photo of faculty and summer scholars at the Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement NEH summer institute

“Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement”

A fifteen-month program, running from 2014-2015, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that responded to the resurgence of interest in contemporary poetry, its expanded production, and wide circulation.

Why Study African American Poetry?

In the July 2013 issue of Harper’s magazine, a University of Virginia Professor of English and poetry scholar chastised American poets for being cowardly. They weren’t good, he contended, because they focused too much on individual experience and weren’t doing what poets once did, taking on and giving meaning to the larger world. The article came out just as the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) at the University of Kansas (KU) was convening an NEH-funded Summer Institute to focus on the highly visible but under discussed world of African American poetry. We created Don't Deny My Voice: Reading and Teaching African American Poetry (DDMV) to allow a place for discussions of African American poetry and practice, to push those discussions in new directions and to address the contradiction between black poetry’s high visibility and it’s under discussed status. The success of DDMV was both good and bad. Good, because it made clear that the recovery and production of African American poetry had reached a major threshold that cannot be ignored, that it needed a more focused critical apparatus that enabled us to better study, teach and write (about) it if we expected to understand it as the game changer we believed that it was. Three weeks to cover twentieth century poetry were sorely inadequate to accomplish our goals.

To our great delight, NEH agreed to fund a second opportunity in 2015 not only to continue but also to expand the dialog. We will focus, therefore on “African American Poetry after the Black Arts Movement,” take a close look at what it is and the ways in which it engages tradition, change, and innovation. This Institute is especially timely given the recent deaths of major figures, including Jayne Cortez (1934-2012), Wanda Coleman (1946-2013), Alvin Aubert (1930-2014) and especially Amiri Baraka (1938-2014). Each played a critical role in shaping the content and form of contemporary black poetry, pushing beyond conventional modernism. Coleman and Cortez were influential west coast poets with major volumes, and Aubert was both a poet and maker of poets through Obsidian, the journal he founded in 1975. 2015 marks the centennial of the birth of southern-based writer Margaret Walker (1915-1998), a major poet from the pre-BAM era who, like Chicago-based Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), gained increasing popularity after the 1960s and gave support and access that enabled a new generation of poets to emerge. We will convene again in July to address not only the performance, publication, persistence and exponential growth of African American poetry since the 1960s, but to also work collaboratively to counter the critical invisibility that it continues to face.

The persistence of binary thinking has had lasting effects: whether a poem is black or white, modernist or not, avant-garde or not, political or not. Baraka was among those who challenged the belief that art and social engagement are mutually exclusive, a view that has been responsible for significant exclusions of some poets from widely circulating anthologies. NEH Summer Scholars will view examples from different traditions to overcome ideological barriers and create shared knowledge.

Perhaps the greatest need in poetry studies today is to illuminate the tensions between movements that seek to define black poetry since the 1960s. Resisting easy categories and dichotomies, we want to demonstrate flows and cross fertilizations to establish the continuity of black poetry even as writers become more attuned to new ways of comprehending and expressing the human experience. NEH Summer Scholars, we hope, will become equally attuned to these realities.

About the Institute

Maryemma Graham, Institute Director

Maryemma Graham is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of English at the University of Kansas. She is the founder and Director of the Project on the History of Black Writing, the only archive of its kind dedicated to literary recovery, academic/professional training, public outreach and digital access. She is the author or editor of ten books, including The Cambridge History of African American Literature (with Jerry W. Ward, Jr.), the first comprehensive African American literary history to be published in the 21st century. At KU, Graham founded the Langston Hughes Poetry Project and while President of the Toni Morrison Society, created Language Matters, an international teaching initiative. In 2010, she created the Wright Connection, an online community for the study of Richard Wright. Graham has been a John Hope Franklin Fellow at the National Humanities Center, an ACLS fellow and a recipient of more than fifteen grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mellon and Ford Foundations. In 2013, Graham published (with C.B. Claiborne) her first multimedia book, Margaret Walker’s South, from the University Press of Mississippi and in 2014, her long awaited biography, The House Where My Soul Lives: The Life of Margaret Walker, will be released by Oxford.

Howard Rambsy II

Howard Rambsy II is Associate Professor of English at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville. He has produced writings on literary history, African American poetry, and digital technology. He is the author of The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry (2011).

Evie Shockley

Evie Shockley is an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ. She is the author of Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry, as well as four collections of poetry, including a half-red sea (2006) and, most recently, the new black (2011), winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry. Her essays and poems appear widely in journals and anthologies, including Boston Review, Contemporary Literature, Feminist Formations, FENCE, Jacket2, The Black Scholar, Waxwing, Dave the Potter, and The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry. Her work has been honored and supported with the 2012 Holmes National Poetry Prize, fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and residencies at Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She currently serves as creative editor of Feminist Studies.

Stephanie J. Fitzgerald

Stephanie J. Fitzgerald (Cree) is an associate professor of English at the University of Kansas. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of Native American and Indigenous literary and cultural production, gender, law, and environmental studies. She is the author of Native Women and Land: Narratives of Dispossession and Resurgence (forthcoming 2015) and the co-editor of Keepers of the Morning Star: An Anthology of Native Women's Theater (2003). Other work has appeared in journals such as American Literary History, Studies in American Indian Literature, and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal and in edited volumes. She is presently researching a second book, tentatively titled "Red Letters: Indigenous Print Culture, Alternative Presses, and the Rise of Contemporary Native American Poetry, 1968-1984," funded by an ACLS Fellowship, that relies on the material form of the poetry chapbook as a cultural, political, and historical force that gave rise to a new genre of contemporary poetry.

Joanne Gabbin

Joanne Gabbin is a Professor of English as well as the Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University, the most important institution for black poetry in the country. She is author of Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition, editor of The Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present and The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry, and executive producer of The Furious Flower video and DVD series. In October 2005, Gabbin was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent.

William Joe Harris

William J. Harris has taught English and Creative Writing at the University of Kansas, Penn State and SUNY-Stony Brook. Lecturing and writing both poetry and criticism, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of Crooners, In My Own Dark Way, Hey fella would you mind holding this piano a moment and The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka: The Jazz Aesthetic and is the editor of The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader. His writing has appeared in a number of publications, including Callaloo, Artforum, African American Review, Catamaran and Boston Review.

Tyehimba Jess

Poet Tyehimba Jess is Assistant Professor of English at the College of Staten Island. Jess is a recipient of a Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award, the Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a Whiting Writers’ Award. His book, Leadbelly (2005), was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Jess received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a 2004-5 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.

Meta DuEwa Jones

Dr. Meta Jones is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Howard University, where she teaches African American literature. She is the author of The Muse is Music: Jazz Poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to the Spoken Word (2011), a finalist for the Modern Languages Association William Sanders Scarborough Book Prize.

Megan Kaminski

Poet and essayist Megan Kaminski is Assistant Professor of Poetry Writing at the University of Kansas. She also specializes in ecopoetics, 20th and 21st Century anglophone poetry and poetics, and contemporary nonfiction. Her first book of poetry is Desiring Map (2012), and she is the author of seven chapbooks. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Third Coast, and other journals. Her second book Deep City (forthcoming, 2015) explores the body and the city as architectures in crisis. Kaminski also curates the Taproom Poetry Series in downtown Lawrence.

Keith Leonard

Keith D. Leonard is Associate Professor is the Department of Literature at American University and author of Fettered Genius: The African American Bardic Poet from Slavery to Civil Rights. His publications, presentations, and courses have revolved around the study of political consciousness in African American poetry and poetics, with an emphasis on the relationship between literary form and political meaning. Leonard is currently working on a book project that characterizes the avant garde artistry, and clarifies the complicated aesthetic and political success, of African American artist collectives since the civil rights movement.

Harryette Mullen

Harryette Mullen teaches American poetry, African American literature, and creative writing at UCLS. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Recyclopedia, winner of a PEN Beyond Margins Award, and Sleeping with the Dictionary, a finalist for a National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A collection of her essays and interviews, The Cracks Between, was published in 2012 by University of Alabama Press. A new poetry collection, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary (Graywolf Press) was a “top pick” for fall 2013 by the Los Angeles Times.

Brenda Marie Osbey

Brenda Marie Osbey is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and an author of poetry and of prose nonfiction in English and French. Her most recent volume is History and Other Poems (Time Being Books, 2013). A native of New Orleans, Osbey was appointed the first peer-selected poet laureate of Louisiana in 2005.

Ed Pavlić

Poet-Scholar Ed Pavlic is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. Pavlic’s publications include: 'Who Can Afford to Improvise?': James Baldwin and Black Music and Let's Let That Are Not Yet : Inferno (2015). His recent books include Visiting Hours at the Color Line (2013) and But Here Are Small Clear Refractions (2009, 2013). He is the winner of several prizes including: the National Poetry Series Open Competition (2012, 2014), the The American Poetry Review / Honickman First Book Prize (2001), the Writer of the Year Award from the Georgia Writer’s Association (2009).

Lauri Ramey

Lauri Ramey is Professor of English and founding Director of the Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics at California State University, Los Angeles. She specializes in poetry and poetics, with particular interest in innovative, experimental and marginalized writing, and the arts as a mechanism of social outreach. The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics was selected as the inaugural site of the British Council USA Writers in Residence Program, and has sponsored such major directives as the Claiming Freedom Symposium in honor of the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act, Freedom Summer, Freedom Schools and Voter Rights Act. Ramey's publications include Slave Songs and the Birth of African American Poetry, The Heritage Series of Black Poetry, 1962-1975, and What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America, with Aldon Lynn Nielsen. Her current project in progress is A History of African American Poetry (Cambridge University Press), a critical study of the genre from its earliest traceable origins to the present moment.

Kathy Lou Schultz

Poet-Scholar Kathy Lou Schultz is Associate Professor of English at the University of Memphis. She is the author of The Afro-Modernist Epic and Literary History: Tolson, Hughes, Baraka (2013), as well as four collections of poems, most recently Biting Midge: Works in Prose and Some Vague Wife. Schultz's articles have appeared in a wide variety of scholarly journals including Contemporary Literature, Journal of Modern Literature, and Jacket2. Schultz directs the University of Memphis English Honors Program and teaches courses in American, African American, and Afro-Diasporic literature; poetry and poetics; and modernism.

James E. Smethurst

James Smethurst is a Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the author of The African American Roots of Modernism: From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance (2011), The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (2005), and The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930-1946 (1999). He is also the co-editor of SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader (2014) and is working on a history of the Black Arts Movement in the South.

Frank X Walker

Multidisciplinary artist and Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker is a Professor of English and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky and the founding editor of Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. A Cave Canem Fellow and co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets, he is the author of six collections of poetry including, Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, winner of the 2014 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry; and Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr. is Famous Overseas Professor at Central China Normal University (Wuhan) and a literary critic and Richard Wright scholar. Ward is the author of The Katrina Papers: A Journal of Trauma and Recovery (2008) and co-editor of The Cambridge History of African American Literature with Graham (2011) and The Richard Writing Encyclopedia (2008) with Robert Butler. His work-in-progress includes: Reading Race, Reading America, a collection of literary and social essays, and Richard Wright: One Reader’s Responses.

Kevin Young

Kevin Young is the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta. Young is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Book of Hours, which was featured on NPR's "Fresh Air," and editor of eight others. His previous book Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels won a 2012 American Book Award and Jelly Roll: A Blues was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize. His other books include The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness and The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (edited with Michael S. Glaser).


Sarah Arbuthnot Lendt, Institute Coordinator

Sarah Arbuthnot Lendt earned her M.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 2007. She currently serves as the Grants Coordinator for the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) and as an online English instructor for Grantham University. Sarah has also worked as program assistant to the University of Denver's Strategic Issues Program, grantwriter for Van Go Mobile Arts in Lawrence, KS and as the curriculum specialist for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America in Lawrence, KS. In her 10 years with HBW, she has worked as the editorial assistant on the Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel and the Cambridge History of African American Literature and coordinated the NEH-funded program Language Matters II: Reading and Teaching Toni Morrison (2005). Sarah was grant and institute coordinator for an additional two NEH programs: Making the Wright Connection: Reading Native Son, Black Boy and Uncle Tom's Children (2010) and Don't Deny My Voice: Reading and Teaching African American Poetry (2013). In her spare time, Sarah enjoys cooking and reading. She and her husband have two children, a daughter, 2 1/2, and a son, born March 2015.

Kristin Coffey, Assistant Grant Coordinator

Kristin Coffey is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, as well as the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with an MFA in Creative Writing. She is currently a third year PhD student and graduate instructor in the Department of English at the University of Kansas. Kristin's fiction and poetry have appeared in the SN Review, You Must Be This Tall to Ride and Psychic Meatloaf literary journals. She has served as assistant fiction editor for Beecher’s Magazine and is currently Assistant Grant Coordinator for The Project on the History of Black Writing. Her current work includes themes of miscegenation, displaced identity, and migration within ethnic-American literature and historical fiction.

Matthew Broussard, Institute Staff

Matthew Broussard is a PhD student in English at the University of Kansas. He holds a bachelor's degree from Southwestern University and a master's degree from the University of Texas - Dallas. His scholarly interests include African American literature, Latin American literature, queer studies, identity and passing in black literature, appropriation, otherness, colorism, post-colonialism, and the rhetoric of black literature. Matthew will take over as the Project on the History of Black Writing's Project Digital Initiative Coordinator in the fall of 2015.

Will Cunningham, Videographer

Will Cunningham is currently a 3rd year PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of Kansas. Will completed his Masters in English at the University of Alabama and his B.A. in English at Wofford College. Will studies the intersections of race, class, and geography within the context of contemporary America fiction, specifically Literature of the American South. Will has published on Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, and Gayl Jones. His work has appeared in varying journals, with an article forthcoming in Mississippi Quarterly. Will has worked broadly for HBW over the last 3 years, including extensive work on the Black Book Project, a Digital Humanities project which utilizes HBW's extensive collection of rare African American novels.

David James Miller, Institute Staff

David James Miller is a poet, editor, and publisher. His books and chapbooks of poetry are: CANT (Black Radish Books, forthcoming 2015), As Sequence (These Signals, 2012), and Facts & Other Objects (JR Vansant, 2011). His poetry and critical writing may also be found in: The Cultural Society, LVNG, Moria, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Jacket2, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. He is the editor of Elis Press, a publisher of innovative poetry, and SET, a biennial journal of innovative writing. He lives with his family in Lawrence where he is a PhD student, and an educator in the First-and-Second-Year English program at the University of Kansas. Prior to this, he received his MFA from Brooklyn College, of the City University of New York (CUNY), where he taught for several years in the CUNY colleges. His research interests include: poetry and poetics, ecology, marxism, and esoteric discourses.

Tara Betts

Tara Betts is the author of Arc & Hue and the chapbook/libretto THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali. Tara recently received her Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including POETRY, Ninth Letter, Crab Orchard Review, Gathering Ground, Bum Rush the Page, Villanelles, both Spoken Word Revolution anthologies, The Break Beat Poets, Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, GHOST FISHING: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology . She recently completed the manuscript for her second poetry collection "Break the Habit" and is working on other projects.

Bartholomew Brinkman

Bartholomew Brinkman is an assistant professor of English at Framingham State University, where he specializes in modern and contemporary American poetry, print culture, and digital humanities. His research has appeared in such places as Journal of Modern Literature, Modernism/Modernity, African-American Review, and the Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry. His current book manuscript — Poetic Modernism in the Culture of Mass Print — won the 2014 Northeast MLA book award for a first book manuscript and is currently under press consideration. He co-edits with Cary Nelson the Modern American Poetry Site.

James J. Donahue

James J. Donahue is Associate Professor in English & Communication at SUNY Potsdam, where he has just been awarded the 2015 President's Award for Scholarship. In addition to recent articles on James Welch's historical novels, he is the author of Failed Frontiersmen: White Men and Myth in the Post-Sixties American Historical Romance (2015) and co-editor of Post-Soul Satire: Black Identity after Civil Rights (2014). He is currently editing a collection of essays titled Race, Ethnicity, and Narrative in the Americas. He is also beginning work on a project exploring the narrative poetics of Native/First Nations survivance.

P. Gabrielle Foreman

P. Gabrielle Foreman teaches African American literature, history and culture at the University of Delaware. There she directs the Colored Conventions Project which brings nineteenth-century Black organizing to digital life and is the Ned B. Allen Professor of English and Professor of Black Studies. She was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago (so she can signify and swear with the best of them) and spent every summer with her dad, poet Kent Foreman, and German Shepherds on Venice Beach. She is working on a manuscript called The Art of DisMemory: Historicizing Slavery in Poetry, Performance and Material Culture and on an edited volume of poetry and art by Glenis Redmond and Jonathan Green that reflects on the life and legacy of the enslaved potter/poet David Drake.

Tara T. Green

Tara T. Green has degrees in English from Louisiana State University (M.A., Ph.D) and Dillard University (BA) and has taught at universities in Louisiana and Arizona. She is Professor and Director of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Her areas of research include Black gender studies, African American autobiographies and fiction, the African diaspora in the U.S, African American parent-child relationships, and African Americans in the South. Believing that research should explore major issues of the day, she considers how literature reflects current social concerns. Her book A Fatherless Child: Autobiographical Perspectives of African American Men (winner of the 2011 Outstanding Scholarship in Africana Studies Award from the National Council for Black Studies), focuses on the impact of fatherlessness from the perspectives of Barack Obama and other Black men.

Tamara Hollins

Dr. Tamara Hollins has earned the following degrees: a B.A. in Art, with distinction, from Hendrix College; an M.A. in Cultural Studies from Claremont Graduate University; an M.F.A. in Writing and Literature from Bennington College; and a Ph.D. in English from Claremont Graduate University. Her scholarly work, creative writing, and art have been published in journals, anthologies, and encyclopedias. Her research interest is the production and the construction of identity in American and African American literature. She is an Associate Professor of English at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.

Cindy King

Cindy King is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas at Dallas. She is a graduate of the creative writing programs at the University of Southern Mississippi (M.A.) and Florida State University (Ph.D.). Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Callaloo, North American Review, River Styx, Black Warrior Review, American Literary Review, jubilat, Barrow Street, and African American Review. Her poems can also be heard at American Public Media, RHINO Poetry, and Bellingham Review. In 2014, she was awarded a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to attend the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her book-length poetry manuscript was also semi-finalist for the Crab Orchard Review and Permafrost first book prizes last year. Among her teaching and scholarly interests are multi-ethnic literature, contemporary American drama, and service learning.

Cameron Leader-Picone

Cameron Leader-Picone is an Assistant Professor of African American literature at Kansas State University, teaching courses in contemporary African American literature and culture, American literature, and Cultural Studies. He completed his Ph.D. in African and African American Studies at Harvard University in 2009. His research has appeared in edited collections on the work of crime novelist Donald Goines and the volume Post-Soul Satire. Leader-Picone is in the process of completing a book manuscript entitled Rearticulating Race: African American Literature in the Age of Obama. The book analyzes the meaning of race in African American literature of the twenty-first century through concepts such as post-racialism, post-blackness, and post-soul aesthetics.

Dennis López

Dennis López is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at California State University, Long Beach. His research and teaching focus on Chicana/o and Latina/o literature, African American literature, U.S. ethnic and radical protest literatures, Marxist theory and political economy, and critical theories of race. López’s articles have appeared in MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, College Literature: A Journal of Critical Literary Studies, and Science & Society: A Journal of Marxist Thought and Analysis.

Monifa Love Asante

Monifa Love Asante serves on the faculty at Bowie State University where she teaches in the Scholar’s Studio and coordinates the graduate program.  Love Asante is a writer and teacher. She is a graduate of Princeton University, and has also received a doctorate from The Florida State University where she matriculated as a McKnight Doctoral Fellow and as an associate of the great philosopher and oppression theorist William R. Jones.  Love Asante is the author of two collections of poetry, Provisions (1989) and Dreaming Underground (2003, Naomi Long Madgett award winner). She co-authored two fine arts catalogs about the life and work of Ed Love and produced “….my magic pours secret libations,” a fine arts catalog and video of an exhibition she curated of African American and Afro-Cuban women artists. She is the co-author of Romancing Harlem, a cultural memoir of Harlem, written with Charles Mills.  Additionally, Love Asante co-authored the chapter “Deep-Rooted Cane: Consanguinity, Writing, and Genre” with writer Evans D. Hopkins who is the inspiration for the character of David Carmichael in Love Asante’s award-winning novel, Freedom in the Dismal (1998). She recently completed a mixed genre collection, After the Rain: waking, walking, swimming, flying, and the novel, Crownsville.

Sequoia Maner

Sequoia Maner is a PhD student in the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her Bachelors in English from Duke University and hails from Los Angeles. Her scholarship concentrates on the black performances and black aesthetics of generation hip-hop’s cultural production including literature, music and film. Her most recent projects examine the art of Evie Shockley and Kendrick Lamar. She has served as graduate assistant to the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies (TILTS) which brought Junot Diáz, Sherman Alexie, and Julia Alvarez to campus. She has also served as the graduate coordinator for P.S. Poetry, a monthly reading series that has featured poets such as Roger Reeves, Drea Brown, and Lisa Olstein. Sequoia is currently at work on a dissertation and chapbook.

Deborah Mix

Deborah Mix teaches at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She's the author of A Vocabulary of Thinking": Gertrude Stein and Contemporary North American Women's Experimental Writing (Iowa, 2007), and her articles have appeared in Contemporary Women's Writing, American Literature, and Studies in the Humanities and in edited collections, including the forthcoming Cambridge History of 20th-Century American Women's Poetry. Her current scholarship focuses on representations of women's bodies, minds, and spirits in the work of contemporary African American women writers, and she is also co-editing, with Logan Esdale, a volume on Stein for the MLA's "Approaches to Teaching" series.

Georgene Bess Montgomery

Georgene Bess Montgomery is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Clark Atlanta University. She earned her Ph.D from the University of Maryland. Her book, The Spirit and the Word: A Theory of Spirituality for Africana Literary Criticism, offers a new theoretical approach to literary criticism that is informed by Ifa, an ancient African spiritual tradition, which she calls the Ifa Paradigm. She is also the author of numerous published articles, including “1975 Was Not a Very Good Year: Growing Up in the Rural South,” “Testing and Tricking: Elegba in Charles Chesnutt’s “The Goophered Grapevine” and the “Passing of Grandison,’” and “Ifa Goes to Hollywood: Oya, Elegba, and Shango in The Best Man and To Sleep with Anger.” Dr. Bess Montgomery is currently writing the literary biography of poet, scholar, activist Mari Evans. She is also President of The National Council for Black Studies, where she also serves as Chair of the Student Committee.  

Joycelyn Moody

Joycelyn Moody, PhD, is Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature and Professor of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She earned her BA in English from Spring Hill College. Her masters and doctoral degrees, both in English, are from UW Madison and the University of Kansas, respectively. She earned tenure at UW Seattle and served as Editor of African American Review during her years on the faculty at Saint Louis University. She is also founding Director of the UTSA African American Literatures and Cultures Institute (AALCI), a graduate school pipeline program for underrepresented college juniors. In addition to teaching courses in African American literatures and cultures and Black feminisms, Dr. Moody is a cofounder of Well Academic, a firm devoted to individual and institutional faculty development.

J. Peter Moore

J. Peter Moore lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he is a PhD candidate in English at Duke University, writing a dissertation about the concept of vernacularity in postwar American poetry. In addition to his critical writing, which can be found in American Literature, Chicago Review, and Rain Taxi, his poetry has appeared in Fence and Boulevard. He is the author of the chapbook Southern Colortype (Three Count Pour, 2013).

Michael J. New

Michael J. New teaches American Studies and English at Keene State College. He earned his PhD in English from Penn State University. He is currently writing a book about black poets who recorded with jazz musicians during the Black Arts Movement called Instrumental Voices: Poetic Experiments in Jazz. His interdisciplinary courses examine multi-ethnic American literature—especially multimedia and digital forms—within hemispheric and diasporic contexts.

Candice A. Pitts

Candice A. Pitts is an Assistant Professor of English at Albany State University. Dr. Pitts received her Ph.D. in English Literature from Howard University (2014). Her article, “’You Ain No Real-Real Bajan Man’: Brown Girl, Brownstones, and the Measure of Caribbean Manhood in the North American Terrain,” and her collection of poems, Spectrum, are currently under consideration for publication. She is currently working on the publication of her dissertation entitled, From Nationalism to Landscapism: Spaces-Between, Marronage, and the Literary I-mage-Nation of Zee Edgell, Jamaica Kincaid, and Margaret Cezair-Thompson. Dr. Pitts was the Manuscript Reader for Stephany Greene's Stephany's Style Secrets: 7 Steps to Live and Dress Your Best (2012) and the Assistant Editor of MLA Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson (pending). She was the first place winner of the poetry section and received Honorable Mention for her short story in the 2013 College Language Association’s Margaret Walker Creative Writing Contest. Her research interests include Caribbean, Postcolonial, African Diasporan, Cultural, Women’s, and Citizenship Studies.

Kevin Quashie

Kevin Quashie is a professor in the department of Africana Studies at Smith College, where he teaches cultural studies and theory. He is the author or editor of three books, most recently The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture.

Jené Schoenfeld

Jené Schoenfeld is an Associate Professor at Kenyon College, where she teaches courses in American literature, particularly by writers of African descent. Her teaching and research are fueled by a curiosity about social boundaries, especially the American color line. She is working on a book project, tentatively titled, Redemption: How the “Tragic Mulatto” becomes a “New Negro.” Drawing on the novels of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century writers such as Frances Harper, Pauline Hopkins, James Weldon Johnson, and Charles Chesnutt, she argues that the Jim Crow era constitutes a pivotal moment in the development of the mulatto trope and that representations of the mulatto during this time figure into important developments in how we understand and experience race. In particular, as many who could pass chose not to, the significance of phenotype as a racial marker decreases, and self-identification emerges as a major component of black identity.

Richard Schur

Richard Schur is Professor of English at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. His research focuses on African American culture, popular music, and law. He is the author of Parodies of Ownership: Hip-Hop Aesthetics and Intellectual Property Law (2009) and co-editor of African American Culture and Legal Discourse (2009). Schur has published nearly twenty articles and essays in a wide variety of journals and edited collections. He also co-hosts the New Books in Popular Music Podcast.

Claire Schwartz

Claire Schwartz is a PhD student in African American Studies and American Studies at Yale. Her research focuses on urban space in contemporary Black Atlantic poetry and visual arts. Her poetry has appeared journals including: Cream City Review, Front Porch Journal,poemmemoirstory, and Tuesday; An Art Project.

Derik Smith

Derik Smith is an assistant professor in the University at Albany Department of English.  His teaching and research focuses on African American literature and culture, with particular interests in poetry, prison studies and representations of blackness in Hollywood cinema and popular music.  His writing on these subjects has appeared in journals such as African American Review and Callaloo.  He is also adjunct faculty in the Bard Prison Initiative and teaches in the New York State prison system.  His book manuscript on poet Robert Hayden, tentatively titled X Black Poetics, is nearing completion.

Laura Trantham Smith

Laura Trantham Smith, a poet and scholar, is Chair of the English Department at Stevenson University, where she teaches contemporary American literature, African American literature, and creative writing and serves as Director of the Stevenson Summer Writers Workshop. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin while studying poetry in the summer at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, CO. Recent creative and scholarly works appear in PANK, Monday Night, Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S., and Reflections: Writing, Service-Learning, and Community Literacy. She has served as a Poet in the Schools in Philadelphia, PA and Austin, TX and has led gender and sexuality writing workshops at the International Drag King Extravaganza, the Queer Texas Conference, and OutYouth. She was the recipient of a summer residency in 2014 at the Marble House Project, a sustainable arts community in Dorset, VT.

Laura Vrana

Laura Vrana is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Penn State with a concentration in African American literature. She received her B.A. in English from Yale University and her M.A. in English from Penn State. At Penn State, she has been a McCourtney Distinguished Graduate Fellow, and her research has focused on the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and literary and poetic form in contemporary American literature. She is currently working on a dissertation on contemporary black women’s poetics, examining the publication and academic/institutional contexts that serve both to enable and to constrain black women writers since the Black Arts Movement. She has an article on Evie Shockley's poetics forthcoming in Obsidian.

Keisha Watson

Keisha Watson is an Assistant Professor at the Community College of Philadelphia. She began her career as a high school teacher in Brooklyn before attending graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin, where she earned an M.A. in African American Studies. She left graduate school to raise two fantastic children and recently returned to complete her dissertation. Her research focuses on African American poetry of the 19th and 20th centuries, especially book-length or longer forms. Outside of work, Keisha enjoys meditation, kettlebelling, dragon-boat racing and all things Yucatecan.

Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes has published books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His poetry includes Wisteria: Poems From the Swamp Country, Impossible Flying, Back of Mount Peace, Hope’s Hospice, Wheels, and Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems, among many others. His novels are She’s Gone and Bivouac, and his non-fiction collections are A Far Cry From Plymouth Rock: A Personal Narrative and Fugue and Other Writings. A widely anthologized poet, Dawes has received the Forward Prize for Poetry, the Hollis Summers Prize for Poetry, a Pushcart Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the Musgrave Silver Medal for contribution to the Arts in Jamaica, and the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for service to the arts in South Carolina. He won an Emmy and a Webby for LiveHopeLove, an interactive website based on the Kwame Dawes Pulitzer Prize Center project HOPE: Living and Loving with AIDS in Jamaica. Dawes is co-founder and programming directory of the Calabash International Literary Festival and on the faculty of both the Pacific MFAWriting Program and Cave Canem. He is currently the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska.

Monday, September 14, 2015

This webinar was moderated by Professor Maryemma Graham, Institute Director.

Dawes transcript (.docx)

Sharan Strange

Sharan Strange is the author of Ash, which was selected by Sonia Sanchez for the Barnard New Women Poets Prize. Her poems have been anthologized in Best American Poetry, In Search of Color Everywhere: A Collection of African-American Poetry, and The Garden Thrives: Twentieth-Century African-American Poetry.  Her work has been featured in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum in New York City and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Winner of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Award, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Cofounder of the Dark Room Collective, Strange served as a contributing and an advisory editor for Callaloo. Holding degrees from Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College, Strange has taught at Fisk University, the University of California, Davis, and the California Institute of the Arts. She is currently an English professor at Spelman College.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

This webinar was moderated by Laura Vrana, NEH Summer Scholar.

Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney has published poetry, fiction and an anthology. Her books include OnWings Made of Gauze, Rice, The World is Round, Heartwood (story cycle) and the edited collection, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. In 2011, her fourth book of poetry, Head Off & Split, won the National Book Award. In 2013, Northwestern University Press published hardback editions of three of Finney’s books in a special limited box set, titled Sweet Box of Words. A founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, she is also on the faculty of Cave Canem. Additional awards include a PEN America Open Book Award and the Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry. After a long tenure at the University of Kentucky, where she was the Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor of English, she returned to her native South Carolina to become The John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Southern Letters and Literature. A child of activists, Finney came of age during the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement and had an early career as a photographer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

This webinar was moderated by Monifa Love Assante, NEH Summer Scholar.

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown is the author of the books Please, which won the American Book Award, and The New Testament, winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, and the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. It was also named one of the best poetry books of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award and has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. His poems have appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Best American Poetry. Brown is a Louisiana native who served as a speech writer for the Mayor of New Orleans before completing his Ph.D. and MFA degrees in creative writing. Currently, he is an associate professor in English and creative writing at Emory University.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

This webinar was moderated by Claire Schwartz, NEH Summer Scholar.

Jessica Care Moore

jessica Care moore’s books include The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth, The Alphabet Verses The Ghetto, God is Not an American, Sunlight Through Bullet Holes, and a memoir, Love is Not The Enemy.  Her work has appeared in 44 on 44, A Different Image, Abandon Automobile, Listen Up!, Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam, and the Prentice Hall Anthology of African American Women’s Literature, among others. A five-time winner of the “It’s Showtime at The Apollo” competition, moore is also the 2013 Alain Locke Award Recipient from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Her frequent media appearances include Essence, Huffington Post, Blaze, The Source, Vibe, and Bomb. moore’s poetry is also featured on albums by Nas and Talib Kweli. A returning star of Russell Simmons’ HBO Series, “Def Poetry Jam,” she created a multimedia show, God is Not an American, that was produced by The Apollo Theater and Time Warner’s NYC Parks Summer Concert Series.  She was the host, writer and co-Executive Producer of the poetry-driven television show, Spoken, which aired on The Black Family Channel. moore is the CEO of Moore Black Press, Executive Producer of Black WOMEN Rock!, and founder of the literacy-driven Jess Care Moore Foundation. She lives, writes and plays in downtown Detroit.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

This webinar was moderated by Derik Smith, NEH Summer Scholar.

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of two books of poetry, Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation and Karma’s Footsteps, and is also the Poetry Editor of African Voices, a literary magazine. Her work focuses on women, race, ancestry, violence and the healing power of art, has been published in North American Review, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Black Renaissance Noire, VIDA, Crab Orchard Review, BOMB, Paris/Atlantic, and Listen Up!, and has been the subject of a short film,I Leave My Colors Everywhere. She was a runner-up in the 2014 Missouri Review Soundbooth audio poetry contest and is the recipient of a Queens Council of the Arts grant for her research on herbalists of the African Diaspora. Her work “Strut,” a collaboration with her husband, photographer Dominique Sindayiganza, deals with body-image, self-acceptance, and the role of capitalism in women’s issues about their appearances. She has taught at the City University of New York, York College and Medgar Evers College.

Thursday, December 1, 2015

This webinar was moderated by Tara Betts, NEH Summer Scholar.

Sonia Sanchez

A central figure in the Black Arts Movement, Sonia Sanchez has authored sixteen books of poetry and plays, including Morning Haiku; Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems; Does Your House Have Lions?; I’ve Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems; A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women; Love Poems; We a BaddDDD People; and Homecoming. She received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for Homegirls and Handgrenades. Other awards and honors include the Robert Creeley Award, the Frost Medal, the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Sanchez has read and lectured in the United States and around the world. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977, and held the Laura Carnell Chair in English there until her retirement in 1999. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

This webinar was moderated by Professor Evie Shockley, Institute Faculty.

Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey is a poet, editor, publisher, and critic. His works include Four for Trane, Outlandish, Whatsaid Serif, School of Udhra, and most recently, Blue Fasa. Splay Anthem won the National Book Award in 2006, and Eroding Witness was chosen for the National Poetry Series. He has published several book-length installments of his ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, beginning with Bedouin Hornbook. A recording of Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25 was released with musical accompaniment by Royal Hartigan and Hafez Modirzadeh. Mackey edited Hambone and co-edited Moment’s Notice and American Poetry: The Twentieth Century. Mackey’s works of criticism are Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing and Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews. He has received honors and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the 2014 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the 2015 Bollingen Prize from Yale University.  From 2001 to 2007, he served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.  A jazz and world music DJ since the late 1970s, Mackey taught for many years at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is currently the Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

This webinar was moderated by J. Peter Moore, NEH Summer Scholar.