Thursday, July 16, 2015

Graywolf Press and African American Poetry

A selection of books published by Graywolf Press

Next week at an institute on African American poetry at the University of Kansas, I'm sure I'll mention Graywolf Press, which has facilitated the publication of a number of prominent poets over the last decade or so in particular. Here's a look at some of their authors and books:
2000: Natasha Trethewey's Domestic Work 
2000: Carl Phillips's Pastoral
2001: Elizabeth Alexander's Antebellum Dream Book
2002: Natasha Trethewey's Bellocq's Ophelia
2002: Carl Phillips's From the Devotion
2002: Carl Phillips's Cortege
2003: Tracy K. Smith's The Body's Question 
2004: Carl Phillips's Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Art and Life of Poetry
2004: Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric
2004: Elizabeth Alexander's The Venus Hottentot (reprint)
2005: Elizabeth Alexander's American Sublime
2005: Thoma Sayers Ellis's The Maverick Room 
2006: Harryette Mullen's Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse and Drudge 
2006: Constance Quarterman Bridges's Lions Don't Eat Us
2009: Elizabeth Alexander's Praise Song for the Day
2010: Elizabeth Alexander's Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems (hardcover)
2010: Thomas Sayers Ellis's Skin Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (hardcover)
2010: Gary Jackson's Missing You, Metropolis
2011: Tracy K. Smith's Life on Mars
2012: Kevin Young's The Grey Album
2012: Elizabeth Alexander's Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems (paperback)
2013: Thomas Sayers Ellis's Skin Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (paperback)
2013: Harryette Mullen's Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary
2013: Dexter L. Booth's Scratching the Ghost
2014: Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric
2015: Christopher Gilbert's Turning into Dwelling
2016: Donika Kelly's Bestiary
And those are only some of the books. There are more as well as additional African American writers published by the press.

In discussions of poetry, people usually concentrate on poets and their poems. That's necessary and makes sense. However, I want to also push for conversations about publishers. When it comes to contemporary African American poetry, W.W. Norton and Company, Knopf, and Graywolf have been key players. Unlike those other two companies, Graywolf is not based in New York City nor is it for profit. 

Still, the press has managed to attract talented, accomplished poets.  Graywolf has also done a good job making sure volumes by those poets have gotten broad attention. The poets, in turn, have helped add value to the imprint. The successes of writers have no doubt made Graywolf Press more widely known and respected among African American poets who are apt to view the publisher as a advantageous platform.

Black Poetry published by Graywolf Press
Black Poetry published by W. W. Norton and Co.

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