Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lively conversations about poetry with multigenerations of black men

Tony Bolden, Eugene B. Redmond, and Jerry W. Ward, Jr. talking poetry at the University of Kansas, July 25, 2013.

"This work has profited from....a lively conversation with Jerry W. Ward, Jr., that has continued for two decades." --Lorenzo Thomas, acknowledgements of Extraordinary Measures

I was realizing lately that I've been fortunate to have these extended conversations about poetry with multigenerations of black men over the last decade, and more in some cases. In the above 65 years of age category, I've been conversing with Eugene B. Redmond, Jerry W. Ward, Jr., and William J. Harris for 10-plus years now. Some decades younger than them, there's Tony Bolden, who I've been talking black arts poetry, jazz, funk, and rap music, and spoken word poetry for about 10 years as well.

Let's go some years younger, and there I am in extended conversations about contemporary poetry and the histories of rap with poet-professor Adrian Matejka. There are also the email exchanges I've been having about poetry and activism with C.Liegh McInnis for several years now. Now skip down to someone just arriving at his mid-twenties, and I'm in dialogue with my younger brother Kenton about Jay Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and poetry on RapGenius.

Then finally, we're at all those guys on campus, who can be generally divided into two groups--"young guys" who are 18 and in their first-year of college and the, umm, "older-young guys"  who are second-year and above, all under the age of 23. The older-young guys have all taken at least one literature course with me and, beyond me, have spent at least a full year in college often greatly expanding their knowledge of rap and music in general. More than a few of the older-young guys, with all seriousness in their voices, talk to me about how "young" and naive they were as first-year students.

The first-year young guys arrive to my introductory class with some knowledge of rap, which seems impressive in comparison to various other students, but not substantial in comparison to where they--the young men themselves--end up with the music a year or two later. (I've been here 10 years now so I've observed the evolving musical interests of dozens of the fellas over time). For the most part, the young guys have little exposure in classroom settings to black poetry before they meet me, so we have a good time becoming acquainted with all these poems and writers.      
Last year, I organized a reading on campus featuring Professor Redmond, and some of the young guys were in attendance on the front row. Looking back on that moment, Redmond was only 74 at the time, and that was before those students had became older-young guys. Imagine how much older and wiser we've become since then.

Notes on extended conversations with black men about poetry
Reading poetry with collegiate black men
Working with Collegiate Black Men
Collegiate Black Men, Rap, and Poetry  

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