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The beauty of John Willis Menard¹s poetry in Lays in Summer Lands stands out today just as it did when first published in 1879.
Here, the weight of human experience and observation is transformed into lyrical delight and meaningful insights that continue to resonate generations after their creation.
But, that is not all. Among the surprises that greet the reader of these poems is that their author was an African American and a Floridian who chose to offer his intimate thoughts, dreams, aspirations, and frustrations to a nation then entering the twilight years of its experience with social and political Reconstruction.
The first African American elected to the United States Congress, Willis Menard turned his disappointment at rejection by his congressional peers into a fruitful career as a political advocate, public official, journalist, editor, and author. In the process, he influenced Florida¹s evolution while reaching a national and international audience.
In these pages for the first time since their original publication, the poems of Lays in Summer Lands are reprinted in their entirety. Two noted historians of Florida and African American experience, Larry Eugene Rivers and Canter Brown Jr., have related Menard¹s story and examined the importance of poetry to his world, while award-winning literature professor Richard Mathews has contributed an intriguing essay on the profound depth and implications of the poet¹s work.
Delight in these beautiful poems as you cast yourself back well over a century. At the same time, thrill to the enjoyment and insight they bring today.
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For more information on Lays in Summer Lands and other publications by the University of Tampa Press, please visit us on the world-wide-web at: utpress.ut.eduAbout the Author:
The Editors: Larry Eugene Rivers is a Distinguished Professor of History at Florida A&M University, Tallahassee. He authored the national award-winning work Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation and co-authored the landmark study Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord: The Beginnings of the AME Church in Florida, 1865-1895. Among numerous prizes and honors that he has received are the Carter G. Woodson Prize of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Certificate of Commendation of the American Association for State and Local History, The Outstanding Nonfiction Award of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association; and the Rembert Patrick Book Award of the Florida Historical Society. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he resides in Tallahassee, Florida.
Richard Mathews is Dana Professor of English at the University of Tampa and Director of the University of Tampa Press. He is the author of two books of poetry, Mummery and Numbery, and his poems have appeared in periodicals and anthologies including Lyric, Poet Lore, Berkely Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, and A Geography of Poets. As a literary critic he has written book-length studies of William Morris, J.R.R. Tolkien, Anthony Burgess, and Brian Aldiss and is co-editor of Subtropical Speculations: An Anthology of Florida Science Fiction. His book on fantasy as a literary genre, Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination,. will be reissued in a new paperback edition by Routledge in 2002. He has lived in Florida since 1950.
Canter Brown Jr. has taught at Florida A&M University and served as Historian in Residence at the Tampa Bay History Center. Among numerous other significant works, he has authored Ossian Bingley Hart, Florida¹s Loyalist Reconstruction Governor and Florida¹s Black Public Officials, 1867-1924 and co-authored Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord: The Beginnings of the AME Church in Florida, 1865-1895. He has received the Rembert Patrick Book Award of the Florida Historical Society, the Southern Jewish Historical B.H. Levy Prize, and the Certificate of Commendation of the American Association for State and Local History. He is a native of Fort Meade, Polk County, Florida.
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