Friday, July 25, 2014

Claiborne and Livingston Convene UNCF Mellon Technology Institute at Morehouse

S. Livingston and C. Claiborne
July 24 marked the opening day of an institute on technology use and digital humanities among HBCU scholars."Mapping the Future by Mining the Past" is a UNCF Mellon Summer Teaching & Learning Institute organized by Morehouse College scholars Corrie Claiborne and Samuel Livingston.

The participants include scholars from Claflin University, Dillard University (including poet Mona Lisa Saloy), Morehouse College, Paine College, and Spelman College. Over the course of three days, the scholars will discuss best practices in digital humanities (DH), utilizing iPads for DH work, digital resources, blogging, documenting digital works, and working with archives.

Mona Lisa Saloy's Red Beans and Ricely Yours

Mona Lisa Saloy's Red Beans and Ricely Yours (2005) is a special work in my collection. Jerry W. Ward, Jr., introduced me to Saloy many years ago, and I was pleased to add her volume to the larger mix. Many poets with books are at Predominantly White Institutions; however, Saloy is a professor at Dillard University, an HBCU in New Orleans.

A Notebook on Book History

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

From Unforgivable Blackness and Samuel Jackson to The Big Smoke

Adrian Matejka's The Big Smoke (2013) is linked to two important sources -- Geoffrey C. Ward's Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2004) and Ken Burns's illuminating documentary of the same name, which first aired on PBS in January 2005. For the Burns documentary, Samuel Jackson memorably presents the voice of Johnson, and it's often the sound of Jackson's rendering of the boxer that comes to mind as I read The Big Smoke.   

A Notebook on Book History
Adrian Matejka

James E. Cherry's books

I've enjoyed tracking some poets over the course of several years. In the case of James Cherry, I started reading his work in 2005, and I've kept track of his writings since that time. His books Bending the Blues (H&H Press, 2003), Honoring the Ancestors (Third World Press, 2008), and most recently Loose Change (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2013). 

A Notebook on Book History
Reading James E. Cherry
Honoring the Ancestors

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ai's books & W. W. Norton & Company

The poet Ai, who died in 2010, began publishing in the 1970s, and in 1993, she gained a contract with W. W. Norton and Company, a move that would ensure that her poems reached an even wider audience. Her Norton books include: Greed (1993), Vice: New and Selected Poems (1999), Dread (2003), No Surrender (2010), and The Collected poems of Ai (2013).

Norton also published volumes by Rita Dove, Major Jackson, and A. Van Jordan. Speaking of poetry, in 2013, Norton published Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry edited by Charles Rowell. The company's most notable contribution to African American book history and production, though, is arguably the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, which is now in its third edition.

A Notebook on Book History

Monday, July 21, 2014

James Smethurst and scholarship on the Black Arts Movement

James Smethurst's The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (2005) has been an invaluable resource for my own research and writings, and more important, his book stands as a vital history and examination of one of the most defining moments in black literary art and cultural organizing.

Smethurst's book is at the intersection of Black Arts texts and scholarship.   
I first met Smethurst at a Society for Textual Scholarship conference in New York City in 2001. I was a graduate student at the time. I was presenting research on editions of Richard Wright's autobiography, and Smethurst, who was on a panel William J. Harris and Richard Yarborough, was presenting on Black Arts. During his presentation, Smethurst mentioned in passing that he was working on a book on the Black Arts Movement, and later during the day, he and I discussed our shared interests on the subject.

Among other attributes, The Black Arts Movement serves as a connector to a wide range of Black arts texts and scholarly works.

James Smethurst's exceptionally thorough Black Arts Work
Amiri Baraka was not what you could call a follower by James Smethurst 

Nikki Giovanni's book cover appearances

Nikki Giovanni remains a prominent figure in the worlds of poetry, and an indication of her popularity is evident from some of her book covers, which present her image.  Her publishers have been mindful that audiences are drawn to Giovanni, not just her poetry.

A Notebook on Book History

Coverage of whether poetry matters

I've tracked some of the writings on whether poetry "can" and "does poetry matter." I've previously tracked the extended conversation about the so-called death of poetry

2014: Does Poetry Matter? - Room for Debate [multiple authors] - New York Times
2013: Making Poetry Matter - Edited by Sue Dymoke, Andrew Lambirth, Anthony Wilson - Bloomsbury Publishing 
2010: The New York Times asks, “Does Poetry Matter?” - Harriet Staff - Poetry
2010: Does Poetry Matter? - Gregory Cowles - New York Times
2010: This Land Is Our Land - David Biespiel - Poetry
2010:  Can Children’s Poetry Matter? - J. Patrick Lewis - Hunger Mountain
2009: Is poetry making a comeback?  - Richard Abowitz - Las Vegas Sun
2008: Review of Why poetry matters - William Palmer - The Independent
2008: Why Poetry Matters (Why X Matters Series) - Jay Parini - Yale University Press 
2002: Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture - Dana Gioia - Graywolf Press (paperback)
2000: Does poetry matter? - Multiple readers respond - BBC News
1997: Does Poetry Matter? - John Olson - The Raven Chronicles 
1997: Does Poetry Matter? The Culture of Poetry - Bart Baxter - The Raven Chronicles 
1993: Can Children's Poetry Matter? - Richard Flynn - The Lion and the Unicorn
1992: Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture - Dana Gioia - Graywolf Press
1991: Can Poetry Matter? - Dana Gioia - The Atlantic