Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance cover
Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by various artists

By Nikki Grimes
Illustrated by various artists
Bloomsbury, 2021
144 pages

Age 11 and older

Grimes focuses on women poets of the Harlem Renaissance to draw attention to these generally lesser known yet talented writers of that time, offering up a selection of poems that she in turns uses as inspiration for poems of her own. An introduction to the “remarkable period of artistic growth and exploration” that is the Harlem Renaissance is followed by an explanation of the Golden Shovel poetry form, which takes “a short poem in its entirety, or a line from the poem, called a striking line, and [creates] a new poem using the words from the original,” with one word coming at the end of each line of the new poem. Grimes uses this form as she pairs poems by women of the Harlem Renaissance with her original poems, with the line of inspiration in the Harlem Renaissance poem and the appearance of those words in her new poem called out in bold. The poems, divided into sections titled Heritage, Earth Mother, and Taking Notice, are complex but accessible, beautiful and empowering, joyful and sorrowful, while the pairings make for turns and transformations that can surprise and inspire. Many but not all of the old and new poems are about Blackness, Black womanhood or girlhood, nature, or a combination of these. Nineteen Black women artists each interpreted one of Grimes’s poems in her own distinctive style, creating  stirring visual images throughout the volume. Back matter includes short biographies of the Harlem Renaissance poets and of the illustrators.  ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center