Saturday, November 29, 2014

A few notes on #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

At some point yesterday evening, I saw a post on Twitter linking to a video on YouTube featuring Rickey Laurentiis -- an emerging poet whose work I've tried to follow. I noticed that the post on Twitter and YouTube included the hashtag #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, which led me to several other posts by black poets.

[Related: A roundup of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut Selections]

Over the course of the evening, I listened to a range of poets reading their works and the works of other poets addressing, generally speaking, issues of racial injustice. Now, more than 100 poets produced readings.

[Related: Notes on Tony Medina's Sound]

I was already familiar with works by some of the poets, including Kamilah Aisha Moon, Jericho Brown, Treasure Shields Redmond, Reginald Harris, L. Lamar Wilson, and Tara Betts. But many more were new to me.

Viewing and listening to all the contributions to this #BlackPoetsSpeakOut project had my mind running in many places. For one, how moving to see a political poetry project like this. The poets were voicing their solidarity to those movements fighting against racial injustices involving police brutality against Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and many others.

Second, the project was a testament to the political, militant force of black poetry as well as the art form's elegance and complexity. Overall, the work is really diverse, and the poets display a range of approaches.

There's also considerable interconnectivity among the poets and poetry. While some poets read their own poems, others read works by various other writers. Regniald Harris and Chris Slaughter read poems by Gwendolyn Brooks.  Lauren G. Parke and Jonterri Gadson read poems by Audre Lorde. Bettina Judd and Tameka Cage Conleyread poems by Lucille Clifton. 

The poets even read their contemporaries. Shakeema Smalls read Jericho Brown's "Homeland;" Amanda Johnston read Evie Shockley's "improper(ty) behavior;" and Kamilah Aisha Moon read Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon's "Poem For Amadou Diallo"   

Here's something else. Several of the participating poets are at relatively early moments in their poetry careers, that is, if we put them in the contexts of long-running careers like Sonia Sanchez's, Eugene B. Redmond, and Marilyn Nelson's, to name a few. So I wonder and will keep wondering and studying what a moment like this one means for the future of individual and collaborative works these emergent poets will produce.   

Finally, and notably, this #BlackPoetsSpeakOut project offered a glimpse of the possibilities associated with  poets utilizing technology for poetry production or transmission. Do their works, taken together, constitute a new kind of digital anthology? What else might poets achieve by interlinking their works on social media? What is lost and gained by presenting and accessing black poetry through social media? (There's a tumblr page, and poet Jonterri Gadson created a YouTube list showcasing many of the poets). Among other attributes, #BlackPoetsSpeakOut offers blueprints for future projects.    

• A Notebook on #BlackPoetsSpeakOut 

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