This Friday, we take a look at the Harlem Renaissance commemorative stamps. We also take a look at poetry parties in lockdown.
Postal Service in US celebrates the Harlem Renaissance Voices
A new set of postal stamps has been issued by the US Postal Service. The set of four stamps celebrates the legacies and lives of four of the greatest voices from the movement. There are stamps honouring Nella Larsen the novelist, Alain Locke the writer, educator and advocate for the arts, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg the historian and bibliophile and finally Anne Spencer the poet.
The stamps, which are a nod to the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, were released yesterday and were available to buy both in the post office and online. Each of the stamps features a pastel stylised portrait of the four individuals that have been created using historic photographs. There are also background elements provided by African-inspired motifs. The stamps have been designed to portray the increased interest that all the artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance had in the culture and history of Africa.
Following World War I, a significant number of African Americans moved to the Harlem area of New York City and helped to establish the area as a bustling centre for black life. The area was soon known for its legendary social scene and the music and literature that was produced there. Over time, the Harlem Renaissance became firmly established as a driving force in literature and the arts where African Americans were concerned.
Anne Spencer was well known for the unconventional imagery that she used in her poetry; imagery that evokes gardening, nature, myth and religion. The poet was born in 1882 and died in 1975. She offered African American intellectuals and writers a haven in her garden and house in Virginia. Her contribution went just some of the way in proving that the cultural and artistic life of the Harlem Renaissance was not confined to New York City.
Poetry Parties in Lockdown
A poet who specialises in wellbeing and health has seen her poetry machine really take off during the current pandemic.
The Poetry Machine was created by Beth Calverley in 2015 as a way to help people be able to put into words what they were feeling. During the lockdown, Calverley has turned to working online, helping those people who had a family member in the hospital where she is the “Poet in Residence”.
The poems that she has been writing capture the thoughts and emotions of the staff, patients and their loved ones.
Using Zoom, phone calls and emails Calverley has set up poetry parties to help people to come together and take part in the poetry experience. The current need is for poems that remind the individual of about those things and people who mean something to them. It is a positive way of recording the journey that they are undertaking in isolation.
Each session begins with a chat to see how people are feeling and what they are thinking and then she helps them to create a poem which is read out loud. Some people book a poetry party for themselves whilst others have been gifted them by friends.