Programming & Events

In the Teeth of Negative Evidence: African American Poetry in the 20th and 21st Century (2nd session)

The poet-critic Ralph J. Mills, Jr., once wrote in Poetry that the poems of Lucille Clifton (1937-2010) “transcend African American experience to ‘embrace the whole world, human and non-human in the deep affirmation she makes in the teeth of negative evidence’." In this program we will explore the work of poets like Clifton, Langston Hughes, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jayne Cortez, Audre Lorde, Danez Smith, Evie Shockley, Etheridge Knight, and Jericho Brown. We will look at the way in which these poets navigate the questions of writing to/for their community and simultaneously “embrace the whole world.” We will also address the issue of “negative evidence”: what has historically been erased or unreachable in the African American experience? How do these poets memorialize the past as a way to construct and reimagine what the future could look like in this country? This mini-course will be presented by Dr. Lea Graham of Marist College.

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