Black Music, Black Poetry: Blues and Jazz's Impact on African American Versification, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Black Music, Black Poetry

Blues and Jazz's Impact on African American Versification, 1st Edition

Edited by Gordon E. Thompson


222 pages

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Black Music, Black Poetry offers readers a fuller appreciation of the diversity of approaches to reading black American poetry. It does so by linking a diverse body of poetry to musical genres that range from the spirituals to contemporary jazz. The poetry of familiar figures such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes and less well-known poets like Harryette Mullen or the lyricist to Pharaoh Sanders, Amos Leon Thomas, is scrutinized in relation to a musical tradition contemporaneous with the lifetime of each poet. Black music is considered the strongest representation of black American communal consciousness; and black poetry, by drawing upon such a musical legacy, lays claim to a powerful and enduring black aesthetic. The contributors to this volume take on issues of black cultural authenticity, of musical imitation, and of poetic performance as displayed in the work of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Amiri Baraka, Michael Harper, Nathaniel Mackey, Jayne Cortez, Harryette Mullen, and Amos Leon Thomas. Taken together, these essays offer a rich examination of the breath of black poetry and the ties it has to the rhythms and forms of black music and the influence of black music on black poetic practice.


'Black Music, Black Poetry makes an important contribution to African American Studies, not least because Gordon Thompson has assembled a group of scholars who actually, truly listen to the music-and whose critical practice therefore exemplifies what interdisciplinarity at its best looks (and sounds) like.' Jürgen E. Grandt, University of North Georgia, USA, author of Kinds of Blue: The Jazz Aesthetic in African American Narrative (2004) ’… these essays provide rich insight into the fascinating subject of jazz, improvisatory music, and poetry, and how their forms and structures enhance each art form. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.’ Choice

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; Introduction: lyrical aesthetics in African American poetry, Gordon E. Thompson. Part I Authenticity in Black Music and Poetry: ’Original rags’: African American secular music and the cultural legacy of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry, Ray Sapirstein; Paul Laurence Dunbar and the spirituals, Lauri Ramey; ’Greatest is the song’: blues as poetic communication in early Langston Hughes and Sterling A. Brown, John Edgar Tidwell; ’A real, solid, sane, racial something’: Langston Hughes’s blues poetry, David Chinitz. Part II Jazz: Its Spiritual Lyricism: The funk aesthetic in African American poetry, Tony Bolden; ’Go in the wilderness’: the missionary impulse of Michael Harper’s poetry, Joseph A. Brown. Part III Lyricism and the Sonic Aesthetic: Amiri Baraka: phenomenologist of jazz spirit, Christopher Winks; Nathaniel Mackey’s ’Song of the Andoumboulou’: making different music, Scarlett Higgins; Hearing a new musical instrument: Harryette Mullen’s critical lyricism, Lisa Mansell. Part IV Transformational Lyricism: ’Taking it out!’: Jayne Cortez’s collaborations with the Firespitters, Renee M. Kingan; Pops, pygmies, and Pentecostal fire: Sanders and Thomas’s ’The Creator has a Master Plan’, Michael Coyle; References; Index.

About the Editor

Gordon Thompson is Professor of English at City College of New York (CUNY), USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature
POETRY / General