Monday, June 27, 2016

Can the sounds of black women's poetic voices get a witness?

This fall in one of my African American literature courses, we'll cover audio recordings by more than 20 black women poets and rappers. The recordings will give us opportunities to consider divergent voices of a range of artists.

Several years ago in my classes, I began incorporating audio recordings of Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Jayne Cortez, Kelly Norman Ellis, Tracie Morris, and others reading their people. The recordings, however, were never the focus. Typically, the published poems were primary.

What happens when we privilege audio recordings and make printed poems secondary? How might that approach shift how we engage the work?

I'll get some answers in the fall.

In recent years, we've listened to MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, and other rappers. We were more inclined to privilege their sounds, even though we looked at the words on the page. Our experiences engaging their sounds provide a blueprint for how we might proceed with the poetry.

For nearly two decades now, I've heard literary scholars speak of the ways that women are "silenced." We somehow rarely comment on the ways that reading and not listening to artists prevents us from hearing them. Maybe the approaches my class takes in the fall will give a group of women artists new listening audiences. 

Blog entries about black women poets

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