Verse Africa: The Malleable Poetics of Some Contemporary African Poets

By Shenoda, Matthew | World Literature Today, September/October 2017 | Go to article overview

Verse Africa: The Malleable Poetics of Some Contemporary African Poets


Shenoda, Matthew, World Literature Today


Over the last several years as a writer, reader, editor, and educator who teaches courses on global poetics, I have been deeply struck by the significant emergence of female poets with roots in Africa. While African fiction is widely known, poetry has been largely ignored, and the female voices, as is so often the case, have been poorly represented in publishing efforts. But in the quiet corners of the literary landscape, this group of women has been hard at work challenging and expanding our understanding of contemporary poetics. There is a new and inspiring wave of this work, and what is evident is that this incredible range of poetry coming from African women has been here for a long time, perhaps waiting for the world around them to catch up. And so I wish to focus here on one of the contexts that has helped bring this work into the world and, in the process, give the reader a brief dive into the poetry and poets themselves by highlighting a few of the critical voices in contemporary African women's poetry.

In 2012 a group of poets, writers, and thinkers, led by Kwame Dawes, decided we would embark on an idea that some of us had been toying with for some time. What we hoped to do was to bring contemporary African poetry into the fold of contemporary anglophone literature, and with our tentacles reaching worldwide, we would base these efforts in the United States. Along with Dawes and myself we teamed up with Chris Abani, Gabeba Baderoon, Bernardine Evaristo, and John Keene along with, more recently, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and Aracelis Girmay, to form an internationally recognized editorial team that could speak to the breadth and significance of African poetry. We defined African as those born in Africa, those who are a national or resident of an African country, or those whose parent(s) are African. It was an idea that though somewhat audacious in scope was simple in concept. We would work to broaden the literary landscape and show the necessity of African poetry as a central agent in contemporary poetry. After all, when we talk about Africa and all of her diasporas, we are talking about a significant piece of the globe, a recognizable population. But the thing is this: at our core we wanted this idea, an idea straightforward in some ways, to be done in a considered and intentional manner, sustainable and with a global scope. What existed of contemporary African poetry in the English language before this effort were largely single volumes championed by individuals who had broken through in one way or another, editors who had taken interest in an individual book, but few things systemic had been done before and nothing that allowed for a sustained effort aimed at longevity.

And so we established the African Poetry Book Fund (apbf). This umbrella organization became home to the African Poetry Book Series; we started a debut book contest (the annual Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets); we created an annual chapbook box set of emerging African poets; we began publishing the collected works of iconic African poets and the midlist works of well-established poets; we, in partnership with poetry communities across the continent, established contemporary poetry libraries in Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda; we planted the seeds and began working on a digital humanities project that will highlight the breadth of contemporary African poetry worldwide; we laid the groundwork for a massive forthcoming anthology of contemporary African poetry; and, to date, have published nearly fifty African poets in internationally distributed and accessible books.

And, I would argue, we have ever so slightly changed the face of contemporary anglophone poetry. We have complicated the landscape of contemporary American poetry, given rise to the way American and other readers have access to African poetics, and have created viable and rich transatlantic communities of poets that have begun a deeply nuanced and engaged conversation with one another and with their literary siblings the world over. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Verse Africa: The Malleable Poetics of Some Contemporary African Poets
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.