Thursday, June 11, 2020

68. Legacy

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Nikki Grimes. 2021. [January] Bloomsbury. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] [poetry]

First sentence from the preface: For centuries, accomplished women, of all races, have fallen out of the historical records. In the music realm, for example, we’ve long known and lauded the name and compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but few are familiar with his equally gifted sister, Maria Anna Mozart, an accomplished instrumentalist and composer in her own right. In the sciences, we were taught the names of astronauts like John Glenn, but few could recite the names of early NASA scientists, mathematicians, and engineers like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden, who helped to make Glenn’s successful orbit of the earth possible. It took the Oscar-nominated Hollywood movie Hidden Figures, based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, to bring these groundbreaking women to light. Going further back in time, Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh, all but disappeared from history until recent years. It should come as no surprise, then, that the names of gifted, even prolific, women poets of the Harlem Renaissance are little known, especially as compared to their male counterparts.

Premise/plot: Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance is a companion to her poetry collection, One Last Word. In this collection--told within a framework of a young girl discovering women poets of the Harlem Renaissance--readers read classic poems from the Harlem Renaissance and new poems by Nikki Grimes. Grimes uses the poetic format Golden Shovel.

It includes poems by the following writers: Mae V. Cowdery, Helene Johnson, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Clarissa Scott Delany, Angelina Weld Grimké, Gertrude Parthenia McBrown , Anne Spencer, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Ida Rowland, Esther Popel, Effie Lee Newsome, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Blanche Taylor Dickinson, Lucy Ariel Williams, and Gwendolyn Bennett.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, LOVED this collection. I loved reading the older poems. I loved Grimes' new poems as well. I'd describe the collection as exquisite, compelling, wonderful.

I read an ARC of the book. (It's not due to be published until 2021 according to GoodReads). My favorite poem is Prelude by Lucy Ariel Williams.

I know how a volcano must feel with molten lava Smoldering in its breast. Tonight thoughts, wild thoughts, Are smoldering In the very depths Of my being. I would hold them within me If I could. I would give them form If I could. I would make of them Something beautiful If I could. But they will not be formed; They will not be shaped. I must pour them out thus, Like molten lava. Shape them into beautiful dreams If you can. I know how a volcano must feel.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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