Walter Dean Myers has been publishing poetry from an early age but it also known as a playwright, musician, and novelist. I picked up his book of poems titled Here in Harlem poems in many voices published by Holiday House New York. These poems are written from the perspective of people living out their everyday lives whether they be laborers, artists, children, etc. from Harlem. Many of the poems have accompanying photos or memorabilia.
The poem titled “Willie Arnold, 30 Alto Sax Player” is written as though the speaker is playing his instrument in the background and has repeating stanzas like a chorus. A few of the lines in the chorus go like this: “Hot notes sailing/Like soulful birds/Song without words” and throughout is the tune, consisting of “be-bops.” It is a great poem because of the energy just like the alto sax would be playing and wonderful lines such as “As I’m blowing/Really flowing/Up to the moon/With this sweet tune.” I believe Mr. Meyers captures the voice perfectly.
Then there is the poem much more like prose titled “Clara Brown’s Testimony Part II” where a woman recounts her childhood in Harlem auditioning for the Cotton Club with her sister. “When it was time for us to show our stuff, we did it with style! You hear me?” the woman recounts, and as she continues the story you find at the end from the piano player’s mouth “I’m sorry girls…But they only hire light-skinned girls to dance here.” The story in the poem breaks your heart like it does the girl who auditioned. While I wouldn’t call it a poem, as it looks like it has been broken into paragraphs, it is a poignant story to capture a reader’s heart.
To find out more about the poet and his work, please utilize the link below:
As always, thanks for reading, please come by tomorrow…