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During his lifetime, James Baldwin authored seven novels, as well as several plays and essay collections, many of which were published to widespread praise. Baldwin’s novels and essays brought him respect as a public intellectual and admiration as a writer. However, Baldwin’s earliest writing was in poetic form, and some argue that even Baldwin considered himself a poet first and foremost. One can see this inclination in the poetic rhythms of his prose. Nonetheless, his single book of poetry, Jimmy’s Blues, published only a few short years before his death in 1987, never attracted as much of the spotlight as his novels and nonfiction did and has been unavailable for many years.
This new collection celebrates Baldwin the poet. Including the nineteen poems from Jimmy’s Blues, the collection also features his poems from a limited-edition art book called Gypsy, of which only 325 copies were ever printed. Known for his relentless honesty and startlingly prophetic insights on issues of race, class, poverty, and sexual orientation, Baldwin is just as enlightening and bold in his poetry as in his famous novels and essays.
“I am completely indebted to Jimmy Baldwin’s prose. It liberated me as a writer. These poems overwhelm without competing with his prose and I am grateful to have this collection.”
“These poems are morning stars to be inhaled everyday as we strip search our eyes for new memory. Thank you Brother Jimmy for the breath of your poems.”
“James Baldwin was born for truth. It called upon him to tell it on the mountains, to preach it in Harlem, to sing it on the Left Bank in Paris. His honesty and courage would lead him to see truth and to write truth in poetry, drama, fiction and essay. He was a giant.”
“Black, gay, proud, and courageously direct, Baldwin wrote poetry throughout his life, and poetry was the current that powered his novels, essays, and plays. This volume reclaims his blazing, embracing collection, Jimmy’s Blues (1983), as well as poems previously found only in a limited edition art book, and they are as potent and significant now as then. …. Baldwin writes perceptively and poignantly of time and history, homosexuality as a crime, longing and love, and poses riddles of conscience and spirit. His humor is lashing and sly, his sexiness bold and lithe. Baldwin is thunderous and crooning, rueful and cutting, prayerful and ferocious, questioning and questing. “—Booklist