March 21, 2023
March 21 is World Poetry Day. In celebration, let’s chat about acclaimed children’s book author and poet, Nikki Grimes. Grimes has been writing books for more than 40 years and was awarded the 2022 Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. This award, named after children’s author Virginia Hamilton, is awarded bi-annually by the American Library Association’s Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table “to an African American author, illustrator, or author/illustrator for a body of his or her published books for children and/or young adults….” Given her long career, this award for Grimes is sure to add to her legacy.
Speaking of legacies, Grimes highlights writers from her hometown in Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, a children’s book for ages 10–14. Spotlighting women like Mae V. Cowdery, Anne Spencer, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and more, Grimes brings forgotten voices to the forefront.
Grimes’ own poems draw inspiration from the Harlem Renaissance poetry featured in her book. Using the Golden Shovel format, Grimes takes a line or a whole poem from the Harlem Renaissance poets and incorporates it as the last word in each line of the new poem. For instance, if I used this line:
Grimes is an adept poet for
Children providing an instance
Of melding poetic past and present, if
You enjoy this style, I
Recommend this form to be used
To create poems or reviews like this,
With someone else’s words at the end of each line.
Legacy creates a fascinating patchwork by introducing a creatively dynamic period of Black history, giving lesser-known poets a breath of life and adding a fresh and inspiring spin with her own poems. If you’re looking for a refreshing take on history, this might just be the book for you.
Youth Services Department
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