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A literary landmark: the biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period to the present
Only now, in the 21st century, can we fully grasp the breadth and range of African American poetry: a magnificent chorus of voices, some familiar, others recently rescued from neglect. Here, in this unprecedented anthology expertly selected by poet and scholar Kevin Young, this precious living heritage is revealed in all its power, beauty, and multiplicity. Discover, in these pages, how an enslaved person like Phillis Wheatley confronted her legal status in verse and how an antebellum activist like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper voiced her own passionate resistance to slavery. Read nuanced, provocative poetic meditations on identity and self-assertion stretching from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Amiri Baraka to Lucille Clifton and beyond. Experience the transformation of poetic modernism in the works of figures such as Langston Hughes, Fenton Johnson, and Jean Toomer. Understand the threads of poetic history--in movements such as the Harlem and Chicago Renaissances, Black Arts, Cave Canem, the Dark Room Collective--and the complex bonds of solidarity and dialogue among poets across time and place. See how these poets have celebrated their African heritage and have connected with other communities in the African Diaspora. Enjoy the varied but distinctly Black music of a tradition that draws deeply from jazz, hip hop, and the rhythms and cadences of the pulpit, the barbershop, and the street. And appreciate, in the anthology's concluding sections, why contemporary African American poetry, amply recognized in recent National Book Awards and Poet Laureates, is flourishing as never before. Taking the measure of the tradition in a single indispensable volume, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song sets a new standard for a genuinely deep engagement with Black poetry and its essential expression of American genius.
About the Author
Kevin Young is Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library and poetry editor of The New Yorker. He is the former curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. His books of poetry include Brown, Dear Darkness, and Jelly Roll: A Blues. He has previously edited the anthology Blues Poems, Jazz Poems, and, for Library of America, John Berryman: Selected Poems. He will be the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture starting in January 2021.
“A defining, glorious, and invaluable anthology of African American poetry that reaches back to 1770 and concludes with today’s artistic flourishing in sync with Black Lives Matter. Vitality, beauty, anger, sorrow, humor, and hope all find original, resonant, and consummate expression throughout this expert gathering of works by both celebrated poets and many who will be new to readers, especially women and LGBTQ poets from earlier eras, and all 250 poets are succinctly profiled. Kevin Young provides a historical and literary framework in eight chronological sections, each discussed in substantial and enlightening detail in his elegantly composed and dynamic introduction. His coverage includes pivotal creative movements, including not only the Harlem Renaissance, but also the Chicago Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and such writing collectives as June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, Cave Canem, and the Dark Room Collective. In this powerhouse anthology, African American poets are clearly in dialogue with each other across generations, sustaining community. Written under siege both obvious and insidious, their poems engage with every aspect of life while tracking the ongoing quest for equality and justice. A profound and affirming pleasure to read and an imperative resource for every public library." —Booklist (Starred review)
"One of the U.S.’s most talented poets, Kevin Young is the perfect guide to reconstruct the American canon. His sweeping anthology of African-American poetry across U.S. history is an exhilarating collection of voices that have helped shape the country, many of whom never got their full due. By including new forms and overlooked schools, Young’s anthology promises to rewrite the history of American verse." —TIME magazine ("The 42 Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2020")
"The giants are well represented in this enormous collection, including Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove and Natasha Tretheway. But so are more than 200 other poets worthy of wider recognition." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ("33 Books to Read this Fall")
“New Yorker poetry editor Kevin Young takes on the monumental task of condensing 250 years of African-American poetry into this must-own anthology… Discover it.” —THE WEEK ("21 Books to Read this Fall")
"This thousand-page collection should be required reading for all Americans." —San Francisco Chronicle