Tuesday, August 30, 2016
How do we get from Gwendolyn Brooks to Mahogany L. Browne?
Last week, on the opening day of one of my African American literature classes, I gave the students a preview of the opportunity that awaits us. First, we listened to the poem "A Song in the Front Yard." Next, we listened to another poem, "Black Girl Magic." After that, the big question before us was this: How did we get from the sound of Gwendolyn Brooks to the sound of Mahogany L. Browne?
We're spending the next few months formulating answers. And more questions.
We want to come to terms with the ways Brooks and Browne converge and diverge as poets reading their works. Of course, we'll be listening to multiple voices along this journey. Margaret Walker. Maya Angelou. Sonia Sanchez. Lucille Clifton. Nikki Giovanni. Kelly Norman Ellis. Tracie Morris. Evie Shockley. Nicki Minaj. Beyoncé. And so forth.
We'll consider what collective sounds over the last 50 years may have entered the creative domains of spoken poetry to contribute to the sonic aesthetics of black women performing poems or raps. By the way, what are the routes folks travel to get from reading to performing poems?
The journey from Brooks to Browne is filled with all kinds of exciting sounds, artistic decisions, and varying delivery styles. I'm looking forward to traveling and charting some routes with my crew.
• An African American literature course: Recordings of black women reading poetry (Fall 2016)