Award-Winning Poet Marilyn Nelson coming to DCL

April 16, 2010

Have you ever heard of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm? I hadn’t, until recently, in preparation for a visit from the poet Marilyn Nelson.

The Sweethearts of Rhythm was an incredibly successful, all-female, mostly-African-American swing band that toured the US in the 1940s and broke all sorts of  attendance records, including those held by Count Basie and Louis Armstrong. Despite its popularity, however, the band and its legacy have now all but faded into obscurity.

Marilyn Nelson, who will be appearing on Monday, April 19 at 7:00 pm at Main Library, has written a book of poems about the Sweethearts and let me tell you, it’s one incredible book. With stunning illustrations by renowned illustrator and artist Jerry Pinkney, Sweethearts of Rhythm tells the story of these unique female musicians, told in the “voices” of their instruments. Here is a sample verse, from the point of view of the tenor sax:

She performed the daily ritual of the reed —
Soaking the reed, trimming it, fitting it in,
Tightening the ligature. She bowed her head,
Then lifted me and eased me into song.

— from the poem “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Marilyn Nelson

Please join us on Monday night to celebrate National Poetry Month with Marilyn Nelson. Ms. Nelson, who has written a number of award-winning books of poetry, will read from her work and answer questions, followed by a book signing (there will be books, including copies of Sweethearts of Rhythm, for purchase on-site). The event is free and open to the public. See you there!

Marian Fragola, Humanities Coordinator


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