Olivia Ward Bush-Banks


Olivia Ward Bush-Banks was born in Sag Harbor, New York, on February 27, 1869, to parents of African American and Montauk descent. After her mother died when she was nine months old, Bush-Banks was sent to live with her aunt in Providence, Rhode Island. It was while she was enrolled at Providence High School that Bush-Banks began writing poems, many of which reflected on her heritage and biracial identity. After high school, Bush-Banks got married and had two daughters. A few years later, she divorced and briefly lived with her aunt in Providence again before moving her family to Boston, where she served as the assistant dramatic director at the Robert Gould Shaw Community House. In 1899, Bush-Banks published the ten-poem collection Original Poems (Louis A. Basinet Press), followed by Driftwood (Atlantic Printing Co., 1914). By 1900, Bush-Banks had contributed to a number of publications, including Boston TranscriptVoice of the Negro, and Colored American Magazine, and was serving as the historian for the Montauk nation, a position she held until she remarried in the early 1920s. Bush-Banks died in New York City on April 8, 1944. Source


From out my open window, I can see

The rolling waves, as fierce and restlessly,

They dash against the long, long stretch of shore,

And in the distance, I can dimly trace,

Some out-bound vessel having left her place

Of Harbor, to return perhaps no more.


Within my mind there dwells this lingering thought,

How oft from ill the greatest good is wrought,

Perhaps some shattered wreck along the strand,

Will help to make the fire burn more bright,

And for some weary traveller to-night,

’Twill serve the purpose of a guiding hand.


Ah yes, and thus it is with these our lives,

Some poor misshapen remnant still survives,

Of what was once a fair and beauteous form,

And yet some dwelling may be made more bright,

Some one afar may catch a gleam of light,

After the fury of the blighting storm.





Literary Movements:

Harlem Renaissance

Anthology Years:



Faith & Hope


Literary Devices:

End Rhyme

when a poem has lines ending with words that sound the same


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing