Friday, October 26, 2012


FREEDOM'S A CALLIN' ME is a series of poems, narrated by a runaway slave, chronicling his attempts to escape his life on a plantation in the south and travel north to freedom. Here area few samples:

the overseer’s got his hands busy
but I hear that whip bouncing off somebody’s back
bouncing like thousands of toddlers yelping
but it aint but one or two slaves aint picking quick enough
but he aint looking over here           
this here is my chance to get
right out of here…

he got us hanging like hogs or fresh beef
with us wiggling under
under a rawhide whip
like that going to scare us…
But they are also hopeful.

…this is a time to follow the north star
‘cause that’ll lead them to freedom somewhere ‘way from here
they sang about it/how the north star was goin to save them
they dreamed about it huddled in caves and under huge trees
& every night they were on their way north
closer to freedom
always followin the north star
This is not a poetry book for young children.The poems are vivid and graphic and strong, perfect for a middle or high school history class. I could also see myself using them in a writing lesson on voice or as an example for multigenre research reports. Or just simply reading the book aloud, because words this strong deserve to be/must be read aloud.

Ntozake Shanghe's words are accompanied by Rod Brown's gorgeous oil paintings.  You can see a few of those illustrations and poems, here,  at the publisher's website. (I believe I read somewhere that Shange wrote the poems after Brown did the paintings, but I could not find that to verify it this morning).  Shange and Brown have evidently paired up at least once before, in WE TROUBLED THE WATERS. I don't know that book, but I will definitely  be looking for it when I head to the library today.

This is a book I need to own. This is a book people need to know.


POETRY FRIDAY is at TEACHER DANCE. Head over to Linda's blog and enjoy some great poetry.


Linda B said...

I looked up some pictures on Amazon Carol, as I couldn't get your link to take me anywhere but Doctors Without Borders (interesting articles there however). The paintings are just beautiful aren't they? The book reminds me of Heart and Soul, the poetry and vibrant paintings. Thanks for sharing about this one.

Violet N. said...

Carol, this sounds fascinating. Is it a verse novel, or a more random collection of poems?

I read a few verse novels earlier this year and was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. It's a powerful genre in the hands of the right person.

Violet N.

Carol said...

Hmmm. Not sure how I did that, given that I have never been to the Doctors without Borders link. I think I fixed it now. Thanks for the update.

Carol said...

This isn't long enough to be a novel in verse, but it's definitely a collection of poems that tell a story.

Mary Lee said...

We've got lots of great poetry to read in the next few weeks, don't we?