10 Poems by Georgia Douglas Johnson

Though she was considered an important member of the Harlem Renaissance, Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966) wasn’t a New York City resident when the movement was in full swing in the 1920s. 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 in the nation’s (very 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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Three poems from Words of Love by Pearl S. Buck (1974)

Prolific though she was, Pearl S. Buck wasn’t known as a poet. She produced only a limited number of poems, collected for publication as a slender illustrated volume, Words of Love (1974). Her verses are brief and direct, offering fleeting glimpses of the author’s inner world. Here’s a description from  Words of Love (John Day Company, 1974) and three poems:

Pearl S. Buck wrote no poetry for the public eye (though she permitted a few verses to appear in her biography). In her lifetime she published scores of novels short stories, and essays. Her poetry, however, was her private domain, and the verses she wrote — her Words of Love — were inscribed in her treasure book, the journal she kept for her most intimate words and thoughts. Read More→

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To George Sand: A Desire by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The 1853 poem “To George Sand: A Desire” was a tribute by poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning to French author Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, better known by her pen name, George Sand. When this poem was published, Sand was nearly 50 years old (born in 1804), just two years older than Barrett Browning. But the poet considered Sand a model for boldness in writing and living.

Starting with the famous line, “Thou large-brained woman and large hearted man,” the poem acknowledges Sand’s dual nature, and how she managed to wed intellect and emotion in her writings. Barrett Browning purposefully attributed brains to the feminine in Sand, and heart to the masculine, upending gender stereotypes. Read More→

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5 Dark Poems by Djuna Barnes

Of her first published collection, The Book of Repulsive Women (1915), Djuna Barnes said: “My first book of poems is a disgusting little item.”  When, much later (1952) a publisher asked to reprint some of her early work, Barnes responded: “I feel it is a grave disservice to letters to reissue merely because one may have a name for later work — or for that unfortunately praised earlier work, or for the purpose of nostalgia or ‘history’ which might more happily be left interred.”

Though only “Suicide” appeared in the Repulsive collection, the four other early poems by Djuna Barnes that follow illustrate the morbid voice that became a hallmark of her writing style. Though undated, these poems were from the period between 1910 – 1920. Illustrations by Djuna Barnes are from Ladies’ Almanack (1928). Read More→

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