Grand Prize Winner, Willow Books Literature Awards.
Where William Walked (2019)
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Poetry collection about Philadelphia and its people of color by Vernita Hall. Based on historical research.
“Sometimes reclaiming the lives of a people has to come one city, one block, one doorstep at a time. Where William Walked harbors and reclaims Philadelphia’s lost brethren. Crowned with unnamed mercies, women’s sorrows and belonging, it’s a Pandora’s box of art and history. It interrogates faith and forgiveness, formality and freedom, inserting some of the missing and rewriting the narratives few know with an ‘inflamed hope for colored folk.’”
—Remica Bingham-Risher Judge’s statement, 2017 Willow Books Literary Award for Poetry
“In a broad display of approaches in craft, the poet visits the history of Philadelphia in a manner reminiscent of steampunk aesthetics. Jules Verne meets W.E.B. DuBois in a time traveling romp back and forth from The Souls of Black Folk to today’s evening news. This is fresh and ambitious writing, a collection that brings a view eschewing nostalgia and romanticized ways of looking at history. Instead it plops the reader squarely in the present with the past as a spectator looking on with renewed wisdom. Voices in the formation of the A.M.E. church and Bill Cosby’s lost son find a common place here, along with many other subjects, subjects making a diverse populace.”
—Afaa Michael Weaver, judge, Moonstone Chapbook Contest
“Acute intelligence, historical imagination, formal mastery, and an unerring ethical compass distinguish these prize-winning poems, along with an ironic eye and a subtle wit, as her image says: “Don’t charge a train head on—loosen a rail.” In these poems of ancestral reclamation, Vernita Hall gives voice and vivid presence to those individuals whose bold and memorable lives comprise the Philadelphia story that many of us have been waiting to read.”
“I’m so very pleased that Vernita took up the challenge of Where William Walked after our conversation at Soul Mountain. This will be an important book.”
“The book was inspired in part by W(illiam) E.B. Du Bois’s 1899 sociological study The Philadelphia Negro, and is based on extensive research. With the goal of historic preservation and education, the poems relate stories and reflections about key persons—primarily of color—and signal events with connections to Philadelphia, past and present. The text includes reflections on the following subjects: African American and women’s studies; African Methodist Episcopal Church history; United States, Native American, and Chinese-American history.Vernita Hall