Every Goodbye Ain't Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans

Every Goodbye Ain't Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans

Every Goodbye Ain't Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans

Every Goodbye Ain't Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans


Showcases brilliant and experimental work in African American poetry. Just prior to the Second World War, and even more explosively in the 1950s and 1960s, a far-reaching revolution in aesthetics and prosody by black poets ensued, some working independently and others in organized groups. Little of this new work was reflected in the anthologies and syllabi of college English courses of the period. Even during the 1970s, when African American literature began to receive substantial critical attention, the work of many experimental black poets continued to be neglected.
Every Goodbye Ain't Gone
presents the groundbreaking work of many of these poets who carried on the innovative legacies of Melvin Tolson, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Hayden. Whereas poetry by such key figures such as Amiri Baraka, Tolson, Jayne Cortez, Clarence Major, and June Jordan is represented, this anthology also elevates into view the work of less studied poets such as Russell Atkins, Jodi Braxton, David Henderson, Bob Kaufman, Stephen Jonas, and Elouise Loftin. Many of the poems collected in the volume are currently unavailable and some will appear in print here for the first time.
Coeditors Aldon Lynn Nielsen and Lauri Ramey provide a critical introduction that situates the poems historically and highlights the ways such poetry has been obscured from view by recent critical and academic practices. The result is a record of experimentation, instigation, and innovation that links contemporary African American poetry to its black modernist roots and extends the terms of modern poetics into the future.


Who will enter its beautiful calligraphy of blood

Jayne Cortez

at its worst or best every nest is different by the way a feather is tucked or a straw is bent!

Melvin B. Tolson

“Who Speaks Negro?” asked Sarah Webster Fabio as recently as 1966, and while it is probably the case that such a question is read with yet more irony in our own purportedly post-ironic era, it was already an odd question in its day. Fabio was responding, of course, to the proposition put forward by Karl Shapiro in his introduction to the later work of Melvin B. Tolson that Tolson’s work was somehow written in “Negro,” perhaps an even more curious label than “Ebonics.” Still, Fabio’s argument against Shapiro was not that there was no singular tongue that could properly be termed “Negro” or “black,” so much as it was an insistence that whatever “Negro” might be, Tolson’s poetry was not an instance of it.

The critical counter in these disputes always seems to involve the enlistment of Langston Hughes in dubious battle. Hence, at the University of Kansas centennial conference devoted to the life and works of Langston Hughes, Onwuchekwa Jemie opposed the “folksy, populist and proletarian” verses of Hughes to the writings of those moderns whose poetry he sees as “a code needing to be cracked.” It is a familiar opposition by now. In his magisterial biography of Langston Hughes, Arnold Rampersad complains in passing that Tolson, in composing his Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, “had written probably the most hyper-European, unpopulist poem ever penned by a black writer.” Further, the biography asks, “Did it not matter that very few of the American Friends of Libe-

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