Yesterday, When I Was Young
The collection of poems was written when the author, now a senior citizen, was a young woman. The poems are about racism, the civil rights era, sex, love, self-introspection, youthful struggles, and Black America. At once eloquent, noble, and majestic, as well as hip, sassy, and earthy, the poems embody and reveal the author’s versatility in speaking and writing in many voices. The book of poems is for everyone—every race, class, and age—and for every mood. The poems reveal the author’s ability to speak in a voice as majestic as great poets as seen in “In the Garden” and “God Bless the Child,” and as earthy as blues singers as seen in “Go on, Man, and Git.” The provocative poem “You Will Rise One Morning” gives a unique and poetic insight into the creation of Black and White youth. The eloquently sensual poem “First Love” is rich in language and imagery. The author describes the early days of the silent protest of the men and women of all walks of life who marched for human rights during the civil rights era as seen in “She’ll Rise in Jubilee.” The poem summons White America to look deeply into her soul and discover new ways of thinking about the racial issue and ways of winning this moral victory. She writes succinctly, passionately, and profoundly in the brief messages in “The Earth Stood Still,” “Twin Vices,” “The Looking Glass,” and “One Moment in Time.” The book describes the joys and sorrows of the universal feelings of love. She gives advice to young people in their youthful struggles for coping with life and discovering the meaning of life. This is expressed in the poems “How Do You Make It?” “That’s Life,” “Problems,” and “You Can Do It.” In the section “Just Shuckin’ and Jivin’,” the author shows her ability to get down to earth and speak in a hip and sassy voice. The author takes a satirical look at Black America through the fictional characters in the section “Portraits in Black America.” The characterizations are stinging, noble, witty, and humorous. The characters in this section represent two classes: the affluent who live on Sugar Hill and the poor who live in Mud Town. On Sugar Hill, we meet the Uncle Tom college president, the pillar of society who has a romantic rendezvous with a young man soon after her beloved husband dies, the high school teacher who seduces his favorite student, the interracial couple, the honorable attorney who can’t get elected to office, and the dreamer who dreamed of holding political office. Across the way is Mud Town where we meet the maids and their white employers, some of whom are good and some bad. There’s Deacon John who lives a double life—one holy and one sinful. Don’t forget Ms. Tittie Boo, the sexpot. In both Sugar Hill and Mud Town, we meet characters who are honorable and dishonorable—just as it is with life. Through her poetry, the author has earned a place among the great truth-tellers of our time.
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