Friday, May 18, 2018

30 black women poets reading their works: From Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks to Airea D. Matthews, Amanda Gorman



In 1997, a year before her death, I attended a reading where Margaret Walker presented her poems. Before reading her most famous poem "For My People," she noted that over the years she had witnessed younger people performing her poem in more interesting and dynamic ways than she could herself. What she did not say directly but was signaling at were the multiple and evolving poetry performance styles.  

[Related: Listening to 100 black women poets reading 200 poems]

One of my goals in my upcoming literature courses is to make my students aware of the rich diversity of sounds among black women poets and conversational speakers. A recent study of audio recordings of poets reading their works suggests that the reading and performance styles of black women are especially pronounced. At the moment, I'm building a dataset of audio recordings of more than 100 black women poets, from Walker (b. 1915) to poets Airea D. Matthews, Amanda Gorman, and beyond.

Walker won the Yale Younger Poet Award in 1942, and Matthews won the award in 2016 for her volume of poetry Simulacra. Gorman, born in 1998, is the first National Youth Poet Laureate and one of the youngest black women poets among the group I'm studying.

What follows are 30 different poets, their birth year, and a link to them reading one their poems:
• Margaret Walker (b. 1915) - "For My People"
• Gwendolyn Brooks (1917) - "Song in the Front Yard"
• Maya Angelou (1928) - "Phenomenal Woman"
• Sonia Sanchez (1934) - "Poem at Thirty"
• Lucille Clifton (1936) - "Homage to My Hips"
• June Jordan (1936) - "Poem about My Rights"
• Nikki Giovanni (1943) - "Ego-Tripping"
• Wanda Coleman (1946) - "Wanda, Why Aren't You Dead?"
• Rita Dove (1952) - "American Smooth"
• Patricia Smith (1955) - "Skinhead"
• Nikky Finney (1957) - "Left"
• Elizabeth Alexander (1962) - "Praise Song for the Day"
• Claudia Rankine (1963) - "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Part 2"
• Evie Shockley (1965) - "question marks"
• Natasha Trethewey (1966) - "Monument"

• LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs (1970) - "the originator"
• jessica Care moore (1971) - "Black Statue of Liberty"
• Tracy K. Smith (1972) - "One Man at a Time"
• Mahogany L. Browne (1976) - "Black Girl Magic"
• Eve L. Ewing (1986) - "Arrival Day"
• Aja Monet (1987) - "What I've Learned"
• Warsan Shire (1988) - "For Women Who Are Difficult to Love"
• Jamila Woods (1989) - "Pigeon Man"
• Tonya Ingram (1991) - "Thirteen"
• Jasmine Nicole Mans (1991) - "Footnotes for Kanye"
• Amanda Gorman (1998) - "In this place: An American Lyric"
• Airea D. Matthews (b. ????) - "Wisdom"
• Porsha O. (b. ????) - "Angry Black Woman"
• Ebony Stewart (b. ????) - "Happy Father's Day"
• Tiana Clark (b. ????) - "The Ayes Have It"

Related:
Why some black poetry sounds boring to black students (abstract)
Dynamic black women speakers vs. flat sounding poets

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