In one of the more well-known instances, Nikki Giovanni closes her poem "For Saundra" by noting that:
maybe i shouldn’t writeHer poem challenges the ability of poems to achieve desired ends.
but clean my gun
and check my kerosene supply
perhaps these are not poetic
In the afterword to Black Fire, Larry Neal writes "Listen to James Brown scream. Ask yourself, then, Have you heard a Negro poet sing like that, of course not, because we have been tied to the texts, like most white poets." Like many of his peers, Neal encouraged poets to re-purpose themselves by abandoning traditional and prevalent definitions of poets and literature.
In the introduction to Neal's Black Boogaloo, Amiri Baraka writes that "Literary sound like somethin’ else … sound like it ain’t sound. And sound is what we deal in … in the real world.” The push toward new sonic possibilities, expressed by Neal and Baraka, or the interest in activism, as raised by Giovanni, were common motivating factors offered by poets to move away from conventional conceptions of poetry and poets.
In retrospect, one important outcome of poets questioning poetry was that they routinely explored realms and discourses well beyond poetry. They viewed and defined themselves as writers and something else. The Black Arts Movement was such an enduring cultural enterprise in part because so many of the poets were in some ways against poetry.
• A Notebook on Black Arts Poetry
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