Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Docupoems by African American Poets

I'm amazed how facebook allows discussions like these. Thanks, Joe, for putting this out there.


Joseph Harrington

OK - so I'm teaching a course on "Documentary Poetry" next semester - a seminar for senior honors students. I want to teach docupoems by African American poets. I'm thinking about Cecil Giscombe, but am worried he might fry them. I could do Don't Let Me Be Lonely. Other ideas?

Mark Wallace Too obvious, of course, and not recent: Langston Hughes, "Montage of a Dream Deferred," and Melvin Tolson, Harlem Gallery.

Joseph Harrington You're right, Mark - I think I'm going to include at least one of those.

Dennis EtzelJr Don't Let Me Be Lonely! Love that one. How about the latest Kevin Young one around the Amistad?

Joseph Harrington O right - have you read it, Dennis?

Dennis EtzelJr No, I haven't. I remember how different it looks. Less like his stanzas, more like documents, letters.

Catherine Daly though it would be a shame to do young's Amistad without Barbara Chase-Ribaud...

Dennis EtzelJr Nice!

Ben Friedlander If you are including Rukeyser, might be good to add Robert Hayden's "Middle Passage," which drew on her Amistad research. There's also Gwendolyn Brooks's "verse journalism," her poem "In Montgomery," first published in a special issue of Ebony on the state of the South. I suspect you could fit Jay Wright in too, if you like his work, as an instance of Dogon research.

Jena Osman don't know if you can include Caribbean: Trench Town Rock by Kamau Brathwaite

Jena Osman and for Tolson you might want to try his Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

Catherine Daly Cesaire

Jena Osman again, not American (as in U.S.), but certainly addressing issues of race: Nourbese Philip's Zong

Michele Battiste Camille Dungy's Suck on the Marrow

Michele Battiste Tyehimba Jess's Leadbelly

Ben Friedlander Thinking too that the documentary status of African American poetry has been at issue from Wheatley on, which ought to be addressed. And in that light would propose God's Trombones as exemplary: it's documentary in method while making a case for the sermon's own status as document.

Rosa Alcala Yes, Jena Osman, Trench Town Rock, although its Caribbean. And Natasha Trethewey. I even want to put Mullen's S*PeRM**K*T in there.

Rosa Alcala it's

Rosa Alcala I think Ben's right, and to consider Hughes' work as documentary is to delve into matters of" "authenticity" vs. artistic expression/representation.

Rosa Alcala I want to take your class, Joe!

Joseph Harrington These are great ideas, folks! Thank you! Ben, hadn't known re: the Rukeyser/Hayden connection - definitely doing Book of the Dead, maybe Mediterraneo. But Jay Wright? His stuff fries *me* (tho I like the sound of it quite a bit). And excellent point Re: Af-Am poetry (lit.) being taken *as* documentary. Jena - yeah, those are on my short-list. But I also have an eye on this NEH seminar we're having this summer re: teaching African-American poetry (per se). Michele - thanks for mentioning Suck on the Marrow as a docupoem - that was one I was thinking of. More voice-based than most stuff I'm doing, but that's precisely what's at issue, in that book. Rosa - why S*perM*k*t as docupo? B/c of the lyrics, ads, etc?

Joseph Harrington My cup runneth over! I'm running to get another cup! Keep 'em comin!

Rosa Alcala I know it's a stretch, but I'm thinking of the ways it documents this commercial space. Of course, it's not investigative in the usual sense, in its direct or collaged use of sources. But, I wouldn't consider Hughes' Montage investigative or documentary.

Lee Chapman What do you mean Giscombe might fry them? He's an excellent docupoem proponent. Would frying them be a good thing or a bad thing?

Sarah Fox Zong is amazing, I second that, and have taught parts of it with great success.

Susan Schweik I've taught Cecil's "Indianapolis, Indiana" to nonmajors even. With a lot of framing about the Tribe of Ishmael. Very fun. Even did it again.

Joseph Harrington Thanks, Sue!! I was looking for some encouragement. I'm thinking honors students here = regular students at Berkeley, in terms of prep. Do you have any resources re: Tribe of Ishmael that you'd recommend?

Susan Schweik I've got something unpublished written on it I can send you!

Joseph Harrington Thanks!!

Don Byrd Paul Metcalf

Goro Takano Wish I could take your course, Joe.

Dale Martin Smith Lorenzo Thomas--Dancing on Main Street--Chances Are Few, etc

Dale Martin Smith Also M. Nourbese Philips' ZONG

Aldon Lynn Nielsen http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/11/nyregion/amiri-baraka-newark-poet-looks-back-on-a-bloody-week-in-1967.html?_r=0

Aldon Lynn Nielsen I hadn't jumped in yet because I wasn't clear from the comments how people were defining "documentary" -- but if Montage of a Dream Deferred qualifies, then certainly Baraka's WISE does. And check out that piece in today's NY TIMES.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis There's something about the few prose poems by Fenton Johnson that might help out here.

Joseph Harrington I'm not sure I've ever read them, Rachel - book?

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