Writers' Retreat

Article excerpt

Despite the proliferation of Black authors and titles in today's marketplace, many look to literary journals to carry on the torch for the written word

Imagine the African American writer as an endangered species. Impossible, you might say - not with Oprah's smile selling magazines and books by the millions; not with bookstore shelves overflowing with African American titles, from racy "street life" shoot-'em-ups to "tough love" romance novels to "homegirl" empowerment romps and beyond.

But let's say you've done your African American spiritual affirmations for the day and you're bored, for the time being, with romance. You're looking for something different, deeper - maybe a travelogue by a young Black scholar on her first visit to Cuba or a photo essay about the craze for bellbottoms and James Brown in 1960s Bamako, Mali; perhaps a short story with writing that simply sings off the page or an experimental poem on the deeper cultural significance of the film "Carmen Jones."

You won't find that kind of writing in the latest issue of The Nation or The New Yorker. Mainstream magazines offer only a handful of African American subjects and voices, and even Black-interest publications like Ebony and Savoy have no discernible commitment to literature.

But these were precisely the topics on the bill of fare in recent issues of Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts & Letters, the African American Review, Obsidian III and Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire. …

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