Poets & Writers

A Poet a Day: Kurtis Lamkin

"jump mama"

A Poet a Day: Kurtis Lamkin

During these trying days of social distancing, self-isolating and quarantines, days rife with fear and anxiety, my colleagues and I thought you might like some company. So each day we will be introducing you to poets we have met over the years. The only contagion they will expose you to is a measure of joy, reflection and meditation brought on by “the best words in the best order.”
— Bill Moyers

In this clip from “Fooling With Words,” poet Kurtis Lamkin perform his poem “jump mama” at the 1999 Dodge Poetry Festival.

Jump Mama

pretty summer day
grammama sittin on her porch
rockin her grandbaby in her wide lap
ol men sittin in their lincoln
tastin and talkin and talkin and tastin
young boys on the corner
milkin a yak yak wild hands baggy pants
young girls halfway up the block
jumpin that double dutch
singin their song
kenny kana paula
be on time
cause school begins
at a quarter to nine
jump one two three and aaaaaaah. . .

round the corner comes
this young woman
draggin herself heavy home from work
she sees the young boys
sees the old men
but when she sees the girls she just starts smilin
she says let me get a little bit of that
they say you can’t jump
you too old

why they say that
o, why they say that

she says tanya you hold my work bag
chaniqua come over here girl i want you to hold my
josie could you hold my grocery bag
kebé take my purse
she starts bobbin her head, jackin her arms
tryin to catch the rhythm of the ropes
and when she jumps inside those turning loops
the girls crowd her sing their song
kenny kana paula
be on time
cause school begins
at a quarter to nine
jump one two three and
she jumps on one leg — aaaaah
she dances sassy saucy — aaaaah
jump for the girls mama
jump for the stars mama
jump for the young boys sayin
jump mama! jump mama!
jump for the old woman sayin — aww, go head baby

and what the young girls say
what the young girls say


Kurtis Lamkin, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, has toured the country playing the kora, a type of African harp. In the past he has hosted MultiKultiMove, a reading series involving writers from across the world, and produced an animated poem for PBS: “The Fox’s Manifesto.” He also produced the radio series Living Proof: Contemporary Black Literature as a member of the Metamorphosis Writers Collective. His book, King of the Real World, was published in 1985. His writings have been featured widely in such publications as the Nebula Journal of Contemporary LiteraturePainted Bride QuarterlyBlack American Literature Forum and Transfer. He was also published in NewCity Voices: An Anthology of Black Literature.