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THE BLOCK by Langston Hughes


by Langston Hughes & illustrated by Romare Bearden

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-670-86501-X
Publisher: Viking

In a work published in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the words and images of two Harlem Renaissance artists combine in a jazzy portrait of life on a Harlem block. The juxtaposition of poems—dating from the 1920s through the 1950s- -with portions of ``The Block''—a collage Bearden created in 1971- -give both works new spark; in fact, the two seem made for each other. The poems act as small spyglasses, enhancing details of the larger collage or giving new meaning to the visual image; Hughes (The Book of Rhythms, p. 1111, etc.) narrates events—a funeral, a love song, a lonely man's lament—that comprise the larger saga of the neighborhood. Cropped closeups of portions of Bearden's art individualize characters, drawing the eyes of young readers in. An introduction by Bill Cosby emphasizes the importance of neighborhood blocks as reflected in each artist's work. Though biographical pieces in the book acknowledge Hughes's acquaintance with Bearden in the 1930s, little is said of their influence on each other. Like Ntozake Shange's i live in music (1994, not reviewed), a continuous poem, illustrated by many of Bearden's works, this also shows readers how poetry and collage are not only related, but probably siblings. (Picture book/poetry. 4+)