Early movements within black poetry had roots and examples in the black literary tradition, as well as roots from outside the black literary tradition. So what is black poetry? Donald B. Gibson, editor of Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays (1973), suggests that \"there are no terms or categories which will specifically distinguish the writing of black poets from that of others.\"
modern black poets a collection of critical essays
African American poets as early as the American Revolution wrote verse reflective of the time in which they lived. The earliest known black American poets: Jupiter Hammon (1711-1800), Lucy Terry (1730-1821) and Phillis Wheatley (1753_5-1784) constructed their poems on contemporary models. Lucy Terry wrote a brief narrative poem describing an Indian raid, a poem important not so much for its esthetics as for its historical importance. The poem, \"Bar Fight,\" was written in 1746 or thereabouts and not published until 1855, is the first poem known to have been written by a black poet.
Other Nineteenth century black poets includes George Moses Horton (1797-1883?), Frances E.W. Harper (1825-1911), James Madison Bell (1826-1902), and James M. Whitfield (1823-1878). Their poetry was primarily political. They wrote against slavery or other wrongs perpetrated by society. Horton's first volume of poetry, Hope of Liberty (1829), was written with the expectation that his book would be successful enough that he would be able to purchase his freedom. Horton's book describes the evils of slavery. He became the first black poet to complain candidly about slavery. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was the most widely known of this group because of her general involvement in the abolitionist and temperance movements. She was an abolitionist orator and poet, published her Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects in 1854. which was enthusiastically received by the public. This volume of verse included poems on the tragic circumstances of slavery and went through several editions by 1874, \"The Slave Mother\" and \"The Slave Auction\" were among the best of these poems. Harper wrote in conformist ways about similar subjects of interest and that were suitable for her time.
Paul Laurence Dunbar launched a new era in African American literature. He was one of the first black poets to gain national recognition. He was born on June 27, 1872, to freed slaves from Kentucky, Joshua and Matilda Murphy Dunbar. His parents separated shortly after his birth and he was raised by his mother. By the age of 14, Dunbar had published poems in the Dayton Herald. In 1893, Dunbar self-published a collection of poems called Oak and Ivy. He sold the book for a dollar to people riding his elevator to help pay the publishing costs. He received a formal education in high school, graduating in 1891. He was an excellent student and the only African American in his class. Unable to attend college because he lacked the finances and experiencing racial discrimination, he eventually took a job as an elevator operator.
Essentially, my overview and drawn from the collection of essays edited by Gibson in Modern Black Poets - black poetry is defined as follows: Poetry written by black writers is racial - employing subjects, language, attitudes, and scenes from racial experience; or non-racial oriented toward experience that is common to the majority of people; or varying degrees of both of these at once. Black poets have written about racial protest, poems protesting against discrimination or other forms of racism. Black poets have written about black life and character, describing it or commenting on it in un-protesting ways and, finally, black poets have written poems from a completely non-racial perspective, poems indistinguishable from those written by non-black poets.
Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era is an edited collection of critical essays and poetry that investigates contemporary elegy within the black diaspora. Scores of contemporary writers have turned to elegiac poetry and prose in order to militate against the white supremacist logic that has led to recent deaths of unarmed black men, women, and children. This volume combines scholarly and creative understandings of the elegy in order to discern how mourning feeds our political awareness in this dystopian time as writers attempt to see, hear, and say something in relation to the bodies of the dead as well as to living readers. Moreover, this book provides a model for how to productively interweave theoretical and deeply personal accounts to encourage discussions about art and activism that transgress disciplinary boundaries, as well as lines of race, gender, class, and nation.
As the twenty-first century unfolds in a United States characterized by deep divisions, diminished democracy, and dramatic transformation of identities, this singular book asks a dozen North American poets to engage with texts by their predecessors in ways that avoid both aloofness from the past and too-easy elegy. The resulting essays dwell provocatively on the border between the lyrical and the scholarly, casting fresh critical light on the golden age of American literature and exploring a handful of texts not commonly included in its canon.
In the debate about the purpose of art, Hayden's stance, closer to the aesthete than the propagandist, has exposed him to criticism. Yet the coalescence in Hayden's poetry of African-American material with a sophisticated modernism represents a singular achievement in the history of American poetry. His poetry about black culture and history, moreover, reveals the deepest of commitments to his own racial group as well as to humanity as a whole.
SIDELIGHTS: \"Poetry in my home was almost as strange as money,\" Haki R. Madhubuti, originally named Donald L. Lee, related in Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s. Abandoned by his father, and bereaved of his mother at the age of sixteen, Madhubuti made his living by maintaining two paper routes and cleaning a nearby bar. Poetry was scarce in his early life, he explained in the same source, because \"what wasn't taught, but was consciously learned, in our early educational experience was that writing of any kind was something that Black people just didn't do.\" Nonetheless, he has become one of the best-known poets of the black arts movement of the 1960s, a respected and influential critic of poetry, and an activist dedicated to the cultural unity of black Americans. \"In many ways,\" wrote Catherine Daniels Hurst in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Madhubuti \"is one of the most representative voices of his time. Although most significant as a poet, his work as an essayist, critic, publisher, social activist, and educator has enabled him to go beyond the confines of poetry to the establishment of a black press and a school for black children.\"
Madhubuti's poetic voice softened somewhat during the 1970s, during which time he directed his energies to the writing of political essays (\"From Plan to Planet-Life Studies: The Need for Afrikan Minds and Institutions\" and \"Enemies: The Clash of Races\"). In addition, he contributed to the establishment of a black aesthetic for new writers through critical essays and reviews. Dynamite Voices I, for instance, \"has become one of the major contemporary scholarly resources for black poetry,\" noted Hurst. Fulfilling the role of \"cultural stabilizer,\" he also gave himself to the construction of institutions that promote the cultural independence and education of his people. In a fight against \"brain mismanagement\" in America, he founded the Third World Press in 1967 to encourage literacy and the Institute of Positive Education in 1969 \"to provide educational and communication services to a community struggling to assert its identity amidst powerful, negative forces,\" he told Donnarae MacCann for an interview published in Interracial Books for Children Bulletin.
Summing up the importance of Madhubuti's work, Hurst stated that, except for Imamu Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Madhubuti is the most widely emulated black poet of all time, and his enormous influence continues to grow. \"His books have sold more than a million copies, without benefit of a national distributor. Perhaps Madhubuti will even succeed in helping to establish some lasting institutions in education and in the publishing world. Whether he does or not, he has already secured a place for himself in American literature. He is among the foremost anthologized contemporary revolutionary poets, and he has played a significant role in stimulating other young black talent.\"
With the publication of Think Black! (1967), Black Pride (1968), and Don't Cry, Scream (1969), Madhubuti quickly established himself as a leading poetic voice among his generation of black artists in America. His poetry generated critical acclaim, particularly among African-American commentators associated with the maturing Black Arts movement of the 1960s and early 1970s (the first major black artistic movement since the Harlem Renaissance).
In 1973 the poet rejected his \"slave name\" by changing it from Don L. Lee to the Swahili name Haki R. Madhubuti (which means \"precise justice\"). In the same year he published two collections, From Plan to Planet and Book of Life. These volumes of essays and poetry illustrate his commitment to black cultural nationalism, a philosophy that combines political activism with cultural preservation in the drive toward racial awareness and black unity.
Although his artistic production declined during the mid- to late 1970s, the publication of another volume of essays and poetry, Earthquakes and Sun Rise Missions (1984), renewed Madhubuti's advocacy of black