Though the term “special issue” can easily be overused and undervalued in contemporary journal publishing, this issue of The Black Scholar very clearly stands out in its engagement with the increasingly present and influential world of Black experimental poetics. Because some might think this world hermetic and distant from the broader assumptions and expectations of African-American writing and African-American thinking about writing, this issue colludes with a number of transformational figures in how the Black word is produced and consumed. They are leading poets and critics exploring the range of Black experimental writing in the U.S.
After a brief introduction by poet/critic, David Marriott, Aldon Lynn Nielsen opens with the complex notion of ‘nation times’ in the poetry of Amiri Baraka, including the notion of Black poetry as an event of political transformation and transfiguration. There is arguably no greater poet of Black poetic transfiguration than Nathaniel Mackey who follows with a poem from his epic cycle, “Song of the Andomboulou,” which begins: “Again we awoke remembering the dead” as he explores the link between reminiscence and the “never not to be remembered.”
In “The Erotics of Mourning in Recent Experimental Black Poetry,” Anthony Reed examines the Black ‘post-lyric,’ with particular reference to the poetry of Claudia Rankine. For Reed, contemporary Black experimental poetry calls for a different kind of reading that dispenses with the dominant cultural emphasis on “lyricization” and all of its cultural and embodied associations. In “Please feel free to perform the text”: Making Slavery Work in a “Colorblind” Era,” Evie Shockley provides a multi-layered discussion of Mendi and Keith Obadike’s, Big House / Disclosure. Arguing that an aesthetic of colorblindness continues to inform white readings of Black poetic forms, gestures, and language, Shockley sees the Obadikes’ work as providing different possibilities and challenges for those who would imagine a race-less universality.
Ronaldo Wilson’s performance work, Lucy & All of Us, continues this exploration of race, genre, and praxis using images as well as text, while Dionne Brand closes out this truly remarkable issue with “An Ars Poetica from the Blue Clerk,” meditating on her attempt to “produce a grammar in which Black existence might be the thought and not the unthought.”
Preview the issue here.
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