This Bridge Called
Notes on Blueblack,
Houston A. Baker, Jr.
That night I dreamed I was at a circus with "my grandfather" and that he refused to laugh at the
clowns no matter what they did. Then later he told me to open my brief case and read what was
inside and I did, finding an official envelope stamped with the state seal; and inside the envelope
I found another and another, endlessly, and I thought I would fall of weariness. "Them's years,"
—RALPH ELLISON, INVISIBLE MAN, 1952
Editors Lisa Gail Collins and Margo Natalie Crawford, under the title New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement, have done a wonderful scholarly service, producing an outstanding work designed to connect fallen leaves and furiously new flowerings of black insight and talent. The recent Furious Flower Black Poetry Conference convened in the fall of 2004 at James Madison University. It debuted a brilliant documentary film in remembrance of the much heralded 1994 Furious Flower Conference, whose lively artistic and critical interchange led to books, striking video series, poetry collections, and legendary first meetings. In bold colors, the documentary film captures black poets philosophizing, preaching, signifying, hugging, chanting, patting their feet, clapping their hands in righteous harmony to the positive vibrations of the occasion. There was Amiri Baraka trying to out-theorize Askia Touré, Gwendolyn Brooks working her crowd magic in wise and lyrical vibrato, Sonia Sanchez caught in the welcoming smile of Raymond Patterson. Then, without seam or flicker, the documentary segued into a black-and-white "in memoriam" to our "fallen leaves." A hush fell over the audience as gorgeous filmic portraits of Gwendolyn Brooks, June Jordan, Raymond Patterson, Margaret Walker, and others appeared with the dates of their living and death scripted for our witness. One could hear soft breathing from far away rows, and, the gentle sound of weeping.