Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cornel West, Eugene B. Redmond, and conversations about poetry

Cornel West and Eugene B. Redmond in East St. Louis

Last week, on May 17, in East St. Louis, when introducing me to Cornel West, Eugene B. Redmond began by alerting West to my academic pedigree. For many people that means the schools one attended. But Redmond takes a slightly different approach..

[RelatedEugene B. Redmond hosts Cornel West in East St. Louis]

Redmond grabbed my arm, placed his other hand on West's shoulder and began to explain my background. "First," he said to West, "Jerry Ward introduced him to criticism on poetry, including my book. Then, he worked with Keith Gilyard and Bernard Bell."

"All of that?" asked West impressed.

"Unh-hunh," said Redmond and continued to talk through my work. He informed West that I studied Amiri Baraka's poetry with William Harris, and that I had written a book about the Black Arts Movement. Redmond eventually said, "And he was brought here to SIUE three years before I retired as my replacement."

That's when I interrupted. "You can't believe all of this, Professor West," I said, "because there's no way I, or anyone could ever be Professor Redmond's replacement." No one could replace Redmond, which is to say, no one could match what he's done and continues to do here. Like, who else could get Cornel West to spend a whole day, meeting with so man different people in East St. Louis?

This wasn't the first time that Redmond had me talking black poetry with him and one of his guests. Back in 2003, we were in Redmond's office on campus talking poetry with Quincy Troupe. In 2004, we were talking poetry with Sonia Sanchez.

Then, in I recall we were on music and poetry with Amiri Baraka at Redmond's home in October 2005. Later that month, it was more on poetry and culture with Haki Madhubuti and Jayne Cortez. The next year, Redmond hosted Mari Evans, and there we were talking more on poetry and history. And those are all just some of the more known figures.

The Cornel West event in East St. Louis provided Redmond and I yet another opportunity to talk with his guest and others about poetry, music, culture, and history.

Lively conversations about poetry with multigenerations of black men
10 Years of Poets Reading at SIUE

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