Black Women’s History Month Resources: Part 3

In 2014, the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta declared April as Black Women’s History Month. Pratt Library staff have highlighted related texts in the Humanities Department, Fine Arts and Music Department, and African American Department. Please enjoy the major contributions black women have made to religion, theatre, poetry, writing, political thought, activism, and art. Check out the first and second post for more suggested reading.

Click the cover to reserve your copy now.

Black Feminism

Included here are works by seminal scholars that consider black women’s historical contributions to the feminist movement. Several texts reflect on intersectionality- the theory that race, class, gender, and other social categorization creates overlapping identities that shape black women’s experiences in ways often very different from white women.  


Highlighted here are works by and about influential but lesser known black women, including early suffragists, Civil Rights leaders, Black Panthers, and contemporary cultural critics.


Additional anthologies, essays, and speeches reflecting on race, gender, feminism, and popular culture.

Checking out one of the resources? Share it on social media with #atthepratt.

Black Women’s History Month Resources: Part 2

In 2014, the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta declared April as Black Women’s History Month. Pratt Library staff have highlighted related texts in the Humanities Department, Fine Arts and Music Department, and African American Department. Please enjoy the major contributions black women have made to religion, theatre, poetry, writing, political thought, activism, and art. Check back for one more post this month and check out the first post here.

Click the cover to reserve your copy now.

Music, Theatre, and Film

Featured here are some texts by and about foundational black women musicians, film directors, and playwrights. Household names in the American music pantheon such as Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald share the list with lesser known legends such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Lizzie Douglas (aka Memphis Minnie). Peers in terms of talent, these women have received varying degrees of recognition as they persevered in a male dominated industry.


Checking out one of the resources? Share it on social media with #atthepratt.

Experience the Power of Poetry

by Mary Dzwonchyk, Information Services Librarian

Words have power. Throughout history, carefully crafted manifestos have influenced policy, swayed popular opinion, shifted social tides, and given birth to revolutions. A single well-turned phrase can capture the hearts of the world or turn a nation against its leader. Poetry is nothing more or less than words, words precisely chosen and artfully arranged to form linguistic music. The words of a well-crafted poem are needles that pierce the superficial skin of our self-made differences to touch the universal human heart that beats below.

Poetry has power, and that power has long been harnessed by activists and revolutionaries as a tool for raising awareness, inciting action, and lending support to the oppressed. Poets like Hayan Charara, Emmy Perez, and Nikki Giovanni write about their experiences with discrimination and injustice in order to raise awareness for societal problems, shaking awake complacent readers. “My phone is tapped my mail is opened,” Giovanni writes in “My Poem.” “[but] if they take my life it won’t stop the revolution.”

Some poets go further, issuing calls to action. “These walls oppression builds/Will have to go!” Langston Hughes declares in his poem, “I look at the world.” “Let us hurry, comrades/The road to find.” In “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes details the plight of the “poor white, fooled and pushed apart;” “the Negro bearing slavery’s scars;” and “the red man driven from the land.” He cries out to the downtrodden that “We must take back our land again, America!”

Other poets, like Gwendolyn Brooks and Diane Di Prima, offer encouragement, support, or practical advice to those who share the ongoing struggle against oppression. In her poem “Speech to the Young,” Brooks reassures those fighting toward progress that they “will be right./For that is the hard home-run. Live not for battles won…Live in the along.” Di Prima doles out survival tips in her poem “Revolutionary Letter #3,” advising those who find themselves in the midst of an uprising to “store water…they turned off the water/in the 4th ward for a whole day during the Newark riots.”

Some, like Denise Levertov, use poetry to explore ways to end oppression and create peace. In her poem “Making Peace,” Levertov dissects society as if it were itself a poem, applying literary vocabulary to her description of our world and the changes it must make in order for peace to flourish. “Peace, like a poem,” she writes, “can’t be known except/in the words of its making/grammar of justice/syntax of mutual aid.”

While literary activism harnesses the power of poetry on a national or even international level, poetry’s power can resonate on the individual level as well. For someone struggling with mental illness, for instance, there is catharsis to be found in articulating that struggle through poetry. By naming a thing – by describing it, making it tangible through language – you contain the thing, you pin it down, you own it. Poets like Sabrina Benaim, Bharath Divakar, and Yashi Brown draw on their personal struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, OCD and other conditions in crafting their poetry, and in so doing empower themselves to cope with and overcome those struggles. In her spoken-word piece “Explaining my depression to my mother,” Sabrina Benaim explains how “depression always drags me back to my bed/Until my bones are the forgotten fossils of a skeleton sunken city.”

The value of expressing one’s pain is not just found in the poet’s own empowerment at sharing their troubles with readers. Naming and describing mental illness through poetry helps to wear down the longstanding stigma surrounding mental illness. Poets who highlight ignored or misunderstood conditions lend validation and solidarity to readers with those conditions.

If you want to experience the power of poetry firsthand, you can find collected works by these and other poets in the Pratt’s collections. Click on the title below to reserve your copy and get you started. Happy #NationalPoetryMonth!

Reading a poetry book you checked out from the library? Share on social media with #atthepratt.

Artists & Love: Famous Art Couples and Their Work

by Flory Gessner, Fine Arts and Music Librarian

Art Visionaries by Mark Getlein and Annabel Howard. When happening upon Félix González-Torres’ work in a museum, the un-indoctrinated might not recognize the twin clocks, piles of candy, or strings of lights as portraits of his partner Ross. Read more about the art that has come to symbolize love during the AIDS crisis and the life of Félix González-Torres in Art Visionaries by Mark Getlein and Annabel Howard.

I Will Never Forget You: Frida Kahlo to Nickolas Muray, Unpublished Photographs and Letters by Salomón Grimberg. While Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had a notoriously stormy and treacherous marriage, Frida enjoyed a long and meaningful relationship with the Hungarian photographer Nickolas Muray. This book of photos and letters creates a portrait of an affair between a highly-mythologized artist and one of the pioneers of color photography.

The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: a Legacy of Invention by Donald  Albrecht. The married team of designers, Charles and Ray Eames, created some of the most unique and enduring furniture and architectural design of the last century. Explore the legacy of this productive partnership in a book assembled by the Library of Congress and the Vitra Design Museum in Germany.

Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies by Nell Beram & Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky. For nearly 50 years John Lennon received full credit for the song “Imagine,” which is directly based on the art of his widow, Yoko Ono. While formal credit has only recently been acknowledged, Ono’s conceptual art and place in the international experimental art scene spans decades. Read about Ono’s body of work and discover a new perspective on this prolific artist and her influence on art and music in this concise biography.

Widow Basquiat: A Love Story by Jennifer Clement. In Basquiat’s 1982 painting “A Panel of Experts,” the name Madonna is crossed out below the name Venus. The “Madonna,” may be referring to pop-star Madonna (whom Basquiat briefly dated), but Venus is referring to his long-time girlfriend Suzanne Mallouk. Read about their life together in Widow Basquiat by close friend of both, Jennifer Clement.

Elizabeth Catlett: An American Artist in Mexico by Melanie Herzog. American multi-hyphenate artist Elizabeth Catlett chose the ex-pat life when she fell in love with fellow artist Francisco Mora in the 1940s. Read about how her move to Mexico expanded her view on the Black Experience in North America, and her boundary-breaking life and career in this book.

When Marina Abramović Dies by James Wescott. While Marina Abramović is a highly visible presence in the contemporary art world, she began her career as part of a duo with an artist known solely as Ulay. Even their breakup was a dramatic performance piece: in 1988, after over 12 years together, they walked towards each other from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, met in the middle, and vowed never to see the other again.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: in /out studio by Christo. This catalog spans the dramatic and whimsical collaborations of the couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Together, they transcended the limits of sculpture, architecture, and performance for over thirty years.

Just Kids by Patti Smith. Though their relationship began as romantic and turned largely platonic, Just Kids is a love story about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Patti Smith’s memoir is a love letter to art, New York, poetry, and a magical time spent developing as an artist with her close friends.

Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture, edited by Aaron Rose, Christian Strike, Alex Baker, Arty Nelson and Jocko Weyland. In this tome of graffiti and youth culture, see how artist couples like Ed and Deanna Templeton, Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen, and Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson created diverse bodies of work that transcended old art world boundaries of street art, folk art, skateboarding, painting, photography, and video.

Contemporary Romance Poetry at the Library

by Mary Dzwonchyk, Information Services Librarian

February is upon us, which means Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate the season than by curling up with a book of love poems? Whether you’re happily coupled, contentedly single, or pining after an ex, nothing speaks to the universal human experience better than love poetry.

After all, haven’t we all had a sweetheart “like a red, red rose/That’s newly sprung in June”[1]?  Surely your lover “walks in beauty, like the night,”[2] “an angel beautiful and bright”[3] whose “eternal summer shall not fade”[4], right?

Or does all that sound a bit…too good to be true?

If you’ve ever been in love, you know it isn’t all “cloudless climes and starry skies.”[5] Idyllic scenes of blissful ecstasy make up roughly 5% of most romantic relationships; the remaining 95% comprises episodes of mundanity punctuated by small joys, silly quibbles and petty quarrels. This is the daily reality of love: the coffee spoons[6], the plums stolen from the icebox[7].

The following list is a sampling of works from contemporary poets who approach romance from this perspective, writing about love in all its raw, imperfect, mundane glory. All the collections listed below are available to check out from the Pratt.


Say So by Dora Malech

 Malech writes about love in rollicking verse, peppered with quick, alliterative trips of the tongue. Clever wordplay and unexpected imagery make Say So an engaging read, and ground poems like “Love Poem” and “The End” in gritty reality.

“Tell me you’ll dismember this night forever,

you my punch-drunking bag, tar to my feather.

More than the sum of our private parts, we are some

peekaboo, some peak and valley, some

Bright equation…”

(“Love Poem”)


Missing Persons by Hilary S. Jacqmin

Jacqmin presents romantic vignettes from all stages of life, from awkward teenage courtship (“The Breaking Wheel”), to post-adolescent sexual exploration (“Wedding Album”), to adult cohabitation (“Coupling”). Throughout, Jacqmin’s detail-rich, relatable diction allows the reader to share in her frustrations, sorrows, and joys.

“The bastard thing of dating is the boys

who take you bodily to the Renaissance Fair,

How they are all inexplicably named Ashley,

And how they encourage you to chaw

On turkey legs as leathery as blackjacks.”

(“The Breaking Wheel”)


The Uppity Blind Girl Poems by Kathi Wolfe

Wolfe offers a unique perspective on love and relationships, detailing her romantic experiences as a visually impaired lesbian. Through poems such as “Love at First Sight” and “Blind Porn,” Wolfe relates scenes of romance and sex in a delightfully down-to-earth voice brimming with humor and candor.

“They’d clicked that night

When they kissed in Washington Square Park,

Until this guy, panting, leered, I gotta take a pic
With my phone — two blind chicks making out.

(“Blind Porn”)


Tantalus in Love by Alan Shapiro

Shapiro offers beautifully melancholic meditations on love and loss: the slow fading away of attraction in a twenty-year marriage (“Anger”); the specter of lost love remaining after a break-up (“The Haunting”); and the cautious emergence of new love after loss (“Medley”).

“In the TV’s soft light, at the foot of the bed,

In pajama bottoms and a skimpy tank top,

Her lovely body that he hasn’t touched

In how long now? five months maybe? longer?”



I’d also like to recommend one of my personal favorite, albeit less contemporary, love poems: Sonnet 130, by William Shakespeare. Abandoning his usual flowery hyperbole, Shakespeare here takes a refreshingly realistic approach. He writes fondly of a mistress whose dull skin and reeking breath sharply contrast the rosy-cheeked, ethereal maidens populating his contemporaries’ work. Despite her flaws, his love for this decidedly un-goddess-like woman is “as rare/As any she belied with false compare.”[8]


[1] Robert Burns, “A Red, Red Rose”

[2] Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty, Like the Night”

[3] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Love”

[4] William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 18”

[5] Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty, Like the Night”

[6] T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

[7] William Carlos Williams, “This is Just to Say”

[8] William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 130”