I love reading a poetry collection in many voices, and Walter Dean Myers’ HERE IN HARLEM is a masterful example of this. In his introduction, Myers writes that he was inspired by Yeats, Synge, and Spoon River Anthology to write about his beloved neighborhood in Harlem. “As the idea for this book ripened in my mind, I began to imagine a street corner in Harlem, the Harlem of my youth, and the very much alive people who would pass that corner. So began Here in Harlem.”

About ten years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Myers and he signed my copy of HERE IN HARLEM — a treasured book on my shelf.

I’m working on a poetry collection in many voices. It takes me down research rabbit holes and illuminates forgotten corners of history. I’m taking it slow. Each poem allows me to step into the shoes of another person, to see the world through their eyes.


Myers did this beautifully in HERE IN HARLEM, whether that was a newsstand worker, a little girl, or a tired nurse from Harlem Hospital (in a poem that could have been written in the time of Coronavirus!).

HERE IN HARLEM is a poetic gift I return to again and again. If you were going to write a poetry collection in many voices set in one location, I wonder where it would be.

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share their love of all things poetry. This week, Tabatha hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at The Opposite of Indifference blog.  Check out the feast of poetry there today!


  1. bmagee10 says:

    Ooh, thanks for the introduction to this fascinating book. I look forward to taking it slow and “to see the world through their eyes”. Thank you! 🙂

  2. Janet F. says:

    A thought-provoking post, Mary. I “owe” you a reply to your email! Your question is a good one. I have an idea, and like you, it would take me a while to really feel like I would do well by all the people I’d write about. Kate DiCamillo on her website had (hopefully still) a description of being a writer. It was in the listening and looking for the details. That is a skill a poet needs to possess. And that innate curiosity about the world and everything in it.

  3. You’re so right, Janet, about how the tiny details can carry so much weight… like in Walter Dean Myers’ “Nurse” poem, the clock at the hospital– “not quite centered on the not quite/yellow walls.”

  4. Linda Mitchell says:

    This is a gorgeous book. I have it in my library. I’ve gone to long since visiting…thanks for the nudge.

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