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Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems

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All of the published poetry of James Baldwin, including six significant poems previously only available in a limited edition

During his lifetime (1924–1987), James Baldwin authored seven novels, as well as several plays and essay collections, which were published to wide-spread praise. These books, among them Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time, Giovanni’s Room, and Go Tell It on the Mountain, brought him well-deserved acclaim as a public intellectual and admiration as a writer. However, Baldwin’s earliest writing was in poetic form, and Baldwin considered himself a poet throughout his lifetime. Nonetheless, his single book of poetry, Jimmy’s Blues, never achieved the popularity of his novels and nonfiction, and is the one and only book to fall out of print.

This new collection presents James Baldwin the poet, including all nineteen poems from Jimmy’s Blues, as well as all the poems from a limited-edition volume called Gypsy, of which only 325 copies were ever printed and which was in production at the time of his death. Known for his relentless honesty and startlingly prophetic insights on issues of race, gender, class, and poverty, Baldwin is just as enlightening and bold in his poetry as in his famous novels and essays. The poems range from the extended dramatic narratives of “Staggerlee wonders” and “Gypsy” to the lyrical beauty of “Some days,” which has been set to music and interpreted by such acclaimed artists as Audra McDonald. Nikky Finney’s introductory essay reveals the importance, relevance, and rich rewards of these little-known works. Baldwin’s many devotees will find much to celebrate in these pages.

ISBN-13: 9780807084861

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Beacon Press

Publication Date: 04-01-2014

Pages: 120

Product Dimensions: 5.13(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.10(d)

James Baldwin (1924–1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of America’s foremost writers. His writing explores palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-twentieth-century America. A Harlem, New York, native, he primarily made his home in the south of France. He is the author of several novels and books of nonfiction, including Notes of a Native Son, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, If Beale Street Could Talk, Just Above My Head, The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, and The Evidence of Things Not Seen, and of the poetry collection Jimmy’s Blues.

Read an Excerpt

Playing by Ear, Praying for Rain: The Poetry of James Baldwin

Excerpted from "Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems"
by .
Copyright © 2014 James Baldwin.
Excerpted by permission of Beacon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction by Nikky Finney ix

Jimmy’s Blues

Staggerlee wonders 3
Song (for Skip) 20
Munich, Winter 1973 (for Y.S.) 26
The giver (for Berdis) 30
3.00 a.m. (for David) 31
The darkest hour 32
Imagination 32
Confession 33
Le sporting-club de Monte Carlo (for Lena Horne) 40
Some days (for Paula) 41
Conundrum (on my birthday) (for Rico) 44
Christmas carol 46
A lady like landscapes (for Simone Signoret) 52
Guilt, Desire and Love 53
Death is easy (for Jefe) 55
Mirrors (for David) 58
A Lover’s Question 60
Inventory/On Being 52 64
Amen 71

Other Poems

Gypsy 75
Song For The Shepherd Boy 85
For A. 87
For EARL 89
Untitled 91
BALLAD (for Yoran) 92