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The 100 Best African American Poems (2010)

by Nikki Giovanni (Editor)

Other authors: Elizabeth Alexander (Contributor), Kwame Alexander (Contributor), Asha Bandele (Contributor), Amiri Baraka (Contributor), Remica L. Bingham (Contributor)67 more, Nadir Lasana Bomani (Contributor), Gwendolyn Brooks (Contributor), Jericho Brown (Contributor), Sterling A. Brown (Contributor), Lucille Clifton (Contributor), Countee Cullen (Contributor), Waring Cuney (Contributor), Fred D'Aguiar (Contributor), Adam Daniel (Contributor), Kwame Dawes (Contributor), Toi Derricotte (Contributor), DJ Renegade (Contributor), Rita Dove (Contributor), Paul Laurence Dunbar (Contributor), Camille Dungy (Contributor), Cornelius Eady (Contributor), Thomas Sayers Ellis (Contributor), Mari Evans (Contributor), Nikky Finney (Contributor), Ruth Forman (Contributor), Nikki Giovanni (Contributor), Antoine Harris (Contributor), Robert Hayden (Contributor), Terrance Hayes (Contributor), Akua Lezli Hope (Contributor), Langston Hughes (Contributor), Angela Jackson (Contributor), Major Jackson (Contributor), Reuben Jackson (Contributor), Georgia Douglas Johnson (Contributor), James Weldon Johnson (Contributor), A. Van Jordan (Contributor), June Jordan (Contributor), Etheridge Knight (Contributor), Yusef Komunyakaa (Contributor), Audre Lorde (Contributor), Naomi Long Madgett (Contributor), Haki Madhubuti (Contributor), Tonya Maria Matthews (Contributor), Leodis McCray (Contributor), Colleen J. McElroy (Contributor), Tony Medina (Contributor), E. Ethelbert Miller (Contributor), Opal Moore (Contributor), Larry Neal (Contributor), Marilyn Nelson (Contributor), Gloria C. Oden (Contributor), Sterling Plumpp (Contributor), Dudley Randall (Contributor), Sonia Sanchez (Contributor), Michele Scott (Contributor), Tim Seibles (Contributor), Tupac Shakur (Contributor), Patricia Smith (Contributor), Pamela Sneed (Contributor), Lamont B. Steptoe (Contributor), Sharan Strange (Contributor), Truth Thomas (Contributor), Natasha Trethewey (Contributor), Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon (Contributor), Margaret Walker (Contributor), Jackie Warren-Moore (Contributor), Afaa Michael Weaver (Contributor), L. Lamar Wilson (Contributor), Richard Wright (Contributor), Shana Yarborough (Contributor), Kevin Young (Contributor)

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975278,809 (3.94)4
Contains one hundred poems from classic and contemporary African American poets, as selected by an award-winning black poet and activist, including such writers as Robert Hayden, Mari Evans, Kevin Young, and Rita Dove.
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Showing 5 of 5
Full of powerful poetry discussing complex issues, this book is definitely for the older YA and adult crowd. Dealing with serious issues such as racism, rape, poverty, sex, slavery, and more, this book portrays a multifaceted look at the African American experience. Particularly impactful are Dudley Randall's "Ballad of Birmingham," which is about a mother's decision to send her child to church rather than to march for civil rights only to lose her child anyway, and Richard Wright's "Between the World and Me," which is about a black man being tarred, feathered, and burned alive. Not all of the poetry is as heavy. For instance, Langston Hughes's "Theme for English B" discusses American identity as a mixture of races, and Kwame Alexander's "Dancing Naked on the Floor" discusses the power of poetry itself. Overall, this book is definitely worth the read. It would do well against primary sources from history and literature. It would also do well with a study of jazz or the blues.
  RickLizotte | Jul 18, 2019 |
Nikki Giovanni collects 100+ poems by African-American writers famous and obscure. Some of the impact of the poems can be attributed to her skillful juxtaposition, relating or contrasting one poem with the next. There are poets you've heard of and some you might not know, but every poem is well worth reading.

The "cheats" happen in interludes throughout the book--a brief collection of poems about jazz, for example, which push the total number of poems to well over 100.

Comes with a CD of some of the poems being read aloud, including an absolutely jaw-dropping group rendition of Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool." ( )
  RussianLoveMachine | Apr 30, 2014 |
Picked up this book at bookstore and opened it randomly. The first poem I found was the following:

No images

She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.
If she could dance
Naked
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river,
She would know.

But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dish water gives back no images.


10 seconds later, I came out of the bookstore with the book in my hand. Oh yes, I did pay for it! Anyway, many poems unfortunately are not as beautifully strong and elegant as this one, but I can say I liked a fair number of them. Some more used a lot of words to say very little. A few more others, well, with all due respect they seem to be written by people in need of a good mental hospital to take care of them. But overall, this is a good collection that provided some emotional color while I'm pushing my way through the tongue-stuck-to-your-teeth dry "Bearing the Cross", an almost day by day, pedantic biography of MLK.
( )
  tabascofromgudreads | Apr 19, 2014 |
Picked up this book at bookstore and opened it randomly. The first poem I found was the following:

No images

She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.
If she could dance
Naked
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river,
She would know.

But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dish water gives back no images.


10 seconds later, I came out of the bookstore with the book in my hand. Oh yes, I did pay for it! Anyway, many poems unfortunately are not as beautifully strong and elegant as this one, but I can say I liked a fair number of them. Some more used a lot of words to say very little. A few more others, well, with all due respect they seem to be written by people in need of a good mental hospital to take care of them. But overall, this is a good collection that provided some emotional color while I'm pushing my way through the tongue-stuck-to-your-teeth dry "Bearing the Cross", an almost day by day, pedantic biography of MLK.
( )
  tabascofromgudreads | Apr 19, 2014 |
Poet Nikki Giovanni is the editor of this anthology of The 100 Best African American Poems. However, there is an asterisk and small type indicating “but I cheated” and that’s because the book actually contains 221 poems. The compilation covers the gamut from classic to contemporary poems and include works by Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kevin Young, Mari Evans, Haki R. Madhubuti , Kwame Alexander, Tupac Shakar, among others. Also included with the book, is a companion audio CD that contains 36 of the poems being read by their authors (Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Alexander, and Sonia Sanchez) and other notables such as actresses Ruby Dee and Novella Nelson. The collection is nominated for a NAACP Image Award.

There are two poems by Tupac Shakur in the book and a couple of interviewers have concentrated on this fact. Last week, I listened to an NPR interview with Giovanni and learned she has a “Thug Life” tattoo on her left arm because she was distressed at the death of Tupac and wanted to find a way to express it. She feels that Tupac is important culturally to black America and she wanted to find some solidarity with his generation. While I don’t disagree that there are rappers/musicians who are poets (Mos Def, Jill Scott, Ursula Rucker, The Last Poets, Saul Williams, etc.) including Tupac, I personally don’t get the celebration of the “Thug Life” with a tattoo. Just saying.

One quarter of the poems are by contemporary poets including the current National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes. While some of my personal favorites are missing (i.e., Gil Scott-Heron, Askia Toure, Ishmael Reed, Sekou Sundiata, Ai, and Melvin Tolson), I have discovered several new poets, including Camille T. Dungy and Major Jackson. The best thing about this collection of poetry is being able to hear several of the poems being read. I’ve always felt poetry was best experienced when read aloud to truly understand the rhythm and cadence inherent in the lines. I particularly enjoyed the majestic reading of James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation” by Terry L. Papillon, the poignancy in discussing abortion in Ruby Dee’s reading of “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks, the sassiness of “Homage to My Hips” by Lucille Clifton read by Ennis McCrery, and the jazzy delivery of “Nikki, If You Were A Song…” by Kwame Alexander read by Novella Nelson. I think this is an excellent introduction to a wide range of poetry from African Americans. ( )
1 vote goddesspt2 | Feb 8, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Giovanni, NikkiEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexander, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexander, KwameContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bandele, AshaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baraka, AmiriContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bingham, Remica L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bomani, Nadir LasanaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brooks, GwendolynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, JerichoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, Sterling A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clifton, LucilleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cullen, CounteeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cuney, WaringContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
D'Aguiar, FredContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Daniel, AdamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dawes, KwameContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Derricotte, ToiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
DJ RenegadeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dove, RitaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dunbar, Paul LaurenceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dungy, CamilleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eady, CorneliusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellis, Thomas SayersContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Evans, MariContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Finney, NikkyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Forman, RuthContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Giovanni, NikkiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, AntoineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hayden, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hayes, TerranceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hope, Akua LezliContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, LangstonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jackson, AngelaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jackson, MajorContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jackson, ReubenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, Georgia DouglasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, James WeldonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jordan, A. VanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jordan, JuneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knight, EtheridgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Komunyakaa, YusefContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lorde, AudreContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Madgett, Naomi LongContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Madhubuti, HakiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Matthews, Tonya MariaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCray, LeodisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McElroy, Colleen J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Medina, TonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Miller, E. EthelbertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moore, OpalContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Neal, LarryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nelson, MarilynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oden, Gloria C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Plumpp, SterlingContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Randall, DudleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sanchez, SoniaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Scott, MicheleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Seibles, TimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shakur, TupacContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, PatriciaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sneed, PamelaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Steptoe, Lamont B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strange, SharanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thomas, TruthContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trethewey, NatashaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Van Clief-Stefanon, LyraeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Walker, MargaretContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Warren-Moore, JackieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Weaver, Afaa MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilson, L. LamarContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wright, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yarborough, ShanaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Young, KevinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Contains one hundred poems from classic and contemporary African American poets, as selected by an award-winning black poet and activist, including such writers as Robert Hayden, Mari Evans, Kevin Young, and Rita Dove.

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