The Homeplace: Poems

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LSU Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this quietly provocative and poignant collection of poems, Waniek ( Mama's Promises ) records the history of her family, beginning with her great-great-grandmother's experiences as a slave in the South, through her father's years as one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the celebrated group of black aviators who fought during World War II. Many of these works are based on stories the poet's mother passed on to her before her death, and Waniek retains the immediacy of this oral legacy through a skillful interweaving of dialect, quotations and first-person narration, and through her matter-of-fact, unadorned speech: ``Being black in America / was the Original Catch, / so no one was surprised / by 22: / The segregated airstrips, / separate camps. / They did the jobs / they'd been trained to do.'' In consistently moving narratives and adeptly crafted sonnets (Waniek's attempts at the villanelle and ballad are less impressive), the poet charts her family's survival in the face of oppression and racial injustice through carefully selected details and an evenhanded tone that avoids emotionalism and elevates personal history to universal experience. (Dec.)
School Library Journal
YA-- A slim yet compelling collection of poetry that celebrates several generations of a Southern black family with rich and vivid portraits. Great-Uncle Rufus was born a slave, conceived by rape, but raised by his mother with enough love and faith to imbue courage and pride in his own five children. Aunt Geneva dared to love a white man well into her eighties. Waniek's father, an Air Force navigator, and her ``uncles,'' the famed Tuskegee Airmen, inspired the poet to look to the sky and ask ``. . . how shall I live and work to match your goodness?'' This is a worthy addition to any poetry collection, but it's of particular importance with the recent interest in the airmen and the contribution of blacks in the U. S. military. An excellent work for curriculum use in integrating history and literature.-- Jackie Gropman, Richard Byrd Library, Springfield, VA
Through a variety of traditional and free verse forms, Waniek's (English, U. of Conn. at Storrs) third poetry collection sketches the lives descended from her great-great-grandmother, the slave Diverne. The second section honors Waniek's father and his family Airmen. Paper edition (unseen), $7.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807116418
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1990
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 992,833
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.93 (h) x 0.22 (d)

Meet the Author

LSU Press

Marilyn Nelson Waniek 's other poetry titles include For the Body, Mama's Promises, Magnificat, and The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems all published by LSU Press. A recipient of the Annisfield-Wolf Award, she is professor of English at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

LSU Press

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2002

    one of the best volumes of contemporary poetry

    There is no doubt in my mind that Marilyn Nelson's poetry will be remembered for generations to come, and this collection, _The Homeplace_ (which was a finalist for the National Book Award), is the primary reason why. Nelson's poetry is good by any standards, but _The Homeplace_ stands head and shoulders above her work, which says quite a bit. I've read her new and selected poems. They were very good. The only complaint is that they weren't divided by volumes, so it wasn't until i picked up _The Homeplace_ and read it that I realized just how good the poems in this volume are. Because _The Homeplace_ isn't a collection of short poems, rather it is one long narrative poem. It's divided into two sections. Section I tells the story of her mother's side of the family, going back five generations to her great-great grandmother, Diverne. The story of this family goes through slavery, the turn of the century, wars, and up to the point where her mother and father meet. It's a heroic and touching story. Section II is the story of her father's time as WWII as a Tuskegee Airman. _The Homeplace_ contains everything good about poetry, and everything that poetry should be: story, form, meaning, love, and a wonderful use of language. This isn't a book you should pass over. It should be read--slowly and again and again.

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