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.
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.”
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.
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?
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
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.