Things I Must Have Known

“Read this collection and you will need no one to convince you that poetry is a necessity.”—Keorapetse Kgositsile, South African National Poet Laureate

After a long hiatus from poetry, A.B. Spellman, a founding member of the Black Arts Movement and a nationally recognized jazz scholar, returns with an exuberant, generous collection. Touching on creativity and fatherhood, racism and workplace politics, his poems address the most important personal and public events of the last seventy years—of how it felt to grow up black in a segregated America, of the transformational experience of hearing John Coltrane live, of the give-and-take of a long marriage, and of the importance and inspiration of good friends:

if, as the yoruba say, all human beings
cover their nakedness with other human beings
how does friendship accomplish love? for i am
never so bare as i am with you.
lovers & siblings do not have this. they have
too much to defend & defend against &
we do not. we have thoughts that match
& easy laughter. we have the wisdom of the ocean
& all the breeze that calls it there

A.B. Spellman spent thirty years at the National Endowment for the Arts, serving as deputy chairman for a decade. He has been a regular commentator on jazz for National Public Radio and is the author of Four Jazz Lives, a classic in the field of jazz criticism.

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By Paul (The United States) · ★★★★★ · November 05, 2012
Thanks to Goodreads, I found out that A.B. Spellman published a second collection of poetry in 2008. I bought his first book of poems, The Beautiful Days, in 1965 and have treasured it since then. Things I Must Have Known was worth the 43 year wait (actually 47 year wait for me, since I got it th... ...more
By Caleb (Hattiesburg, MS) · ★★★★★ · August 05, 2009
This is some of the most fluid poetry I've ever read. It's not acheiving anything terribly deep, but it's not trying to. Not that there aren't issues covered, but anything serious in this book is coated with an endearing layer of lighthearted, objective humor. Many poets seem to focus on the syll... ...more