Monday, March 30, 2015

A senior African American poetry scholar as blogger: The Case of Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

As I've been thinking on the value of blogging about black poetry, I took a look at blog entries by Jerry W. Ward, Jr. -- a senior scholar in the field of African American literary studies. Among other areas of focus, Ward is a Richard Wright scholar and  specialist on poetry, especially African American poetry.  There's no small coincidence, by the way, that I'm a Wright scholar and poetry scholar, for Professor Ward was my undergraduate professor and a long-term adviser.

In 2011, shortly after my younger brother Kenton started a blog for the The Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) at the University of Kansas, he invited Professor Ward to submit blog entries. Between March 16, 2011, and March 30, 2015, Professor Ward published approximately 100 blog entries on a really wide range of authors, including Gil Scott-Heron, Natasha Trethewey, Rowan Phillips, Richard Wright, Houston Baker, Edwidge Danticat, Alvin Aubert, and Anne Moody. He has also covered an equally diverse array of subject matter.

I can think of several benefits of Professor Ward's blogging activity, some of which I'll elaborate on in later entries for this series on the value of blogging. For now though, I want to note one: Ward's blogging activity reminded me how little I was reading from him and writers that I assumed to know really well.

I somehow had not fully comprehended how prolific Ward was until I began following his blog entries. Ward's conventional publication record suggests that he has written regularly over the years. However, when you combine that with what he does as a blogger, it becomes evident that he is extraordinarily active as a writer.

Not long after he began blogging for HBW, Ward would regularly send short "entries" to groups of us via email. He was in effect configuring the blogging genre in the body of email messages.

In biographical sketches, scholars are usually categorized by what they've published. Accordingly, Ward's publications incline us to view him as a Wright scholar, a poetry scholar, a scholar of Southern literature. That view is confirmed by his blog entries, but then we end up seeing much more. We learn that Ward and other scholars might have interests that go well beyond the materials that they have in (conventional) print.  

The value of blogging about African American Poetry 
Poetry blogging is more productive and smarter than you think
One way blogging has shifted my engagements with poetry
Blogging about African American Poetry & The Habit Loop 

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