Black Nature
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Black Nature

Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

Title Details

Pages: 432

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 12/01/2009

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3431-8

List Price: $36.95


Pub Date: 12/01/2009

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3277-2

List Price: $120.95

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Published with the generous support of Friends Fund

Black Nature

Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

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Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated.

Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry—anything but nature poetry. This is particularly true when the definition of what constitutes nature writing is limited to work about the pastoral or the wild.

Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. This collection features major writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, and Melvin B. Tolson as well as newer talents such as Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, and Janice Harrington. Included are poets writing out of slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African American poetic movements.

Black Nature brings to the fore a neglected and vital means of considering poetry by African Americans and nature-related poetry as a whole.

A Friends Fund Publication.

No pleasures are more aesthetic than poetry and nature, so it is only natural that the two should unite. Editor Dungy here merges the worlds in a satisfying compilation that features over 100 poems by 93 African American poets, including celebrated writers June Jordan and Yusef Komunyakaa as well as newer artists like Remica L. Bingham and Indigo Moor.

—Library Journal

Just as nature is too often defined as wilderness when, in fact, nature is everywhere we are, our nature poetry is too often defined by Anglo-American perspectives, even though poets of all backgrounds write about the living world. . . . Dungy enlarges our understanding of the nexus between nature and culture, and introduces a 'new way of thinking about nature writing and writing by black Americans.'


One of the few anthologies that can be picked up and read like a novel cover to cover without metaphor overload. Black Nature is well thought out, well edited, and timed.

—Phati'tude Literary Magazine

Camille Dungy believes that white and black poets look differently at nature, with whites primarily noticing its beauty and blacks seeing its harshness. The view, Dungy says, is intensified by the black experience of slavery. An edgy mix of pastoral and political, her anthology, Black Nature, testifies to her point.

—Baltimore Sun

Dungy has compiled what might have taken a lifetime to assemble, yet here it is at this moment when our culture is assessing both its relationship to the natural world and its relationship with its black citizens. The timing could not be better for such a comprehensive look at what black poets have contributed to our understanding of nature. What excites about this anthology is that it is not only the richest and most comprehensive collection of poems by black poets I have read, it is the richest and most comprehensive collection of poems about nature that I have read. I believe the book should be widely read, taught, and talked about.

—Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Rope

Black Nature is the most exciting anthology of poetry I've read in years. In part this reflects the superb quality and remarkable range of Camille Dungy's selections. But it also comes from her decision to organize the book's contents into ten thematic "cycles" rather than chronologically. Each of the sections responds distinctively and dramatically to Lucille Clifton's question with which Dungy frames the entire volume: "why/is there under that poem always/ an other poem?" This collection will quickly become essential reading for poets and scholars, as well as for courses on American poetry and the literature of nature.

—John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home

Camille Dungy’s anthology, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, offers a fresh new vision of the African American poetic canon. In eliciting black poems that redefine the Western tradition of nature poetry, she has provided a new configuration for African American poetry, one that is postmodern and neo-pastoralist. Black Nature expands the horizon of black poetry from the frequently anthologized themes of blues, social commentary, and urban pastoral and demonstrates that black is also green, a theme consonant with the twenty-first century. Publishing many young poets writing since the post Black Arts Movement, Dungy’s Black Nature achieves a contemporary emphasis. It is ideal for introductory and advanced African American literature courses.

—Robert Chrisman, editor-in-chief, The Black Scholar

With extraordinary insight and substantial creative vision the rich synthesis of this anthology offers a strikingly original contour to the seasons of black poets and poetry. The critical wisdom accumulated here is as important as the beautifully structured cycles that Dungy uses as landscaped categories to contain these important poems. The methodology here is as graceful as it is rigorously intelligent. Dungy's anthology is a major contribution to twenty-first century Black Studies.

—Karla FC Holloway, author of BookMarks: Reading in Black and White—A Memoir


Outstanding Literary Work, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


Northern California Book Awards, Northern California Book Reviewers

Elizabeth Alexander

Alvin Aubert

Gerald Barrax

Remica Bingham

Cyrus Cassells

Estate of Lucille Clifton

Wanda Coleman

Toi Derricotte

Rita Dove

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Cornelius Eady

Thomas Sayers Ellis

Joanne Gabbin

Nikki Giovanni

Kendra Y. Hamilton

Terrance Hayes

Sean Hill

Langston Hughes

Major Jackson

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Douglas Kearney

Yusef Komunyakaa

Clarence Major

Mark McMorris

E. Miller

Kamilah Aisha Moon

Indigo Moor

Lenard Moore

Thylias Moss

Harryette Mullen

Gregory Pardlo

Cynthia Parker-Ohene

Carl Phillips

Stephanie Pruitt

Claudia Rankine

Tim Seibles

Evie Shockley

Patricia Smith

Jean Toomer

Natasha Trethewey

Alice Walker

Frank X Walker

Margaret Walker

Afaa Weaver

Al Young

Kwame Alexander

Tara Betts

Arna Bontemps

Shane Book

Gwendolyn Brooks

Sterling A. Brown

Melvin Dixon

Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson

James A. Emanuel

Jessie Redmon Fauset

Ross Gay

C. S. Giscombe

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Myronn Hardy

Michael S. Harper

Janice N. Harrington

Robert Hayden

George Moses Horton

Ravi Howard

Amaud Jamaul Johnson

Helene Johnson

James Weldon Johnson

Patricia Spears Jones

June Jordan

Ruth Ellen Kocher

Audre Lorde

devorah major

Shara McCallum

George Marion McClellan

Claude McKay

Marilyn Nelson

G. E. Patterson

Ishmael Reed

Ed Roberson

Mona Lisa Saloy

Reginald Shepherd

Anne Spencer

Amber Flora Thomas

Melvin B. Tolson

Askia M. Touré

Wendy S. Walters

Anthony Walton

Phillis Wheatley

Albery Whitman

Sherley Anne Williams

Richard Wright

Toni Wynn

About the Author/Editor

CAMILLE T. DUNGY is the University Distinguished Professor in English at Colorado State University. She is the author of four collections of poetry, including Trophic Cascade, winner of the Colorado Book Award. Dungy currently serves as the poetry editor for Orion magazine. She is also coeditor of From the Fishouse, and assistant editor of Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade. Dungy is the recipient of honors including the 2021 American Academy of Poets Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in both poetry and prose. Her poems and essays have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, more than forty other anthologies, and over one hundred print and online journals.