African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song is a literary landmark: the biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period […]


African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song

Authors:Kevin Young, Campbell McGrath


African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song is a literary landmark: the biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period to the present. Only now, in the 21st century, can we fully grasp the breadth and range of African American poetry: a magnificent chorus of voices, some familiar, others recently rescued from neglect. Here, in this unprecedented anthology expertly selected by poet and scholar Kevin Young, this precious living heritage is revealed in all its power, beauty, and multiplicity.

Discover, in these pages, how an enslaved person like Phillis Wheatley confronted her legal status in verse and how an antebellum activist like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper voiced her own passionate resistance to slavery. Read nuanced, provocative poetic meditations on identity and self-assertion stretching from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Amiri Baraka to Lucille Clifton and beyond. Experience the transformation of poetic modernism in the works of figures such as Langston Hughes, Fenton Johnson, and Jean Toomer. Understand the threads of poetic history – in movements such as the Harlem and Chicago Renaissances, Black Arts, Cave Canem, and the Dark Room Collective – and the complex bonds of solidarity and dialogue among poets across time and place. See how these poets have celebrated their African heritage and connected with other communities in the African Diaspora. Enjoy the varied but distinctly Black music of a tradition that draws deeply from jazz, hip-hop, and the rhythms and cadences of the pulpit, the barbershop, and the street. And appreciate, in the anthology’s concluding sections, why contemporary African American poetry, amply recognized in recent National Book Awards and Poet Laureates, is flourishing as never before. Taking the measure of the tradition in a single indispensable volume, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song sets a new standard for a genuinely deep engagement with Black poetry and its essential expression of American genius.

Moderated by Campbell McGrath, Nouns & Verbs: New and Selected Poems.

Kevin Young

Kevin Young is Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library and poetry editor of The New Yorker. His books of poetry include Brown, Dear Darkness, and Jelly Roll: A Blues. He has previously edited the anthology Blues Poems, Jazz Poems, and, for Library of America, John Berryman: Selected Poems. Expertly selected by poet and scholar Kevin Young African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (Library of America) is an unprecedented anthology capturing the breadth and range of African American poetry. It’s a precious living heritage revealed in all its power, beauty, and multiplicity. It arcs from the work of an enslaved person like Phillis Wheatley, confronting her legal status in verse, to the voice of antebellum activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper to the provocative poetic meditations on identity and self-assertion stretching from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Amiri Baraka to Lucille Clifton and beyond. Enjoy the varied but distinctly Black music of a tradition that draws deeply from jazz, hip hop, and the rhythms and cadences of the pulpit, the barbershop, and the street. African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song sets a new standard for a genuinely deep engagement with Black poetry and its essential expression of American genius. TIME magazine praised Kevin Young and his anthology as “an exhilarating collection of voices that have helped shape the country, many of whom never got their full due. By including new forms and overlooked schools, Young’s anthology promises to rewrite the history of American verse.”

Campbell McGrath

Campbell McGrath is the author of nine previous books. He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been published in publications such as New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, the Paris Review, the New Yorker, Poetry, and Ploughshares. His poetry is represented in dozens of anthologies. Deeply personal but also expansive in its imaginative scope, the collection Nouns & Verbs (Ecco) brings together thirty-five years of McGrath’s writing. He gives us startlingly inventive new poems while surveying his previous work—lyric poems, prose poems, and a personal epic, “An Odyssey of Appetite,” exploring America’s limitless material and spiritual hungers. Nothing is too large or small to remain untouched by McGrath’s voracious intellect and deep empathy as he investigates the enduring human experiences of love and loss. In a starred review, Booklist noted that “McGrath’s absorbing, amusing, and reflective traveling music entices us on the road yet again.”

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