Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tony Bolden, Aldon Nielsen and Jayne Cortez

Books by Aldon Nielsen, Jayne Cortez, and Tony Bolden
When elders are speaking, you're inclined to listen. So that's what I was doing back in October 2005 as Jayne Cortez, Haki Madhubuti, Eugene B. Redmond, and a couple of others were having a side conversation on campus about a lack of  scholarly works on poetry and poets. In particular, they were discussing the fact that more people had not taken serious looks at figures who emerged from the black arts era.

As they spoke, I listened, nodded my head in agreement. Late in the conversation, during a lull, I decided to insert a slight turn. "Too bad that more people haven't written about poets the way Tony Bolden has written about you," I said looking at Cortez.

She looked slightly perplexed, and mouthed the words "Tony Bolden," trying to pinpoint in her mind why she knew the name. I pulled out my copy of Bolden's Afro-Blue: Improvisations in African American Poetry and Culture and showed the folks, all of whom were now quite interested, that Bolden had written an entire chapter on Cortez. She was familiar with Bolden's work, but she was pleased and pleasantly embarrassed that everyone was now pouring over the book...with the chapter on Jayne Cortez.

Since I had the floor, I figured that I might as well continue. "You know the poetry scholar Aldon Nielsen," I said to Redmond, though realizing everyone was listening, "his new book is called Integral Music, and the closing main chapter is entirely about the poetry of Ms. Cortez."

No one in the circle that day forgot about the larger absence of scholarly works on black arts poets. But for a moment at least, there was acknowledgement that two notable contemporary scholars -- Bolden and Nielsen -- had devoted lengthy treatments to Jayne Cortez and her work.

 Aldon Nielsen, Jayne Cortez, and my classroom poetry canon
Jayne Cortez at SIUE in 2005 

1 comment:

North Troy Environmental Education Consortium said...

She will be missed.

Jayne Cortez "Find Your Own Voice"