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Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems (A Palm of Her Hand Project) Hardcover – October 1, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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The Underground Railroad
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Walker is of course well known as the author of the novel The Color Purple as well as other works of prose, but she has also published books of poetry throughout her career. Her poetic goals are more inspirational than literary. Poetry is, for her, a place to "share losses, health concerns, and other challenges common to the human condition," as she says in her preface; it is also a place to help heal those wounds. In narrow free verse, often with a single word on a line, Walker asks pertinent questions, such as, in "Watching You Hold Your Hatred," "Isn't it/ slippery?/ might you/ not/ someday/ drop it/ on/ yourself?" She also merges the personal and the political ("You'd be surprised/ to find/ how cleansing/ it feels/ to depose/ a/ dictator:/ There she is/ anticipating your/ every wish"); addresses a "Woman/ of color/ lighting up/ the/ dark"; and describes how love "is embedded in us,/ like seams of gold in the Earth." Walker's many fans won't be disappointed by this book. (Oct.) (c)
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From Booklist

Since Walker’s The Color Purple appeared in 1982, she has remained one of America’s best-loved writers for the passion and purpose of her work. Her poetry, like her prose, is direct and sonorous. In this collection, she writes of loss and disappointment, and the strength that rises from meeting them unflinchingly. Many poems read like sermons, such as the one that charges us to “Wake up!” because “The world has changed. It did not change without…your determination to believe in liberation & kindness.” Walker embraces her uniqueness and accepts herself as human(e)ly fallible, singing of “flying though this existence as myself,” and of honoring “all the fierce edges I have made for myself.” She also accepts the failings of others, offering a wise openness to others’ pain and the pain it causes in turn: “Watching you hold your hatred for such a long time, I wonder: Isn’t it slippery? Might you not someday drop it upon yourself?” These are powerful anthems of womanhood and age, although just as likely to be empowering to men and to the not-yet-old. --Patricia Monaghan
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: A Palm of Her Hand Project
  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577319303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577319306
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #773,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Deborah A. Broeker on October 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was literally sitting two feet away from Alice Walker ( a small woman who carries herself with great pride) when she read poems from this book. To say that her poems were transformative is putting it mildly...I especially loved her poem about "Relatives" - telling us to not think poorly of them, but just imagine that we are from different stars! Although she did stick around to personally autograph books, I did buy her book (full price) just to have a book penned by one of our most distinguished and talented authors. Forget about rock or sports stars - my heroes are writers!
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Format: Hardcover
I recently had the distinct pleasure of hearing Alice Walker read from this her latest collection of nearly fifty poems HARD TIMES REQUIRE FURIOUS DANCING gorgeously illustrated by Shiloh McCloud. She is a consummate example of why poetry should be read aloud and by the author if at all possible.

There are so many moving, beautiful poems included here. They require not explication but rather reading and enjoying. One hardly knows where to start. She pays tribute to cows, their sacredness and their dilemma in "La Vaga." She remembers her black Lab in "My Teacher." "The World Has Changed" I believe she wrote in honor of President Obama. She in the poem "Sixty-five" cannot believe that she is this old-- talk about a poem being universal--

Sixty-five!
who can
believe it.

In "We Pay A Visit to Those Who Play At Being Dead" she reminds us that we become our parents as we age:

My mother
for instance
whose
cheekbones
greet me
from
a
recent
photograph
of myself.

Ms. Walker has written two instructive poems on the destructiveness and futility on hatred in "Watching You Hold Your Hatred" (Watching you/hold/your/hatred/for such a long time/I wonder:/Isn't it/slippery?/Might you/not/someday/drop it/on/yourself?) and "The Taste of Grudge": ("What a waste/ is any kind/of/grudge.")

"Word Has Reached Me" is a poignant poem to her dying sister as Ms. Walker seeks to make peace with her and prays that she will let go and die in peace as well:

Praying,later,
I sent word
to you that both our parents
are waiting
--all, whatever it was
that rankled--
is now
& forevermore
forgiven:
Grandpa & Grandma
are waiting too.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read several of Walker's novels, it was a great pleasure to be introduced to her poetry. Like most poetry by African American writers, it just sings of the passion and life force contained in these strong, memorable ladies. These are simple but profound poems of life and love and passion and despair and all the other emotions we humans contain. Brava!
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Format: Hardcover
You will see/living as you do/in the Aquarian Age/when it is possible for mere thought/to quickly transform the world --/nothing will ultimately separate us

Alice Walker's 2010 collection of poems is like a perfect stroll through the park. Her words are approachable and cloaked in a sagacious womanhood. They are simple yet no to be rushed through. Like any poetry, they deserve a reading, a meditation, and a re-read. Several of the pieces have an anecdotal quality as in "You confide in Me" where Walker's subject lacks a sofa which hints at a lack or inability of intimacy.

Walker doesn't shy away from any topic. She speaks on the unwieldiness of hatred, acceptance of and beauty in the imperfect, and reminds us of our responsibility to protect the Earth. She also devotes two very personal pieces--one to her estranged daughter on love and freedom and the other to her unknown grandchild.

This may be the first time I've encountered a collection of poems that I wanted to keep next to my bed. Each poem is like a breath or wisp of wind. The illustrations throughout add a beautiful, ethereal feeling to these words that celebrate every aspect of life.

I will keep/broken things./I will keep/you:/
pilgrim/of/sorrow.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is amazing. It helps me put life into perspective. I lent it to someone who didn't give it back, so I have bought it twice. I will probably buy it to give to people I love, too. I really like her poem about people who hate as well as the ones about her dog.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not a big fan of disliking a book; I rarely do so and this book is no exception to that rule. My general approach is to find a better way of reading and enjoying it. I struggled through my first read. The poetry seemed flat; it lacked dynamism in images and language that I felt the emotional intensity of the subject matter could have used. Walker's strange blending of Self-annihilating, earthy Buddhism and her always strong, wise, and assertive motherly ethos appeared at times as the conflicting manner in which egotism seems to meet with Eastern philosophy so much in our culture. Rereading Hard Times... as a series of meditations attempting to negotiate these identities while coping with loss, grief, and distance from loved ones, however, has given me a better appreciation for the collection and the place from which Walker writes.

The poetic structure is simple and contemplative. There isn't much movement in the verse; it reads much like pages taken from the Tao Te Ching. For example, in her poem, "Rich" - a fairly simplistic if not didactic view of earthly wealth over worldly concerns - the first stanza reads:

It takes
so little
to make
me happy:
An hour
of planting
cucumbers
squash
tomatoes
is
an
hour
filled
with
gold.

This stanza highlighted a few of the negative thoughts I had upon my first reading of the book. The image of a garden above a purse of gold, the poem's later depiction of Wall Street as a dragon felt stale and ineffective to me. The line spacing and lack of dynamic verse seemed only to belabor the easy-enough-to-understand anti-materialistic view of the poet. Other poems elicit similar reactions from me.
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