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Carole Boston Weatherford: Birmingham, 1963 (Wordsong PB 2023 - originally HC 2007)

Sixty years ago, in 1963, on August 28, approximately 250.000 people, at that time the largest crowd seen in the nation’s capital, gathered on the National Mall for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – Lincoln who one hundred years earlier had issued the Emancipation Declaration setting the slaves free – the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of the great speeches in (African) American history, I Have a Dream.

The fictive, unnamed young narrator of Carole Boston Weatherford’s picture book (‘pictures’ here are archival photographs), Birmingham, 1963, remembers: “The year I turned ten,/ Mama, Daddy and I stood at Lincoln’s feet/ While King’s dream woke the nation from a long night of wrongs.”  

Colson Whitehead: Harlem Shuffle (Anchor Books/ Penguin Random House 2021)

An envelope is an envelope. Disrespect the order and the whole system breaks down” – Colson Whitehead, epigraph to “Dorvay”, Part Two of Harlem Shuffle       

With Harlem Shuffle Colson Whitehead (b. 1969) follows in the footsteps of other African American crime writers like Harlem Renaissance writer Rudolph Fisher (The Conjure-Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem, 1932) and Chester Himes (Cotton Comes to Harlem, 1965, and eight other titles) setting their suspenseful fictions in New York’s – and America’s – most famous Black neighborhood, Harlem, Harlem itself and its history one of the focuses of Whitehead’s novel.

E. Ethelbert Miller: How I Found Love Behind the Catcher's Mask (City Point Press, 2022)

How I Found Love Behind the Catcher’s Mask is the third volume in E. Ethelbert Miller’s trilogy of baseball poetry, following If God Invented Baseball (2018) and When Your Wife Has Tommy John Surgery and Other Baseball Stories (2021), all three published by David Wilk (“who keeps my poems on the field and not sitting on the bench” – Miller), editor and publisher of City Point Press, all 150 poems testimony to Miller’s love of baseball and the world of baseball.

Baseball’s ‘artful language’. These mostly short, often haiku-like poems are for the most part not about baseball in and of itself. In his introduction to How I Found Love … Merrill Leffler, poet and publisher of Dryad Press, writes: “Elements of the game are throughout the trilogy – pitching, hitting, baserunning, baseball’s artful language, but baseball is more often the springboard for getting poems into play ...

Liberation Narratives: Nicole Mitchell and Her Black Earth Ensemble Brings Haki Madhubuti and His Poetry Back Again on CD

The Liberation Narratives CD is Nicole Mitchell’s gift to her mentor and friend, poet, publisher, and educator Haki R. Madhubuti and his Third World Press. Ten poems by Madhubuti, read by the author, is set to music by composer and flautist Nicole Mitchell and her Black Earth Ensemble.

Originally commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, as an artist-in-residence at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts 2016 to 2017 Nicole Mitchell worked on developing and performing this suite of music for Madhubuti’s poetry. Recorded live at the Logan Center, the CD Nicole Mitchell and Haki Madhubuti: Liberation Narratives was released by Third World Press/black earth music in 2017 as part of TWP’s celebration of its first 50 years of publishing.

African American Poetry Beyond English; or, The Example of Sybil Kein

In the Random Notes article on The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove, we wrote: “We are talking about American poetry in English only.”

A survey from 2008-2010 shows that most Americans, 79,7%, speak only English at home, while 12,6% report that Spanish is the main language spoken. Looking below at ‘African American poetry beyond English’, to Spanish we must add French, or French Creole, a language that has a long history in Louisiana, even as French – like all other American languages aside from English and Spanish – account for less than one percent of American spoken languages (see note below).  

The Spanish influence on African American (or American) poetry comes mainly via the Caribbean and countries ‘south of the border’ with large populations of Spanish-speaking  people ...

Effie Lee Newsome's Nature Poetry for Children Revisited

Effie Lee Newsome (1885-1979) is often considered to be the first African American poet to write poetry exclusively, or primarily, for children.   

Her career as a poet is closely tied to The Crisis and its editor, scholar and civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois. According to Wikipedia Effie Lee Newsome began working with DuBois on The Crisis as early as 1917, contributing to DuBois’ The Brownies’ Book, his short lived monthly magazine for children (1920-1921), for which poet and novelist Jessie Redmon Fauset wrote the dedicatory poem: “To children, who with eager look/ Scanned vainly library shelf and nook,/ For History or Song or Story/ That told of Colored Peoples’ glory,–/ We dedicate The Brownies’ Book.” From 1925 to 1929 she was given her own Crisis-column for children, The Little Page ...