You Are My Joy and Pain
Naomi Long Madgett
African American Studies, Poetry
Pages: 80 Size: 6x9
You Are My Joy and Pain is Naomi Long Madgett’s latest and possibly most endearing poetry collection. Bill Harris, a 2011 Kresge Foundation Eminent Artist, said of the book, "Even with the evidence of over a half-century or more of first-rate poetic artistry by Madgett, this collection is a breath-arresting surprise and delight. Poem-by-poem and section-by-section amaze. Each poem in the collection is a master class in technique and in her ability to transpose an idea into a tightly composed example of the craft of poetry."
You Are My Joy and Pain receives its name from the Billie Holiday song "Don’t Explain" and is divided into three parts. The first part, "A Promise of Sun," contains fourteen poems relating to the hopeful and joyful beginning of a new relationship. The second part, "Trinity: A Dream Sequence," consists of twenty poems with religious imagery and encompasses both the beginning and the end of a relationship. The third part, "Stormy Weather," includes thirty-two poems that relate to the heartbreaking experience of a love gone wrong. These are not love poems in the abstract—the richness with which Madgett writes hints at the firsthand experience of a lifetime of loving.
While several anthologies of love poems exist in the world, it is rare to find a single-author collection that so closely examines love in all of its messy and beautiful layers. Readers will identify with the hope and disappointment that Madgett presents in these poems.
Madgett’s poems present themselves with an honest approachable ease, and then comes the light, and the wish that you had the wisdom to craft these gems hard pressed under molten heat to make them into the diamonds that result. They are accessible works of art that grant the reader to understand love and pain. The reader will know after reflection that he or she is in the presence of a master.
– Herbert Woodward Martin, author of The Shape of Regret (Wayne State University Press, 2019)
Even with the evidence of over a half-century or more of first-rate poetic artistry by Madgett, this collection is a breath-arresting surprise and delight. Poem-by-poem and section-by-section amaze. Each poem in the collection is a master class in technique and in her ability to transpose an idea into a tightly composed example of the craft of poetry.
– Bill Harris, 2011 Kresge Foundation Eminent Artist
Naomi Long Madgett is a prolific and iconic force in American poetry. The publication of her tenth collection at the age of 97 is possibly an unparalleled event. This work is a blessing that assures that the range, depth, profundity of her voice, and complex subtlety of her poetics will continue to impact, nourish, and advance literary vision.
– Melba Joyce Boyd, poet laureate, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Love’s blossoming thrills, passionate commitments, and painful demise form the arc of Naomi Long Madgett’s You Are My Joy and Pain and reflect a lifetime of love. Honesty, wit, and formal dexterity undergird these poems. I especially love how Madgett’s steadiness of spirit endures throughout, like ‘bread that will sustain.’
– Terry Blackhawk, author of One Less River
An epic expiration of love and obsession. A masterful achievement by an indomitable spirit.
– Toi Derricotte, author of I: New and Selected Poems