Module 9 – Poetry/Short Stories/SLIS 5420
Myers, Walter Dean. (2004). Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices. New York: Holiday House.
Walter Dean Myers beautifully brings to life the voices,rythms, colors, shapes, sounds, sorrows, joys and lives of his beloved Harlem. Myers’ poetry sings – the musicality of his words bring to life boxers, musicians, preachers, nurses, parents, streetwalkers, x-ray technicians, ballplayers, mechanics, poets and teachers. Told in different voices (each poem is titled with a name, age, and occupation) and punctuated by vintage photographs, these poems blend together to create a community and evoke the spirit of a time and place. These honestly written poems bring to life the aspirations and heartbreaks of generations of Harlem’s people and weave a story of the struggles and triumphs of a society.
“Gr 6 Up-Myers’s skill with characterization and voice are apparent as he models Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology (Sagebrush, 1962) to bring Harlem to life for readers. A complexity of experiences comes through vividly in the varying poetic styles, from the Deacon Macon R. Allen: “Don’t give me no whispering church/Don’t be mumbling nothing to my Lord/You came in crying and you going out crying/So don’t be holding back the word” to 14-year-old Didi Taylor: “I’d love to live on Sugar Hill/Be as rich as I could be/Then all the folks from down the way/Would have to envy me/I’d stick my hincty pinky out/Put my hincty nose in the air/Get a hincty chauffeur to drive my car/And a white girl to do my hair.” Selected black-and-white photos from different time periods accompany some of the poems, but the connection to the subjects is often slight. While there are occasional references to historical events or people, this collection can be enjoyed without knowing them. The rich and exciting text will give readers a flavor of the multiplicity of times and peoples of Harlem, and the more than 50 voices will stay with them, resurfacing as their understanding of the context develops. Use this title to supplement classroom presentations, for individual or choral recitation, or simply suggest that teens find a good chair, get comfortable, and listen to what the people have to tell them.” -Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Linday, Nina. (2004). Review of Here in Harlem. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.titlewave.com
This book would be great to use for a modern poetry unit at the middle school or high school level. The format transcends what some readers might associate with poetry. Each poem tells the story of a person and gives insight into that person’s character. The book as a whole gives voice to an entire community. The personal, realistic nature of the poems would lend itself well to teaching writing and reading poetry and could be read aloud in class or even acted out. A challenge to students could be to have them write similar poems that portray their community, their friends, family, or town.
Booklist starred 11/1/04
Horn Book starred 4/1/05
Kirkus Review starred 11/15/04
Notable/Best Books (ALA) 1/1/05
Publisher’s Weekly starred 11/15/04
School Library starred 12/1/04