The Bibliophile's Adventurers Club

Exemplars of bookish delight

Rendezvous With Life

countee_collen

The details of his early life are murky. He may have been born May 30, sometime around 1903, in New York, New York, Baltimore, Maryland, or Lexington, Kentucky. Abandoned by his mother, or so the story goes, he was raised by a woman most likely his grandmother. Together they moved to Harlem–though she died when he nine (ten, a teenager?).

It’s only in 1918 that his life began to take shape. That’s when he was taken in by a Reverend and Mrs. Frederick A. Cullen and his accomplishments picked up steam:

Honor society, editor of the weekly newspaper, vice president of his high school graduating class; competition wins, publication in national periodicals, graduating Phi Beta Kappa (NYU); a Masters in English and French (Harvard); Guggenheim fellowship . . .  

Not that his life was bereft of controversy, mind you. He went through a divorce, faced rumors, and endured criticism from both sides of the racial divide. But he kept going, he kept moving forward—writing poems and writing for the theatre, searching for love and supporting the work of others.

By the time of his death, Countee Cullen had published 12 collections of poetry, 2 children’s books, 1 novel, 1 translation, and 1 musical. He was forty-two.

If you’re wondering the secret to his success, you’re not alone. When asked, he replied, “There is no secret to success except hard work and getting something indefinable which we call the ‘breaks.’ In order for a writer to succeed, I suggest three things—read and write—and wait.”

Whatever our heart’s desire, it would behoove us to follow in the footsteps of Countee Cullen, to show up—even in the face of hardship and disappointment—and keep our rendezvous with life . . .

I have a rendezvous with Life by Countee Cullen

I have a rendezvous with Life,
In days I hope will come,
Ere youth has sped, and strength of mind,
Ere voices sweet grow dumb.
I have a rendezvous with Life,
When Spring’s first heralds hum.
Sure some would cry it’s better far
To crown their days with sleep
Than face the road, the wind and rain,
To heed the calling deep.
Though wet nor blow nor space I fear,
Yet fear I deeply, too,
Lest Death should meet and claim me ere
I keep Life’s rendezvous.

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This, of course, is but a glimpse. If you’d like to read more about the life and work of Countee Cullen, here’s a good place to start.

2 Comments

  1. Read, write and wait – it’s like a theme song to my life

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