Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance
by Nikki Grimes
Bloomsbury, 2021, 144 pages

A number of things came together in creating this volume of poems. First, there were a number of relatively unknown women poets writing during the Harlem Renaissance, that period beginning in 1918 through the min-1930s when African American arts flourished. Second, there is the relatively new poetic form devised by poet Terrance Hayne called the Golden Shovel. Third, there is the incomparable poet Nikki Grimes. Put together, the result is Legacy, a collection of poems by African American women poets who are celebrated in new contemporary poems by Nikki Grimes utilizing the Golden Shovel form,  connecting today's readers with these Black feminist writers across time and space.

Legacy begins with a poem by Nikki Grimes in the voice of a young girl, whose teacher is telling her that she needs to find her "girl power," that it is "Time you learn/ a little history./ The women in our race/ have always gone/ from strength to strength." She then hands her three books on the Harlem Renaissance. The young girl's journey begins by reading Part I of Legacy called "Heritage," followed by Part II "Mother Earth" and Part III "Taking Notice." The books then ends with a poem called "Journey's End," giving her thoughts about what she has read and that has changed her. 

There are 19 poems by women of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Anne Spencer, Mae V. Cowdery, and Blanche Taylor Dickinson, among others. Their poetry reflects the historical times in which they as Black women lived and wrote. Each one of the 19 poems is paired with a poem by Nikki Grimes reflecting today's world and Black women's response to it. Added to these poems are 19 original illustrations beautifully paired with each poem set. These are by such esteemed artists as Ekua Holmes, Ebony Glenn, Vashti Harrison and others and are done in bold full color using various medians. Below is one of my favorite poems sets with an illustration by Keisha Morris.

Click to Enlarge

Front matter includes a Preface, information about The Harlem Renaissance, and the Poetry Form used. Back matter includes a short biography of each poet, a short biography of each artist,  a list of Sources, print and digital, and an Index. 
It only seemed appropriate to end Women's History Month 2021 with this collection of feminist oriented poetry. I hope you are as moved by these poets, past and present, as I am. 

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an eARC gratefully received from NetGalley

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