The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry
Penguin has updated its essential reference on modern American poetry, and for the first time, it is edited by a black poet: Rita Dove. The volume went on sale Oct. 25. Here are some of the African Americans she selected.
James Weldon Johnson
"And God stepped out on space,/And he looked around and said:/I'm lonely—/I'll make me a world."
Excerpted from "The Creation"
"Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes/And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;/Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes/Blown by black players upon a picnic day."
Excerpted from "The Harlem Dancer"
"Hair—braided chestnut,/coiled like a lyncher's rope"
Excerpted from "Portrait in Georgia"
"I am the darker brother./They send me to eat in the kitchen/When company comes."
Excerpted from "I, Too"
"this man, superb in love and logic, this man/shall be remembered."
Excerpted from "Frederick Douglass"
"Abortions will not let you forget./You remember the children you got that you did not get,/The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,/The singers and workers that never handled the air."
Excerpted from "The Mother"
"Calling black people/Calling all black people, man woman child/Wherever you are, calling you, urgent, come in"
Excerpted from "SOS"
"I have not been able to touch the destruction/within me./But unless I learn to use/the difference between poetry and rhetoric/my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold"
Excerpted from "Power"
"these hips are big hips/ they need space to/move around in."
Excerpted from "homage to my hips"
"I'm fourteen. I'm a wind from nowhere./I can break your heart."
Excerpted from "The Kid"
"I close my eyes & can see/men drawing lines in the dust./America pushes through the membrane/ of mist & smoke, & I’m a small boy/again in Bogalusa."
Excerpted from "To Do Street"
"If nature abhors an expensive appliance, why does the planet suck ozone?"
Excerpted from "Black Nikes"
"Along the Avenue, the cabs start up, heading/toward midtown; neon stutters into ecstasy"
Excerpted from "Claudette Colvin Goes to Work"
"the hot comb singeing her brow,/sweat glistening above her lips,/her face made strangely beautiful/as only suffering can do."
Excerpted from "Hot Combs"
"in a room of smoke, nightclub tinkering with lovers in the dark, cigarette flares,/ gin & tonic. This is where the heartache/blooms."
Excerpted from "Lady Sings the Blues"