Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Graywolf Press black poetry mix & Christopher Gilbert

As I've noted before, Graywolf Press has published an impressive group of poets over the last several years. Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, Carl Phillips, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Tracy K. Smith, Harryette Mullen, and Claudia Rankine are all Graywolf poets. Now we add Christopher Gilbert to the mix with Turning into Dwelling (2015).

Actually, Gilbert (1949-2007) precedes those other writers, as his Across the Mutual Landscape was published by Graywolf in 1984. But back then, the overall environment for African American poetry was notably different. That was before the rise of the Dark Room Collective and Cave Canem. That was before those major Furious Flower Conferences, and prior to African American poets earning increased numbers of prizes and awards.

So in some ways, Gilbert is an older generation Graywolf poet. Wanda Coleman (1946-2013), Gayl Jones (b. 1949), Afaa Michael Weaver (b. 1951), Patricia Spears Jones (b. 1951), and Rita Dove (b. 1952), for instance, are some of Gilbert's contemporaries. The presence of jazz, even if subtly, in his works also corresponds to writings by earlier generations of poets.   

At the same time, Gilbert resembles a new poet. At least, he'll be new to the many readers who were unaware of his poetry when it was first published a little over 30 years ago. In addition, his poetic voice is distinct and refreshingly unfamiliar. 

Christopher Gilbert and immersive jazz poetry
Christopher Gilbert and the wonder of everyday moments
Graywolf brings Christopher Gilbert to a new generation of readers 
Graywolf Press and African American Poetry 

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