The 100 Best African American Poems

ISBN: 9781402221118

Published: 11/09/2010

Hear voices contemporary and classic as selected by New York Times bestselling author Nikki Giovanni

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Hear voices contemporary and classic as selected by New York Times bestselling author Nikki Giovanni Award-winning poet and writer Nikki Giovanni takes on the impossible task of selecting the 100 best African American works from classic and contemporary poets. Out of necessity, Giovanni admits she cheats a little, selecting a larger, less round number. The result is this startlingly vibrant collection that spans from historic to modern, from structured to freeform, and reflects the rich roots and visionary future of African American verse. These magnetic poems are an exciting mix of most-loved classics and daring new writing. From Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes to Tupac Shakur, Natasha Trethewey, and many others, the voice of a culture comes through in this collection, one that is as talented, diverse, and varied as its people. African American poems are like all other poems: beautiful, loving, provocative, thoughtful, and all those other adjectives I can think of. Poems know no boundaries. They, like all Earth citizens, were born in some country, grew up on some culture, then in their blooming became citizens of the Universe. Poems fly from heart to heart, head to head, to whisper a dream, to share a condolence, to congratulate, and to vow forever. The poems are true. They are translated and they are celebrated. They are sung, they are recited, they are delightful. They are neglected. They are forgotten. They are put away. Even in their fallow periods they sprout images. And fight to be revived. And spring back to life with a bit of sunshine and caring. —Nikki Giovanni Read Gwendolyn Brooks Kwame Alexander Tupac Shakur Langston Hughes Mari Evans Kevin Young Asha Bandele Amiri Baraka Hear Ruby Dee Novella Nelson Nikki Giovanni Elizabeth Alexander Marilyn Nelson Sonia Sanchez And many, many, more Nikki Giovanni is an award-winning poet, writer, and activist. She is the author of more than two dozen books for adults and children, including Bicycles, Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, Racism 101, Blues: For All the Changes, and Love Poems. Her children’s book-plus-audio compilation Hip Hop Speaks to Children was awarded the NAACP Image Award. Her children’s book Rosa, a picture-book retelling of the Rosa Parks story, was a Caldecott Honor Book and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. Both books were New York Times bestsellers. Nikki is a Grammy nominee for her spoken-word album The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection and has been nominated for the National Book Award. She has been voted Woman of the Year by Essence, Mademoiselle, and Ladies’ Home Journal. She is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, where she teaches writing and literature.

About the Author

Nikki Giovanni

National Book Award nominee, Spoken Word Grammy nominee and New York Times best-selling author Nikki Giovanni leads an advisory board comprised of leading hip hop poet Willie Perdomo, Howard University professor Tony Medina, and music specialist Michele Scott.


Table of Contents

Dedication: The Aunt: xxi – Track 1
Mari Evans

1. For My People: 1 – Track 2
Margaret Walker

2. Leroy: 3
Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

3. Ars Poetica: Nov. 7, 2008: 4
L. Lamar Wilson

4. Ka'Ba: 8
Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

5. When You Have Forgotten Sunday: The Love Story: 9 – Track 3
Gwendolyn Brooks

The Sermon on the Warpland: 11 – Track 4
Gwendolyn Brooks
We Real Cool: 12 – Track 5
Gwendolyn Brooks

Jazz Baby Is It In You: 13
Antoine Harris
"I Fade Into the Night": 14
Adam Daniel

8. Old Lem: 15 – Track 6
Sterling A. Brown

9. I Am Accuse of Tending to the Past: 17 – Track 7
Lucille Clifton

10. I Am A Black Woman: 18 – Track 8
Mari Evans

11. Who Can Be Born Black?: 20 – Track 9
Mari Evans

12. Nikka-Rosa:21 – Track 10
Nikki Giovanni

13. Knoxville, Tennessee: 23 – Track 11
Nikki Giovanni

14. The Dry Spell: 24 – Track 12
Kevin Young

15. Those Winter Sundays: 26 – Tracks 13 & 14
Robert Hayden

16. Frederic Douglass: 27
Robert Hayden

17. The Negro Speaks of Rivers: 28 – Track 15
Langston Hughes

18. Choosing the Blues: 29
Angela Jackson

19. My Father's Love Letters: 30
Yusef Komunyakaa

20. The Creation: 32 – Track 16
James Weldon Johnson

21. A Negro Love Song: 36
Paul Laurence Dunbar

22. Lift Every Voice and Sing: 37
James Weldon Johnson

23. Go Down Death: 39
James Weldon Johnson

24. Between Ourselves: 42
Audre Lorde

25. The Union of Two: 45
Haki R. Madhubuti

26. Ballad of Birmingham: 46
Dudley Randall

27. A Poem to Complement Other Poems: 48
Haki R. Madhubuti

28. No Images: 51
Waring Cuney

29. Between the World and Me: 52
Richard Wright

30. Theme for English B: 54
Langston Hughes

31.  Harlem Suite
Easy Boogie: 56
Langston Hughes
Dream Boogie: 57
Langston Hughes
Dream Boogie: Variation: 58
Langston Hughes
Harlem: 58
Langston Hughes
Good Morning: 59
Langston Hughes
Same in Blues: 60
Langston Hughes
Island: 61
Langston Hughes

32. The Blue Terrance: 62
Terrance Hayes

The Mother: 64 – Track 17
Gwendolyn Brooks
A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon: 66
Gwendolyn Brooks – Track 18
The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till: 72
Gwendolyn Brooks
A Sunset of the City: 73 – Track 19
Gwendolyn Brooks

34. Things I Carried Coming to the World: 75
Remica L. Bingham

35. Topography: 77
Remica L. Bingham

36. Beneath Me: 79
Jericho Brown

37. Autobiography: 80
Jericho Brown

38. Parable of the Sower: 82
Pamela Sneed

39. Heritage: 86
Countee Cullen

40. Yet I Do Marvel: 91 – Track 20
Countee Cullen

41. Incident: 92 – Track 21
Countee Cullen

42. We Wear the Mask: 93 – Track 22
Paul Laurence Dunbar

43. Triple: 94
Georgia Douglas Johnson

44. The Heart of a Woman: 95 – Track 23
Georgia Douglas Johnson

45. Woman With Flower: 96
Naomi Long Madgett

46. The Idea of Ancestry: 97
Etheridge Knight

47. Don't Say Goodbye to the Porkpie Hat: 99
Larry Neal

48. Cleaning: 105
Camille T. Dungy

49. Boston Year: 106 – Track 24
Elizabeth Alexander

50. She Wears Red: 107
Jackie Warren-Moore

51. Commercial Break: Road-Runner, Uneasy: 110
Tim Seibles

52. Before Making Love: 114
Toi Derricotte

53. Be-Bop: 115
Sterling Plumpp

54. Personal Letter No. 3: 116 – Track 25
Sonia Sanchez

55. Poem at Thirty: 117 – Track 26
Sonia Sanchez

56. A Poem for Sterling Brown: 118 – Track 27
Sonia Sanchez

57. Marchers Headed for Washington, Baltimore, 1963: 120
Remica L. Bingham

58. And Yeah…This is a Love Poem: 123
Nikki Giovanni

59. The Carousel: 123
Gloria C. Oden

60. Only Everything I Own: 127
Patricia Smith

61. Lot's Daughter Dreams of Her Mother: 128 – Track 28
Opal Moore

62. The Girlfriend's Train: 131
Nikky Finney

63. Back from the Arms of Big Mama: 136
Afaa Michael Weaver

64. Mama's Promise: 139 – Track 29
Marilyn Nelson

65. Bop: A Whistling Man: 142
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

66. Homage to My Hips: 144 – Track 30
Lucille Clifton

67. Train Ride: 145
Kwame Dawes

68. Train Rides: 148 – Track 31
Nikki Giovanni

69. A Great Grandaddy Speaks: 153
Lamonte B. Steptoe

70. Eddie Priest's Barbershop & Notary: 154
Kevin Young

71. View of the Library of Congress From Paul Laurence Dunbar High School: 156
Thomas Sayers Ellis

72. Drapery Factory, Gulfport, Mississippi, 1956: 159 – Track 32
Natasha Trethewey

73. Some Kind of Crazy: 161
Major Jackson

74. From: 163
A. Van Jordan

75. Freedom Candy: 165
E. Ethelbert Miller

76. The Supremes: 167
Cornelius Eady

77. Jazz Suite
Nikki Save Me: 169
Michael Scott
"Nikki, If You Were a Song…": 170 – Track 33
Kwame Alexander
Haiku: 170
DJ Renegade
Untitled: 170
Nadir Lasana Bomani
"I Wish I Could've Seen It…": 171
Leodis McCray

78. That Some Mo': 174
DJ Renegade

79. Sometime in the Summer There's October: 175
Kwame Alexander

80. Dancing Naked on the Floor: 178
Kwame Alexander

81. Harriet Tubman's Email 2 Master: 180
Truth Thomas

82. A River That Flows Forever: 181 – Track 34
Tupac Shakur

83. The Rose that Grew from Concrete: 181 – Track 34
Tupac Shakur

84. Rochelle: 182
Reuben Jackson

85. All Their Stanzas Look Alike: 183
Thomas Sayers Ellis

86. From the Center to the Edge: 185
Asha Bandele

87. The Subtle Art of Breathing: 187
Asha Bandele

88. Southern University, 1963: 192
Kevin Young

89. Poetry Should Ride the Bus: 195
Ruth Forman

90. Blues for Spring: 197
Colleen J. McElroy

91. The Bicycle Wizard: 198
Sharon Strange

92. Bicycles: 199
Nikki Giovanni

93. A Clean Slate: 200
Fred D'Aguiar

94. Song Through the Wall: 201
Akua Lezli Hope

95. A Seat Saved: 203
Shana Yarborough

96. Sunday Greens: 205
Rita Dove

97. The Untitled Superhero Poem: 206
Tonya Maria Matthews

98. Mercy Killing: 209 – Track 35
Remica L. Bingham

99. If You Saw a Negro Lady: 210
June Jordan

100. Ego Tripping (There May Be a Reason Why): 212 – Track 36
Nikki Giovanni


From the Introduction:

Poems are like clouds on a June morning or two scoops of chocolate ice cream on a sugar cone in August…something everyone can enjoy. Or maybe poems are your cold f


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Format: Hardcover

Length: 8 in
Width: 6 in
Weight: 16.24 oz
Page Count: 256 pages


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