james baldwin

James Baldwin was one of America’s finest essayists. Perhaps the finest. He was a wonderful novelist, too. As a poet, though, he is far less known. Yet, as Nikky Finney writes in the introduction to Jimmy’s Blues, a new collection of Baldwin’s poems, he

felt close to this particular way of saying. Poetry helped thread his ideas from the essays, to the novels, to the love letters, to the book reviews, stitching images and feeling into music, back to his imagination. From the beginning of his life to the very end, I believe Baldwin saw himself more poet than anything else: The way he cared about language. The way he believed language should work.

It is difficult to read Baldwin’s essays or novels without being struck by their poetry and musicality. As a poet, Finney observes, Baldwin,

was incessantly paying attention and always leaning into the din and hum around him, making his poems from his notes of what was found there, making his outlines, his annotations, doing his jotting down, writing from the mettle and marginalia of his life, giving commentary, scribbling, then dispatching out to the world what he knew and felt about that world.

james baldwin 2

Published by Beacon PressJimmy’s Blues brings together all of Baldwin’s published poetry, including six poems previously only available in a limited edition collection. Here are two poems as a taster:



               when you send the rain,
               think about it, please,
               a little?
               not get carried away
               by the sound of falling water,
               the marvelous light
               on the falling water.
              am beneath that water.
              It falls with great force
              and the light
               me to the light.


          No, I don’t feel death coming.
          I feel death going:
          having thrown up his hands,
          for the moment.
          I feel like I know him
          better than I did.
          Those arms held me,
          for a while,
          and, when we meet again,
          there will be that secret knowledge
          between us.

Excerpted from Jimmy’s Blues & Other Poems by James Baldwin. Copyright 2014. Excerpted with permission by Beacon Press.


Buy the book

baldwin jimmy's blues 2
…from Amazon in Britain or the USA.
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