Sunday, July 26, 2015
A poetry room of their own
Thanks to the organizational and enterprising efforts of Maryemma Graham, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) agreed to fund Black Poetry after the Black Arts Movement -- an institute that responds to the "resurgence of interest in contemporary poetry, its expanded production and wide circulation." I participated in the first week of the institute. Among other things, what's really important about the project is the diverse gathering, in a single room, of sharp-minded scholars, artists, and cultural workers devoted to concentrating on the study of African American poetry.
That gathering includes the active thinkers Keisha Watson, Kevin Quashie, and the good sister-scholar Joycelyn Moody raising questions about black poetry in a common space -- a space also populated by black studies director Tara T. Green and current National Council for Black Studies president Georgene Bess Montgomery.
In that same room, you have poets Laura Smith, Cindy King, and Tara Betts as well as scholars Richard Schur, Deborah Mix, Jené Schoenfeld, "the" P. Gabrielle Foreman, Jim J. Donahue, and the Robert Hayden scholar Derik Smith. Some of the folks -- like Cameron Leader-Picone and Micky New -- are making links to poetry and music, while Dennis López, Claire Schwartz, and Bartholomew Brinkman are making the print culture connections. And if that wasn't enough, we have these wise-beyond-their-years emergent poetry scholars Laura Vrana, J. Peter Moore, and Sequoia Maner alongside artist-scholars Candice Pitts and Tamara Hollins alongside the multi-talented cultural worker, teacher, artist Monifa Love Asante.
Did I mention we've somehow managed to get all these folks to agree to meet in the same room to read and talk about and listen to black poetry over the course of two weeks? Did I mention that gatherings like these happen too infrequently, that they're hard to come by?
But there they were mixing it up, studying poetry, in a room of their own.
• A Notebook on Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement