This is one of my favorite poems. "Runagate Runagate" is a tribute to the runaway slaves who risked their lives to escape oppression. Robert Hayden's language is so well-crafted, you can feel the urgency, the fear, the hope. Read it outloud and you'll feel the quickened heartbeat, breath, and anticipation in the rhythm of the words.
You can read the whole poem here or check out Robert Hayden's Collected Poems from the library or on Amazon.
Robert Hayden had a trying childhood. He grew up with foster parents in a Detroit ghetto. He probably knew a thing or two about wanting to run away, to escape. He went on to become the first black American Poet Laureate. He taught at Fisk University (see A Band of Angels) and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Read more about Robert Hayden's life on Wikipedia. There is also an interesting lengthy biography on Answers.com.
I heard Mr. Hayden read this at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium in the '70s and was deeply moved.
That must have been amazing!
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