These poems stem from Coles's studies of the lives of poor black children in the South, and Native-American children in the Southwest and Alaska. In his Introduction to the first section of the book, Coles writes, "The words in this section tend to be soldiers." These tough, sad, hopeful, and militant poems give voice to children and adults on the firing-line during the civil rights movement of the 1960's. The poems in the second section, which arise from Coles's work among Native-Americans, are quieter in tone, more radiant, lyrical, and even transcendent.


Coles's poetry is direct and easily accessible. The civil rights poems are extremely powerful; for example, in "To Get the Pitch," Coles speaks in the voice of a black mother in New Orleans: "The first thing a black mother / has to do when her kids / play in the street / is teach them about the white man / and what he expects."

Other particularly strong poems include "Inside, Outside," "Mostly It's Buried," "The Goddam Street," and "A Song." Coles responds with great lyricism to the people and places of New Mexico and Alaska. Several of these poems are gems; for example, "The Sign," "Aspens," "Adobe," "Summer," "Nushagak Sleep," "Ice Floe," and "Hungry Winter."


Univ. of Pittsburgh Press

Place Published

Pittsburgh, Pa.



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