Identity Poetics

English 685 ~ Fall 2001 ~ Susan Tichy 

Week 3: Sept 10: 
From New Negro to Black Arts

The Black Arts Movement believes that your ethics and your aesthetics are one. --Larry Neal

This is a heavy reading week, a bit more than 40 poems and some secondary material. Please be valiant. Some of these poems and poets will be relevant to our discussions in Weeks 4, 5 & beyond, as will the fundamental issues of identity & aesthetic choice raised in and by these poems. Under "Interviews & Secondary" I have asked you to read all items on a core list, then provided a longer list from which to choose. I will ask you to assume responsibility for reading specific items, reporting on them briefly, & incorporating their ideas into our discussion. For an even larger list of poems by African Americans in MAP, click here.

Poems  ~ Secondary  ~ Back to General ScheduleOn to Week 4


Core Reading: Poems:

Anthology of Modern American Poetry (MAP):

From the Harlem Renaissance:

Dunbar: Sympathy 39 
Grimké: The Black Finger 145
Johnson: Motherhood 148
Spencer: White Things 162
McKay: To the White Friends 315, If We Must Die 315, Mulatto 318
Toomer: from Cane 352
Tolson: Libretto for the Republic of Libya 418 
[Read several pages, including the notes, to get a feel for its scope. If you later decide to write on Brathwaite you should read it all.]
Brown: Slim in Atlanta 476, Slim in Hell 478, Choices 48
Hughes: Negro 503, Mulatto 506, Good-bye Christ 512, Let America Be America Again 515, Harlem 523, Come to the Waldorf Astoria 1230 [in the appendix], Christ in Alabama 1232 [in the appendeix], Dinner Guest: Me 524 
Cullen: Incident 530, Yet Do I Marvel 531, Heritage 532
Three transitional poets, whose careers continued into (& beyond) the years of 
the Black Arts movement:
Hayden: Middle Passage 691, Runagate Runagate 696
Randall: Ballad of Birmingham 731
Brooks: Piano After War 769, The White Troops Had Their Orders 770, Young Afrikans 776, The Boy Died in My Alley 777, To Those of My Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals 778
Black Arts poets (& a bit beyond):
Knight: The Idea of Ancestry 968, For Malcolm a Year After 971
Dumas: Son of Msippi 991, Kef 24 992
Baraka: Black Art 998, When We’ll Worship Jesus 999 
Lorde: Coal 1009, Call 1011
Cortez: I Am New York City 1026, Do You Think 1027
Clifton: Reply 1031, brothers 1033
Harper: Deathwatch 1047 [Harper's jazz poems are for week 4]
Reed: I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra 1050
Rodgers: how i got ovah 1095, and when the revolution came 1096
Komunyakaa: Tu Do Street 1142
Smith: What It's Like to Be a Black Girl

Poems  ~  Secondary  ~ Back to General ScheduleOn to Week 4
Core Reading: Interviews & Secondary:

MAP Website
This site is arranged by author pages, with background articles linked via the poets to whom they are relevant. A few, like the photos of sharecropping, appear on only a single author page, while others, like the set of pages on the Black Arts Movement (BAM) are linked to several poets.

Read all of this material:

About the Black Arts Movement (linked via Baraka or another BAM poet)
Historical Overviews of the BAM (entire) 
African American Poetry: An Overview (entire)
In Documents of the Movement, read Karenga "On Black Art" & both articles by Fuller

Hughes>Life & Career, Hughes' "The Negro Artist & the Racial Mountain," 1926
Brown>Life & Career (+ Photo dossier on sharecropping)

Then read as many of these as you can, at least four items:

MAP Website:
Baraka>Biography & Historical Context, Interviews (excerpts)
          (And there's a great picture of him on the EPC site - linked on MAP
Randall>About Dudley Randall, About Birmingham & the Civil Rights Movement in 1963
Brooks>Life & Career
Lorde>Life & Career, Lorde on Being a Black Lesbian Feminist
Spencer> On Anne Spencer
Bennett>Bennett's LIfe & Career, additional poems
Cullen> Cullen on African-American Literary Tradition & Modernity, On Race, Homosexuality & Visual & Verbal Androgyny
Tolson>Biographical Note, Tolson's References & Footnotes
Cortez>On Cortez" Poetry
Smith: About Patricia Amith, on-line poems

Reserve Desk:

Sonia Sanchez: "Form & Spirit: An Interview with..." by Annie Finch. The Writer's Chronicle March/April 1999. 5+

Yusef Komunyakaa: Interview with E. Ethelbert Miller & Zoe Anglesey. The Writer's Chronicle October/November 2000. 13+

Additional Sources: Web:

The Black Arts Movement, a site designed for a course at the University of Michigan, includes artwork from the movement, and remarks on key people, institutions & concepts. The MAP Black Arts Movement pages include several documents archived on this site, and also provides a link to it. 

Bonvibres's Phat African American Poetry Book / Sally Gaster's African American Phat Library

Additional Sources: Reserve Desk:

Oxford Companion to African American Literature.Some of the MAP web site articles are extracted from this excellent volume. I particularly recommend the entries on Poetry, Criticism, Identity, Speech & Dialect, Harlem Renaissance, and the Black Arts Movement. You'll also find articles on individual poets and poems.

Lorenzo Thomas: "Neon Griot: the Functional Role of Poetry Readings in the Black Arts Movement" in Bernstein's Close Listening. You may also want to track down Thomas' new book, in which this essay also appears: Extraordinary Measures: Afrocentric Modernism and Twentieth-Century American Poetry. UP Alabama, 2000.

Poems  ~ Secondary  ~ Back to General ScheduleOn to Week 4

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