Intro by Adam Day

We offer up this project aware that identity classifications are inherently suspect, and potentially reductive, not least those associated with race. In fact, we were prompted to pursue this project, on the one hand, by the scholar Darby English’s How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness, which claims that, “Work by black artists today is almost uniformly understood in terms of its ‘blackness,’ with audiences often expecting or requiring it to ‘represent’ the race.” The text goes on to argue that, “such expectations [severely] limit the scope of our knowledge about this work and how different it looks when approached on its own terms.” On the other hand, we were struck by the conversations between and around Claudia Rankine and Ton Hoagland, as well as by the back-and-forth, months ago now, between Tyler Perry and Spike Lee, about “high” and “low” art, and about what African-Americans, as well as others, think African-American art is, “should be”, and what it can be. Thus, questions arise, like: How has the role of African-American history in African-American poetry changed? What problems and possibilities arise when questions of artistic priority and freedom conflict with perceived cultural obligations? And so on.

We hope you’ll enjoy what seven poets and scholars had to say about “The State of African-American Poetry,” in concept and in practice, each in their way:  Gary Jackson, Patricia Smith, Douglas Kearney, January O’Neil, Adam Bradley, Afaa Michael Weaver, and Tyrone Williams.

Adam Bradley Afaa M. Weaver Douglas Kearney
January G. O'Neil Patricia Smith Tyrone Williams
  Gary Jackson