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"Harlem Gallery" and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson annotated edition Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0813918655
ISBN-10: 0813918650
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Admired by unlikely allies during his lifetime, Tolson (1898-1966) is due for reappraisal: this weighty book of all his mature poetry may be just what he needs. Tolson sought to depict African-American concerns in long poems modeled on T.S. Eliot and Hart Crane. His Libretto for the Republic of Liberia (not an opera libretto, but a book-length ode in eight parts) tries to do for that African nation what Crane's The Bridge did for the U.S. His longer, harder book-length Harlem Gallery (left unfinished at his death) records, in 24 intricate sections, the thoughts and symbolic deeds of a figure called the Curator, who meditates on art and history as he encounters symbolic personages, among them the outspoken Dr. Nkomo; "Hideho Heights,/ the vagabond bard of Lenox Avenue"; Guy Delaporte III, "symbol/ of Churchianity"; and John Laugart, the powerful creator of a painting called Black Bourgeoisie: "This castaway talent/ and I" (the Curator and Laugart) "were fated to be/ the Castor and Pollux of St. Elmo's fire/ on Harlem's Coalsack Way." Tolson alludes to everything from Bessie Smith to Sir Toby Belch, "the bulls of Bashan" and the Sicilian Vespers; his elaborate lineations announce at once the worth of high, complex art and the integrity of Black experience. If his baroque approach frequently seems overblown, the ambitions behind it remain impressive and moving. Tolson provided his own annotations to Libretto; Harlem Gallery's battalions of allusions have quite properly prompted editor Nelson to add brigades of endnotes. This volume also includes Tolson's more conventional first book, Rendezvous with America (1944), and several shorter uncollected poems. Former Poet Laureate Dove's introduction furnishes useful hints for reading Tolson, linking him to other Black writers. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

A glance at nearly any passage from the poems reprinted here will confirm that one is in the presence of a brilliantly eclectic mind determined not to hide its light under a bushel. In an interview the year before his death in 1966, Tolson stated: '... I, as a black poet, have absorbed the Great Ideas of the Great White World, and interpreted them in the melting-pot idiom of my people. My roots are in Africa, Europe, and America.' Tolson contained multitudes and did not shy away from the contradictions therein to look for single-minded issues or simple solutions; he had no problem harboring the paradoxes of the melting-pot -- indeed, he was able to refine from that cruel matrix a golden, ostentatious lyricism, drenched in the pain and beauty of the blues.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 473 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press; annotated edition edition (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813918650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813918655
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 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 (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Melvin B. Tolson was recognized as one of the first African American poets whose poetry has been classified as being in the esoteric category. The implication of this statement means that Tolson was writing poetry in a format which would be acceptable by the greatest English and American poets. One of them who recognized Tolson was W.H. Auden, who wrote favorable reviews about Tolson's poetry. Tolson, who came after the last years of the Harlem Renissance era, knew many of the prominent writers and poets of that era, which lasted from the 1920s through the 1930s. He knew many of the well known writers and poets of that period, including Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Zora Hurston, V.F. Cavington, Ralph Ellison, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, W.E.B. Dubios, James Weldon Johnson and Charles S. Johnson. While he was at Wiley College, Marshall, Texas, Tolson established his reputation by publishing his first book of poems entitled, Rendezvous with America, in 1944. For years prior to that date, Tolson taught English classes to thousands of students since his arrival there from Lincoln University, Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1923. Also he was the coach of the famous Wiley College Debate Team, which included, James Farmer, who later became the founder of the CORE Civil Rights Organization.
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Format: Paperback
Perhaps one of the most powerful yet ignored American voices of his time was Melvin Tolson, whose work unashamedly demanded a level of literacy and general knowledge only to be found in the classic talented fraction of any population. Born in the late 19th century he was educated and became a college professor against the odds of racial injustice, and rose above those circumstances to inspire generations after him to achieve excellence in spite of difficult odds.

Tolson's "Dark Symphony" particularly excited this writer, who saw him read excerepts from this piece when he visited his Alma Mater(and mine), Lincoln University Penna., six months before he died in 1966. His work is so classic that in time Tolson, I believe, will become "Poet Laureate of the U.S." the country he so loved.
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Format: Paperback
Raymond Nelson edits Harlem Gallery And Other Poems Of Melvin B. Tolson (1865-0), which presents works from one of the most recognized black voices in American poetry. His poems are here organized by topic and include notes for further study.
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Format: Hardcover
He was a professor at an all black college and the movie "The Great Debaters" was about him and his students.
Excellent movie and his book is also an interesting read.
Bob
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