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Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

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Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated.Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry—anything b Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated.Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry—anything but nature poetry. This is particularly true when the definition of what constitutes nature writing is limited to work about the pastoral or the wild. Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. This collection features major writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, and Melvin B. Tolson as well as newer talents such as Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, and Janice Harrington. Included are poets writing out of slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African American poetic movements. Black Nature brings to the fore a neglected and vital means of considering poetry by African Americans and nature-related poetry as a whole. A Friends Fund Publication.


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Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated.Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry—anything b Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated.Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry—anything but nature poetry. This is particularly true when the definition of what constitutes nature writing is limited to work about the pastoral or the wild. Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. This collection features major writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, and Melvin B. Tolson as well as newer talents such as Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, and Janice Harrington. Included are poets writing out of slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African American poetic movements. Black Nature brings to the fore a neglected and vital means of considering poetry by African Americans and nature-related poetry as a whole. A Friends Fund Publication.

30 review for Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    Love this book of poetry!💚💚 400 years of nature poetry by black poets organized NOT chronologically but in 10 "cycles" with titles such as "Nature, Be With Us," "Dirt On Our Hands," and "What The Land Remembers." 93 poets. 180 poems. Too many favorites to list, but here is an excerpt from Kendra Hamilton's "Southern Living:" Let us say the names together: heart-leaf, barrenwort, rose campion, fairies thimbles. Feel the meditative music of the names: Goat’s rue, lady-by-the-gate, queen-of-the-mea Love this book of poetry!💚💚 400 years of nature poetry by black poets organized NOT chronologically but in 10 "cycles" with titles such as "Nature, Be With Us," "Dirt On Our Hands," and "What The Land Remembers." 93 poets. 180 poems. Too many favorites to list, but here is an excerpt from Kendra Hamilton's "Southern Living:" Let us say the names together: heart-leaf, barrenwort, rose campion, fairies thimbles. Feel the meditative music of the names: Goat’s rue, lady-by-the-gate, queen-of-the-meadow. To love a garden is to be in love with words: with potteries and racemes, corymbs hispid, and corms. To love a garden is to be in love with possibility: for it can never, almost by definition, ever be complete. To love a garden is to be in love with contradiction: ravished by order yet ever open to the wild. But more than all these, to love a garden is to find your one true lover: for a garden can’t survive its maker, will die with the one who loved it, with only a sudden spray of roses in June amid a derelict tangle of wood sorrel and sumac to tell an eye that can read the land that either of you was ever there.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Campbell

    This book is so important, for so many reasons. I’ve been reading a poem two or three times each week with my daughter, who is thirteen and who often does not want to consider the harder realities of what it means to be a black female in the U.S. and in the world. Dungy’s curation of this collection encourages my daughter and me (her white ally) to view nature (and these writers’ experience of it) through a complex lens of pure celebration, joy, heartache, and pain. Here, nature can be comfort, This book is so important, for so many reasons. I’ve been reading a poem two or three times each week with my daughter, who is thirteen and who often does not want to consider the harder realities of what it means to be a black female in the U.S. and in the world. Dungy’s curation of this collection encourages my daughter and me (her white ally) to view nature (and these writers’ experience of it) through a complex lens of pure celebration, joy, heartache, and pain. Here, nature can be comfort, it can be painful reminder, and it can be inspiration, often all at once. In a country that still expresses surprise to see black faces in natural spaces, this collection of poetry is utterly essential.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    SO powerful and so important. I have stickies all over this book now.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    An amazing collection of nature poetry by black poets, the earliest (as far as I can tell) being in heroic couplets by 18th century poet Phillis Wheatley. There is a brilliant introduction by the editor, outlining how black experience of nature, and thus black poetry about it, differs from the experiences and poetry of white Europeans and Americans. She then divides black approaches into 10 different groups, thus providing 10 short anthologies of similarly inspired poems. A truly eye-opening ant An amazing collection of nature poetry by black poets, the earliest (as far as I can tell) being in heroic couplets by 18th century poet Phillis Wheatley. There is a brilliant introduction by the editor, outlining how black experience of nature, and thus black poetry about it, differs from the experiences and poetry of white Europeans and Americans. She then divides black approaches into 10 different groups, thus providing 10 short anthologies of similarly inspired poems. A truly eye-opening anthology, especially for someone like me, who was unaware of the majority of the poets collected here. The book comes with all the necessary apparatus: biographies of the poets, indexes of poets and titles, and separate brief introductions to each section.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aliiraba

    pick it up everyday. my most worn book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diann Blakely

    I rarely, rarely give five stars to books that are not considered canonical or by living authors, but BLACK NATURE (ed. Camille T. Dungy, (UGA Press), IS already canonical, and even more spectacular than its predecessor, THE RINGING EAR: BLACK POETS LEAN SOUTH (ed. Nikky Finney, Cave Canem / UGA Press). The latter anthology was almost predictable, since most blacks and African-Americans have their roots in the South; but who would have thought to base an entire volume of poems of work that range I rarely, rarely give five stars to books that are not considered canonical or by living authors, but BLACK NATURE (ed. Camille T. Dungy, (UGA Press), IS already canonical, and even more spectacular than its predecessor, THE RINGING EAR: BLACK POETS LEAN SOUTH (ed. Nikky Finney, Cave Canem / UGA Press). The latter anthology was almost predictable, since most blacks and African-Americans have their roots in the South; but who would have thought to base an entire volume of poems of work that ranges from the Hopkinsian ecstatic--Kendra Hamilton, who gardens in a baptism of sweat and revels in her Spanish-moss-like hair in the mockingly titled “Southern Living,” which appears also in her 2006 début volume, THE GODDESS OF GUMBO (WordTech)--to the fear of Robert Johnson, as the rising sun began to sink down and so did he. Others I originally alerted readers "to watch for" in the Finney volume who reappear here are Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, a 2010 NEA winner; Thomas Sayers Ellis, now nationally praised for SKIN, INC. (Graywolf); Harryette Mullen (RECYCLOPEDIA, Graywolf, 2006); and Hamilton, author as well of "The Search for the Perfect Sidecar" in a 2009 issue of CALLALOO, and now at work on a new manuscript MIRROURS OF THE WORLD: POEMS INSPIRED BY THE LIFE OF BELLE DA COSTA GREENE.) Dungy herself, who has enjoyed the mentorship of Al Young, first came to my attention through the "rogue snnets" of WHAT TO EAT, WHAT TO DRINK, WHAT TO LEAVE FOR POISON (Red Hen) has gone on to publish two other splendid individual collections, SUCK ON THE MARROW (also Red Hen, winner of the Northern California Book Award, the American Book Award, as well as a NAACP Image Award nominee), and now the just-released SMITH BLUE (Southern Illinois Press and winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Prize). Furthermore, Dungy, assistant editor for GATHERING GROUND, the first Cave Canem anthology, had her second book, SUCK ON THE MARROW, selected for the American Book Award, and her newest collection, SMITH BLUE, has finally arrived. That soaring eagle on the cover, grasped my heart in its talons--to change metaphoric strands--which I read the epigraphs and the first poem, all of which are concerned with the difficulty of maintaining balance between private emotion that struggles to express itself through our sullen craft and art and the horrors dished out to us daily--forgive, please, the change of metaphors once again--by "the world, the world, the world," to quote a "cousin on the light side," the late Lynda Hull. (Please see my review of THE ONLY WORLD here.) There are many anthologies about nature poetry, of course, but Dungy’s stands out so shiningly that is has been endorsed by two giants of the genre in modern times, Allison Hawthorne Deming: "What excites about this anthology is that it is not only the richest and most comprehensive collections by black poets I have read, it is the richest and most comprehensive collection of poems about nature I have read. I believe the book should be widely read, taught, and talked about." and John Elder: "BLACK NATURE is the most exciting anthology of poetry I’ve read in years. This collection will quickly become essential reading for poets and scholars, as well as for courses on American poetry and the literature of nature." The praise is well-deserved: we’ve never had an assembly of poems that represents the conflict between a world traditionally represented, especially in the British and Irish canon, as benign, benevolent, and maternal and one that history has soaked in sweat, blood, tears, and terror. And Dungy is well aware this is a cross-racial, but not necessarily cross-gender, predicament. Compare Plath, American but of German and Austrian origin, cringing as horizons surround her as though she were a witch ready for burning and Whitman, cradling hands full of grass and ecstatic in wonder. He claims he has no more fear of death than of being born: surely he needed to be held out a window and have “Ode to the Confederate Dead” recited to him, though perhaps “My Life--Had Stood--A Loaded Gun,” by the stone-American (so to speak) Dickinson would have gotten his attention. As I write in Part Four of a recent essay, “Down--But Not Out--In Mississippi and Elsewhere,” Dungy and I have shared an email giggle or three “about teaching what she calls some of Frost’s ‘totally gendered’ poems, such as ‘Acquainted with the Night’ or ‘Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening.’ Over the course of a decade in which I taught Plath-like overachieving eighteen-year-old women these poems in alternation, I’d habitually ask them to ponder whether or not a woman might have been its author. Though the immediate, shouted-out answer, varied slightly in choices of words, the essence was always the same: ‘No! Our mothers told us we would be raped and chopped into small pieces if we went out walking in the wood by ourselves at night.’ (Again, see Plath’s ‘Wuthering Heights.’) “Tintern Abbey” cf. “Mont Blanc.” The Wordsworthian tradition itself is complicated when these two great works are set side by side. Seamus Heaney, who edited the Ecco Essentials volume on the former poet, also of rapturous Hopkins, for example, praises Plath for her relational view of nature in early poems such as “Black Rook in Rainy Weather” and “Mussel Hunter at Rock Harbor” but condemns her for poems he describes as negational. How can we account for perhaps the sole mis-step in Heaney’s canon as critic? First, of course, there’s his friendship with Ted Hughes, to whom he has dedicated at least one poem. More important, however, is that Wordsworthian vision in which nature is eternally kind, open, and ripe for harvest, if needing masculine protection. Heaney even perceives the Anglophone language--half Anglo-Saxon (“harsh” and “consonantal”), half Latinate (“tripping,” “lilting,” “assonantal,” meaning softer, more permeable vowels) in similar terms; but while I don’t know Gaelic except through poets‘ readings, I’d characterize its sounds as Lynda Hull did Polish: an “elaborate hush and murmur.” But there’s a problem Heaney doesn’t discuss, at least to my knowledge. While Gaelic has remained protected in designated areas, most in the Gaeltecht, or West Country, and thus untouched, three sets of invaders brought with them as many languages. The Vikings, then the Anglo-Saxons themselves, then the Norman French. I’m no linguist. I’m a poet, thus I read with wide-open ears. But I think Dungy’s anthology has a thematic shown in its individual poems, both of which can be seen as a microcosm of Heaney’s argument for dueling elements in language, but here reflected in the differing relationship African-Americans and Blacks have had with nature itself.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    180 poems from 93 poets past and present. Really amazing words and worlds and metaphors and grit, that dedication and strength that has brought Black people through centuries of shameful racism. Camille Dungy was in another anthology of women poets and I am devouring anything she is in involved in, and this was another treasure that should be required reading. As someone so in love with nature, I did not even understand until recently how persons of color have felt in and about the outdoors, and 180 poems from 93 poets past and present. Really amazing words and worlds and metaphors and grit, that dedication and strength that has brought Black people through centuries of shameful racism. Camille Dungy was in another anthology of women poets and I am devouring anything she is in involved in, and this was another treasure that should be required reading. As someone so in love with nature, I did not even understand until recently how persons of color have felt in and about the outdoors, and their reception has been as in many arenas, shameful and racist, and my heart breaks that this still is happening. I am also reading Dr. Drew Latham, an ornithologist and eco-addict, a memoir and a book of poems of his, and I just let my heart break open as it is meant to do, and will do the work I need to do with my privilege. Dungy writes, “the natural world, aligned with or opposition to the human world, mediates the poems that reveal histories stored in various natural bodies.” And now my mind and body will pass them on. Surely i am able to write poems Celebrating grass and how the blue In the sky can glow green or red And the waters lean against the Chesapeake shore like a familiar Poems about nature and landscape Surely. But whenever i begin “The trees wave their knotted branches And...”. Why Is there under that poems always An other poem? Lucille Clifton ____ [earth i thank you] Earth, I thank you For the pleasure of your language You’ve had a hard time Bringing it to me From the ground To all the way Feeling Seeing. Smelling. Touching -awareness I am here! Anne Spencer, 1901-1974 ____ What to Eat, What to Drink, and What to Leave for Poison Only now, in spring, can the place be named: Tulip poplar, daffodil, crab apple, Dogwood, budding pink-green, white-green, yellow On my knowing. All winter i was lost. Fall, i found myself here, with no texture My fingers know. Then, worse, the white longing That downed us deep three months. No flower heat. That was winter. But now, in spring, the buds Flock our trees. Ten million exquisite buds, Tiny and loud, flaring their petalled wings, Bellowing from ashen branches vibrant Keys, the chords of spring’s triumph.: fisted heart, Dogwood; grail, poplar; wine spray, crab apple. The song is drink, is color. Come. Now. Taste. ... The song is drink, is color. Come now, taste What the world has to offer. When you eat, You will know that music comes in guises- Bold of crape myrtle, sweet of daffodil- Beyond sound, guises they never told you Could be true. And they aren’t. Except they are So real now, this spring, you know them, taste them. Green as kale, the songs of spring, bright as wine, The music. Faces of this season grin With clobbering wantonness- see the smiles Open on each branch?- until you, too, smile. Wide carnival of color... ... Glee is the body of the daffodil Reaching tubed fingers through the day, feeling Her own trumpeted passion choiring air With hot, colored song. This is texture I love. This life. And, too, you love me, Inhale my whole being every spring. Gone Winter, heavy clod whose icy body Fell into my bed. I must leave you, but I’ll wait through heat, fall, freeze, to hear you cry: Daffodils are up, My God, what beauty! Daffodils are up, My God! What beauty Concerted down on us last night. And if I sleep again, I’ll wake to a louder Blossoming, the symphony smashing down Hothouse walls, and into the world: music. ... The song, the color, the rising ecstasy Of spring. My God. This beauty. This, this Is what I’ve hoped for. All my life is here In the untamed core-dogwood, daffodil, Tulip poplar, crane apple, crape myrtle- Only now, in spring, can the place be named. Camille T. Dungy ____ Spring Dawn There comes to my heart from regions remote A wild desire for the hedge and the brush Whenever I hear the first wild note Of the meadow lark and the hermit thrush. The broken and upturned earth to the air, But a million the thrusting blades of Spring, sends out from the sod and everywhere Its pungent aromas over everything. Then’s Oh, for the hills , the dawn, and the dew, The breath of the fields and the silent lake, And watching the wings of light burst through The scarlet blush of the new daybreak. It is then when the earth still nestles in sleep, And the robes of light are scarce unfurled, You can almost feel, in its mighty sweep The onward rush and roll of the world. George Marion McClellan, 1860-1934 ___ The Mountains of California These demonstrations of one God, Green in the springtime in wintertime too And all the time John Muir was out here Living with them, Breaking himself on them, I just ride amongst them in a car, Flip the radio off out of respect And out of the feeling that there More important waves Floating in and out of us, mostly thru us The mountains of California, Do i have to say anything? I love all this evidence Set up to surround me this way, Mountain, ocean, you just name it. Al Young ____ Deep in the Quiet Wood Are you bowed down in heart? Do you hear the clashing discords and the din of life? Then come away, come to the peaceful wood. Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now, From out of the palpitating solitude Do you not catch, yet faint, exclusive strains? They are above, around, within you, everywhere. Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come. They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones. Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scales, Until, responsive to the tonic chord, It touches God’s grand cathedral organ, Filling earth for you with heavenly peace And holy harmonies. James Weldon Johnson 1871-1938 ___ Metamorphism Is this the sea? This lisping, lulling murmur of soft waters Kissing a white beached shore with tremulous lips; Blue rivulets of sky gurgling deliciously O’er pale smooth-stones This too? The sudden birth of unrestrained splendor, Tugging with turbulent force at Neptune’s leash; This passionate abandon, This strange tempestuous soliloquy of Nature, All these- the sea? Helene Johnson ___ Fearless Good to see the green world I discouraged, the green fire Bounding back every spring, and beyond The tyranny of thumbs, the weeds And other co-conspiring green genes Ganging up, breaking in.... Not there, and then there- Naked, unhumble unrequitedly green- Growing as they would be trees On any unmanned patch of earth, Any sidewalk cracked, crooning Between ties on lonesome rail road tracks. And moss, the shyest green citizen Anywhere, tiptoeing the trunk In the damp shade of a an oak. Is it possible To be so glad? The shoots rising in spite of every plot Against them. Every chemical stupidity, Every burned field, every better Home and garden finally overrun By the green will, the green greenness Of green things growing every greener. The mad earth publishing Her many million murmuring unsaids. Look How the shade pours from the big branches- the ground, The good ground, solid and sweet. The trees-who Are they? Their stillness, that Long silence, the never Running away. Tim Seibles, 2012 ___ To waste at trees Black men building a Nation, My Brother said, have no leisure like them No right to waste at trees Inventing names for wrens and weeds. But it’s when you don’t care about the world That you begin opening and destroying it Like them. And how can you build Especially a Nation Without a soul? He forgot that we’ve built one already- In the cane, in the rice and cotton fields And unlike them, came out humanly whole Because out fathers, being African, Saw the sun and the moon as God’s right and left eye, Named him Rain Maker and welcomed the blessings of his spit, Found int he rocks his stoney footprints, Heard him traveling the sky on the wind And speaking in the thunder That would trumpet in the soul of the slave. Forget this and let them make us deceive ourselves That seasons have no meaning for us And like them We are slaves again. Gerald Barrax, Sr. ____ Southern Living I am cut and bruised, my nails broken. I have found love and my lover is ungentle. There is a many-hued bruise beside my left knee, Three on my right leg at the ankle and thigh, And I fear I grow obsessed, neglect my looks- My hair grows wild. This is what is like to love in middle life And I praise God that She has blessed me With a love like this before i die. I lavish this passion on my house and garden. I have never felt this for any man. To walk Through my own picket fence, to climb My steps and survey...the painted ferns, Azaleas and lilacs, every precious glimpse Of green and the meditative music Of the names... To love a garden is to be in love with words: With potageries and racemes, coryms... To love a garden is to be love with possibility: For it can never, almost by definition, ever be complete. To love a garden is to be in love with contradiction: Ravished by order but open to the wild. Kendra Hamilton ____ Earth Song It’s an earth song- And I’ve been waiting long For an earth song. It’s a spring song! I’ve been waiting long For a spring song: Strong as the bursting of young buds Strong as the shoots of a new plant... An earth song! A body song! A spring song! And I’ve been waiting long For an earth song. Langston Hughes ***************** Language Silence is one part of speech, the war cry Of wind down a mountain pass another. A stranger’s voice echoing through lonely valleys, These are the keys to cipher, The way the high hawk’s key unlocks the throat Of the sky and the coyote’s yip knocks it shut, the way the aspen’s bells conform To the breeze while the rapid’s drums defines resistance. Sage speaks with one voice, pinyon With another. Rock, wind her hand, water Her brush, spells and then scatters her demands. Some notes tear and pebble our paths. Some notes Gather; the bank we map our lives around. Camille T. Dungy ___ San Francisco, Spring 1986 I feel so East Coast. Shut down, frantic. Too used to the expensive, the hot-house flowers sold on Every corner. Here the flowers brighten every corner. Free. Here the wildflowers are different. Calla lilies grown wild? Silky, white, trumpet-shaped, composed. ... And who can be blind to the city’s beauty? Where century old eucalyptus rend Cathedrals before stone and the sun’s lush glow Halos the rise and fall of exhausted hills. Patricia Spears Jones ___ February Leaving There was a thick summer. There were cicadas and rows of grave markers, Mothers knitting and grandmothers Weaving their fading thoughts into combs of silver hair., Lightning bugs lost and flagging the woods, Homes that whispered to each other at midnight The truth from their cellars. I could say none of this lives in us. ... I could tell you that the grass sorrows If there is no thunder or the earth shudders Where people sleep or the mountains mouth Their wishes silently into snow. ... What do you say with memory- That the continents long for each other Just as children who are bundled ghosts Leave their voices as trails in the woods, That lakes are burdened with notions of ice And heaviness, just like us. I will say only that the things we trust are less And less true in winter. Ruth Ellen Kocher ___ Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be The way the universe sat waiting to become, Quietly, in the nether of space and time, You too remain in some cellular snuggle... For now, let me tell you about the bush called the honeysuckle That the sad call a weed, and how you could push you little Sun-licked face into the throngs and breathe and breathe. Sweetness would be your name, and you would wonder why Four of your teeth are so sharp, and the tiny mountain range Of your knuckles are so hard...and everything, Everything on this this earth, little dreamer, little dreamer Of the new world, holy, every rain drop and sand grain and blade Of grass worthy of gasp and joy and love, tiny shaman. Tiny blood thrust, tinny trillion cells trilling and trilling, Little dreamer, little hard hat, little heartbeat, Little best of me. Ross Gay ____ In the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge, thinking of Rachel Carson The elements raveling and unraveling; Groundwater misting into rain, falling Back into groundwater; salt water wash Through brackish freshwater bordering Sea...the rush and bubble Of the tidal river winding thought low tide... The path between firm ground and marsh. The first time down the path leads To enlightenment, the second, to wonder; The third finds us silent, listening To the few gulls lift and caw as we watch The wind, which makes itself known Ink the sea grass and as it dimples the water... Anthony Walton ___ Down from the Houses of Magic ...listen: All the prayer-wheels of april-into-May luster Spinning God-drunk-till finally beside The moon-daft willow, the frenzy of scotch broom, The fleet-souled Orioles marshal, at wolf’s hour, Then sally in one brilliant will. Abundance begins here- at the sea lip: On the Cape, I’ve come to God and Proteus, come to rest in wild places, Whisker-still galaxies of marshlands., Beaches where I pause and study The Atlantic, teal and taciturn, the Atlantic, glittering and fluent. Bluefish wake to the breathless dream of land... And now, clear and fugitive, in jack-in-the-box brilliance, The baby whale blooms: Wild world, wild messenger- you are the moment’s crown, sea-love. ... Midsummer. And after belligerent sun, twilight brings A muezzin of sea-wind, And the soul of the garden bows, a praise in the earth: Among lilies, suddenly, In the willow’s cool hair, The breath of God... One day on Gull Hill I wept and prayed: Let this earth become a heaven... And a voice sang,: Here are the flowers of deep suffering Swaying in the heart of God. Because Each of us must seek A finer life, a finer death. My soul still singing, Adamant to live: The history of survival is written under my lids. And if the husk of the world was ripped away, We will not have altered the consciousness of one leaf- Let this earth become a heaven- Form the point of life within the mind of God... Cyrus Cassells ___ You must walk this lonesome say hello to moon leads you into trees as thick as folk on Easter pews dark But venture through amazing was blind but now fireflies glittering dangling From evergreens like Christmas oracles soon you meet the riverbank down By the riverside water bapteases your feet ... What never saw inside a peace Be still Mix in your tears Moon distills distress like yours So nobody knows the trouble it causes Pull up a log and sit until your empty is full ... Draw from the river like it is a well with my soul O moon you croon And home you go. Eve Shockley __ Ruellia Noctiflora ...he said, gesturing, His tan eyes a blazing, That last night, Walking in the full moon light, He’d stumbled on A very rare specimen: Ruellia noctiflora, The night blooming wild petunia. Said he suddenly sensed a fragrance And a small white glistening. It was clearly a petunia... If we hurried, I could see it Before it closed to contemplate Becoming seed. Hand in hand, we entered The light-spattered morning-dark woods. Where he pointed was only a white flower Until I saw him seeing it. Marilyn Nelson ____ Evening Primrose Neither rosy nor prim, Not cousin to the cowslip Nor the extravagant fuchsia- I doubt anyone has ever Picked one for show, Though the woods must be fringed With their lemony effusions. Sun blathers its baronial endorsement, but they refuse to join the ranks. Summer brings them in armfuls, yet, when the day is large, you won’t see them fluttering the length of the road. They’ll wait until the world’s tucked in and the sky’s one ceaseless shimmer-then lift their saturated eyelids and blaze, blaze all night long for no one. Rita Dove ___ The Night Blooming Cereus And so for nights We waited, hoping to see the heavy bud break into flower... We agreed we ought To celebrate the blossom, Paint ourselves, dance In honor of Archaic mysteries When it appeared. Meanwhile, We waited... The belling of tropic perfume-that signaling not meant for us; The darkness cloying with summoning fragrance. We dropped trivial tasks and marveling beheld at last the achieved flower. It’s moonlight petals were Still unfold- In, the spike fringe of the outer Perianth recessing as we watched. Lunar presence, foredoomed, already dying, It charged the room with plangency older than human cries, ancient as prayers involving Osiris, Krishna, Tezcatlipoca. We spoke In whispers when We spoke At all... Robert Haydn ___ Sweet Enough Ocean, Cotton I haven’t seen the sea before But it must be easy to love Because without ever seeing it before I call the blow-open cotton a sea, I call moving through the rows My attempt to walk on rough water. It’s not that cotton seems watery Or that each cotton seed hair is like A separate one of the sparkles the sun makes When its light bounces on moving water, -though it is like that Now that i think about it. It’s just how big the cotton is. This small field Seems bigger than the sky, and is the sky for ants. It’s just How the cotton carries you, Delivers you on a rocky shore, Shipwrecks you. Strands you Thylias Moss ___ Be careful i must be careful about such things as these. The thin-grained oak. The quiet grizzlies scared Into the hills by the constant tracks squeezing In behind them closer in the snow... I must be careful not to shake Anything in too wild an elation. Not to jar The fragile mountains tags into the paper far- Ness. Nor avalanche the fog or the eagle from the air. Of the gentle wilderness i must set the precarious Words, like rocks. Without one snowcapped mistake Ed Roberson

  8. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Worth reading cover to cover

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick Walsh

    Literature anthologies tend to snoozily suck the sap outta poetry's booze. Not this one. Editor Camille T. Dungy has her genius powers turned on when selecting/arranging these 250 years of African American nature poems. One reason this book pulses and doesn't flatline is Dungy didn't chronologically order it. Brilliant decision! The poems instead are organized into 10 sections, each one introduced by a short prose piece by a featured poet. So you're not crawling from way back when slowly, ever so Literature anthologies tend to snoozily suck the sap outta poetry's booze. Not this one. Editor Camille T. Dungy has her genius powers turned on when selecting/arranging these 250 years of African American nature poems. One reason this book pulses and doesn't flatline is Dungy didn't chronologically order it. Brilliant decision! The poems instead are organized into 10 sections, each one introduced by a short prose piece by a featured poet. So you're not crawling from way back when slowly, ever so slowly, to now. (Yawn.) You're immersed in Black ecopoetic visions, a simultaneity of them zigzagging all over time. And why not have Phillis Wheatley of 1770 followed by Nikki Giovanni of 1970? If they're singing concordantly let's hear them together on stage. The poets featured are from all over the map. I was introduced to so many writers. Yeah, I'm ignorant, just more aware of it. Book 1 opens with Ed Roberson then Lucille Clifton, just two of the phenomenal writers I came to love through this book. There's 93 poets featured, 180 poems, so you see many more than once, and a handful 4-5 times. GE Patterson, June Jordan, Yusef Komunyakaa, Robert Hayden, Gerald Barrax, Sr., Camille T. Dungy, Major Jackson, Alice Walker, Natasha Trethewey, Phillis Wheatley and Amaud Jamaul Johnson are some of the poets I loved in here, their painfilled at times sublime nature. I was raised, you proly too, on white nature. Dickinson, Whitman, Frost, Bishop, Sandburg, Creeley, Ginsburg; and yes, not only is Black nature poetry as manifold as white, it's essential. It can not be fairly summarized as one type, just as white can't. But there's no doubt these poets bring painfully aware metaphor to a forest of trees, for example, which white poets are conditioned not to see. It's awful and beautiful to realize the toothless gaping holes in your limited experience, right? That's why we need others. We need those nothing like ourselves to see true. Many of these poems feel more seated, more soiled in the blood soaked American earth, than the idyllic pastorals of white lyres wowing tower maidens. Beautiful book. I'm grateful to see nature from Black views as well as white. We overlap. In many ways we Americans are so the same. And then because evil ignorance and racism drilled into our marrow from birth to death to our children's children's birth and death we are not the same. A tree is not one tree. A forest not the same forest. A flower is not the same flower for 2 poets born opposite side of America's racial divide.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rayna

    Reading this book is like opening a jewel box. Every piece of prose and poetry is deep, emotional and powerful. The arrangement of the poems in cycles, and the introductions to each cycle, help the reader to enter more fully into the images depicted. Once you've read this book, you will look at nature with a greater appreciation of its beauty, and with a greater appreciation of African Americans' experience of the natural world. It's a work of brilliance. Reading this book is like opening a jewel box. Every piece of prose and poetry is deep, emotional and powerful. The arrangement of the poems in cycles, and the introductions to each cycle, help the reader to enter more fully into the images depicted. Once you've read this book, you will look at nature with a greater appreciation of its beauty, and with a greater appreciation of African Americans' experience of the natural world. It's a work of brilliance.

  11. 5 out of 5

    F. Rzicznek

    A great anthology that pretty much redefines the idea of the North American "nature" poem. Dungy has brought together a wide range of voices and styles and I'm really taken with how the book is arranged into ten "cycles" that focus on smaller themes and patterns within the overall framework. Each cycle starts with a short essay and the result is ten mini-anthologies of roughly chapbook-length packed between two covers. A great anthology that pretty much redefines the idea of the North American "nature" poem. Dungy has brought together a wide range of voices and styles and I'm really taken with how the book is arranged into ten "cycles" that focus on smaller themes and patterns within the overall framework. Each cycle starts with a short essay and the result is ten mini-anthologies of roughly chapbook-length packed between two covers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shanae

    An excellent collection of nature poems written by African Americans. Dungy's anthology is not what I expected from the title...I actually expected a collection of poems about the nature of blackness, not uncommon subject matter for much of the literature written by and about African Americans. I merely rented this text for school, but I just purchased it from Amazon.com. I'm very grateful for Dungy's contribution to Black literature, we desperately needed it. An excellent collection of nature poems written by African Americans. Dungy's anthology is not what I expected from the title...I actually expected a collection of poems about the nature of blackness, not uncommon subject matter for much of the literature written by and about African Americans. I merely rented this text for school, but I just purchased it from Amazon.com. I'm very grateful for Dungy's contribution to Black literature, we desperately needed it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    It's hard to rate a vast collection of poetry, such as this is. It's highly southern, with traces of other parts of the US and almost nothing from elsewhere. The poems, arranged in ten groupings, run the gamut of emotions from horror to hope. I would recommend buying this and reading it slowly, perhaps one poem a day over months, allowing the cadences to open your eyes to the cruelty and beauty of the natural world It's hard to rate a vast collection of poetry, such as this is. It's highly southern, with traces of other parts of the US and almost nothing from elsewhere. The poems, arranged in ten groupings, run the gamut of emotions from horror to hope. I would recommend buying this and reading it slowly, perhaps one poem a day over months, allowing the cadences to open your eyes to the cruelty and beauty of the natural world

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shirleynature

    Many of the greatest African American poets are included: Audre Lorde, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Claudia Rankine, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Sherley Anne Williams... Frustratingly missing are J. Drew Lanham and Annette Hope Billings.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ag

    In this thought provoking collection of poetry, compiled by Camille Dungy - an English professor at Colorado State University and author of several books, are over 180 pieces written by African American poets over the past four centuries. Dungy describes the significance of an anthology of solely black work, “Many black writers simply do not look at their environment from the same perspective as Anglo-Saxon writers who discourse with the natural world … in a great deal of African American poetry In this thought provoking collection of poetry, compiled by Camille Dungy - an English professor at Colorado State University and author of several books, are over 180 pieces written by African American poets over the past four centuries. Dungy describes the significance of an anthology of solely black work, “Many black writers simply do not look at their environment from the same perspective as Anglo-Saxon writers who discourse with the natural world … in a great deal of African American poetry we see poems written from the perspective of the workers of the field” (xxi). Dungy organizes the poems into ten cycles - each cycle a strand of ecopoetics. Throughout the various and intertwining cycles readers are reminded that “we are always part of the natural world, even when we feel most alienated from it” (xxix). One of the benefits to an anthology of poetry is that you can pick it up whenever you feel like it and read one page or 40. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in moving beyond nature poetry as just 19th century pastoral scenes and exploring city eclogues, discussions of place and home, and the black perspective of nature that has been obscured for centuries.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert Walkley

    This is a great anthology. The poetry is terrific. The argument the editor in her introductory essay makes is convincing. Instead of chapters, the book is organized into ten “cycles.” Each cycle opens with an interesting essay. Then the reader gets a healthy sample of poets and poems in each cycle. A great resource, one that will help me build my knowledge and collection of African American poets.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily Persico

    A really wonderful collection - I guess one struggle I had was how much it jumped through time and place, with no real indication of context of author bio. It felt a bit random at times. But I, like others, have so many doggy-eared pages, poems to revisit in the very near future. And I might even research some of the context on my own.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Corrinne Brumby

    Great book with a large and varied collection of black poets past and present all celebrating nature and what it means to them. These writers have often been left out of the spotlight in the world of nature writing but no more. I'm so grateful to Camille Dungy for putting these together and bringing these voices to light. This book is a beautiful treasure that I'm honored to have read. Great book with a large and varied collection of black poets past and present all celebrating nature and what it means to them. These writers have often been left out of the spotlight in the world of nature writing but no more. I'm so grateful to Camille Dungy for putting these together and bringing these voices to light. This book is a beautiful treasure that I'm honored to have read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Would love to see a new edition of this with work by poets who have thrived in the last 10+ years. Wished for more older works. Love that it's not just one poem per poet that has the unwieldy job of being "representative," but often several of their works. Love the thematic organization and the magical juxtapositions it offers. Would love to see a new edition of this with work by poets who have thrived in the last 10+ years. Wished for more older works. Love that it's not just one poem per poet that has the unwieldy job of being "representative," but often several of their works. Love the thematic organization and the magical juxtapositions it offers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    I read this like 4 years ago! No idea why I never recorded it here. Anyway it is very satisfying, well organized, and worth immersing oneself in. Some really beautiful poetry I'd never seen anthologized anywhere else. I read this like 4 years ago! No idea why I never recorded it here. Anyway it is very satisfying, well organized, and worth immersing oneself in. Some really beautiful poetry I'd never seen anthologized anywhere else.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    This is a wonderfully edited and produced anthology. There were so many excellent poets I came across here who I had not read or heard of prior to this. Each section is prefaced by a prose passage from a different contributor. One of my favorite reading experiences in the last 5 years for sure.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    An insightful look into the pastoral poem written from a Black perspective.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Arca

    Amazing. I’m buying my own copy so I can dog ear all the pages and flag all of my favorites... there are so many. A fantastic collection / feat of work!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Giragosian

    One of the most important and well-curated anthologies I have ever read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Magnifique! Superb! Find it! Get it! Take your time... read it! Repeat!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sally Piper

    A rich and diverse collection of nature poems from 93 poets who celebrate and document all aspects of the living world - cultural, aesthetic, seasonal, relational, whether urban and wild.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Irene Cooper

    Rich and wonderful!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Soap

    I don't feel like this was 100% my favorite thing, but there were definitely many pieces in here that I appreciated and respected. I don't feel like this was 100% my favorite thing, but there were definitely many pieces in here that I appreciated and respected.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Beautiful.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Arendt

    A stunning, must-read compilation.

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