Words with Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art

Belinda Rochelle, Author, Belinda Rochelle, Selected by
Belinda Rochelle, Author, Belinda Rochelle, Selected by Amistad Press $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-688-16415-7
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 12/01/2000
Library Binding - 1 pages - 978-0-06-029363-5
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HIn this stunning collection, Rochelle's (Witness to Freedom: Young People Who Fought for Civil Rights) 20 pairings of painting and poems, culled from 19th- and 20th-century African-American artists and poets, are nearly as inspired as the works themselves. In one spread, Langston Hughes's ""Aunt Sue's Stories"" tells of a child listening to Aunt Sue's own experiences of ""Black slaves/ Working in the hot sun,/ And black slaves/ Walking in the dewy night."" Opposite, Elizabeth Catlett's print Sharecropper portrays a gracefully aging woman, her face a haunting mixture of wisdom and warmth. Alice Walker's ""Women,"" a poem about the path women forged to freedom ""With fists as well as/ Hands/ How they battered down/ Doors"" and ""knew what we/ Must know/ Without knowing a page/ Of it/ Themselves,"" is juxtaposed with William H. Johnson's Harriet Tubman wearing an American flag, its stars fallen on the ground (it is also the volume's cover image). These pairings examine not only sweeping history but also intimate domestic moments, such as Robert Hayden's ""Those Winter Sundays,"" a child's reflection on the father he (or she) never thanked for rising in the ""blueblack cold"" to make a fire before waking the child (""What did I know, what I did know/ of love's austere and lonely offices?""). Opposite, Henry Ossawa Tanner's Thankful Poor, a glorious oil painting of father and child, depicts their two heads bowed in prayer at the table, bathed in golden light. Regardless of topic, the works focus consistently on the virtues of strength, courage and determination. Elegant and thoughtful design elements shape the volume into a unified whole despite the varied styles of the paintings and poems included, and Rochelle's superb selections and endnotes on the authors and artists make this a collection to be treasured. All ages. (Jan.)
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