Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Black Arts Poetry & Afrofuturism

In many respects, the Black Arts Movement was an important moment in the technological history of African American literary art. Poets actively participated in the material production of books and other literary products; they collaborated with musicians and produced audio recordings; and poets were committed to a spirit of newness, which spurred significant artistic innovations.

The interest in self-determination and black self-reliance led large numbers of poets to seek out their own publishing opportunities, a process that involved writers-turned-publishers to interact with printers and seek out their own methods of producing artistic materials. Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, Dudley Randall, Eugene Redmond, and many other figures took leading roles in the manufacture of literary products such as books, albums, and broadsides.

The collaborative projects that these and others poets coordinated with musicians represented additional notable technological practices during the era. The processes of working with instrumentalists on the production of music and poetry and of using electrical devices to produce audio texts became defining features of the Black Arts Movement.

That poets of the era were often referred to as "new" black poets and their work as "new" black poetry speaks to the sense that the writers were working to innovate views and functions American and African American poets and poetry. The push to innovate black artistic practice and American literary traditions constituted an essential and perhaps hi-tech impulse that helped shape the movement.

The critical framework known as afrofuturism is helpful for considering the technological implications of artistic production during the black arts eras. Afrofuturism's focus on what scholar Alondra Nelson has referred to as the "intersections between race and technology" certainly lends itself to what was taking place among African American poets.

This entry is part of a series--30 Days of Black Arts Poetry.

1 comment:

arcdirect said...

I have produced a sound collage centered around afrofuturism and black speculative fiction. http://arcdirect.tumblr.com/post/8914378934/see-the-playlist-for-the-afrofuturist-black Diverse sounds sourced from black vinyl. The collage draws partially from Black Arts poetry. The implicatons of afrofuturism are certainly there in the considerations put forth by Black Arts poets. A new horizon was being looked upon with many technological precedents. In my sound collage, Don L. Lee proclaims "We walk the way of the NEW world," and he may not be speaking along the lines of Age of exploration histories but Cold War anxieties.

Also with the creative license that I took in producing my afrofuturist narrative, the Gwendolyn Brooks poem, Aurora, read by Novella Nelson, is placed as an homage to the African comic book shero Storm aka Ororo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_%28Marvel_Comics%29 This poem contains many physiokinetic references within the prose's active tackling of oppression and nihilism. I imagine the poem as a monologue that Storm would say to motivate agents of my imagined Black struggle, off the pages of Marvel. Aurora was Brooks' 1972 publication for Black Arts imprint, Broadside Press.