This Waiting for Love
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VERNER D. MITCHELL is associate professor of English at the University of Memphis and coeditor of Dorothy West's Where the Wild Grape Grows: Selected Writings, 1930-1950 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2004).

Reviews

"It is with great pleasure and tue sense pf mission that editor Mitchell presents the first complete collection of Johnson's work, and exhilerating interpretive volume put together with the help of Johnson's daughter, screenwriter and playwright Abigail McGrath, who generously contributed her mother's previously unpublished poems and letters as well as family photographs... Johnson wrote boldly sensual and saucy poems in both traditional and free verse, wryly intelligent and gleamingly beautiful works in praise and earhiness and freedom from racism, sexism, and Puritanism. As frank, shrewd, fresh, and sexy now as then, Johnson's powems will at last take their proper place in American poetry."--Booklist "The poems are impressive, not only in qyality but in variety- ranging in length, from four lines to four pages; in form, from sonnet to free verse; in style, from the use of dialect to allusions to the Bible and Greek mythology; in tone, from appreciation, sensuousness, and playfulness to contempt; and, in theme, from nature to love and race."--Choice "Johnson brought wit, skill, and a keen sense of observation to her poetry. Verner Mitchell here collects Johnson's thirty-four previously published pieces along with thirteen more, composed after she retired publicly from writing. Mitchell rounds off his volume with an introduction positioning the poet within the framework of the Harlem Renaissance, a chronology that unveils elements of a jealously guarded public life, selected letters, and an afterword by Johnson's daughter."--American Literature "Johnson proves herself a lyricist of utmost delicacy yet steely precision; restraint attends her every meditation on love, race, and loss."--Washington Post Book World "Mitchell has performed a great service for students of the Harlem Renaissance with this thoroughly researched collection of Johnson's poems and correspondence."--Hermine Pinson, College of William and Mary "Johnson brought wit, skill, and a keen sense of observation to her poetry. Verner Mitchell here collects Johnson's thirty-four previously published pieces along with thirteen more, composed after she retired from public writing. Mitchell rounds off his volume with an introduction positioning the poet within the framework of the Harlem Renaissance, a chronology that unveils elements of a jealously guarded private life, selected letters, and an afterword by Johnson's daughter."--American Literature "Johnson proves herself a lyricist of utmost delicacy yet steely precision; restraint attends her every meditation on love, race and loss."--Washington Post Book World

It is with great pleasure and tue sense pf mission that editor Mitchell presents the first complete collection of Johnson's work, and exhilerating interpretive volume put together with the help of Johnson's daughter, screenwriter and playwright Abigail McGrath, who generously contributed her mother's previously unpublished poems and letters as well as family photographs... Johnson wrote boldly sensual and saucy poems in both traditional and free verse, wryly intelligent and gleamingly beautiful works in praise and earhiness and freedom from racism, sexism, and Puritanism. As frank, shrewd, fresh, and sexy now as then, Johnson's powems will at last take their proper place in American poetry.--Booklist

The poems are impressive, not only in qyality but in variety- ranging in length, from four lines to four pages; in form, from sonnet to free verse; in style, from the use of dialect to allusions to the Bible and Greek mythology; in tone, from appreciation, sensuousness, and playfulness to contempt; and, in theme, from nature to love and race.--Choice Johnson brought wit, skill, and a keen sense of observation to her poetry. Verner Mitchell here collects Johnson's thirty-four previously published pieces along with thirteen more, composed after she retired publicly from writing. Mitchell rounds off his volume with an introduction positioning the poet within the framework of the Harlem Renaissance, a chronology that unveils elements of a jealously guarded public life, selected letters, and an afterword by Johnson's daughter.--American Literature Johnson proves herself a lyricist of utmost delicacy yet steely precision; restraint attends her every meditation on love, race, and loss.--Washington Post Book World Mitchell has performed a great service for students of the Harlem Renaissance with this thoroughly researched collection of Johnson's poems and correspondence.--Hermine Pinson, College of William and Mary Johnson brought wit, skill, and a keen sense of observation to her poetry. Verner Mitchell here collects Johnson's thirty-four previously published pieces along with thirteen more, composed after she retired from public writing. Mitchell rounds off his volume with an introduction positioning the poet within the framework of the Harlem Renaissance, a chronology that unveils elements of a jealously guarded private life, selected letters, and an afterword by Johnson's daughter.--American Literature Johnson proves herself a lyricist of utmost delicacy yet steely precision; restraint attends her every meditation on love, race and loss.--Washington Post Book World

At age of 18, Johnson (1906-1995) won Opportunity magazine's first prize for poetry for 1925Äher cousin Dorothy West, one year younger, shared the prize for fiction with Zora Neale Hurston. The two moved to New York the following year, and helped spur the Harlem Renaissance. West remains well known, while Johnson, as Memphis University English professor Mitchell recounts, produced only a handful of poems, and had married and dropped out of the literary scene by the mid '30s. Nevertheless, the fact that this is the first single-author collection of her work is surprising, particularly given that Johnson continued to write, if sporadically, and that the poems are often quite good. In a preface, Rutgers professor Cheryl A. Wall (Women of Letters of the Harlem Renaissance) finds "the ease with which Johnson moves from the rigor of the sonnet to the free idiom of [a line like] `your shoulders jerking the jig-wa' is impressive"Äand she's right. Poems like the defiantly lyrical "Magula," the foreboding "A Southern Road" and the social realist "Regalia" ("Stokin' stoves/ Emptin' garbage/ ...Answerin' a million calls/ ...it sure wasn't no picnic/ Bein' a janitor") retain their immediacy. The era's overblown norms can intrude at times ("her pale palmed hands grasped the thin air in quest/ Until, like two antalgic words, they fell"), and the letters, photos and a biographical essay from daughter Abigail McGrath are more like padding than essential material. But readers who turn to the poems themselves will feel like they've discovered a vital American voice. (Dec.) Forecast: This collection will find its way onto some syllabi, and the poems will enjoy a much higher degree of anthologization as a result. But although constructed for the general reader, the book lacks the kind of major material needed to break into the trade market, though Black History Month could give it a boost via retail displays. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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