Margaret Walker Walker, Margaret (Vol. 1) - Essay

Walker, Margaret (Vol. 1)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Walker, Margaret 1915–

Black American poet.

Margaret Walker's poetry adheres to the ancient axiom that the whole is always more than the sum of its parts, because words are not ends in themselves, but vectors toward multi-dimensional images and feelings….

Miss Walker's sense of roots thrusts beneath purely abstract ground, for she can really "touch" and feel the life-force of her history….

Margaret Walker's philosophy of poetry fits into the structure of Christian eschatology: the preservation of the spirit beyond the flesh. But Christian explanations have never proved quite adequate for Blacks whose sensibilities are deeply rooted in the folk traditions. A case in point is the "Ballad of the Hoppy Toad" in Prophets, which is filled with the characters and imagery reminiscent of those in works by Zora Neale Hurston and Charles Chesnutt and has the nature of African proverbs. A simple tale on the surface, it raises some of the most fundamental questions of existence….

To say that there is room for Margaret Walker in this age of political poetry is an understatement. Her protest against white actions or Black inaction and, even more importantly, the manifestation of her love for Black people … are important keys in our struggle. She not only talks about the beauty of Black people, she is a distiller of our experiences—past, present and future. And these experiences are, as she says, "the truth of our living, and the meaning and beauty of our lives."

Paula Giddings, "'A Shoulder Hunched Against a Sharp Concern': Some Themes in the Poetry of Margaret Walker" (© December 1971 by Black World; reprinted by permission of Black World and the author), in Black World, December, 1971, pp. 20-5.