Saturday, September 24, 2011

Women Writers & Black Arts Poetry

The Black Arts Movement featured a majority of leading men, and the discourse contained quite a bit of masculine rhetoric and sexist ideas. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to overlook the important presence, contributions, and leadership of black women poets during the 1960s and 1970s.

Writings by Nikki Giovanni, Carolyn Rodgers, Jayne Cortez, Julia Fields, Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Johari Amini, and an older generation of writers, including Gwendolyn Brooks and Margaret Walker, circulated widely during the era.

Gwendolyn Brooks served as a vital mentor and sponsor for Chicago writers, most notably Haki Madhubuti. Brooks also edited two anthologies of verse Broadside Treasury (1971) and Jump Bad: A New Anthology (1971) and thus contributed to the larger body of collections produced the black arts era. June Jordan also edited an anthology soulscript: Afro-American Poetry, which among other contributors included poems by two then young emerging writers, Gayl Jones and Julia Alvarez--both of whom would go on to become critically acclaimed novelists.

Sanchez, Rodgers, Cortez, and Giovanni were among the most popular poets of the movement. Rodgers and Giovanni also published key prose pieces, participating in the widespread practice of poets as essayists. Sarah Webster Fabio wrote poems, essays, and reviews, and she recorded albums where she performed verse.

Today, Giovanni and Sanchez are among our most well-known African American poets; consequently, they first established their careers during the Black Arts Movement.  Cortez is now recognized as one of our major contributors to jazz poetry; during the 1970s, she was a leading force in the composition of verse and audio recordings focused on jazz music and musicians.

Looking back, the black arts era was a signal moment in the literary histories of African American women. Black women poets certainly made some major strides during the time, and the impact of their works are still being felt. 

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

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