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Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  762 ratings  ·  107 reviews
All of the published poetry of James Baldwin, including six significant poems previously only available in a limited edition
During his lifetime (1924–1987), James Baldwin authored seven novels, as well as several plays and essay collections, which were published to wide-spread praise. These books, among them Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time, Giovanni’s Room, and
Paperback, 120 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Beacon Press (first published 1989)
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  762 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
And Memphis Blues

A few years ago, I went with my family to Martin Luther King, Jr’s. memorial and museum in Memphis.
I stood close to where he was shot and killed. I went across the street and stood close to where his killer had stood. It never feels good to be so close to death, especially that of a great man. I had a feeling that I got from it that I cannot describe. Later, I had gone with my husband to St. Helena Island where King had lived and learned that he was to return there after his sp
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2016, poetry, ebooks
I didn't realize James Baldwin was a poet on top of being a master essayist and novelist. I was happy to encounter this book of one long poem and a handful of shorter poems when I was up in the middle of the night looking for poetry ebooks in the library catalog.

Without question, "Jimmy's Blues" is the powerhouse, and more specifically the section labeled "Staggerlee wonders." You can read it on the Poetry Foundation Website but I'll also pull out a few excerpts.

There are so many recent works ab
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Well. Niggers don't own nothing,
got no flag, even our names
are hand-me-downs
and you don't change that
by calling yourself X:
sometimes that just makes it worse,
like obliterating the path that leads back
to whence you came, and
to where you can begin.
And, anyway, none of this changes the reality,
which is, for example, that I do not want my son
to die in Guantanamo,
or anywhere else, for that matter,
serving the Stars and Stripes.
Στην ποιητική συλλογή του Baldwin, του αγαπημένου γιου του Har
Dee's Reading Zone
This book of poems by the late, James Baldwin will have readers realizing that history is repeating itself. Baldwin's poems are like music and just as vivid as his essays/novels but "Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems" will hold you, having you reread the poems, a phrase, a relatable word and give you ah -ha moment references to the world around you! ...more
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Between holding on,
and letting go,
I wonder
how you know
the difference.

It must be something like
the difference
between heaven and hell
but how, in advance,
can you tell?

If letting go
is saying no,
then what is holding on

from "Conundrum (on my brithday) (for Rico)"

Renowned for his essays and novels, for those who don't know, Baldwin wrote poetry throughout his life. He wrote with an engaged, layered, facile hand. [...] Baldwin's images carry their weight and we, the reader, carry their consequ
Rania Attafi
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books, poetry
It never ceases to amaze me how poetry could connect you to people you have nothing in common with. People you never thought about before yet a single poem can make you feel their troubles as if they are your own.
Well this book made me feel and I believe that's the biggest compliment you can give to poetry, it simply made me feel...
Apr 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up.
This slim bound volume of a couple dozen poems truly packed a soul searing suckerpunch. I was angry, alone, forlorn, and introspective in turns. My heart stopped and started as my head and heart and soul tried to keep up with the lines on the pages. Highly recommend!
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, poc
Prior to reading a poem of Baldwin's in From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across America, I had no idea that he was a poet in addition to his more famous work as an novelist and essayist. Not only is he a poet, he's quite a good one, and I'm very glad this was my first introduction to his work. Baldwin explores in a powerful voice being a black man and a bisexual black man in America. Both his political and love poems are powerful and he uses language in a unique way.

Brown Girl Reading
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was online shopping when I ran across Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems. I picked it up and I read straight through. I had no idea Baldwin had written poetry. Having only read two of his novels I was happily surprised by the depth and universal themes found in his poems. Most of the poems are dedicated to people he knew but the themes ring true to life in general. There are many themes running through his poems that run equally through his novels. If anything this book will restore your faith in p ...more
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Honestly, while in a couple of difficult days behind me, this book really helped me get my energies back. It has this reviving quality to it.

This book must be read aloud, probably with a couple of glasses of wine, rapping the lines and feel that beat quality in it.
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Yet and still I struggle with poetry. Epic poetry I love, but outside of that form I am lost and often dissatisfied with what I read. So, having said that... It is James Baldwin, so this is amazing, for me. I hardly understand the wonders this man contained in his beingness. What he saw, who he knew, what he felt, how he dreamed and lived and desired and spoke and fashioned a life of such power and grace amid the shit pile we call this world. Just wow.
The Introduction by Nikky Finney is quite a
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
A slim volume of actually quite excellent and stylized poetry. Baldwin has a very enduring lyrical vocation, and his work here is thoughtfully constructed and artfully executed. The only catch is that unfortunately, one desires more after exhausting this relatively sparse collection of writings.
 The Black Geek
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Although not as deeply complex and poignant like his essays and longer works of fiction, Baldwin's poems most definitely resonate with the themes he is most noted for, such as political and social elements of American life and aspects of the African American experience. The specific poems worth highlighting in this collection include:

-"Stagerlee Wonders"

-"A Lover's Question"

-"Inventory/On Being 52"

In addition, there is a beautifully written introduction to this collection by the amazing poet, Ni
Dec 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I definitely am a bigger fan of Baldwin's prose, but these poems are still important and give a good insight into a more playful dimension of his writing. Some of these are apocalyptic, while others are like old love songs. I'm especially interested in some of the themes which move throughout the collection and connect to his prose: white supremacy (and its libidinal underpinnings), time (in its openness), history (as a nightmare), desire (and corresponding distance). ...more
Aug 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, race


creates the situation,
and then, the situation
creates imagination.

It may, of course,
be the other way around:
Columbus was discovered
by what he found.


when you send the rain,
think about it, please,
a little?
not get carried away
by the sound of falling water,
the marvelous light
on the falling water.
am beneath that water.
It falls with great force
and the light
me to the light.
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I read the whole thing aloud to myself. When I finished, it was midnight. Then I sat alone in silence for an hour.
Kevin Wright
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Any writer worth their salt is a poet at heart and their poetic output is often the key to understanding their art. I find it interesting how so many of the poems collected here (his entire poetic oeuvre) are dedicated to the people in his life. There's an intimacy, but also a solitude; silliness and also dead seriousness. I certainly can't assess these poems any better than Nikky Finney does in her brilliant introduction. I don't know that I'd recommend it to anyone unfamiliar with Baldwin's es ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First time reading James Baldwin. Why did I wait so long? Brilliant!
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recentlyread
That voice!
Jerome Berglund
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Chris P
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is more than poetry, it’s a glimpse into his heart. I will read this over and over again.
Jul 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Readers can still expect James Baldwin's sharp and cutting insights on life and love, race and society, in this collection of poems. "Inventory/ On Being 52" was probably my favorite. ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Highlights: Staggerlee wonders, Confession, Conundrum (on my birthday) (for Rico), A Lover's Question, Gypsy, Song For The Shepherd Boy, Untitled ["Lord / when you send the rain..."] ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: racism, poetry
Wonderful. I am committing multiple of Baldwin's beautiful poems to memory. ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-writers
As someone who has not read a tremendous amount of poetry and has mixed feelings about it—some poems leave a strong impression on me, while others miss me by a long shot—I throughly enjoyed this collection. I'm a big James Baldwin fan, but have never read any of his poetry, so it pleased me when I found out I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway.

I doubt I have to say much in terms of a review, considering it has the 19 poems from Jimmy's Blues, with a few others from a different book. If y
Kirsten T
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
James Baldwin will never let you, or himself, or anyone else off the hook for anything, and he won’t let you do it either. You will be accountable. Jimmy’s Blues is a powerful reckoning as humane as it is uncompromising. I read it in one quick gulp in a coffee shop. I’m a pretty self-contained person, especially in public, but these poems made me grimace and gasp and stare slack-jawed at the page. (Staggerlee Wonders. Holy shit.) Fortunately I live in New York City, and no one looks at you in Ne ...more
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful collection of poetry! I knew James Baldwin was a prominent bisexual novelist and poet; however, until this book, I’d never read any of his poetry. His words are haunting, beautiful, and thought-provoking and these poems stick to you like meat on your bones long after the slim volume is finished.

The rest of my review can be found at
Craig Werner
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Poetry wasn't Baldwin's genre and some of the lines lie a bit flat on the page. Baldwin had an affinity for rhyme and rhythms that feel pretty conventional, but at times I found myself hearing the music behind the page: Clyde McPhatter, C.L. Franklin, Dorothy Love Coates, Mahalia. Readers familiar with Baldwin's essays will hear a lot of familiar themes, the mixture of tenderness and righteous anger. Way down on the Baldwin list, but I'm happy I revisited. ...more
Vivienne Strauss
I loved this and was equally excited to discover the work of Nikky Finney.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
The three stars is more a reflection of me as a poetry reader rather than Baldwin as a poetry writer. Some of these poems are truly striking - the brutal reality of ‘Gypsy’ was undoubtedly a highlight. However, quite a number of these went over my head as I’ve never been a good or devout reader of poetry and I still don’t understand how a reader is meant to approach a poem.

In particular, I’ve never enjoyed poems directly addressed to other people - normally friends and loved ones of the poet -
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.

James Baldwin offered a vital literary voice during the era of civil rights activism in the 1950s and '60s. He was the eldest of nine children; his stepfather was a minister. At age

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