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Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry Paperback – December 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Just as nature is too often defined as wilderness when, in fact, nature is everywhere we are, our nature poetry is too often defined by Anglo-American perspectives, even though poets of all backgrounds write about the living world. By creating an anthology of nature poetry by African American writers, poet and editor Dungy enlarges our understanding of the nexus between nature and culture, and introduces a “new way of thinking about nature writing and writing by black Americans.” African American poets describe the need for practical knowledge of the wild to survive, the toil of working the land, and moments of spiritual communion with nature’s countless manifestations. Dungy provides an arresting introductory overview of 180 poems by 93 poets, and incisive essays accompany each thematic grouping. This analysis is dynamic and crucial, but the poems, beginning with Lucille Clifton’s “the earth is a living thing,” are ravishing. Dungy’s unique, enlightening, and heart-opening anthology embraces George Moses Horton, who lived as a slave, and today’s award-winning Cyrus Cassells, haiku by Richard Wright, and poems funny, smart, sexy, devastating, and exquisite by Nikki Giovanni, Janice N. Harrington, Yusef Komunyakaa, Carl Phillips, and their many resounding peers, each expressing provocative perceptions of the great tide of existence. --Donna Seaman

Review

"Dungy has compiled what might have taken a lifetime to assemble, yet here it is at this moment when our culture is assessing both its relationship to the natural world and its relationship with its black citizens. The timing could not be better for such a comprehensive look at what black poets have contributed to our understanding of nature. What excites about this anthology is that it is not only the richest and most comprehensive collection of poems by black poets I have read, it is the richest and most comprehensive collection of poems about nature that I have read. I believe the book should be widely read, taught, and talked about."--Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Rope


"Black Nature is the most exciting anthology of poetry I've read in years. In part this reflects the superb quality and remarkable range of Camille Dungy's selections. But it also comes from her decision to organize the book's contents into ten thematic "cycles" rather than chronologically. Each of the sections responds distinctively and dramatically to Lucille Clifton's question with which Dungy frames the entire volume: "why/is there under that poem always/ an other poem?" This collection will quickly become essential reading for poets and scholars, as well as for courses on American poetry and the literature of nature."--John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home


"Camille Dungy’s anthology, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, offers a fresh new vision of the African American poetic canon. In eliciting black poems that redefine the Western tradition of nature poetry, she has provided a new configuration for African American poetry, one that is postmodern and neo-pastoralist. Black Nature expands the horizon of black poetry from the frequently anthologized themes of blues, social commentary, and urban pastoral and demonstrates that black is also green, a theme consonant with the twenty-first century. Publishing many young poets writing since the post Black Arts Movement, Dungy’s Black Nature achieves a contemporary emphasis. It is ideal for introductory and advanced African American literature courses."--Robert Chrisman, Editor-in-Chief, The Black Scholar


"With extraordinary insight and substantial creative vision the rich synthesis of this anthology offers a strikingly original contour to the seasons of black poets and poetry. The critical wisdom accumulated here is as important as the beautifully structured cycles that Dungy uses as landscaped categories to contain these important poems. The methodology here is as graceful as it is rigorously intelligent. Dungy's anthology is a major contribution to twenty-first century Black Studies."--Karla FC Holloway, author of BookMarks: Reading in Black and White—A Memoir


"Just as nature is too often defined as wilderness when, in fact, nature is everywhere we are, our nature poetry is too often defined by Anglo-American perspectives, even though poets of all backgrounds write about the living world...Dungy enlarges our understanding of the nexus between nature and culture, and introduces a 'new way of thinking about nature writing and writing by black Americans.'"—Booklist (starred review)



"No pleasures are more aesthetic than poetry and nature, so it is only natural that the two should unite. Editor Dungy here merges the worlds in a satisfying compilation that features over 100 poems by 93 African American poets, including celebrated writers June Jordan and Yusef Komunyakaa as well as newer artists like Remica L. Bingham and Indigo Moor."—Library Journal



"Camille Dungy believes that white and black poets look differently at nature, with whites primarily noticing its beauty and blacks seeing its harshness. The view, Dungy says, is intensified by the black experience of slavery. An edgy mix of pastoral and political, her anthology, Black Nature, testifies to her point."—Baltimore Sun



"One of the few anthologies that can be picked up and read like a novel cover to cover without metaphor overload. Black Nature is well thought out, well edited, and timed."—Phati'tude Literary Magazine
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820334316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820334318
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1954, during a blizzard, in Cleveland Ohio at Mount Sinai Hospital, Thylias Moss began to write when she was seven years old, and continued, ultimately graduating from Oberlin College in 1981, and from Grad School at the University of New Hampshire in 1983, same year that my first volume of poetry: Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman was published. Only 4 feet 10 inches tall, she combats this vertical challenge with making big, and has published 10 books, encouraged by winning $25.00 in a Cleveland Public Library Contest for "The Problem with Loving a Ghost of a Sailor" when she was 17 years old--best $25.00 ever!

She has won many awards, including: "The Dewars Profiles Performance Artist's Award in Poetry" for "Poem for My Mother's and other makers of Asafetida" several Pushcart Prizes, and multiple inclusions in the Best American Poetry Series. She has also won a Whiting Writer's Award, an NEA Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship in 1996. Currently she is involved in limited forking.

She was most pleased with her inclusion in the film: "The United States of Poetry" shown on PBS. Clips from my inclusion are among my videos: "9:08 Am - Nagging Misunderstanding: and "Green Light and Gamma Ways".

The "Fork" video was made to accompany my essay in "One Word" --although I mostly wrote about "forking" my essay is entitled "sixpack"

You can see my video "poams" --products of acts of making on the forker girl youtube channel. and if you search for "limited fork" online, whatever you find is likely about me.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Idahome on April 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
I heard excerpts of this book on NPR. It is fresh and unusual. Take a moment and look at the world in a new way. There are poems written like newpaper ads, and one about the mosquito that almost becomes a mini cartoon in your head with this Rastafarian blood sucker.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bloomvillebee on October 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an extremely worthwhile collection of nature poetry from the perspective of African American poets spanning 400 years. So there's tons of history here, human history, connected in with the poetry of the land, of place, of critters, of the farm, field, forest, sky, and soil...and yes, city nature, too... and fabulous garden poems. I read the book from cover to cover over a series of evenings this fall, and found so many wonderful delights here, it really was a revelation. Highly recommend.
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By Jim Watts on July 29, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Black Nature, editor Camille T. Dungy has compiled 180 poems reflecting on the natural world, and that are "expressed through the African American perspective". Ninety three voices are included here and the poems themselves are grouped into ten "cycles" that "highlight recurrent concerns"; for example, natural disaster is the theme for cycle six while cycle seven explores fauna and human/animal relationships. Each cycle is introduced with an essay, usually from one of the featured poets, written not specifically for this anthology but pulled from another work to emphasize the theme for the group of poems that follow it. Black Nature is full of Black American history, stretching from Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American poet, to modern 21st century writers. This is not just an anthology of poetry, this is the history of a people brought unwillingly to a foreign land and the story of their growing bond throughout the centuries with the land itself.
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