The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems

Overview

In The Fields of Praise, Marilyn Nelson claims as subjects the life of the spirit, the vicissitudes of love, and the African American experience and arranges them as white pebbles marking our common journey toward a "monstrous love / that wants to make the world right." Nelson is a poet of stunning power, able to bring alive the most rarified and subtle of experiences. A slave destined to become a minister preaches sermons of heartrending eloquence and wisdom to a mule. An old woman scrubbing over a washtub ...
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Overview

In The Fields of Praise, Marilyn Nelson claims as subjects the life of the spirit, the vicissitudes of love, and the African American experience and arranges them as white pebbles marking our common journey toward a "monstrous love / that wants to make the world right." Nelson is a poet of stunning power, able to bring alive the most rarified and subtle of experiences. A slave destined to become a minister preaches sermons of heartrending eloquence and wisdom to a mule. An old woman scrubbing over a washtub receives a personal revelation of what Emancipation means: "So this is freedom: the peace of hours like these." Memories of the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen in the face of aerial combat abroad and virulent racism at home bring a speaker to the sudden awareness of herself as the daughter "of a thousand proud fathers."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Embracing themes of motherhood and marriage, racism and religion, Nelson recombines accomplished works from earlier volumes (The Homeplace; Magnificat) with new poems. In one run-on sentence the narrator of "Bali Hai Calls Mama" recalls a Saturday afternoon in which, "I was putting away the groceries/ I'd spent the morning buying" and "the baby was screaming/and I dropped the bag of cake flour..." when suddenly through the window comes "the cry of wild geese." Section II offers poems about her childhood. "How I Discovered Poetry" (listening to a teacher read) and "Sisters," with schoolgirls fist fighting at a bus stop, mix with resonant paeans to her parents. Strongest is Section III; its poems, grappling with evil and filled with biblical and philosophical references, demonstrate a luminous power. Included are a series of parables about the holy figure, Abba Jacob, whose teachings are delivered in taut, colloquial verse: in one, after he gives up in his fight with an angel, "she took his hand in hers/ and put her arm around his neck./ Then he heard the music." The final section, with its sequences on love and forgiveness, closes with the story of a racist incident which ends with a wholly unexpected apology, a "minor miracle" in the life that we must navigate together, as Nelson persuasively reminds us in this stirring assemblage of poems. (May)
Marilyn Hacker
"....Te Fields of Praise is a mid-career selectison from four earlier books, combined with new work. Rather than arrange the poems chronologically, Nelson has chosen to order them thematically: roughly, the maternal and paternal principles; a multi-generational African American family history; spiritual parables; meditations on the nature of good and evil. Still, the book traces a thematic and formal development, as the poet's world-view opens out through her chosen subjects...." The Women's Review of Books
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807121757
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,003,043
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 9.05 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Marilyn Nelson's other poetry titles include Magnificat; The Homeplace, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Mama's Promises. A recipient of the Annisfield-Wolf Award, she is professor of English at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

Marilyn Nelson's other poetry titles include Magnificat; The Homeplace, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Mama's Promises. A recipient of the Annisfield-Wolf Award, she is professor of English at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 4, 2012

    Great Introduction to Amazing Poet

    This is a beautiful and virtuoso tour through the poetry
    of Marilyn Nelson, one of the most gifted contemporary
    masters we have.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2001

    good collection

    Nelson's collection as a whole is pretty good, though it does drop off a bit in the hermitage section. Her poems are poems of home and family and spirituality. It's a good selection of her work.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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