Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Celebrating 20 Years of Black Poetry

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Celebrating 20 Years of Black Poetry

Article excerpt

While others will be grilling, tossing the football or catching up with Dad this Sunday, many people in East Liberty will be getting their fill of ... poetry?

Janera Solomon, executive director of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, said poetry readings are not just for academics.

"Terrance Hayes and I ... have been talking for a long time how poetry could be something the community participates in," she said.

Beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday, Mr. Hayes, Ms. Solomon and many others will mark the 20th anniversary of Cave Canem Foundation with a series of readings by black poets at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. Parental discretion is advised due to some adult language and content. Tickets are "pay what makes you happy" at http://kelly-strayhorn.org. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Cave Canem was founded in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1996 to nurture black poetry, which has often been undervalued, overlooked or stereotyped in the literary world, advocates say. Mr. Hayes, a former faculty member, and fellow poet Dawn Lundy Martin are co-directors and founders of the event's co-sponsor, the University of Pittsburgh's new Center for African-American Poetry and Poetics.

"As creative scholars, we are putting some kind of language to the work that is happening. It is as big as the Harlem Renaissance," Ms. Martin said.

All of the poets performing have been affiliated with Cave Canem as fellows, grant recipients, artists-in-residence or staff members. Fellows have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes, MacArthur "genius grants," National Poet Laureate honors and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

The poets come from different traditions and performance backgrounds and represent the changing landscape of contemporary American poetry. They are: Tyehimba Jess, Duriel E. Harris, Camille Rankine and Danez Smith.

"When I started in Cave Canem, the black books of poetry that were coming out might of been like six, seven or eight, and that was a good year," Mr. …

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