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The Collected Poems of Lorenzo Thomas


You asked me to sing
Then you seemed not
To hear; to have gone out
From the edge of my voice

And I was singing
There I was singing
In a heathen voice
You could not hear
Though you requested

The song—it was for them.
Although they refuse you
And the song I made for you
Tangled in their tongue

They wd mire themselves in the spring
Rains, as I sit here folding and
Unfolding my nose in your gardens

I wouldn't mind it so bad

Each word is cheapened
In the air, sounding like
Language that riots and
Screams in the dark city

Thoughts they requested
Concepts that rule them

Since I can't have you
I will steal what you have

Lorenzo Thomas (1944-2005) was the youngest member of the Society of Umbra, predecessor of the Black Arts Movement. The Collected Poems of Lorenzo Thomas is the first volume to encompass his entire writing life. His poetry synthesizes New York School and Black Arts aesthetics, heavily influenced by blues and jazz. In a career that spanned decades, Thomas constantly experimented with form and subject, while still writing poetry deeply rooted in the traditions of African American aesthetics. Whether drawing from his experiences during the war in Vietnam, exploring his life in the urban north and the southwest, or parodying his beloved Negritude ancestors, Thomas was a lyric innovator.

About the Authors

LORENZO THOMAS (1944-2005), was a critic and poet, and published volumes of scholarship as well as numerous essays, including several histories of the Umbra group. ALDON LYNN NIELSEN is the author of Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation. He is the George and Barbara Kelly professor of American literature at Penn State University. LAURA VRANA is assistant professor of English specializing in African American literature and poetry at the University of South Alabama.


"This book is a collected poems of the complex and gifted poet Lorenzo Thomas...the editors have done contemporary literature a great service by giving us all of Thomas's poetry in one big package."—William J. Harris, editor of The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader

"This generous tome of too-hidden genius griot-bodhisattva Lorenzo Thomas shimmers with an alert curiosity and humanity's tender blues. An important figure of second generation New York School practice as well a son of Black Arts and companion to Umbra, Thomas has never wavered in his celebration of ancestors from Pharoah Hohemreb to Leopold Senghor to Jimi Hendrix. "Stir it up" Thomas, writes, and he does. This Collected is a magnificent intervention of poetry's orality in a radical time he was very much a part of."—Anne Waldman, author of Trickster Feminism

"Lorenzo Thomas is an essential poet of postwar America. His sumptuous poetic inventiveness is grounded in searing social consciousness. Through dazzling sound patterning and the deft interplay of conflicting voices and discourses, Thomas proves the necessity of aesthetic pleasure for waking us from the slumber of complacency."—Charles Bernstein, author of Pitch of Poetry

"It is beautiful and amazing to have access to the vast range of invention, intensity, and surprise that Lorenzo Thomas's poetry offers. His contribution is indispensable, immeasurable and—even now, even here—unbound."—Fred Moten, author of The Little Edges

Wesleyan University Press
Wesleyan Poetry Series

9780819578990 : the-collected-poems-of-lorenzo-thomas-thomas-nielsen-vrana
Paperback / softback
498 Pages
$26.95 USD
9780819578983 : the-collected-poems-of-lorenzo-thomas-thomas-nielsen-vrana
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$85.00 USD
9780819579003 : the-collected-poems-of-lorenzo-thomas-thomas-nielsen-vrana
Electronic book text
498 Pages
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