Owen Dodson was born in Brooklyn, New York. He was educated in the public schools in that borough. Dodson’s poetry is rich in style, imagery, and passion. He began writing at a very young age and in 1946 a collection of his poems were published. He attended Bates College and Yale University and received a Master of Fine Arts degree. He taught at Spelman College and Howard University. He was Poet-in-residence at the University of Arizona. Dodson also served as the Head of the Department of Drama at Howard University.
As a graduate student at Yale, Dodson wrote and produced “Divine Comedy,” which told the story of Father Divine, the spiritual leader who commanded a large following during the Great Depression. Dodson, though a pacifist, joined the Navy during World War II, leaving his teaching post at Spelman College, and continued to develop his urge for creative writing by producing history plays for African-American seamen.
Dodson’s poetry varied widely and covered a broad range of subjects, styles, and forms. He wrote at times, though rarely, in black dialect, and at others quoted and alluded to classical poetry and drama. Dodson died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 69.
Poem for Pearl’s Dancers
by Owen Dodson
On my back they’ve written history, Lord,
On my back they’ve lashed out hell.
My eyes run blood,
The faces I see are blood,
My toes can’t dig no deeper in the dirt.
When my children get to reading, Lord,
On my back they’ll read my tale.
My lips taste blood,
And in the soul’s they’re blood.
My tongue can’t joy no future in this blood.
When my children get to shouting, Lord,
When my children get to standing straight,
Lord, Lord, Lord,
When that time come rolling down!!!!