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Black Nature

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, ed. Camille T. Dungy. The University of Georgia Press. $24.95

Includes: Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, Melvin B. Tolson, Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, Honorée Fannone Jeffers, and many more.

From the Introduction: The first tree whose story I cared to discover grows through the filtration pumps at the edge of an abandoned swimming pool in Lynchburg, Virginia, city park. In the late 1960s, a group of black children and community leaders staged a swim-in at this pool. Rather than desegregate this public facility, the city drained the water and replaced it with dirt. The space is now more lawn than pool. A gentle slope of lush grass reaches toward the deep end, and moss coats exposed walkways. A stately box elder grows through the retaining wall, roots ensnared in the pool’s filtration system. This is the final insult. No child, black or white, will ever swim in this pool again. Thanks to the tree’s tenacity, its remarkable, beautiful, uncompromised growth, the mechanisms that accommodated this simple form of recreation have been destroyed…. For years, poets and critics have called for a broader inclusiveness in conversations about ecocriticism and ecopoetics, one that acknowledges other voices and a wider range of cultural and ethnic concerns. African Americans, specifically, are fundamental to the natural fabric of this nation but have been noticeably absent from tables of contents. To bring more voices into the conversation about human interactions with the natural world, we must change the parameters of the conversation….

An excerpt from Douglas Kearney’s “Floodsong 2: Water Moccasin’s Spiritual”:

wade in the water
wade in the water, children
wade in the water
god’s gon’ trouble the water

wade in the water
wade in the water, children
wade in the water
god’s gon’ trouble the water

wade in
wade in
wade in
OOOOOOOtrouble

DS

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