1994 Conference B. Denise Hawkins Review


  By B. Denise Hawkins

Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin

    As members of a visionary, organized literary posse that often included Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez and Haki Madhubuti, these African American poets gave voice to the Black nationalist movement of the 1960s and 70s by using their words to rail against the status quo, rattle the cages of racists and advance a political revolution.
    But despite their well-documented contributions to social change, scholarship on their poetry and the literary milieu that it represents is difficult to find, says Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin, an English professor at James Madison University and organizer of an upcoming national meeting of poets and critics, "The Furious Flower Conference: A Revolution in African-American Poetry."
    "Many of the poets who will gather here, like Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, were so busy fighting for justice, fighting for liberation and equality, that there wasn't the emphasis on trying to document the movement.  And only now are historians going back and trying to assess the movement beyond seeing these poets as agents of social change," says Gabbin, who wrote Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition, the first full-length biography of the late African American poet.
    The conference, dedicated to Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, will take place Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at
James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.  The literary event, considered the first of its kind, will bring African American poets and critics together to discuss the status of African American poetry from 1960 to the present, as well as to provide resources to help educators - high school teachers and college professors - include this literature in their curricula.