Understanding Etheridge Knight

Understanding Etheridge Knight

Understanding Etheridge Knight

Understanding Etheridge Knight

Synopsis

Understanding Etheridge Knight introduces readers to a major--but understudied--American poet. Etheridge Knight (1931-1991) survived a shrapnel wound suffered during military service in Korea, as well as a drug addiction that led to an eight-year prison sentence, to publish five volumes of poetry and a small cache of powerful prose. His status in the front ranks of American poets and thinkers on poetry was acknowledged in 1984, when he won the Shelley Memorial Award, which had previously gone, as an acknowledgement of "genius and need," to E.E. Cummings, Gwendolyn Brooks, and W. S. Merwin.
In this first book-length study of Knight and his complete body of work, Michael Collins examines the poetry of a complex literary figure who, following imprisonment, transformed his life to establish himself as a charismatic voice in American poetry and an accomplished teacher at institutions such as the University of Hartford, Lincoln University, and his own Free Peoples Poetry Workshops.
Beginning with a concise biography of Knight, Collins explores Knight's volumes of poetry including Poems from Prison, Black Voices from Prison, Born of a Woman, and The Essential Etheridge Knight. Understanding Etheridge Knight brings attention to a crucial era in African American and American poetry, and to the literature of the incarcerated, while reflecting on the life and work of an original voice in American poetry.

Excerpt

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy which will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to em brace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.

As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profit able experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. the series continues to map the literary landscape, and provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

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