STARRED REVIEW
January 2017

A celebration of the Harlem Renaissance

By Nikki Grimes
Review by

“We live in a time when life is hard for many people. Yet there is reason to hope and to dig deep for the strength hidden inside of us.” From award-winning poet Nikki Grimes comes this prophetic statement, which introduces One Last Word, a collection that combines Harlem Renaissance poetry with clever, thought-provoking and intricately formed poems of her own. 

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“We live in a time when life is hard for many people. Yet there is reason to hope and to dig deep for the strength hidden inside of us.” From award-winning poet Nikki Grimes comes this prophetic statement, which introduces One Last Word, a collection that combines Harlem Renaissance poetry with clever, thought-provoking and intricately formed poems of her own. 

Grimes begins her book with reflections on the notable poets of the early 20th-century Harlem Renaissance, which includes Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and other lesser-known poets, especially emerging women writers. They wrote about race, humanity’s role in the universe, anger, beauty and more. Grimes’ collection couldn’t come at a better time, as she notes: “These literary lights, writing at a time when the lynching of black men filled the news, were more than familiar with racial profiling, racial violence and every variety of injustice imaginable. Yet they ascended to great heights in spite of it all.”

In addition to their words ringing true, the real forte of this book are Grimes’ “golden shovel” poems, a challenging form in which she takes a line (or in some cases, a whole poem) and pens a new creation using the words from the original. Her poems are freshly made while echoing her predecessors.

Interspersed with colorful artwork from Sean Qualls, Christopher Myers, Javaka Steptoe and other lauded African-American illustrators, this is an important and timely poetry collection.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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One Last Word

One Last Word

By Nikki Grimes
Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781619635548

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