The introduction to a previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker.
Nearly twenty years after her death and seventy-five years after the publication of For My People, this magazine sent me a previously unpublished poem of Walker’s. The poem, “An Elegiac Valedictory,” is a work that remembers, with comic clarity, the words, food, time, and space she shared with the likes of Toni Cade Bambara, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Audre Lorde.
In the middle of downtown Jackson stands a triangle of statues carved in rough-hewn stone, their backs to each other, facing out toward the city: William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Eudora Welty. But Faulkner doesn’t belong, and in his place should be Margaret Walker. Wright, Welty, Walker: those are our Jacksonians, the old guard, the outsiders of gender and race and class whose stony shoulders we stand upon.