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By Broad Potomac Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital edited by Kim Roberts

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 356 pgs.
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By Broad Potomac Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital edited by Kim Roberts is a well crafted and contains some well-known poets as well as some obscured by history. In the preface, Roberts says, “These poets were born in, or drawn to, the nation’s capital as it grew from its founding, through such major upheavals as the Civil War, Reconstruction, and World War I. … But I have taken particular pleasure in seeking out poems by lesser-known poets as well, especially women, working-class writers, and writers of color.” The anthology also speaks about the homes in which these poets lived and whether they still exist today, as well as what they are today, with some of them homes to embassies of other nations. Roberts has clearly done her research and it is appreciated.

If there was ever a time for a literary historian, that’s today. Kim Roberts has done painstaking research and it it is evident in this look at 100 years of our nation’s history. Of note in the first part of the anthology is Emma Willard, who was a passionate advocate for women’s rights and dedicated her life to educating women and girls. I loved learning about this early advocate for women to be educated, especially about her speech in which she says that women are “primary existences … not the satellites of men.”

It was also interesting to note that a white man, John Pierpont, wrote a persona poem from the point of view of an enslaved man, which is found in the second part of the anthology. To my modern sensibilities, I was wondered aloud how on earth this white man could capture that point of view, especially a man who worked in finance. “Oft, in the Chilly Night,” is chilling in how it depicts an enslaved man almost at peace looking at the night and seeking God’s guidance, but by the end, it seems the man now simply wishes for the peace of death! But it is not the only persona poem from an enslaved person’s point of view written by a man.

Not only are these poems significant in demonstrating that ideas of equality were present in the early years of our nation, but they also show that even as the country evolved slowly there were very forward thinkers inside and outside government who wrote those ideas in poetry. And some of the homes of these poets became part of antislavery efforts and so many other efforts.

By Broad Potomac Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital edited by Kim Roberts is chock full of information about the poets, poems, the nation’s capital and so much more. You can dip into this collection at any time to explore the time period, and you’ll see different styles and topics throughout each second. As you move through the collection, the poems do take on more modern styles and are less antiquated in language. It does provide a good evolutionary look at poetry in Washington, D.C., and written by a variety of poets.

RATING: Cinquain

Check out the Gaithersburg Book Festival Panel discussion with Joseph Ross, Tara Campbell, Kim Roberts, and E. Ethelbert Miller:

Mailbox Monday #606

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital edited by Kim Roberts

Following her successful Literary Guide to Washington, DC, which Library Journal called “the perfect accompaniment for a literature-inspired vacation in the US capital,” Kim Roberts returns with a comprehensive anthology of poems by both well-known and overlooked poets working and living in the capital from the city’s founding in 1800 to 1930. Roberts expertly presents the work of 132 poets, including poems by celebrated DC writers such as Francis Scott Key, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ambrose Bierce, Henry Adams, and James Weldon Johnson, as well as the work of lesser-known poets–especially women, writers of color, and working-class writers. A significant number of the poems are by writers who were born enslaved, such as Fanny Jackson Coppin, T. Thomas Fortune, and John Sella Martin.

The book is arranged thematically, representing the poetic work happening in our nation’s capital from its founding through the Civil War, Reconstruction, World War I, and the beginnings of literary modernism. The city has always been home to prominent poets–including presidents and congressmen, lawyers and Supreme Court judges, foreign diplomats, US poets laureate, professors, and inventors–as well as writers from across the country who came to Washington as correspondents. A broad range of voices is represented in this incomparable volume.

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