Monday, January 8, 2024

Diversity and Black Poetry

In the context of American poetry, diversity can mean including several white poets and a few, any, Black poets. But diversity is different in discussions of Black poetry. 

For one, you're responsible for far more Black poets when dealing in the worlds of Black poetry. You could get away with including star poets like Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, and perhaps Amiri Baraka in an American literature anthology, right? But, include anything less than 100 Black poets in a collection on Black poetry, and you'd find yourself the subject of serious critiques. How'd you leave out...? 

The diversity among Black poets also stands out. By the way, when we say "Black," do we mean Black American, or are we also including poets from various countries in the Caribbean, from various countries in Africa, from countries in Europe as well? If we are just Black poets in the US, do we mean those who migrated here as well, like Claude McKay, Derek Walcott, Claudia Rankine?  If we're dealing with Black poets in the US, are we making sure that we're mindful of geographic diversity including poets from the Northeast, South, Midwest, and West?

If you're a literature professor covering Black poetry, you're inclined to focus on historically significant poets and poems, because, where else will students get such exposure? Alright, but the young folks in your class will wonder about age diversity and want you to consider much younger poets, closer to their ages. 

If you're covering Black poetry in a creative writing program, you likely will cover contemporary volumes by your peers or poets you admire and want your students to consider. But, you might, if paying close attention to print-based poets have little time to consider the many YouTube or performance poets out there.

And hey, even among contemporary Black print-based poets, there's  so much diversity. Styles. Subjects. Author demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.). Publishers. Groupings of poets.  

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