... a monumental tribute to that persistence, from the colonial period to the present. It features poems on injustice, harassment, hunger — protests on the page — but also rapturous odes to music and food, to gawking at beautiful strangers, to boredom and birth pains and menopause, and, yes, to moon, elms and lilacs, too ... the book feels like a powerful volume of American history, in which poets beginning with Phyllis Wheatley, the country’s first published Black poet, comment on their times ... If this anthology reads like a form of history, it is also a history of form. It traces the tributaries of English and folk traditions, the rhythms of jazz and the Beats, the influence of modernism and the Black Arts Movement. Whatever the style, whatever the shape of the vessel, the particular holding power of the poem is clear ... Always: the poem behind the poem, the stakes in the smallest things. It is overwhelming to contemplate the variety and history contained in this volume. The poems gathered here have the force of event. They were written as acts of public mourning, and as secrets; they are love poems and bitter quarrels. They are prized company.
... this ambitious volume offers an impressive variety of styles and aesthetics, juxtaposing different historical moments to provide a rich, panoramic assembly of voices. With this monumental work, Young has provided a lasting contribution to historical preservation and poetry.
a defining, glorious, and invaluable anthology of African American poetry that reaches back to 1770 and concludes with today’s artistic flourishing in sync with Black Lives Matter. Vitality, beauty, anger, sorrow, humor, and hope all find original, resonant, and consummate expression throughout this expert gathering of works by both celebrated poets and many who will be new to readers, especially women and LGBTQ poets from earlier eras, and all 250 poets are succinctly profiled. Young provides a historical and literary framework in eight chronological sections, each discussed in substantial and enlightening detail in his elegantly composed and dynamic introduction.