Take Five: Collected Poems, 1971-1986

Take Five: Collected Poems, 1971-1986

Take Five: Collected Poems, 1971-1986

Take Five: Collected Poems, 1971-1986

Synopsis

Series Foreword Introduction Running Before the Wind (1972) Out Beyond the Bay (1975) Moons and Low Times (1978) To Hear the River (1981) At Winter's End (1982) These Halves Are Whole (1983) New Poems, 1983-

Excerpt

The impulse to write poetry has a long and colorful history in black letters. At least since 1573, when "el Negro, Juan Latino" published a book of poems in Latin at Grenada, persons of African descent have turned to verse to record their most intense feelings about the curious fate of being a black human being in societies in which being of visibly African descent was not a neutral matter.

Despite the fact that Afro-American literature since 1970 has been characterized largely by achievements in prose fiction, the award of the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry to Rita Dove reminds us of the strong tradition of the poetic in black literature. Given that so much of the written discourse of African-Americans is characterized by a sense of urgency, a sense of the necessity to protest the many manifestations of white racism, why has the poetic tradition assumed such a prominent place in black letters, when other genres-- such as the essay, or the tract--serve the function of oppositional discourse more directly than poetry possibly can? the mastery of poetic diction in the black tradition seems to have an impulse independent of the necessity to use even the most arcane forms of imaginative literature as tools to indict oppression, as important as this function may be. True, at least since the seventeenth century, various European philosophers have made the racist claim that until Africans demonstrated that they could write, and write poetry, they could not be considered full and equal members of the human community, fit to be anything but slaves. It was to refute such specious claims as these that abolitionists promoted the poetry of poets such as Phillis Wheatley and George Moses Horton. Despite the political uses to which their poetry was explicitly put, however, the poetry of Wheatley and Horton addressed a wide variety of subjects, from caste and class to love and death.

Since 1773, when Wheatley published her Poems of Miscellaneous Subjects at London, the Anglo-African poetic tradition has been consistent and sustained. the canon of African-American poetry is one of the most distinguished and one of the largest aspects of the tradition. the advisory editors of this series decided to launch the Contemporary Black Poets Series so that we could protect, through its editing, the complete ouevres of individual black poets whose works had never before been collected into . . .

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