Native poets, civil rights books are beneficial studying in April

Beth Gylys’ Body Braille (Iris Press, $ 16), a professor at Georgia State University, focuses on the five senses and covers a variety of topics from rape to world hunger. “A Friendship” and “Riding Lessons” explore bittersweet memories of childhood friendships. “Backwash” is an anxious meditation on grief that emphasizes the knowledge that we can never fully know a person, even those with whom we are familiar.

Reading these two books, I noticed that poetry is like literary alchemy. Poets are able to evoke such deep emotional responses with so few words. This is a special kind of gift worth recognizing not just during National Poetry Month but all year round.

Both Bloemeke and Gylys are nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award. The winners will be announced on June 12 on Facebook Live at

For those who prefer to read their poems aloud, the Academy of American Poets is offering a free, virtual gala starting April 29th at 7:30 p.m. Chaired by Meryl Streep, poetry readings are offered by poet Richard Blanco, actress / director Regina, King, singer / songwriter Lucinda Williams, actress / singer Lauren Ambrose and US poet Joy Harjo among others. To register, go to


Two highly anticipated civil rights books will be published this month on a different topic.

Busse Are a Comin ‘(St. Martin’s Press, $ 26.99) is a treatise by Atlanta-based Charles Person on his experience as the youngest freedom rider. Joining civil rights leaders John Lewis and CT Vivian among others, Person was only 18 years old in 1961 when he got on the bus in Washington, DC to test the Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional to interstate buses To separate restaurants, waiting room terminals, toilets and cars.

Contribution from St. Martin's Press

Contribution from St. Martin’s Press

In collaboration with Richard Rooker, “Buses Are a Comin ‘” recorded the political coming of age of a person during the civil rights movement. A newcomer to Morehouse, he saw Martin Luther King Jr. protest over lunch at Rich’s in 1960. Person was frustrated that the organizers had restricted active participation to high school students only, but it whetted the appetite to get involved. He joined the Freedom Riders seven months later and put his peaceful protest training into practice when he was beaten by a crowd of segregationists in Birmingham, Alabama. One person’s memory is a sobering firsthand account of that historic bus ride.

And in a major literary event, a never-before-seen Richard Wright novel was published. “The Man Who Lived Underground” (Library of America, $ 22.95) is a terrifying account of an innocent black man whom police have accused of double homicide. While his wife is giving birth to their child, the man is beaten and tortured until he signs a false confession. In an act of desperation, he then escapes into the city’s sewers.

Contribution from the Library of America

Contribution from the Library of America

The book contains graphic depictions of police brutality that were erased when the story was originally published as a short story in 1944. Now the Library of America publishes them intact for the first time, as Wright intended. This is followed by the unabridged publication of Wright’s novel “Native Son” and memoir “Black Boy” by the Library of America after it was discovered that portions of these books had been censored when they were originally published.

Only 154 pages long, “The Man Who Lived Underground” is accompanied by Wright’s essay “Memories of My Grandmother” and an afterword by the author’s grandson, Malcolm Wright.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. [email protected]

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