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Black Nature: Four Centuries Of African American Nature Poetry

Camille T. Dungy

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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

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

Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated.

Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry—anything but nature poetry. This is particularly true when the definition of what constitutes nature writing is limited to work about the pastoral or the wild.

Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. This collection features major writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, and Melvin B. Tolson as well as newer talents such as Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, and Janice Harrington. Included are poets writing out of slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African American poetic movements.

Black Nature brings to the fore a neglected and vital means of considering poetry by African Americans and nature-related poetry as a whole.

A Friends Fund Publication.

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