Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1912)

“Renascence” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) is the 1912 poem that put this iconic American poet on the literary map. Though it was published when she was just nineteen, it held up as one of the best poems in her canon. You can find an excellent analysis of it on Poetry Foundation.

The 214-line lyric poem consists of rhymed couplets. The overarching theme is the connection of the individual to nature. The narrator of the poem is writing from a mountaintop from which she observes the broad vista. Observation turn into a mystical experience. The poem was written on the summit of Mt. Battle in Camden, Maine, which now has a plaque in the spot that inspired it. Read More→

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11 Poems by Helene Johnson

Helene Johnson (July 7, 1906 – July 7, 1995), an American poet associated with the Harlem Renaissance, was born in Boston and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Her poems explore themes of gender and racial politics of the era in which she wrote, primarily in the late 1920s. Following are 11 of Helene Johnson’s poems, worth reflecting on and reconsidering.

“Bottled” and “Ah My Race” are arguably her most famous poems. “Bottled” needs an introduction and context, without which it can be misconstrued. It was first published in 1927 in the May issue of Vanity Fair. Katherine R. Lynes in Project Muse offers much insight into the story behind the poem:

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Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894) is the best known poem by this Victorian-era British poet. It was published in her first volume of poetry, Goblin Market and Other Poems, in 1863. This very long narrative poem is set in an imaginary world, describing the strange adventures of sisters Laura and Lizzie and their encounters with evil goblin merchants.

One of the main themes of this poem is temptation, illustrated by Laura’s tasting of enchanted forbidden fruit. It also explores sacrifice, sexuality, and salvation. According to Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians: Read More→

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10 Poems by Georgia Douglas Johnson

Though she was considered an important member of the Harlem Renaissance, Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966) wasn’t never a New York City resident, neither when the movement was in full swing in the 1920s or after. Instead, she and her family lived in Washington, D.C. Their house on S Street NW came to be known as the “S Street Salon” — a satellite of sorts for writers of the Harlem Renaissance visiting in the nation’s segregated capital.

Among the colleagues who were regular visitors were the leading lights of the Renaissance: Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Alain Locke, and many of the noted women writers of the Harlem Renaissance Read More→

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The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977 by Adrienne Rich

The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977 (1978) appeared early on in Adrienne Rich’s (1929 – 2012) long career and solidified her position as a leader who articulated the central ideas of the second wave U.S. feminist movement.

These poems, about and for women, envision an alternative to a patriarchal system in which men control the avenues of power and the definitions of female existence. They establish the primary concerns of Rich’s life’s work to promote: Read More→

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