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Collected Poems Paperback – February 17, 1997
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This may be the most addictive journalism book ever: dozens of glittering columns on topics Olympic and ordinary, most produced on deadline by a pantheon of outstanding writers, a collection that should squash any doubts that journalism should be literature. This luminescent volume reaffirms the beauty and power of his poetry… An enlightening and exciting reclamation of an essential American poet of suffering and radiance. — Booklist
When I read his poetry I know that I am in the presence of a man who honors language. His images give the reader a new experience of the world. — Julius Lester (New York Times Book Review)
Hayden was a remembrancer, a poet of faith and superb execution, and one of the best teachers by example one can find in the poetry of the twentieth century, or in any age. His words enhance and engage us as awakened selves, a nation in process, an abiding transcendent world voice. — Michael S. Harper
About the Author
Robert Hayden received numerous awards including a Hopwood Award, the Grand Prize for Poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts, and the Russell Loines Award for distinguished poetic achievement from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
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In addition to well known poems such as "Those Winter Sundays" and "The Whipping," this anthology contains other equally stirring poems including "Aunt Jemima Of The Ocean Waves" which depicts a conversation with the fat woman from a Coney Island side-show and "Belsen, Day Of Liberation" dedicated to Rosey Pool, the Dutch teacher of Anne Frank and first translator of her famous diary.
While Hayden writes much about African-American history and culture, his poems do not tell the reader what to think or feel. Instead, his carefully crafted verse weaves images that allow the careful reader to move around in some very unusual territory, some beautiful, some uncomfortable. Hayden puts us in the mind of the oppressor in poems like "Middle Passage" about the famous Amistad incident, and "Night, Death, Mississippi" where we eavesdrop on an old Klan member too frail to attend a lynching with his son, of whom he is proud. "Be there with Boy and the rest / if I was well again. / Time was. Time was. / White robes like moonlight / In the sweetgum dark."
Hayden can also be wickedly funny. In "American Journal" written a few years before his death, his narrator is a spy from a distant planet in the galaxy who reports back to his fellow superiors about "this baffling multi people extremes and variegations their noise restlessness their almost frightening energy."
In addition to poems about childhood, society, and race, Hayden also writes about the history and central figures of his religion, the Bahá'í Faith. In "Baha' u'llah In The Garden Of Ridwan" he compares the founder of Bahá'í at an important juncture to Christ the night before being crucified w ho prayed to be relieved of his great destiny. In "Dawnbreaker" Hayden describes the torture of one early Bahá'í put to death by having candles of oil and wick lit within his skin. "Ablaze / with candles sconced / in weeping eyes / of wounds."
Despite his numerous awards, Hayden was not well known to many poetry readers until the end of his life. Fortunately, his reputation has increased since Collected Poems was published posthumously. If you are interested in rich, well crafted poetry which explores what it means to be human, try Hayden. As Aunt Jemima says in the above mentioned poem, "And that's the beauty part, I mean, ain't that the beauty part."