Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander and Broader Poetry Conversations

On May 22, 2009, poet and essayist Elizabeth Alexander read and discussed her poetry during the American Literature Association (ALA) conference in Boston. You’ll recall that Alexander read her poem Praise Song for the Day at President Obama’s inauguration. For the ALA conference, Alexander was awarded the Stephen Henderson Award, which is sponsored by the African American Literature and Culture Society.

Poet and literary critic Aldon Nielsen introduced Alexander’s reading and reminded us that Alexander had been making all kinds of progressive moves in the service of black literary art long before her reading on the national stage for Obama.

Alexander’s poetry reading was enjoyable, but given our interest in thinking and writing about African American poetry, Alexander’s call for more reviews of black verse was especially notable. “In the critical spheres,” said Alexander, “we are not where we need to be.”

In addition to our poetry correspondence program, we’ll put some efforts into activities that might assist in building a stronger, more active regional and then national conversation about black poetry. As always, ideas, suggestions, and news about useful model programs are welcome.

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