Thursday, February 25, 2021

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

Happy Friday,

I gifted myself a copy of Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury 2021). Legacy is a companion or sister book as Grimes says, to One Last Word (Bloomsbury 2017) and is every bit as fabulous. 

Grimes, Nikki, and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Bloomsbury Children's Books, Bloomsbury Publishing Inc., Part of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2021. 

It's hard to imagine that I've been in love with the golden shovel form only since my introduction to the form in One Last Word. Grimes made the form so enticing that I and about every poet I know has written at least one golden shovel. Poems of Legacy are also golden shovels with striking lines from the poems of Harlem Renaissance women.

The poets of Legacy did not gain much fame or financial gain from their work. These talented women wrote alongside Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and helped produce their work as editors, typists, and readers. They were women whose poetry was a thread of a full life, not a dedicated pursuit. As a consequence, many of them are left off the cast list of that glittering, literary era.

Grimes finds these women after hunting down poems they wrote.  It is a pleasure for us to also discover them. Grimes honors their words, artfully lacing past issues with ours today in her golden shovel response poems.

I read Legacy for poetry and, illustrations. Each poem of the work is illustrated by a contemporary Black female artist --every piece a wow. My favorite is Before Eukka Holmes (17). I stare at her work and want to know, how does she do that?

One of the happiest discoveries of Legacy for me is the work of Georgia Douglas Johnson

Atlas, Nava. “Georgia Douglas Johnson, Harlem Renaissance Poet & Playwright.” Literary Ladies Guide, Search Here.. Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest Rss Youtube nava1 Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life, 7 Aug. 2020,

Born in Georgia, she was educated at Atlanta University Normal School, Oberlin Conservatory as well as Cleveland College of Music and lived several decades in Washington DC. Her house, where she held a literary salon, known as the S Street Salon, still stands. I'll visit someday after this crazy pandemic. I would love to bump into her ghost. For sure, I need to know more about this writer and read more of her work. 

“Georgia Douglas Johnson.” DC Writers' Homes, DC Writers' Homes , 26 Nov. 2018,

Grimes included Your World in Legacy. Find eight more of Johnson's works at The Poetry Foundation.

Your World

Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side.
But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.
I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!

The striking lines Grimes takes for her response are bolded within Johnson's work above. I won't give away what Grimes writes...but will share that the title of her golden shovel poem is Mother to Daughter. It is perfect in word and style.

If you haven't picked up a copy of Legacy yet, ask your public library to order it. It's a gem for yourself and for our communities. 

This week, one of Poetry Friday's finest poetry curators, Karen Edmisten, is hosting our round-up. Be sure to stop by for a scoop of beautiful poetry. Thank you, Karen.

*Saturday is the last day of Chinese New Year. This is a traditional time for lantern festivals. Find an Ox-lantern poem on the padlet complete with festive riddle. Enjoy!


  1. This is a wonderful post, Linda. And can I especially commend you on your third paragraph, which is spliced together so beautifully I've read it numerous times, just for the beauty of it! I am so grateful for the golden shovel. Such a beautiful poetic form!

  2. Linda, what a lovely poem you have chosen to share from this extraordinary sounding book. Thank you. (Also, embarrassed to say you know one poet who hasn't written a golden shovel).

  3. Johnson's poem is stunning--such longing to break out and spread her wings. Thank you for this post and sharing Nikki Grimes' book.

  4. Oh, thanks for spotlighting Legacy -- I've been curious about it and love the sample poem and hearing your thoughts. Now I can't wait to read it, and learn more about Georgia Douglas Johnson.

  5. I have it & embarrassingly, I still have not read it! Hoping soon, Linda. Your sharing is enticing: "To travel this immensity." We are all waiting for this, are we not? Thanks for the wake up to read! And Have a Happy Weekend!

  6. I will be adding this book to my collection. The S Street Salon looks fascinating. I hope to return to Washington, DC one day after the pandemic.

  7. I loved this book so much that I was at a loss for what to say about it! Thank you for shining this spotlight and especially for giving us a bit more of Georgia Douglas Johnson. I might use her poem as my first weekly poem in March! (And justice is served--inlinkz ate my first attempt at commenting here. A slip in my scroll and it was gone. Sorry our blog gave you problems. I wish I knew how to fix that!)

  8. Must get Nikki's latest. Isn't giving poetry to ourselves the best gift?

  9. I agree with Kat that much of the prose in your post is stunning. I especially like "They were women whose poetry was a thread of a full life, not a dedicated pursuit." and the phrase "left off the cast list of that glittering, literary era." I'm fascinated by the peek into this book and the glorious poem you shared. Thanks so much!

  10. Thank you for sharing this newest collection. I can't wait to read it! And I second (or third or more) the praise of your lyrical prose--stunning and poetic in its own right

  11. I have this book on my wishlist. I loved One Last Word and am excited to read this companion. The opening stanza of "Your World" reminds me of how often society constricts people because of their race and gender.

  12. Thank you for alerting me to 'Legacy' this book of poetry and poets curated by Nikki Grimes. I found the Georgia Johnson's words speaking to me in clear and resonant tones.I will be pasting a copy into my notebook. It will become a mentoring piece for the adolescent writers I am working with at present. What insight indeed. You're correct about golden shovel poems. I have a few in my collection. It's a form that calls you back.

  13. My "must buy that book" list grows longer with each Poetry Friday. :) Georgia Douglas Johnson is new to me. I just headed over to the Poetry Foundation and read a few of her other poems — they speak of such a longing to break free. Wow. Legacy promises riches. Thank you!

  14. I definitely want to read this book. I also first learned about the golden shovel from Poetry Friday and One Last Word. Thanks for sharing Nikki's new book and the delightful poem from Georgia Johnson--who I also hadn't heard of before.

  15. I've heard so much about this book, it's nice to learn a little more. And the fact that they are all golden shovels is even more intriguing! Thanks for sharing this, Linda.

  16. Back in the day, I used that poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson for "Poetry in the Halls" more than once. It's a good 'un! xo

  17. This looks like a fabulous book!

  18. And P.S. I love your riddle on the padlet, too. :-)

  19. Lovely post Linda, thanks for introducing me to this outstanding new to me poet, Georgia Douglas Johnson, in Nikki Grimes' LEGACY poetry book!


Friendly, positive comments and feedback are always welcome here. Please let me know I'm not just whistling in the dark!