s trombone
melody stimulating my brain cells
like a Grace Bumbry aria.

aria speaks from Wynton’s trumpet
shouting out the color of Katrina’s tragedy
jason licking the cymbals of hurricane violence
creations my soul’s entity requires
my computer keyboard, a metaphoric vessel,
Branford’s tenor sax trasforming my
hopeless cravings into the poetic fluency I live for



LINDA JO SMITH —writer and storyteller—born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, graduate of Howard University, alumnus of the 2005 Community Arts Training Institute (CAT), fellow sponsored by the Regional Arts Commission and currently serving on the Commission’s citizen’s panel since 2006.

Linda founded CITY TALES, a storytelling initative that promotes literacy and creativity; Linda founded ZIgZag, a volunteer program at the Juvenile Detention Center in the City of St. Louis.

Linda is a member of Sisters-Nineties Literary Group and has served as the book review editor for the group’s literary publication. Her work is published in Sister-Nineties, Drum Voices Revue, and the St. Louis American. Linda currently provides adult and family programming and reference services for the St. Louis Public Library.

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  1. You are opening many doors through your great knowledge of words and the power they possess. Thanks for giving us you. I spent my early years at Divoll Library…and now I found I am returning to the library more and more. I live down the street from the Kingshighway branch and I love that Schafly Library. Take care, Linda

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