Friday, June 23, 2023

Collegiate black men and poetry

It sometimes seems like folks don't like talking about challenges with teaching poetry. 

That's a thought I had recently or a thought I've had for some time now. On the public stage, you'll have someone write one of those "death of poetry" articles. Then poets and friends of poets will unite and talk about how poetry is more popular than ever. 

I don't think poetry is dead or dying. And though I agree it's popular in some quarters, I don't think that's the case in some other areas. 

I've been teaching this course for first-year black men for, whew, nearly two decades now. After the guys take the class and see me around campus, we talk about films, music, sports, and other topics. Notably, they almost never talk to me about new poetry that they encounter. It's like they only engaged poetry in a serious way when they were in my class.

That's not to say they don't engage poetry in it's varied modes (i.e. rap, other songs, rhymes in various places). But the the poetry that appears in poetry magazines, in volumes of poetry, in anthologies? Nah, they don't really talk to me about any of that. 

I suspect it has to do with the absence of ecosystems that support Black men casual poetry readers. Now, interestingly, I think there's a lot of potential support for Black poets. Workshops. Retreats. MFA programs. Awards. But general readers? Not so much. 

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