Read Jimmy's Blues: Selected Poems by James Baldwin Free Online
Book Title: Jimmy's Blues: Selected Poems|
The author of the book: James Baldwin
Edition: St. Martin's Press
Date of issue: December 1st 1990
ISBN 13: 9780312051044
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 922 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.4
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Woo hoo! After reading a lot of mediocre to downright bad poetry in the last few days, I am happy that James Baldwin still remains a light in the dark. I will shout it from the rooftops until I die: James Baldwin is brilliant and deserves more attention.
I know that he is well-loved in some circles, but I bet only few people even know that he did not only write essays and novels, no, he also wrote poetry. Not much of it, sure... but the few poems we have ooze intelligence and quick-wittedness. Get out of town.
Get out of town.
Get out of town.
And don't let nobody
turn you around. During his lifetime (1924-1987), James Baldwin authored seven novels, as well as several plays and essay collections, which were published to wide-spread praise. However, Baldwin’s earliest writing was in poetic form, and Baldwin considered himself a poet throughout his lifetime. Nonetheless, his single book of poetry, Jimmy’s Blues, never achieved the popularity of his novels and nonfiction, and is the one and only book to fall out of print – which is just a damn shame.
Jimmy's Blues , only a selection of his poetry, includes 17 of his poems, and in them he really isn't pulling any punches. Known for his relentless honesty and startlingly prophetic insights on issues of race, gender, class, and poverty, Baldwin is just as enlightening and bold in his poetry as in his famous novels and essays. I would even argue that he is even more relentless in these poems – he doesn't shy away from calling people out and using quite explicit insults. It was really refreshing to see this dare-devil side of the younger Baldwin.
My favorite poem is Staggerle wonders, a long narrative poem about racial injustice and the reality of the black man in America. 1
I always wonder
what they think the niggers are doing
while they, the pink and alabaster pragmatists,
and defining and re-defining and re-aligning
nobly restraining themselves, meanwhile,
from blowing up that earth
which they have already
blasphemed into dung:
The natives will have nothing to complain about,
indeed, they will begin to be grateful,
will be better off than ever before.
They will learn to defer gratification
and save up for things, like we do.
Oh, yes. They will.
We have only to make an offer
they cannot refuse
This flag has been planted on the moon:
it will be interesting to see
what steps the moon will take to be revenged
for this quite breathtaking presumption. I appreciate it so much that Baldwin stresses, in almost every single work of his, that the United States of America as they are today were build on Native blood. He is condemning gun violence – a topic that is, frustratingly, more relevant than ever – and in general he is just calling out the hypocrisy of white folks: No, said the Great Man's Lady,
I'm against abortion,
I always feel that's killing somebody.
Well, what about capital punishment?
I think the death penalty helps.
Up to our ass in niggers
on Death Row.
don't you cry for me! He is also dissecting the damaging consequences of a society who considers themselves color-blind, a society who is unwilling to face the harsh truth, a society unwilling to accept their crimes. I honestly got goosebumps reading this first poem. You can really feel Baldwin's anger and frustration. For the first time I felt that he was closer to Malcolm than he was to Martin (which is saying something because the older Baldwin was all for finding your love for your oppressor). Quite a lot has been going on
behind your back, and,
if your phone has not yet been disconnected,
it will soon begin to ring:
informing you, for example, that a whole generation,
in Africa, is about to die,
and a new generation is about to rise,
and will not need your bribes,
or your persuasions, any more:
not your morality. I have been literally hollering throughout the whole poem but the passage that made me scream the loudest was: your innocence costs too much
and we can't carry you on our books
or our backs, any longer Hot damn, James, his words really are his greatest weapon... like how am I going to carry on living life with these words ingrained in my mind???
The other poems weren't nearly as strong as Staggerlee wonders but in them Baldwin was still able to showcase his skill, not only of writing beautiful verses but also of composing poignant punchlines.
Let's take for example the poem Song in which Baldwin threatens the white man: I'm going to tell God
how you treated
one of these days. HOLY SHIT! Is there a better way to call out the hypocrisy of the Christian Church as an institution. No? Yeah, didn't think so. The young Baldwin was so motherfucking ruthless and I am all here for that. I am really sad that this anger didn't translate to all of his pieces of fiction and nonfiction. And it's not the case that Baldwin's poetry is exclusively about his anger, no, there are many moments of tenderness in which he talks about the strenght and unity of black communities and that they're all in this together.
Unsurprisingly, homosexuality is also a theme in his poetry. He talks about the shame and guilt that go along with it, and how blacks are still struggling to accept homosexuality as natural. In general, he is talking about many day-to-day struggles that black people in his community faced. Women considering prostitution in order to provide for their family. Black bodies being criminalized and incarcerated. The struggle of believing in God, a better life, believing in anything for that matter.
In conclusion, Baldwin is just brilliant and you'll never forget him and his words of wisdom [and anger] once you let him into your heart. Big fat recommendation from me! Give Baldwin's poetry a shot!
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Read information about the authorJames^Baldwin
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. Go Tell It on the Mountain, his first novel, is a partially autobiographical account of his youth. His essay collections Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, and The Fire Next Time were influential in informing a large white audience.
From 1948, Baldwin made his home primarily in the south of France, but often returned to the USA to lecture or teach. In 1957, he began spending half of each year in New York City. His novels include Giovanni's Room, about a white American expatriate who must come to terms with his homosexuality, and Another Country, about racial and gay sexual tensions among New York intellectuals. His inclusion of gay themes resulted in a lot of savage criticism from the Black community. Eldridge Cleaver, of the Black Panthers, stated the Baldwin's writing displayed an "agonizing, total hatred of blacks." Baldwin's play, Blues for Mister Charlie, was produced in 1964. Going to Meet the Man and Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone provided powerful descriptions of American racism. As an openly gay man, he became increasingly outspoken in condemning discrimination against lesbian and gay people.
On November 30, 1987 Baldwin died from stomach cancer in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France. He was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, near New York City.
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