African

American

Literature

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E. Ethelbert Miller: How I Found Love Behind the Catcher's Mask (City Point Press, 2022)

How I Found Love Behind the Catcher’s Mask is the third volume in E. Ethelbert Miller’s trilogy of baseball poetry, following If God Invented Baseball (2018) and When Your Wife Has Tommy John Surgery and Other Baseball Stories (2021), all three published by David Wilk (“who keeps my poems on the field and not sitting on the bench” – Miller), editor and publisher of City Point Press, all 150 poems testimony to Miller’s love of baseball and the world of baseball.

Baseball’s ‘artful language’. These mostly short, often haiku-like poems are for the most part not about baseball in and of itself. In his introduction to How I Found Love … Merrill Leffler, poet and publisher of Dryad Press, writes: “Elements of the game are throughout the trilogy – pitching, hitting, baserunning, baseball’s artful language, but baseball is more often the springboard for getting poems into play ...

Alice Childress: Trouble in Mind (Theatre Communications Group, 2022)

I recall teachers urging me to write composition papers about Blacks who were “accomplishers” – those who win prizes and honors by overcoming … racial, physical, economic, or other handicaps … to become “winners.” I turned against the tide and to this day I continue to write about those who come in second,  or not at all … the “ordinary,” because they are not ordinary.” – Alice Childress

Last year, 2021, saw an unprecedented seven plays by African American playwrights* opening on Broadway, the ‘Great White Way’. Among them was Trouble in Mind, a play by Alice Childress (1916-1994) that had debuted off-Broadway in 1955. This is the stuff journalists (like myself) make headlines out of, like: “Black play reaches Broadway after 66 years.” But why the long wait?

Gene Andrew Jarrett and Thomas Lewis Morgan, editors: The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar (Ohio University Press, 2005)

Readers and critics who would restrict Dunbar’s expression devalue the complexity, the ambition, and the embrace of diversity that his writings represent” – poet and literary scholar Harryette Mullen     

Around the turn of the last century, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an American literary icon, read by both white and black readers, public schools – widely segregated by race in the United States under the ‘Separate but Equal’ doctrine until 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional – named in his honor, youngsters and adults alike learning poems like An Ante-Bellum Sermon, When Malindy Sings, We Wear the Mask, and Sympathy (“I know what the caged bird feels, alas!”) by heart, and reciting them in school, in church, and at social gatherings.  

Liberation Narratives: Nicole Mitchell and Her Black Earth Ensemble Brings Haki Madhubuti and His Poetry Back Again on CD

The Liberation Narratives CD is Nicole Mitchell’s gift to her mentor and friend, poet, publisher, and educator Haki R. Madhubuti and his Third World Press. Ten poems by Madhubuti, read by the author, is set to music by composer and flautist Nicole Mitchell and her Black Earth Ensemble.

Originally commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, as an artist-in-residence at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts 2016 to 2017 Nicole Mitchell worked on developing and performing this suite of music for Madhubuti’s poetry. Recorded live at the Logan Center, the CD Nicole Mitchell and Haki Madhubuti: Liberation Narratives was released by Third World Press/black earth music in 2017 as part of TWP’s celebration of its first 50 years of publishing.

African American Poetry Beyond English; or, The Example of Sybil Kein

In the Random Notes article on The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove, we wrote: “We are talking about American poetry in English only.”

A survey from 2008-2010 shows that most Americans, 79,7%, speak only English at home, while 12,6% report that Spanish is the main language spoken. Looking below at ‘African American poetry beyond English’, to Spanish we must add French, or French Creole, a language that has a long history in Louisiana, even as French – like all other American languages aside from English and Spanish – account for less than one percent of American spoken languages (see note below).  

The Spanish influence on African American (or American) poetry comes mainly via the Caribbean and countries ‘south of the border’ with large populations of Spanish-speaking  people ...

Effie Lee Newsome's Nature Poetry for Children Revisited

Effie Lee Newsome (1885-1979) is often considered to be the first African American poet to write poetry exclusively, or primarily, for children.   

Her career as a poet is closely tied to The Crisis and its editor, scholar and civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois. According to Wikipedia Effie Lee Newsome began working with DuBois on The Crisis as early as 1917, contributing to DuBois’ The Brownies’ Book, his short lived monthly magazine for children (1920-1921), for which poet and novelist Jessie Redmon Fauset wrote the dedicatory poem: “To children, who with eager look/ Scanned vainly library shelf and nook,/ For History or Song or Story/ That told of Colored Peoples’ glory,–/ We dedicate The Brownies’ Book.” From 1925 to 1929 she was given her own Crisis-column for children, The Little Page ...