Monday, July 27, 2015

A convergence of scholars, artists, and scholar-artists

Kathy Lou Schultz dropping knowledge about the Afro-Modernist Epic

One advantage, among many, with an NEH Institute like Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement is the convergence of a large group of accomplished presenters (scholars, artists, and scholar-artist). At the institute in Lawrence, Kansas, we hosted Joanne Gabbin, Tyehimba Jess, Stephanie J. Fitzgerald, Megan Kaminski, Brenda Marie Osbey, Lauri Ramey, Kathy Lou Schultz, James Smethurst, Frank X. Walker, Jerry W. Ward, Jr., and Kevin Young. And listen: that was just week 1.

No really. That was just the warm up? That was the warm up.

Smethurst was talking the geographies of African American poetry pre-1960s and onward. Schultz was talking epic poetry from Melvin B. Tolson to Langston Hughes to Amiri Baraka. Just having those two would've been enough. But we had more.

Tyehimba Jess gives a reading during the institute.

We had readings from Kevin Young and Brenda Maria Osbey and from the super sonic poetic possibility known as Tyehimba Jess. We had Ward talking through the poetry of Charlie Braxton, Asili Ya Nadhiri, Bob Kaufman, and others.   

It stands out to me that folks like Schultz, Ward, and Young, to name a few, are very much scholar-artists or artist-scholars. What that means on the ground-level is that they have insider-views on composing literary art and on producing scholarship in the field of African American literary studies. Combine those multiple perspectives with all the other artists and scholars, and we're talking about a remarkable, multi-directional, collective composition. 

A Notebook on Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement

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