“I was raised with the idea of helping, and that’s what I do.”
Fellow Charles Lynch is very concise about giving back to Cave Canem. “Sealing envelopes or moving chairs is not work. I was raised with the idea of helping, and that’s what I do.”
Since 1990, Charles has been a member of the Baha’i faith, which has deepened his understanding of how we can live globally in peace and harmony. He extends these precepts when thinking about his relationship with Cave Canem. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, he attended the Foundation’s writing retreat with other poets of African descent. Those empowering weeks gave him greater confidence in his craft and a sustained commitment to investigating ways in which we humans can negotiate our identities and achieve a sense of dignity without harming others.
“I gain so much when I see the bonding between and among younger poets,” Charles says. “When I came up, there were great challenges to black poets. I see Cave Canem as an antidote to some of that negativity. Cave Canem poets are not only winning awards, they are serving as emissaries to others of African descent who historically have encountered challenges to their intelligence and creativity. At 72, I’m excited about what young black artists are producing.”
As for monetary giving, Charles puts it simply: “The success of Cave Canem, or any organization, is the direct result of the commitment of donors. When I’ve donated, I feel that I’ve contributed not only to Cave Canem but to myself as well.”
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Charles attended Kenyon College (AB) and The City College of New York (MA). His doctoral dissertation at New York University was on the lives and poetry of Robert Hayden and Gwendolyn Brooks. For many years he taught English at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, NJ. His work has appeared in numerous publications, among them, The Black Scholar, Rattapallax, Crab Orchard Review, Obsidian, and the anthologies Where Art and Faith Converge, Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era, The Poetry of Black America, Leaving the Bough, and others. He lives with his wife Gayle in Brooklyn, New York.
Read a selection of Charles’s poems on his website, and an excerpt from “Vigil for Wholeness” here.
from Vigil for Wholeness
I am asking to be born
far cry from fugitive accomplice I hid
when forbidden entrance, seat, or sip:
leching master’s blanched remain;
little mule packing dead seed.