Waiting for Sweet Betty

Clarence Major

“I find myself writing poems about things I can’t paint,” states Clarence Major, who for forty years has been viewed by critics (in the words of World Literature Today) as “a polymorphous writer who has been iconoclast, black esthetician, modernist, surrealist, postmodernist, and deconstructionist.”
In Waiting for Sweet Betty, Clarence Major observes the world with careful longing to capture the exchanges and conflicts between person and place. Just as a painter juxtaposes colors and shapes, so does Major with words. He shifts perspective away from the self, allowing words to play off one another with puns, inverted/subverted clichés, and improvisational soundings—so that his vision might become anyone’s. His subtle, conversational style is at once humble, playful, humorous, and studied, and his stories are seen as well as heard.

ISBN: 9781556591792

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Clarence Major is a prize-winning painter, novelist, and poet whose first poetry collection, Swallow the Lake, won the National Council on the Arts Award in 1970. Author of fifteen books of poetry, Major was a 1999 finalist for the National Book Award for Configurations: New and Selected Poems 1958–1998. Among his other awards are the PEN Oakland/Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award and the Stephen Henderson Award. He is a contributor to The New Yorker, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, …

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“This is Major’s most subtle and beautiful book yet, highlighting his impressive range of styles and his precision of expression… This collection has been well worth waiting for.” —Publishers Weekly

“On one level, this poetry can be enjoyed for painterly freshness, but on a deeper level, it forms a luminous poetic mural that explores secrets beyond borders while celebrating natural immediacy.” —Library Journal

“Major is a fantastically versatile writer cued to the moods of landscape and the landscape of moods. Here he describes the balm of California light in poems as delicate and radiant as watercolors, and other lovely places, especially Paris, in poems possessed of the breezy contentment of entries in a happy traveler’s journal.” —Booklist

“[Clarence Major] arranges language on the page much as an artist applies color to a canvas… The overriding mood of Major’s collection is most certainly one of joy, and his sense of celebration is infectious.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“In this latest book by one of our most distinguished literary elders, Clarence Major is ‘both drained of and filled with everything,’ a consequence of getting older and discovering, quite by accident, wisdom.” —Black Issues Book Review