Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in African American Poetry: A Chronology of news, events, & publications in 2011

A list of African American poetry-related events and activities that caught my interest this past year.

January 25 –  Kevin Young's volume of poetry Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels was published by Knopf. The book received extensive coverage.

January 30 –  Reginald Shepherd's Red Clay Weather was published by University of Pittsburgh Press. 

February 1Nikky Finney's volume Head Off & Split was published by Triquarterly press. The book eventually received the National Book Award for Poetry.

February 17 – Mississippi poet/arts organizer C. Liegh McInnis reads poem “Mississippi Courage” as opening for speech delivered by Cornel West at Jackson State University.

March 1 – Evie Shockley's the new black was published by Wesleyan Press.

March 15 – Yusef Komunyakaa's The Chameleon Couch: Poems and Carl Phillips's Double Shadow: Poems were both published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Komunyakaa's and Phillips's books were finalists for the National Book Award for Poetry.

March 15 – Eugene B. Redmond published his epic poem "A Tale of Two Captains & Two Avenues in the Life of East St. Louis" in The Making of an All-America City: East St. Louis at 150 edited by Mark Abbott.

March 25 – Mississippi poet/arts organizer C. Liegh McInnis reads “A Poem for Minister Farrakhan” prior to Farrakhan’s speech at the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement conference at Jackson State University.

March/April – Nikky Finney appeared on the cover of Poets&Writers.

April 29 –  Elizabeth Alexander gives keynote address at the “Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women” Conference.

May 11 –  Michelle and Barack Obama hosted a poetry reading at the White House with Rita Dove, Jill Scott, and Common among the participants. Common's invitation and presence at the event sparked negative reactions from conservatives, including Sarah Palin. 

May 10 –  Tracy K. Smith's Life on Mars was published by Graywolf Press. Smith's book was selected as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2011 by The New York Times; the book also appeared on the 2011 poetry list for Publishers Weekly.

June 1 –  SIUE's Lovejoy Library launched a digitized version of the entire run of Eugene B. Redmond's Drumvoices Revue. It's one of the few free and fully accessible African American-based print journals now online. 

June 19 - 25 –  Joanne Gabbin organized "Continuous Fire: A Seminar on the Poetry of Sonia Sanchez" at James Madison University. Our contributors Cindy Lyles and Danielle Hall participated in the seminar

June 30 –  Meta DuEwa Jones's The Muse is Music: Jazz Poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to Spoken Word was published by University of Illinois Press.

September 5 –  Rachel Eliza Griffiths's Mule & Pear was published by New Issues Poetry & Prose.

September 20 –  The Best American Poetry 2011 edited by Kevin Young (with David Lehman as the series editor) was published by Scribner.

September 26 –  My book The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry was published by the University of Michigan Press.

October 25 –  The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove was published by Penguin Press. A negative critique by Helen Vendler prompted a response from Dove and subsequent extended coverage.

October 28 –   Evie Shockley's Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry was published by the University of Iowa Press. 

November 16 –  Nikky Finney won the National Book Award for Poetry. Her powerful acceptance speech assisted in generating even more media attention for her win.

November 28 –  SIUE's Lovejoy Library launched the Eugene B. Redmond African American Cultural Life digital collection.

November/December – The disagreement between Helen Vendler and Rita Dove about the anthology that Dove edited led to extensive coverage.

November/December –  Select volumes of poetry by African American poets appear on various "best of 2011" lists

December 29 – Sonia Sanchez was named Poet Laureate of Philadelphia.

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