HERE I AM!: An Anthology of Poems Written by Young people in Some of America's Minority Groups by Virginia Olsen--Ed. Baron

HERE I AM!: An Anthology of Poems Written by Young people in Some of America's Minority Groups

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The young (6-20 years) American contributors to this anthology come from very different backgrounds (Black, Puerto Rican, Indian, Eskimo, Cuban, Japanese, Chinese) and their poems are of equally varied qualities. One of the more impressive, an Indian ""Crucifixion,"" is a quite determined effort to transpose cultural symbols (""Christ in concho belt"" accompanied by a Madonna moving toward her hogan). But, perhaps ironically, the better poems have little or incidental reference to the fact of minority membership, as in this haiku (""In the desert sand/ I could hear dry plants singing/ Lonely day and night"") or this short observation (""Walking/ Through the forest,/ Listening to the birds/ Singing their old country blues/ In pride""). Several reflect the influence of specific heroes: you can hear James Brown behind ""Yes/ I'll say it loud,/ A'm black/ and I'm proud"" and Langston Hughes must be the inspiration for ""What will become of a dream/ that a race of people bore/ deterred by death."" The few instances of refreshing imagery (""rain is/ God's washing machine"") are spelled by some revealing statements on the status quo (""I wish the world had a better chance""), some casual, several clearly disheartened, relatively few with substantial poetic energy. In the past year or so there have been several hocks containing the writings of children, especially those in inner-city schools: this has a broader cultural base (although the key is still economic disadvantagement and/or racial isolation) and can stand with Joseph's The Me Nobody Knows--pertinent in parts, often elliptic, rarely ambiguous. But the caliber is uneven and Miss McCully's illustrations are a disappointment--too literal and unimaginative.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1969
Publisher: Dutton