Sunday, November 6, 2011

10 Poets who gained widespread attention in their 20s

    After reading a piece about the young rap producer Lex Luger, I started thinking about literary artists who gained widespread attention at relatively young ages. In literature, gaining attention before the age of 30 is a "relatively" young age. Large numbers of "major" black poets began gaining national attention when they were in their 30s.

    • Paul Laurence Dunbar was 21 when he published his first volume Oak and Ivory (1893), and he achieved national attention with his second volume Majors and Minors (1895).

    • Langston Hughes was about 19-years-old when he published his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" in 1921 The Crisis. The poem gained Hughes national attention and led to more publications. 

    • Margret Walker was 22 when she first published her poem "For My People" in Poetry magazine. Her volume For My People appeared in 1942 and helped secure her place in literary history. 

    • Amiri Baraka was in his late 20s when he published Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note (1961), Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963), and Dutchman and The Slave (1964), works that gave him considerable early acclaim.

    • At age 25, Haki Madhubuti had sold thousands of volumes of poetry and had founded Third World Press, one of our most important African American publishing institutions.

    • Nikki Giovanni was in her mid-20s when she first began publishing her poetry and getting widespread attention.

    • Elizabeth Alexander was in her late 20s when she published The Venus Hottentot (1990), a work which helped elevate her stature as a notable poet.   

    • Kevin Young was about 23 when his work Most Way Home was selected by Lucille Clifton as a National Poetry Series 1993 winner. He was in mid-20s when he was awarded the prestigious Stegner Fellowship.  

    • Jessica Care Moore was in her mid 20s when she first became nationally known as a poet.  A key moment in her career was her success on Showtime at the Apollo.

    • Saul Williams was in his late 20s when he appeared in the movie Slam and gain widespread attention.

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