Margaret Walker (1915 – 1998) is best known for her acclaimed novel, Jubilee (1966) as well as her richly evocative poetry. Here we’ll explore a sampling of poems by Margaret Walker, works that speak powerfully to the African-American experience.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Walker grew up in New Orleans and eventually settled in Chicago, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1935. Growing up, she was particularly taken with the poetry of Langston Hughes.
In 1936, Walker joined the Federal Writers’ Project and the South Side Writers Group, where she became friends with fellow writer and poet, Richard Wright. In 1940, she earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa. She and Wright both participated in the movement called The Chicago Black Renaissance. Read More→
Lucille Clifton (1936 – 2010) was a poet, teacher, and children’s book author whose life and career began in western New York. Her poetry is recognizable because of its purposeful lack of punctuation and capitalization. Here is a selection of 10 poems by Lucille Clifton, a small sampling of her prolific output.
Clifton’s widely respected poetry focuses on social issues, the African-American experience, and the female identity. Her poetry has been praised for its wise use of strong imagery, and lines that have even given the spacing of words meaning.
Poet Elizabeth Alexander praises Clifton’s use of strong language in her poetry, which was often spare and brief. Robin Becker of The American Poetry Review states that Clifton emphasizes the human element and morality of her poetry that’s amplified by the use of improper grammar. Read More→
Amy Lowell (1874 – 1925), an influential yet undervalued American poet, was an energetic evangelist of the art of poetry for all her adult life. Here is presented “Lilacs,” said to be the one of the poet’s own favorites, and among the poems she recited most often in her many public readings.
First published first published in the New York Evening Post on September 18, 1920, “Lilacs” went on to be included in a 1922 modernist poetry anthology.
Finally, “Lilacs” became part of Lowell’s 1925 collection What’s O’ Clock, which received the Pulitzer Prize the following year. Unfortunately, the poet died before receiving this honor. She was only 51, having suffered from poor health for some time. Read More→
“The Prisoner” is perhaps one of the best known of the achingly beautiful, haunting poems by Emily Brontë, the English author best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights.
Of the three literary Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Anne, and Emily,—it was always, from the start was, the latter who was regarded as the most brilliant poet, perhaps even the greatest genius among them.
“The Prisoner” was one of the poems included in the volume of poetry the sisters, led by Charlotte, printed at their own expense as a way to break into the world of publishing. Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Published in 1846, it sold a pathetic two copies. Read More→
Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014), the American author, actress, screenwriter, and civil rights activist, was also a prolific poet, publishing collections throughout her writing career. This selection of 10 celebrated poems by Maya Angelou is a sampling spanning nearly three decades of her prolific output.
Angelou is perhaps best known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. But her poetry has also broken through academic circles, with poems like “Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman” as part of American literary consciousness.