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

5 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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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

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"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

"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
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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 0.9 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 (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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 (not always written for this anthology, sometimes 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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Format: Paperback
This anthology is simply brilliant. Elegant and necessary. The combination of scholarship and heart that Camille Dungy brings to this volume is evident throughout.
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A superb anthology with amazing scope. It spans over 400 years of of African poetry, frequently revisiting subjects of history and ecology. It's great for the classroom or as a resource for your daily poem. The perspectives and styles are unique from one poem to the next, which made it an enjoyable read throughout.
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