Into a Light Both Brilliant and Unseen: Conversations with Contemporary Black Poets

Into a Light Both Brilliant and Unseen: Conversations with Contemporary Black Poets

Into a Light Both Brilliant and Unseen: Conversations with Contemporary Black Poets

Into a Light Both Brilliant and Unseen: Conversations with Contemporary Black Poets


Malin Pereira's collection of eight interviews with leading contemporary African American poets offers an in-depth look at the cultural and aesthetic perspectives of the post-Black Arts Movement generation. This volume includes unpublished interviews Pereira conducted with Wanda Coleman, Yusef Komunyakaa, Thylias Moss, Harryette Mullen, Cornelius Eady, and Elizabeth Alexander, as well as conversations with Rita Dove and Cyrus Cassells previously in print. Largely published since 1980, each of these poets has at least four books. Their influence on new generations of poets has been wide-reaching. The work of this group, says Pereira, is a departure from the previous generation's proscriptive manifestos in favor of more inclusive voices, perspectives, and techniques. Although these poets reject a rigid adherence to a specific black aesthetic, their work just as effectively probes racism, stereotyping, and racial politics. Unlike Amiri Baraka's claim in "Home" that he becomes blacker and blacker, positioning race as a defining essence, these poets imagine a plurality of ideas about the relationship between blackness and black poetry. They question the idea of an established literary canon defining black literature. For these poets, Pereira says, the idea of "home" is found both in black poetry circles and in the wider transnational community of literature.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Foundation Publication.


1. Walking (1963)
after the painting by Charles Alston

You tell me, knees are important, you kiss
your elders’ knees in utmost reverence.

The knees in this painting are what send the people forward.

Once progress felt real and inevitable,
as sure as the taste of licorice or lemons.
The painting was made after marching
in Birmingham, walking

into a light both brilliant and unseen.
—from “Fugue,” in Elizabeth Alexander’s
Antebellum Dream Book

This collection of eight substantial conversations with black poets, all born after World War II and comprising the generation following the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, offers readers—scholars, students, and a public interested in poetry—insight into the wide span of cultural and aesthetic concerns in black poetry today. The book’s title, from Elizabeth Alexander’s poem “Walking,” marks the collection’s generational focus: this is the first book of interviews published featuring the post-Black Arts Movement generation of contemporary poets. Concentrating on poets born between 1945 and 1965 whose poetry came into prominence during the 1980s and 1990s, this collection includes many of the most compelling and diverse voices of this generation: Wanda Coleman, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, Thylias Moss, Harryette Mullen, Cornelius Eady, Cyrus Cassells, and Elizabeth Alexander. All of these poets are included because of their significant number of publications (at least four books of poetry) . . .

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