In elegant tanka verse, veteran poet Medina focuses the spotlight on the beauty of black boys with the help of an all-star cast of illustrators.
A premier slate of illustrators, including Kesha Bruce, Floyd Cooper, Javaka Steptoe, Ekua Holmes, and more, give the poems life. The poems “celebrate the preciousness and creativity” of black boyhood, when the author finds that “Black boys are alive with wonder and possibility / With hopes and dreams.” The collection of tanka flows through topics such as family, spirituality, self-confidence, and the stressors of working-class life. While emphasizing their universal appeal, Medina cites that these collected poems were originally inspired by photographs of the residents of Anacostia, a historically black neighborhood threatened by gentrification in the southeast section of Washington, D.C. The title has its own genealogy, emerging from Wallace Steven’s 1952 poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and Raymond Patterson’s 1969 “Twenty-Six Ways of Looking at a Black Man,” a classic of the 1960s-era Black Arts Movement. The standout introduction, “Thirteen Ways,” attunes readers to the “three dimensions” of beauty inspired by these Anacostia black boys: “Black boys be bouquets of tanka / Bunched up like flowers / They be paint blotched into a myriad of colors / Across the canvases of our hearts.”
The fascinating illustrations matched with the dazzling imagery of Medina’s tanka make this a captivating release. (Poetry. 5-adult)