This is the 2005 winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:
Myers, Walter Dean. 2004. Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices. New York: Holiday House.
Here is a Digital Trailer for HERE IN HARLEM created by graduate student Amanda Boswell and available at YouTube here.
Here is a Readers Guide created for HERE IN HARLEM by graduate student Lori Rarden.
Bibliography: Myers, Walter Dean. 2004. Here in Harlem: poems in many voices. New York: Holiday House. ISBN: 0-8234-1853-7.
Recommended Reading Age: Grades 5 and up.
Summary: A collection of 54 poems based on the people who were a part of a young Myers life in Harlem. Myers’ inspiration for this work came from Edgar Lee Master’s book of poems, Spoon River Anthology. From 12 year-old Mali Evans to 87 year-old Clara Brown, the characters are as diverse as the style of writing. From prose and free verse to rhythm and rhyme, the assorted poems create vivid images of Myer’s Harlem. Myers added black and white photographs from his personal collection to the text “because he (I) loves the images, not to match the text.” This is a unique collection of poetry that can be shared and enjoyed by a wide variety of readers.
Inspired by Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology, Walter Dean Myers presents another distinctive community in a series of evocative poems (Holiday House, 2004). Harlem comes to life through the voices of those who have lived there, each unique in diverse poetic forms, age of speaker, experience presented, and emotional context. Before the introduction is read by Myers, a poem in the voice of a 33-year-old English teacher opens the book: "…I take my stand in Harlem, and sing of jubilee/Here my fretful soul flies wondrous free." Multiple voices then present a diverse community which embraces its music, history, education, daily challenges, and joys. Each voice is carefully chosen to bring individual characters to life. Music and sound effects enhance the mood. Have the book available so listeners can peruse the period photographs that augment the poems' settings and moods. This rich, moving performance brings a place, a period, and poetry to life. – School Library Journal
Like Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, on which it is modeled, this effective collection of poems uses many voices to create a vivid picture of Harlem; Historic photographs enhance this beautifully designed, slim volume. – Teacher Librarian
This amazing collection covers themes of daily struggles at once unique to the time and place, as well as reflecting problems and feelings readers can relate to today. Brilliant in both content and delivery, this is a collection that can spark many discussions and creative writing assignments. – Library Media Connection
• 2005 – ALA Notable Book for Children
• 2005 – ALA Best Book for Young Adults
• 2005 – Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
• 2005 – Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry
Questions to ask before reading:
• Before showing this book, guide students to share what their knowledge about Harlem. What stereotypes come to mind? Where is Harlem? Why do you think these stereotypes or perceptions about Harlem are so common?
• After sharing the table of contents, ask students to share their thoughts and about the people of Harlem. What can you tell from the names, ages, and occupations of the people that Myers has included in his work?
• Why do you think that Walter Dean Myers would write about the people he remembers as a young boy in Harlem?
Read aloud suggestions:
• Have students preview the poems and read them aloud as the character portrayed in the poem. Discuss how the meaning of the poem and the image of the person change as different students read the poem differently, changing rate, tone or inflection.
• Read each of Clara Barton’s Testimonies. Discuss her life and the changes that take place as she grows through the book. What’s important to Clara? How does she overcome the obstacles she faces? How does Harlem change?
• Read these poems “Mali Evans, 12” p. 2; “Lois Smith, 12” p. 38; “Malcolm Jones, 16” p. 54; and “Lydia Cruz, 15” p. 82. All of these poems are based on students. Relate these poems to students’ lives. Discuss similarities and differences. Are the struggles that these students face similar to the ones that students face in today’s world?
Follow Up Activities:
• Have students choose two different historical figures mentioned in the “Some people, places and terms…” section. After researching the figures, students should write a two-paragraph essay about each person giving a brief biography and their explanation as to why they think Myers included these figures in his poetry. Students should share and discuss findings, emphasizing an understanding of the historical significance of the figures Myers included in his poems.
• After locating Harlem on a map, students should research Harlem and study Harlem’s history to present day. How has this area changed? What are some of the factors that have changed very little over time? Students should compare and contrast present-day Harlem to the Harlem that Myers writes about during the 1930’s and 1940’s.
• Myers uses many different styles of poetry to showcase different figures in his writing. Choose two different styles of poems (i.e. free verse and stanza) to compare and contrast.
• In his introduction, Myers states, “the characters in this book all represent people I have known or whose lives have touched mine.” Have students write a poem in a style of their choosing to honor someone who is important to them.
• Students should choose a favorite photograph and write a poem in a style of their choosing to accompany it. Consider publishing the poems and photographs as a class book to share with future classes.
• Myers includes two famous jazz musicians in his conclusion; Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and James P. Johnson. Share several samples of different types of jazz music including swing and bebop. Jazz music was rooted in the cultural and political unrest that occurred in the United States from the 1890’s to the 1960’s. Students should work cooperatively to compare and contrast the different types of jazz music. Which instruments are more common in each type of music? Discuss the lyrics or the tempo and beat of the music. Do the artists effectively communicate a message in their music? Are students able to find the jazz influences of the past in the music they listen to today?
Related web sites:
New York Magazine: Harlem: A History in Pictures
A photo essay that guides viewers on a historical tour of Harlem
Harlem World: A Guide to Living and Experiencing Harlem, Harlem History 1658- Present
A comprehensive blog that covers all aspects of Harlem. This particular link discusses the history of Harlem. Other pages are devoted to other topics such as food, arts and culture. Teachers should supervise this link as it does include an area for ‘sex and dating.’
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem
This site includes links to numerous videos, audio files and images relevant to Jazz music, especially Harlem Jazz music.
A comprehensive site that includes descriptions of famous jazz musicians, as well as their style and instrument.
• Myers, Walter Dean. 2008. Fallen Angels. New York: Scholastic Books. ISBN: 978-0545055765.
• Myers, Walter Dean. 2007. Harlem Summer. New York: Scholastic Books. ISBN: 978-0439368438.
• Myers, Walter Dean. 2001. Monster. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN: 978-0064407311.
• Beckman, Wendy Hart. 2002. Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance (Collective Biographies). New York: Enslow Publishing. ISBN: 978-0766018341.
• Myers, Walter Dean. 2001. Bad Boy: A Memoir. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN: 978-0064472883.
• Myers, Walter Dean. 2006. Blues Journey. New York: Holiday House. ISBN: 978-0823420797.
• Myers, Walter Dean. 1997. Harlem. New York: Scholastic Books. ISBN: 978-0590543408.
• Myers, Walter Dean. 2008. Jazz. New York: Holiday House. ISBN: 978-0823421732.