Wednesday, December 10, 2014

From Jonterri Gadson to Audre Lorde to Cheryl Clarke and back again

The generational shifts one encounters following #BlackPoetsSpeakOut is particularly important and useful. That's one of the thoughts I had when I came across Cheryl Clarke's recent contribution. Clarke, a well-known black feminist and writer, chose to read Audre Lorde's poem "For Each Of You."

As soon as I saw her contribution, I was reminded of poet Jonterri Gadson's reading of Lorde's poem "Power." As one of the organizers of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, Gadson's contribution was one of the first entries that I came across in the project. I viewed Gadson's contribution and a contribution by poet Amanda Johnston as foundational for how aspects of the project evolved.

The contributions by Johnston and Gadson were at least influential for how I read many of the ongoing additions. The poets both read poems by others, which seemed to offer an early model for how others chose to contribute. As a result, when I saw this senior poet, Cheryl Clarke, reading Audre Lorde, my mind was connecting to younger poets and older poets at the same time.       

A few different poets have presented poems by Lorde to #BlackPoetsSpeakOut:

• "For Each Of You" by Audre Lorde read by Cheryl Clarke
• "Power" by Audre Lorde read by Jonterri Gadson
• "Power" by Audre Lorde read by Ruth Ellen Kocher
• "A Litany for Survival" by Audre Lorde read by Lauren G. Parker

Poets have also presented poems by Lucille Clifton, Henry Dumas, Amiri Baraka, Bob Kaufman, Robert Hayden, and others.

Clarke's entry to the project also stood out to me because I was aware that she had previously produced scholarly work on Lorde and other black women poets. Clarke is the author of "After Mecca": Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement (2004), and earlier this year, she published an article "Audre Lorde at 80" that circulated in some circles. Clarke's reading of "For Each of You" was yet another of her many contributions related to Lorde; her participation in the project was part of her longstanding contributions to activist movements. 

Thinking of Gadson, Clarke, and Lorde in conversation with each other is helpful because we have the opportunity to consider different generations of black poetic activism. Lorde offers one possibility, Clarke another, and Gadson another, yet they all converge here with #BlackPoetsSpeakOut.

A Notebook on #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

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