Van G. Garrett

Review of Lorenzo Thomas's Dancing on Main Street (Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, $15)

Lorenzo Thomas’ Dancing on Main Street is an example of contemporary verse that narrates with maturity, experience, and intellect.

Thomas, a recipient of two Poets Foundation awards and the Lucille Medwick Prize, is a founding member of the Umbra workshop and a major figure in the Black Arts Movement. His poetry and essays have been published, reviewed, and anthologized in preeminent literary and scholarly journals such as Callaloo:A Journal of African-American and African Arts and Letters, African American Review, and The Paris Review, making him a well-sought after authority of American, contemporary, and African-American literature.

Thomas’ “Working-Class Hero”, likened to Carl Sandburg’s exploration of the things that tug at “every man” and “every woman,” demonstrates his ability to comment aptly on humanistic appeals:

Some days feels like
You wake up underwater
It isn’t the humidity I’m talking about

Space folds on space. A blue icehouse.
And every motion climbs into itself
A little man in someone else’s overcoat

Some days are Sunday all day long
Below an empty sky that’s eyeball blue
A slight wind curling round you like a vine

A day to put your bag on the conveyor belt
And walk on through

What kind of day today?
You could just say
I really didn’t need something
To tell my grandkids

Thomas’ ability to incorporate nouns like: space, icehouse, overcoat, vine, and conveyor belt into a poem that mirrors emotions and attitudes is a skillful technique that resounds throughout the collection. Additionally,his innovative imagery like: “some days feel like you wake up underwater,” “a little man in someone else’s overcoat,” “some days are Sunday all day long,” and “an empty sky that’s eyeball blue,” cause the reader to anticipate forthcoming household items, inanimate objects, theories, axioms,or images.

Dancing on Main Street is a collection of poetry that is leisurely enriching and academically sound. Lorenzo Thomas narrates modern day life in a vivid/contemporary fashion that speaks to the intellect and emotions of every reader.

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