On the 4th of July, many will be waving the U.S. flag.
In 1910, when sixteen-year-old poet Christina Moody was publishing, it would have been the 46-star one, like that above. We post the flag of Christina’s era on this national holiday, along with pages from the African-American girl’s rare book of poetry, Tiny Spark. Her only known publication, the small volume of varied verse has attracted scholarly and critical attention in recent decades. The two facing poems below have a special resonance today because of recent tragic events that have brought flags to the fore. The poems encourage us to think deeply about symbols and identity, and what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America, as we commemorate the day when our nation was founded.
In recognition of Black History Month, we highlight one of our favorite RBC purchases of 2010-2011, Christina Moody’s Tiny Spark. Imagine a sixteen-year old African-American girl publishing a book of poetry in 1910: some of it in dialect, some of it provocatively proud of her race, grappling with serious issues – like how a Negro can pledge allegiance to the American flag – as well as the problems of “Chillun and Men.”
The actual book is rare, with only five copies listed in WorldCat. However, you may read her words on the Internet Archive, where the Library of Congress’s copy has been digitized. But know that you can’t see the earnest young poet there, because the LC copy lacks the frontispiece author portrait, which our copy preserves.
Indeed, it goes without saying for those of us who love books, seeing it on the web just isn’t the same. In particular, one doesn’t have the same awareness that the book *is* tiny, the size of one’s hand. Tiny, but electrifying, when you open up and see Christina, and read her verse.
This February 2012, we celebrate the great tradition of African-American poetry and RBC’s fine holdings of it with Christina Moody’s Tiny Spark.