C. Liegh McInnis is definitely a literary artist who comes to mind when I think about poets as black urbanists. He's been actively on the scenes in Jackson, Mississippi, for years now, giving readings at major events, organizing and co-organizing open mic sessions and literature conferences, and offering commentary on political issues in the city.
When I was an undergraduate at Tougaloo College in the late 1990s, C. Liegh, who lived and worked in Jackson, provided me with one of the first models of what a poet could do with a city. Organize open mics at arious spots. Read "conscious" poetry for the citizens.
Some years later, C. Liegh started running a literary magazine, Black Magnolias, which focused primarily on the South. Although the publication includes contributors and addresses issues beyond a single city, I've still viewed the work as a part of C. Liegh's larger Jackson-based project. And better, I see it as a kind of print-based evolution or extension of those live readings he was a part of years ago in the city.
When major speakers have come to town, and especially if the events take place at Jackson State University, C. Liegh is on the short list of poets chosen to open the event with a poem. He's invited in part based on his track record--a long history of artistic-activist work in the city.
I imagine and hope that there are other poets in cities and various other locales all across the country organizing activities that showcase various aspects of a space and bring different folks and ideas together. Hopefully, we can do a better job, too, of explaining how their works contribute to the larger conversations about artists and general citizens in urban spaces.
• Poets as Black Urbanists
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