Nonfiction Monday: Harlem, A Poem by Walter Dean Myers and pictures by Christopher Myers

Our contribution for Nonfiction Monday this week is a tad different. It is a poem transformed into a picture book in honor of Harlem, written by Walter Dean Myers with fantabulous paintings/pictures done by Christopher Myers. This is in keeping with our Poetry-filled Yuletide Cheer theme for November and December.

Thanks Iphigene for such a lovely poster yet again. 🙂

This week’s host for Nonfiction Monday is Charlotte’s Library. Head on over there to check out other exciting nonfiction links.

An Ode to a City. Apart from the inspired illustrations, I was taken by the summary I read from the jacketflap of the book – it appears as if this is hardly the first poem inspired by the city of Harlem:

Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and James Baldwin have sung their songs about Harlem. Now Walter Dean Myers joins their chorus in calling to life the deep, rich, and hope-filled history of this community, this crucible of American culture.

While I have visited the United States several times, I haven’t been to the East Coast yet. A quick visit to Wikipedia shows that Harlem is “a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center.”

This is clearly reflected in Myers’ poetry:

Harlem was a promise
Of a better life, of a place where a man didn’t
Have to know his place
Simply because he was
Black

It is clear that it is a place where dreams were woven and hopes shared amongst people of all races, colors, beliefs, nationalities.

Yellow/ tan/ brown/ black/ red
Green/ gray/ bright
Colors loud enough to be heard
Light on asphalt streets
Sun yellow shirts on burnt umber
Bodies
Demanding to be heard, seen
 

Myers also makes references to a number of individuals who, for some reason or another, are linked to Harlem or the people who live there: Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray, “Lady Day on the radio.”

Jack Johnson, extraordinary boxer who opened a night club in Harlem and sold it after three years to gangster Owney Madden who renamed it as Cotton Club – click on the image to be taken to websource.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Sugar Ray Robinson, said to be the Darling of Harlem – click on the image to be taken to the websource.

My favorite lines though from Myers poem would be these:

Sometimes despair makes
The stoops shudder
Sometimes there are endless depths of pain
Singing a capella on the street corners
And sometimes not.
Sometimes it is the artist looking into a mirror,
Painting a portrait of his own heart.

I was reminded of our feature on Jean-Michel Basquiat, extremely talented graffiti artist (‘radiant child’) who lived in New York City and died of a drug overdose.

Christopher Myers – click on the image to be taken to the websource.

An Ode to Christopher Myers’ Collage Art. Christopher Myers, the artist of this book also lives in New York and graduated from Brown University. He has completed the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Studio Program. I just couldn’t help but take a few photos of his collage art work that has simply blown me away. Breathtakingly beautiful. It is also mighty interesting to share that this book is actually a father-son team-up, with Christopher being the son of award winning author Walter Dean Myers who grew up in Harlem and who now lives in Jersey. Nice, right?

Absolutely beautiful.

Songs in honor of Harlem. I also have a few video clips here of a few songs made in tribute to Harlem. Enjoy!

Duke Ellington’s Harlem Airshaft

Harlem Renaissance set to Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher

Harlem Shuffle by The Rolling Stones

PictureBook Challenge Update: 122 (120)

PoC Reading Challenge Update: 49 (25)

Harlem, a poem by Walter Dean Myers. Pictures by Christopher Myers. Scholastic Press, New York, 1997. Book borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos were taken by me.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Highlights of November and Carnival of Children’s Literature |
  2. List of Novels in Verse and Poetry Books for Children and Round-up for January 2012 «

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