Baltimore Bridge Namesake Controversy/Cruel April/Zephaniah Mural – Poetry News Roundup April 3rd

Today on My Poetic Side, we look at the controversy over the name of the Baltimore bridge, the Cruel April poetry event and the mural for Benjamin Zephaniah.

Baltimore Bridge Collapse Raises Issue of Controversial Namesake

In the wake of the disaster that saw the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapse following a shipping accident, the namesake of the bridge is now at the centre of a renewal of public attention. The bridge is named after the poet Francis Scott Ket, who was considered a controversial poet with racist views. 

Spanning the Patapsco River in Baltimore, the bridge was a significant structure to the area and its prompt rebuilding will be vital for the economy of the area. 

Francis Scott Key was a lawyer, most famous for writing The Star-Spangled Banner. Whilst this is now the national anthem of the USA, for over 100 years the iconic poem was avoided. This was in part due to the racist views that Key held. In the third verse in particular is a section that many experts feel could be seen as mocking or threatening to those African Americans who escaped from the bonds of slavery and joined the British on the promise of land in exchange for their service in battle. The lines read


This isn’t the first time that the name of Key has caused controversy and suggestions have been made that he should not be celebrated. In recent years Americans have sought to remove from the public eye the name of many more controversial figures from their past with the renaming of public buildings and the removal of statues. Key is no exception to this, with monuments built in his honour having been defaced. Now the calls for many of those things bearing his name to be renamed have emerged once more. 

“Cruel April” Poetry Series

This week Juan Felipe Herrera the former US Poet Laureate will be in Syracuse where he will be the opening poet for the 2024 Cruel April Poetry Series. Herrera, who was the Poet Laureate from 2015-2017, will be leading a series of creative writing workshops aimed at both he public and students. He will also be conducting a public poetry reading as part of the event which will last for 3 days in total. 

Park Gets Benjamin Zephaniah Mural 

A Birmingham park is to get a new mural to celebrate the life and work of the late poet, actor and writer Benjamin Zephaniah. 

The poet was a proud “Brummie” and the artwork, which has been commissioned by Black Heritage Walks Network, will be unveiled on 14th April. The project has been worked on very closely by a number of local groups and the poet’s family. 

Last month, a mural dedicated to the poet was revealed at Birmingham Airport by easyJet.

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