358:371 Black Poetry

01  MW4   CAC  18086  SHOCKLEY   MU-115

In this course, out of the many paths we could take through the rich tradition of poetry by people of African descent, we are going to follow this question: why and how do black poets experiment?  Behind this question are many others we’ll need to consider.  What social forces have encouraged black poets not to pursue aesthetic innovation?  How is experimental black art received—by the literary world or by the black community (neither of which is as singular as that phrasing would imply)?  What is the relationship between avant-garde poetics and social politics, and how do black avant gardes work with that relationship?  Is “blackness” itself experimental in some sense?  Practices that were once experimental may now seem to us quite conventional (e.g., the blues poetry of Langston Hughes), so we will find ourselves moving between familiar and unfamiliar (and defamiliarizing) aesthetics, over the course of our study.

Some poets we are likely to read include Langston Hughes, Anne Spencer, Jean Toomer, Melvin Tolson, Bob Kaufman, Jayne Cortez, Ed Roberson, C.S. Giscombe, Harryette Mullen, Renee Gladman, and Douglas Kearney.  Course evaluation will be based on regular response papers, a class presentation, one short paper (4-5 pages), one longer paper (7-9 pages), the memorization of a poem, and possibly an exam.