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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution II

Chapman, Abraham
Editorial comment: black poetry today,   pp. 401-[410] PDF (9.1 MB)

Page 408

408       is effective as a poet in personal and
meditative lyrical poems, in seascape and
nature poems, and in poems of racial theme
and protest, pursues an approach to
poetry diametrically opposed to LeRoi
Jones's and in his introduction, where he
explicitly agrees with Countee Cullen's view,
he also writes:
Those who presently avow themselves 'poets of
the Negro revolution' argue that they do
indeed constitute a seperate group or school,
since the purpose of their writing is to give
Negroes a sense of human dignity and
provide them with ideological weapons. A
belligerent race pride moves these celebrants
of Black Power to declare themselves not
simply 'poets' but 'Negro poets.'
Thus the debate continues, but what has
happened is that a new and interesting
current of black poetry has come into being
as part of what Hoyt W. Fuller, managing
editor of Negro Digest, describes as "a
spirit of revolution abroad in the shadowy
world of letters in black America." It is
evident in Negro Digest which under Fuller's
editorship has become an important black
cultural organ. Month after month it
consistently publishes news of what black
writers are doing, book reviews, poems,
short stories, cultural debates, and an
annual Poetry issue. But it is most evident
in a development unprecedented in the
literary history of black America: the birth
of black "little magazines," literary and
political, and the proliferation of little
publishing houses issuing booklets of poetry
and other literature.
writing by participants in the Watts Writers'
Workshop conducted by Budd Schulberg
were assembled by him in the book
From the Ashes: Voices of Watts (1967)
and selections by these young writers
were presented in two national
television programs.
Following the news stories and the ads in
the little black magazines I have been
collecting the new verse by young Negro
poets published by little black publishing
ventures. I now have volumes of verse
published in the following cities: Chicago,
New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Newark,
Cleveland, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Berkeley,
Omaha, Tougaloo, Mississippi, and
Burlington (Canada). If this is contrasted
with the efforts of Langston Hughes and
other writers of the Harlem Renaissance to
establish a Negro "magazine of the arts"
in 1926, we can see how much the picture
has changed. Hughes and his associates
published a single issue of Fire which was
panned by the Negro Press in New York,
ignored by the white critics, couldn't get
distribution and died aborning. Today we
are witnessing a national network of black
poetry publications signifying the vitality,
creativity and profound changes in the
black communities of the United States.
The Journal of Black Poetry was born in
San Francisco about two years ago. Eight
issues have appeared to date. In Detroit
the poet Dudley Randall has established a
significant black poetry-publishing venture
as a labor of love, Broadside Press. He
started out by publishing broadsides of
individual poems (more than twenty have
been published to date) and graduated
recently to the publication of books of
poetry, of which the first three have already
appeared and more are announced. In
Newark, LeRoi Jones and associates have
established Jihad Productions which is
publishing poetry and other literature. The
students at North Carolina College at
Durham are producing ex umbra, a most
interesting "magazine of the arts" with
interesting new poetry. Poems and other

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