April 15, 2022
I chose Jessie Redmon Fauset's "Rondeau" for Poetry Friday today. This wonderful spring poem begins,
When April's here and meadows wide Once more with spring's sweet growths are pied I close each book, drop each pursuit, And past the brook, no longer mute, I joyous roam the countryside.
You can read the rest at the Poetry Foundation.
"Rondeau" was one of my favorite poems in the book Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury Books for Children, 2021). Grimes writes, "It should come as no surprise...that the names of gifted, even prolific women poets of the Harlem Renaissance are little known, especially as compared to their male counterparts." She anthologizes a number of works from that historic period, plus she includes poems of her own inspired by those of Fauset, Anne Spencer, Ida Rowland, and others. It's a gem of a book, beautifully illustrated by contemporary Black women artists.
In her role as literary editor of The Crisis (the official publication of the NAACP), Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961), published Langston Hughes's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," among other important poems. Morgan Jerkins writes in the New Yorker, "though [Fauset] helped to usher in a crucial period of artistic flourishing, and was herself a vital participant in that flourishing, she was not destined to get much credit for it." (Jerkins' fascinating piece can be found here.) I really like Grimes' idea of getting the word out to younger people about the women of the Harlem Renaissance; the rest of us readers benefit, too.
The Poetry Friday roundup for April 14, 2022, is at Matt Forrest Esenwine's blog. See you there!
I sometimes wish I'd had more time in grad school - the semester I took female poets of the 18th century a course on female poets of the early 20th c. wasn't offered, but I suspect I might have learned a bit about these women within it. I imagine this entire book would make a perfect jumping off text for a section of the class. I hadn't heard of this one, so glad you covered it here!!
Posted by: tanita | April 15, 2022 at 06:28 PM
Beautiful poem, Susan! I haven't read her work before, but I really enjoyed this - the rondeau is a form I've yet to tackle, and I need to do so some day!
Posted by: Matt Forrest Esenwine | April 15, 2022 at 07:49 PM
Tanita, thanks for dropping by! In her book, Nikki Grimes introduced me to a number of poets I’d like to learn more about. One source she mentioned is “Shadowed Dreams: Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance,” edited by Maureen Honey (Rutgers University press, 2006).
Matt, thanks for visiting! I enjoyed hearing about Leslie’s new book. If our library doesn’t have it, I’ll request it.
Posted by: Susan | April 15, 2022 at 10:28 PM
Susan, thank you for introducing me to this poet. Her poem is beautiful. I can imagine how exciting it was back then to be woman poet in the Harlem Renaissance. I have never heard of Fauset before. I need to read Nikki's book.
Posted by: Carol Varsalona | April 16, 2022 at 12:35 AM
You're so welcome, Carol. I do recommend Legacy! It's such a beautiful package of a book, with lots of attention to design. Even the paper is high-quality.
Posted by: Susan | April 16, 2022 at 02:09 PM
A perfect choice for the month! I feel the same way: "I joyous roam the countryside" - Thank you!
Posted by: PATRICIA J FRANZ | April 16, 2022 at 10:19 PM
You’re welcome, Patricia! Since April is the start of bird-migration rush here in the northeast, I have been doing the same! Joyous rush the countryside with binoculars in hand!
Posted by: Susan | April 17, 2022 at 09:28 AM
Thanks for this post and for this overview of Jessie Redmon Fauset's literary contributions.
Posted by: Elisabeth | April 17, 2022 at 12:19 PM
My pleasure. Thank you for visiting, Elisabeth!
Posted by: Susan | April 17, 2022 at 04:24 PM