Synopsis: The American Poets Project series continues with this stunning collection from a major—and sometimes controversial—figure of the Harlem Renaissance
In his early twenties, Countee Cullen emerged as a central figure in the tumultuous, defiant, intensely creative cultural movement now known as the Harlem Renaissance. Here is the most comprehensive collection of Cullen’s poetry ever assembled. It begins with his astonishing first book, Color (1925)—a debut that made him “famous, like Byron, overnight” (as H. L. Mencken put it). Cullen’s intricate, deceptively simple lyrics shocked some early readers with their frank explorations of racial, sexual, and religious themes. They have since become touchstones of the African American poetic tradition.
The collection follows the evolution of Cullen’s prodigious talents through Copper Sun (1927), The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927), The Black Christ & Other Poems (1929), and The Medea and Some Poems (1935)—reprinted for the first time with the illustrations from the original editions. Also included are playful verses from his children’s book The Lost Zoo (1940); haunting late poems he intended to add to On These I Stand (1947) before his death; and dozens of uncollected poems, some never before published, which reveal an intense engagement with the politics of civil rights. Together, they afford an unprecedented occasion to revisit a dazzling and distinctive poetic voice.
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