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. https://www.nikkigrimes.com/books/bklegacy.html
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, www.literaryladiesguide.com/author-biography/georgia-douglas-johnson/.
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, dcwritershomes.wdchumanities.org/georgia-douglas-johnson/.
Grimes included Your World in Legacy. Find eight more of Johnson's works at The Poetry Foundation.
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!