The Homeplace: Poems

Marilyn Nelson, Author
Marilyn Nelson, Author Louisiana State University Press $14.95 (54p) ISBN 978-0-8071-1640-1
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
In this quietly provocative and poignant collection of poems, Waniek ( Mama's Promises ) records the history of her family, beginning with her great-great-grandmother's experiences as a slave in the South, through her father's years as one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the celebrated group of black aviators who fought during World War II. Many of these works are based on stories the poet's mother passed on to her before her death, and Waniek retains the immediacy of this oral legacy through a skillful interweaving of dialect, quotations and first-person narration, and through her matter-of-fact, unadorned speech: ``Being black in America / was the Original Catch, / so no one was surprised / by 22: / The segregated airstrips, / separate camps. / They did the jobs / they'd been trained to do.'' In consistently moving narratives and adeptly crafted sonnets (Waniek's attempts at the villanelle and ballad are less impressive), the poet charts her family's survival in the face of oppression and racial injustice through carefully selected details and an evenhanded tone that avoids emotionalism and elevates personal history to universal experience. (Dec.)
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