Borrowing from Romare Bearden’s aesthetic palette and inspired by his Odysseus series, Bearden’s Odyssey gathers, for the first time, poems from thirty-five of the most revered African diaspora poets in the United States. Poetic echoes come forth in themes of inspiration with historical intersections of one of the greatest visual artists of the twentieth century.
The award-winning editors, Kwame Dawes and Matthew Shenoda, assemble an esteemed literary congregation, with original poems by Chris Abani, Rita Dove, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Ed Roberson, Aracelis Girmay, Yusef Komunyakaa, and more. With a powerful foreword by Nobel laureate Derek Walcott and stunning visual reproductions of select Bearden masterpieces, this anthology fuses art and literature, standing as a testament to Romare Bearden’s power and influence in the contemporary artistic world.
City of Bones: A Testament
Kwame Dawes Northwestern University Press, 2017 Library of Congress PR9265.9.D39A6 2017 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
As if convinced that all divination of the future is somehow a re-visioning of the past, Kwame Dawes reminds us of the clairvoyance of haunting. The lyric poems in City of Bones: A Testament constitute a restless jeremiad for our times, and Dawes’s inimitable voice peoples this collection with multitudes of souls urgently and forcefully singing, shouting, groaning, and dreaming about the African diasporic present and future.
As the twentieth collection in the poet’s hallmarked career, City of Bones reaches a pinnacle, adding another chapter to the grand narrative of invention and discovery cradled in the art of empathy that has defined his prodigious body of work. Dawes’s formal mastery is matched only by the precision of his insights into what is at stake in our lives today. These poems are shot through with music from the drum to reggae to the blues to jazz to gospel, proving that Dawes is the ambassador of words and worlds.
Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry is an anthology of poems by more than one hundred award-winning poets, including Jericho Brown, Justin Philip Reed, and Tracy K. Smith, with themed essays on poetics from celebrated scholars such as Kwame Dawes, Meta DuEwa Jones, and Evie Shockley. The Furious Flower Poetry Center is the nation’s first academic center for Black poetry. In this eponymous collection, editors Joanne V. Gabbin and Lauren K. Alleyne bring together many of the paramount voices in Black poetry and poetics active today, composing an electrifying mosaic of voices, generations, and aesthetics that reveals the Black narrative in the work of twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers. Intellectually enlightening and powerfully enlivening, Furious Flower explores and celebrates the idea of the Black poetic voice by posing the question, What’s next for Black poetic expression?
Kwame Dawes Ohio University Press, 2000 Library of Congress PR9265.9.D39M5 2001 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
The winning manuscript of the fourth annual Hollis Summers Poetry Prize is also the exciting American debut by a poet who has already established himself as an important international poetic voice. Midland, the seventh collection by Kwame Dawes, draws deeply on the poet’s travels and experiences in Africa, the Caribbean, England, and the American South. Marked equally by a lushness of imagery, an urgency of tone, and a muscular rhythm, Midland, in the words of the final judge, Eavan Boland, is “a powerful testament of the complexity, pain, and enrichment of inheritance…It is a compelling meditation on what is given and taken away in the acts of generation and influence. Of a father’s example and his oppression. There are different places throughout the book. They come willfully in and out of the poems: Jamaica. London. Africa. America. But all the places become one place in the central theme and undersong here: which is displacement…The achievement of this book is a beautifully crafted voice which follows the painful and vivid theme of homelessness in and out of the mysteries of loss and belonging.”
Midland is the work of a keen and transcendent intellect, a collection of poems that speaks to the landscape from inside, from an emotional and experiential place of risk and commitment.
Nikky Finney Northwestern University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3556.I53R53 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In Rice, her second volume of poetry, Nikky Finney explores the complexity of rice as central to the culture, economy, and mystique of the coastal South Carolina region where she was born and raised. The prized Carolina Gold rice paradoxically made South Carolina one of the most oppressive states for slaves and also created the remarkable Gullah culture on the coastal islands. The poems in Rice compose a profound and unflinching journey connecting family and the paradoxes of American history, from the tragic times when African slaves disembarked on the South Carolina coast to the triumphant day when Judge Ernest A. Finney Jr., Nikky’s father, was sworn in as South Carolina’s first African American chief justice. Images from the Finney family archive illustrate and punctuate this collection. Rice showcases Finney’s hungry intellect, her regional awareness and pride, and her sensitivity to how cultures are built and threatened.
This is an anthology of poems in the Age of Trump—and much more than Trump. These are poems that either embody or express a sense of empathy or outrage, both prior to and following his election, since it is empathy the president lacks and outrage he provokes.
There is an extraordinary diversity of voices here. The ninety-three poets featured include Elizabeth Alexander, Julia Alvarez, Richard Blanco, Carolyn Forché, Aracelis Girmay, Donald Hall, Juan Felipe Herrera, Yusef Komunyakaa, Naomi Shihab Nye, Marge Piercy, Robert Pinsky, Danez Smith, Patricia Smith, Brian Turner, Ocean Vuong, Bruce Weigl, and Eleanor Wilner. They speak of persecuted and scapegoated immigrants. They bear witness to violence: police brutality against African Americans, mass shootings in a school or synagogue, the rage inflicted on women everywhere. They testify to poverty: the waitress surviving on leftovers at the restaurant, the battles of a teacher in a shelter for homeless mothers, the emergency-room doctor listening to the heartbeats of his patients. There are voices of labor, in the factory and the fields. There are prophetic voices, imploring us to imagine the world we will leave behind in ruins lest we speak and act.
However, this is not merely a collection of grievances. The poets build bridges. One poet steps up to translate in Arabic at the airport; another walks through the city and sees her immigrant past in the immigrant present; another declaims a musical manifesto after the hurricane that devastated his island; another evokes a demonstration in the street, shouting in an ecstasy of defiance. The poets take back the language, resisting the demagogic corruption of words themselves. They assert our common humanity in the face of dehumanization.