Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882 – 1961) was one of the important figures of the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s. She was the literary editor of the influential magazine of the NAACP, The Crisis, and in her own right a poet, essayist, translator, and novelist.
While working at The Crisis, she had the opportunity to publish her own work, which included editorials, stories, and poetry, all of which were appreciated by readers and literary critics. She edited and published the work of many noted Harlem Renaissance figures during her tenure at The Crisis; such was her influence that she’s considered one of the “midwives” of the Harlem Renaissance literary movement.
Fauset’s last novel, Comedy, American Style, was published in 1933. Soon after, she dropped out of the literary life and started a long career of teaching French in secondary school.
Some of the subject matter of Fauset’s poems was dark and rather grim. For example, “Oblivion” tells of a desire to lie in a deserted, neglected grave far from everyone and everything. Others, like “Dead Fires” and “La Vie C’est la Vie” are fatalistic.
Her writings were largely forgotten by the time of her death in 1961, but fortunately, her work is being rediscovered and studied. Here are six poems by Jessie Redmon Fauset, a Harlem Renaissance figure who shouldn’t be forgotten.
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If this is peace, this dead and leaden thing,
Then better far the hateful fret, the sting.
Better the wound forever seeking balm
Than this gray calm!
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