An annotated collection of poems from the Harlem Renaissance and beyond, presented by a master teacher and a terrific storyteller. Exhorting, cajoling, willing readers to listen and to hear, Giovanni (Put a Genie in a Jar, p. 447, etc.) starts each chapter with a poem or poems from an African-American writer such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Margaret Walker, or Ishmael Reed, covering 23 poets in all. She discusses, briefly, the lives of these writers, the context of African-American history, and the structure and sense of the poems in short chapters. The book is a conversation--readers can almost hear Giovanni talking--as she anticipates questions, clarifies obscurities, and utterly beguiles with her passion and personal feelings for the writers. Much of the poetry is painful to read: Ntozake Shange on female genital mutilation; Gwendolyn Brooks on the murder of Emmett Till. There is an underlying joy, however, in tune with the music of the language. This is a fine collection whatever the need: for poetry shelves, black history collections, social consciousness-raising sessions, cultural literacy courses--or for anyone who likes the sight of words that shimmy on the page.