Teen Takes Poetry Crown With 'Ode to Black Women'

Eighteen-year-old Amanda Fernandez won this year's National Poetry Out Loud competition, plus a college scholarship, with a knock-your-socks-off recital of "Ma Rainey" by Sterling A. Brown.

Amanda Fernandez: The first time I read "Ma Rainey," I just couldn't help but to think of my grandmother. And to me it was an ode to black women, to black culture. I just kept thinking of, like, black music and art and literature. Just a whole floodgate just opened when I read that.

Fernandez reading from "Ma Rainey":
    O Ma Rainey,
    Sing yo' song;
    Now you's back
    Whah you belong,
    Git way inside us,
    Keep us strong.
    O Ma Rainey,
    Li'l an' low;
    Sing us 'bout de hard luck
    Roun' our do';
    Sing us 'bout de lonesome road
    We mus' go...

Fernandez: You can't go anywhere until you know your history. You just cannot go forward. And poetry is definitely one of those things that just stops time for just a moment -- so that when the next moment comes, you always have something solid to go back to.

Excerpt from Sterling Brown, "Ma Rainey" The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown, edited by Sterling A. Brown. Copyright 1932 by Sterling A. Brown. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.