4.5 stars – I wish I could give this book 5 stars; it’s a great anthology of black poets including poems from my old favourites, such as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and James Weldon Johnson, and also introducing me to some “new” poets such as Naomi Madgett, Mari Evans and Claude McKay. The range of poetry is great, and it covers a large period of time. However, I couldn’t give it a full rating for a number of reasons. Firstly, I just couldn’t get into the folk poetry; the dialect just made reading the poems to be too much of a chore for me (perhaps had I been American, this would not have been the case?). I actually stopped reading the folk poetry after a few pages; I didn’t have the patience to read them. Also, some of the poems included were way too radical and explicit for me. Though I do understand that it was necessary due to the tough topics and issues that several of the poems covered, it just isn’t my cup of tea.
Speaking of Naomi Madgett, I find the imagery in the following poem wonderful:
Would it please you if I strung my tears
In pearls for you to wear?
Would you like a gift of my hands’ endless beating
Against old bars?
This time I can forget my Otherness,
Silence my drums of discontent awhile
And listen to the stars.
Wait in the shadows if you choose.
Stand alert to catch
The thunder and first sprinkle of unrest
Your insufficiency demands,
But you will find no comfort.
I will not feed your hunger with my blood
Nor crown your nakedness
With jewels of my elegant pain.
— Naomi Madgett, The Race Problem
This is a poetry collection I’m proud to have on my bookshelf.