Greetings! Sticking with my goal of (more) frequent, short-but-sweet blog posts this year, I want to give a shout to four books that were a part of my January, in three categories.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston -- This is a classic novel, originally published in 1937, at the tail-end of the New Negro Renaissance period (also called the Harlem Renaissance). I've read this book at least 4 times, maybe more, but it had been awhile since my last reading. I was thunderstruck all over again by Hurston's glorious command of language, which made following this story of an African American woman and her Florida communities like drinking cool water on a hot day. (Cliche -- but true!)
Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt, by Hasan Kwame Jeffries -- Like Hurston's novel, I read this historybook last month because I'm teaching it, with Donna Murch of Rutgers' History Department, in our graduate course on Black Power / Black Aesthetics. Jeffries' book tells a powerful narrative about what can be achieved politically by ordinary people -- meaning people with many fewer resources than you (probably) and I have. Have you ever wondered where the internationally famous Black Panther Party got its name? Read this book to find out!
Hellfightin, by Makalani Bandele -- I was delighted to receive a copy of this brand new collection by a fellow Cave Canem poet, hot off the presses from Willow Books. Just a quick look tells me this is going to be a welcome addition to the long, rich tradition of African American poetry that places music at its heart. I'm looking forward to the first moment when this busy semester will allow me to swing into these lyrics . . . .
I gave a reading in Atlanta this past month with Chelsea Rathburn and Megan Kaminski, in Emory's "What's New in Poetry?" reading series, and had a fabulous time. I was already familiar with Chelsea's terrific poems, having met her a few years ago at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Workshop (I've been following her work ever since). But it was my pleasure to become acquainted as well with Megan's work, in all its quietly explosive intensity. Note to self (and to you): get Megan's first full-length book, Desiring Map, as soon as Coconut Books announces its release, which will be soon!
Moving on into February: yesterday (2/1) was Langston Hughes' birthday! Happy 110th to one of the 20th century's greatest poets!