Audio Roundup: Black Poets Honoring Black Poets
In honor of Black History Month, Poets House invites you to spend some time listening to black poets who have spoken on the work and legacy of other black poets as part of our long-running Passwords program series. Here are just a few highlights from our multimedia archive.
- In this talk on the occasion of the posthumous publication of collected works of Lucille Clifton (1936–2010), Elizabeth Alexander examines the ways in which Clifton’s poems “speak across the porous scrim between life and death” in the context of the black family.
- Mahogany L. Browne, Rosamond S. King, and t’ai freedom ford come together in “a black girl magic panel,” as ford puts it, to honor poet, writer, civil rights activist, legal theorist, labor organizer, and Episcopal priest Pauli Murray (1910–1985) on the occasion of the re-release of a volume of Murray’s poetry. They celebrate her poems and look at her work through the lenses of race, gender, and queerness.
- As part of the Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000) centennial in 2017, Cheryl Clarke read and discussed Brooks’ poems, examining her “dedication to location and subject” as a strategy that re-shapes African-American post-War poetry.
- In 2001, the great L. A. poet Wanda Coleman (1946–2013) examined the life and writing of Phillis Wheatley (1753–1784), who published her one book of poems while a slave. Here, Coleman discusses the publication and reception of Wheatley’s work and makes connections to contemporary racism in America. “The circumstances that govern our lives are terribly related,” notes Coleman.
- Prolific poet and fiction writer Kwame Dawes speaks on contemporary poetry of Africa, looking at poems by Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor (1935–2013), as well as seven “new-generation African poets.” In another program, he discusses the epic tradition in relation to contemporary poetry of the Caribbean, including work by Derek Walcott (1930–2017) and Dionne Brand.
- Poet Patricia Spears Jones explores the life and work of her friend Lorenzo Thomas (1944–2005), a poet, critic, and formative member of the Umbra Workshop, the famous Lower East Side collective that gave birth to the Black Arts Movement.
- Scholar and poet Rosamond S. King gives a talk on 20th-century Caribbean poets, focusing on innovative poetry by Kamau Brathwaite and M. NourbeSe [Philip] (who will be at Poets House this year on June 1!), looking at their explorations of speech and history, respectively. King also looks at—and plays recordings of—Calypso and other music.
- National Book Award winner Danez Smith talks about the influence of the radical poetics of Audre Lorde (1934–1992) on young poets like Smith, including her inventive use of autobiography and her investigations of race and lesbian experience.
Please enjoy these programs, and next month join us at 10 River Terrace for Writing & Teaching in a Time of Crisis: Lessons from June Jordan on March 2, our second annual panel of poet-educators discussing the inspirational example of the acclaimed activist, teacher and writer. This program is presented as part of the Poetry Coalition’s initiative What is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy.