Saturday, January 16, 2016

Adding the poet and homeboy Nate Marshall to the mix

Every fall semester for the last decade, I've taught a course for first-year black men. In addition to covering various topics and works of literature, we have, in recent years, concentrated on recurring groups of poets that included Adrian Matejka, Tyehimba Jess, Jason McCall, Tony Medina, and Kevin Young. Moving forward, I'll add Nate Marshall to the mix.

Since so many of the guys in my class are from Chicago, I suspect that they'll especially be interested invested in the ways that Marshall writes and maps the city. They'll immediately recognize that he's one of them, a homeboy. All those cultural signifies, and more specifically, all those black Chicago points of reference in his work will be duly noted and appreciated by the students.

I'm also looking forward to thinking more about how Marhsall's work corresponds to and diverges from that generation of poets who are some years older. Medina and Marshall both engage city landscapes, with Wild Hundreds highlight Chicago, while Medina's "Broke" series concentrates on New York City. The presence of violence and bad men permeates Marshall's volume as well as Matejka's The Big Smoke and Jess's Leadbelly. Reflections on moments with family are important features of both Marhsall's book and Young's Dear Darkness.  

I've tended to think about Medina, Matejka, Young, and others as extensions to black arts discourse (there's in fact a generation of poets in between them). But perhaps I can now think of them as links between previous generations and the cohort of poets associated with Marshall. Whatever the case, adding Marshall and Wild Hundreds to the mix creates new possibilities for what we'll cover and consider in our class. 

Mapping with poetry, writing Chicago: The art, locales of Nate Marshall  

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