Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice

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Pub Date Jan 15 2013 | Archive Date Jul 31 2020


America is not easy. It’s a land of high ideals and stirring icons, but it is also a land of harsh realities. We celebrate the incredible achievements of individuals as we turn our gaze from hunger and homelessness in the streets. We have a difficult time matching our words with our deeds. This is where poetry comes in. A poem has the ability to personalize the ideal, to make it tangible in a way that a speech or news report
cannot. It can widen the angle through which we view society. It can move us to action. The poems in this anthology do just that: confront, challenge, and inspire. They take us on a journey toward social justice,
starting in the shadows and slowly working our way home.

COMMON. The Foreword is written by COMMON who is a hip hop artist, actor and social activist. He is also the founder of the Common Ground Foundation.
Gail Bush is a prominent professor emeritus of education and library science.
Randy Meyer is a middle school librarian and has worked as an editor and writer in the library and educational journal and book publishing fields.

America is not easy. It’s a land of high ideals and stirring icons, but it is also a land of harsh realities. We celebrate the incredible achievements of individuals as we turn our gaze from hunger...

Advance Praise

"The introduction to this anthology says it the best: “These poems have been selected and arranged and offered to the reader as our contributions to living in a more socially just America.” These poems are a living, breathing example of thoughts and feelings across the years. The poems were selected purposefully and represent all walks of life. The thoughts and feelings of these poets should be read and discussed. The words and their passion should have us all think and feel about how we treat and how we are treated. This anthology would be an excellent addition to any library and an excellent resource in any classroom."
Library Media Connection, January/February 2014

This anthology of 20th-century American poems invites us to confront and challenge beliefs. No topic is off limits, from patriarchy to racism and classism. Even if a reader does not think she is prejudiced against someone or something, these poems will expose bias, and are presented in such a way that can help the reader find the words to confront these often difficult issues. Sarcasm, humor, and transparency are a few of the many devices used to shed light in some of these dark places. Hip-hop artist and poet, COMMON, delivers the forward which states that the poems will teach us to help understand these issues better. In the poem “Columbus Day,” author Durham starts off by writing, “In school I was taught the names/Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro and/A dozen other filthy murderers. . .” He goes on to say, “No one mentioned the names/Of even a few of the victims.” In Mishkin’s “Other People’s Lives,” she writes simply, “You have to see/Other people’s lives/Before you recognize/Your own.”

The poems are short but packed with meaning. They can act as springboards for discussions in the classroom or library. Many of the authors will be recognizable to young readers and for those which are not, a biographical notes section is included at the end which gives background information on each contributor. Most teens care deeply about social justice issues. This short anthology can help them find their way."
Teacher Librarian, August 2013

"In their introduction to this unique, timely collection, the coeditors write, “These poems have been selected and arranged and offered to the reader as our contributions to living in a more socially just America.” To that end, they have selected 54 previously published works by twentieth-century poets. The work represents a broad variety of races, cultures, and ethnicities and deals with such issues as bigotry and injustice, as well as with freedom, equality, and comity. Divided into five sections, the poems essentially chart a course from outside our culture to an inside where we can celebrate common dreams. The contributors range from the celebrated—Billy Collins, Ishmael Reed, Pat Mora, William Stafford—to the lesser known, and brief biographies of all are included in an appendix. Matthew Thomas Bush’s elegantly decorative line drawings illustrate the pages without overwhelming the selections, and a foreword from rap artist Common will help draw more attention to this thought-provoking anthology for classroom sharing, broad discussion, and individual appreciation."
Booklist, April 2013

A quote from Lincoln expressing faith in “the ultimate justice of the people” ushers in this collection of poems, while another from Whitman as to our “common indivisible destiny” marks its end. These are poems for, not just about, social justice, selected and arranged to inspire readers to action. In keeping with this bold mission, the selections are divided into five sections, intentionally orchestrated to help young people look at the American experience from different angles. In the first section, “liberty was misquoted,” the poems call into question our oft-insular mindset and misguided interpretations of “other.” By collection’s end, however, the poems focus on “the next thing to happen,” a space where teens may be moved to ponder what kinds of roles they will be bold enough to take up in this world. Yet whether readers take the intended journey or simply dip in and out, selecting a poem here or there, the impact is the same. Each poem (selections from both lesser- and well-known American poets are included) can stand strongly on its own. From Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka to Joy Harjo and Toi Derricotte, the poets discuss perspective, misguided pity, stereotyping, patriarchy, and thousands of other sticky issues. This carefully selected collection is not only poetically breathtaking, but will undoubtedly prove useful time and again as we seek to provide resources for educating empathetic global citizens."
School Library Journal, April 2013

Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice, edited by Gail Bush & Randy Meyer, is a collection of poems written by a wide variety of well-known poets, from Langston Hughes and Pat Mora to Billy Collins and Joy Harjo. While it addresses the subject of social inequity, the anthology also points out what is just and right, ending with a poem by William Stafford entitled “Being a Person.” The book ends with a Biographical Notes section that provides anecdotal information about each poet (although it does contain a disclaimer that the notes are “certifiably uncertified”).
Mackin, March 2013

This collection of 54 poems is devoted to “living in a more socially just America,” according to the co-editors of this anthology. Poets such as Billy Collins, Pat Mora, Matthew Thomas Bush, Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed and more 20th century writers make this volume relevant for today’s world. This work is divided into five sections beginning with “liberty was misquoted” and goes on from there to develop concepts of freedom and equality and how teens can be moved to make change and move to action. The foreword is written by Common, a hip-hop artist, whose involvement may draw teen readers to the book. For more in this theme, read the CL/R SIG's reviews of new children's books about social justice.
Reading Today Online, May 2013

Shelf Worthy Young Adult Title - Baker & Taylor

"The introduction to this anthology says it the best: “These poems have been selected and arranged and offered to the reader as our contributions to living in a more socially just America.” These...

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Featured Reviews

This was a good collection of poems that could easily be a catalyst for several discussion points on social justice. I could not pick one that spoke to me the most. Several of the poems gave a new perspective of how to look at events that have occurred in history. I thought this collection was worth the read.

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"America is not easy." Those are the words the editors use to open their introduction to this stunning, brilliantly crafted collection of poetry. The poems in this anthology grapple with the failed promise of the American democratic project and what that has meant for various communities. A wonderful mix of writers from Tupac Shakur to Toi Derricotte, Assotto Saint, and Pat Mora are featured. The writers boldly critique ableism, sexism, racism, queer antagonism, class-based discrimination, and other forms of marginalization and exclusion that have marked (and continued to mark) American political and social life. That this collection was assembled especially for children in middle school and high school is very important. To be honest, I see no reason why elementary school children should be excluded from the target audience; we know that children not only comprehend but also reproduce behaviors that perpetuate inequality at an early age. All too often primary and secondary education curricula approach American history and literature with reverence and limitless praise. There is very little recognition of the glaring contradictions that marked the nation's founding and shaped its present. There is very little of the erasure and marginalization that has disenfranchised some communities for centuries. As such, we need collections like these. They are deeply instructive for people of all ages, but especially necessary for young minds. The earlier we work to decolonize education and encourage critical reflectiveness, the better. I strongly recommend this anthology.

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This is a wonderful collection of poetry from writers of vast backgrounds. It would serve as a great introduction to anyone looking to branch out into reading poetry and/or about topics of social justice. The poems have been carefully curated to cover a broad cross section of topics - from race, gender, immigration, assimilation , and more. I really can't recommend it enough. Even if you don't believe you're a "poetry person," this collection may prove you wrong. From Tupac to Langston Hughes to Dorothy Parker to Assotto Saint, including a foreword written by Common, it's extremely accessible poetry and one that should find a home on everyone's bookshelves.

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