1994 Poetry Conference Program



Dedication

 

The time
cracks into furious flower.  Lifts its face
all unashamed.  And sways in wicked grace.

 

    These magnificent lines from Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "The Second Sermon on the Warplan" provides the leitmotif for the conference, "Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry."  This conference is dedicated to Gwendolyn Brooks because of her prophetic, poetic voice that is urgent, unashamed, graceful, redeeming, and radical, a voice that tells us even amid the loneliness and the fears of contemporary life that we must live and conduct our blooming "in the noise and whip of the whirlwind."
 
 
 

 




James Madison University
Honors Program
Office of the Director
 
 
 
 

Dear Friends:

        It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Furious Flower Conference at James Madison University and to join with you in celebrating the furious flowering of black poetry that has taken place over the last 40 years.  The distinguished poets who have joined us for this conference have not only reflected American society in their poetry, but they have also transformed it by the power and urgency of their collective voice.  More than 30 major poets and critics have come together to read their poems, talk about new approaches to understanding poetry, begin the serious business of writing a literary history of this significant poetic outpouring, and make the necessary connections with the cultural and folk tradition that ever informs and enriches African American poetry.

        For all of us, I hope that this conference will be a time of creative growth, new perceptions, new directions, and valuable assessments.  I also hope that it will be a time when old friendships will be rekindled and new ones forged.

        My sincere thanks go to Gwendolyn Brooks who inspired this conference, the outstanding poets and critics who have made this gathering historic, the Furious Flower Planning Committee that ably coordinated the conference activities, Dr. Ronald Carrier, Dr. Bethany Oberst, and the entire JMU community for their unswerving faith in this endeavor, the donors who supported this vision with their generosity, and to all those who encouraged me as I labored with this project.

        I am looking forward to a marvelous conference because you are here.  Thank you for coming.

                                                                                                Sincerely,
 
 

                                                                                                 Joanne V. Gabbin
                                                                                                 Conference Organizer
 
 
 
 
 



 
 
 


 
 

James Madison University
Office of the President
 
 
 

Dear Friend:

    Welcome to the campus of James Madison University and to "Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry."

    The conference in which you are participating represents a significant milestone in the history of this nation and of this University.  Never before have so many of the important literary voices that have created the environment for social, economic and political change in the second half of this century been brought together in such a meaningful and dramatic way.

    The significance of this conference will be measured through the emotional and intellectual exchanges of its participants; through the power of the poets' and critics' presence and interaction; through the new levels of understanding that are reached through the presentations, interpretations and dialogue;  and through the full realization that the revolution in African-American poetry, begun in the 1960s, has indeed produced a "furious flower" that continues to flourish, all the while moving and influencing American literary history and culture.

    Enjoy your stay at James Madison University.  I look forward to seeing you and sharing with you the excitement felt by all of us participating in this important conference.

                                                                                            Sincerely,
 
 

                                                                                            Ronald E. Carrier
                                                                                            President
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 


 
 
 
 
 

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Governor

A MESSAGE FROM THE GOVERNOR

       On behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is an honor and a privilege for me to extend my warmest welcome to you, the organizers and participants of "Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry."  I am confident that James Madison University will provide you with an excellent setting for what I know will be a successful conference.

    This conference will greatly increase public understanding of the works of contemporary African-American poets by analyzing their literary achievements.  I know that the conference will provide its participants with valuable insight into the cultural origins, critical theories, and literary interpretations of African-American poetry.

    "Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry" will allow all of the conference's participants the opportunity to increase their knowledge of this rich cultural heritage.  I am pleased to welcome all of you to James Madison University for what I know will be an educational and rewarding conference.

                                                                                                    George Allen
                                                                                                    Governor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



 
 
 
 
 

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON
July 5, 1994
 
 

    Greetings to everyone gathered at James Madison University to honor the life and works of Gwendolyn Brooks -- artist, poet, and renowned literary figure.

    Conveying the past, present, and perhaps future of African-American poetry, the title "Furious Flower: A Revolution in African-American Poetry" reflects both the struggle and great triumph of African-American literature.  The demand for equality and equal opportunity has given rise to a body of work filled with beauty and vitality, immeasurably enriching our nation and the entire international community.

    As we work to foster the creative talents of America's finest authors, this conference offers an important opportunity to explore and to marvel anew at the artistry and vibrant imagery that characterize so much of African-American literature.

    I join you in honoring Ms. Brooks, and I applaud the involvement of the teachers, scholars, students of African-American poetry, and the many other remarkable poets participating in this conference.  I look forward to enjoying your inspirational work for many more years to come.

    Hillary joins me in sending best wishes to all for a wonderful conference.

Bill Clinton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


CONFERENCE FEATURES

BOOK EXHIBITS                                                                                                        Taylor Hall - Lounge

Representatives from leading publishers are exhibiting and selling their books on African American poetry and criticism during the conference.  They will be available to answer questions about current and upcoming publications.  The JMU Bookstore has set up a special exhibit featuring the books of poets and critics participating in the conference.  More than fifty titles are available in this exhibit.  In addition, the Know Bookstore of North Carolina has an exhibit featuring a broad range of titles in the field of African American literature and culture to complement the more specialized sales of the JMU Bookstore.  Come in and browse.

VENDORS                                                                                                                  Warren Hall - Campus Center

Vendors from all over the region are on hand to sell their fabrics, clothing, jewelry, perfumes, art, and artifacts. The exhibits are on display outside Warren Hall on the patio, weather permitting.

ART EXHIBIT                                                                                                             Sawhill Gallery - Duke Hall

Sawhill Gallery opens its "Masks of Africa" exhibit on the first day of the conference with a gala reception for conference participants.  The exhibit displays a stunning collection of African masks representing cultural groups from several African countries.  Long appreciated by the western world as art objects, masks equally serve the needs of traditional African culture.  In this collection of masks, donated to the JMU Foundation by Mr. Robert Zigler of Washington, D.C., the striking patterns, bold colors, and tactile materials speak to the beautiful inseparability of art and culture.
Gallery Hours M-F 10:30 to 4:30; S-S 1:30 to 4:30

"GROWING" EXHIBIT                                                                                            Carrier Library - Main Lobby

Inspired by the conference theme, this exhibit combines mounted photographs of conference participants, taken "on location" with biographical information and poetry.  Six-foot batik banners hand painted by Johlene Hess dramatically announce the exhibit.  The photographs, taken by C.B. Claiborne, are added to the exhibit as soon as they are developed, thus the idea of a "growing" exhibit.  Come by and see our exhibit grow.

SIGNATURE PORTFOLIO                                                                                          Taylor Hall - Lounge

In conjunction with the Furious Flower Conference the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy and James Madison University have commissioned a limited edition of a souvenir signature portfolio.  This distinctive portfolio contains specially selected poems by twenty three of the participants in the conference.  Each poem has been printed by letter press on fine quality paper and placed in an embossed folder.  This exquisite portfolio was designed and produced by Calvin Otto of Charlottesville, Virginia.  The signature portfolio can be purchased at the Book Exhibit.
Don't miss this collector's item.

HOSPITALITY AND MESSAGE CENTER                                                            Taylor Hall - Lounge

To leave messages for conference participants or to receive messages, visit the Hospitality and Message Center.  Phone calls for conference participants will be received at (703) 568-6953 and (703) 568-6310.  The center will also have information on Harrisonburg's restaurants, fitness centers, and tourist attractions.

VIDEO DOCUMENTARY

Throughout the conference, members of the staff of WVPT will document the activities of the conference by videotaping the sessions and informal gatherings on campus.  The video tapes will be edited for distribution to universities and colleges and will be used to produce a video documentary aimed at national public broadcast.


Thursday, September 29, 1994

 

8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.    Registration and Book Exhibit                    Taylor Hall Lounge
8:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.    Continental Breakfast                                 Taylor Hall Lounge
8:30 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.    Open Session                                           Grafton-Stovall Theatre

Welcome                    Ronald E. Carrier, President
                                   James Madison University

Occasion                    Joanne V. Gabbin, Conference Organizer
                                  James Madison University

9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.    Critics' Roundtable                            Grafton-Stovall Theatre

African American Poetry and the Vernacular Matrix
African American poetry, perhaps more so than fiction and drama, has lent and continues to lend itself to the thematic and formalistic expression of its matrixing in African American culture, in the vernacular (folk and popular) culture in particular.  This roundtable will investigate the nature and extent of this matrixing.  It will consider the relationship of the folk to the popular vernacular mode, whether "continuity" or "disjuncture" best describes that relationship and how the difference between the two is imprinted upon the literature.  It will also consider the nature and validity of rural/urban, southern/northern distinctions as they apply to cultural expressive manifestations such as the blues, and the degree to which these distinctions spill over into the poetry as a literary production. (Alvin Aubert)

Chair:    Alvin Aubert
             Elizabeth Alexander
             Sterling Plumpp
             Eleanor Traylor
             Sherley Anne Williams

11:45 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.        Luncheon                                    Phillips Hall

1:00 p.M. - 1:20 p.m.            Keynote Speech                      Grafton-Stovall Theatre
                                             Michael S. Harper
                                             Introduction by Thomas Sayers Ellis

1:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.            Poetry Reading                        Grafton-Stoval Threatre
                                            Elizabeth Alexander
                                            Gerald Barrax
                                            Toi Derricotte
                                            E. Ethelbert Miller
                                            Introduction by John R. Keene

CONCURRENT SESSIONS

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.                                                             Taylor Hall Room 305

Rapping the Rhythms: The Blues of Aubert, Dove, Hughes and Tolson

 

Chair: Carl Phillips, Washington University

Lenard D. Moore, Carolina African American Writers' Collective
"In the Landscape and the Music:  Insight into Alvin Aubert's Poetry"

Darrel Stover, Johns Hopkins University
"Rita Dove:  Boundaries and the Blues"

Mariann Russell, Sacred Heart University
"Hughes and Tolson:  Blues People"

 

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.                                                            Taylor Hall Room 306

The Seers Who Sat In:  Poetic Aesthetics in the 1960's

Chair:  Hazel Arnett Erwin, Shaw University

B.J. Bolden, University of Illinois, Urbana
"BAM! The Second Black Aesthetic:  Haki R. Madhubuti and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960's"

Reginald S. Young, Louisiana State University
"Understanding the 'New Black Poetry' and Its Bearing on the Literacy of a Generation in Waiting"

Julius Thompson, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
"Researching and Writing the Literary History of Broadside Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1960 - 1994:  Methods, Techniques and Observations"

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.                                                            Taylor Hall Room 302

Feminine, Fertile and Frank

Chair: Mary Helen Washington, University of Maryland, College Park

Gerri Bates, Howard University
"Silent Screams of the Lifegiver: Abortion and the Maternal Body in the Poetry of the African American Woman"

Ikenna Dieke, Hampton University
"Alice Walker and her Earthling Psyche"

Kelly M. Mason
"Madness and Magic in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks"

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.                                                            Taylor Hall Room 402

Clarion Calls in the Americans

Chair: Deborah McDowell, University of Virginia

Eugenia Collier, Morgan State University
"Message to the Generations:  The Mythic Hero in Sterling Brown's Poetry"

Mark A. Sanders, Emory University
"The Ballad, The Hero and the Ride: A Reading of Sterling A. Brown's The Last Ride of Wild Bill"

Margaret Bernice Smith Bristow, Hampton University
"Rootlessness and Rootedness: An Analysis of the Rhetoric of Social Revolution Seen in Selected Works of Derek Alton Walcott"

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.                                                               Taylor Hall Room 404

Textures and Techniques

Chair: Opal Moore, Radford University

Chezia Thompson Cager, Maryland Institute, College of Art
"Jean Toomer & Ntozake Shange's Choreopoems: A Vision through the Vertical Technique"

Nehassaiu de Gannes, Providence, Rhode Island
"Their Strategic Deployment of Language: Dionne Brand, Marlene Noubese Philip, Lillian Allen - Essential Thinker of Technology"

Carmen R. Gillespie, Virginia Commonwealth University
"'Talking About a Revolution': The Poetics of African American Popular Music"

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.                                                                Taylor Hall Room 400

If Harriet Tubman Had a Muse

Chair: Sandra Govan, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Margaret Ann Reid, Morgan State University
"Johari Amini: The Essence of a Black Woman Poet"

F. Elaine DeLancey, Drexel University
"Sonia Sanchez: 'Flute of Black Lovers, Organs of Black Sorrow and Trumpet of Black Warriors"

Regina Jennings, Franklin and Marshall University
"The Influence of Malcom X on the Poetry of Haki Madhubuti and Sonia Sanchez:  Issues of Re(re)naming and Inversion"

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.                                                                Warren Hall Piedmont Room

Connections and Constructs

Chair: John R. Keene, University of Virginia

Jon Woodson, Howard University
"Notes Toward a Theory of Voyage: The Construction of Space-Time and Consciousness in the Modernist Long Poem"

Niama Leslie JoAnn Williams, Temple Univeristy
"A Nzuri Reading of Alice Walker's Poetry"

Eric A. Weil, Shaw University
"Personal and Public: Three First-Person Voices in African American Poetry"

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.                                                                 Taylor Hall Room 309

Evidences of Things Remembered

Chair: Lonnel E. Johnson, Otterbein College

Gwendoline Lewis Roget, Mellon University
"'One Moment Please,' Historicizing racial Affronts/ Samuel Allen: Chronicler of the African American Experience"

Maryemma Graham, Northeastern University
"Vision and Memory in the Poetry of Margaret Walker"

Elizabeth J. Swanson, Miami Univeristy
"The Richness of Poorness: Language and Deep Structure in Gwendolyn Brooks' The lovers of the Poor"

 
4:45 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.                  Poetry Reading                         Grafton-Stovall Theatre
                                                 Sam Allen

                             Haki Madhubuti
                             Pinkie Gordon Lane
                             Naomi Long Madgett
                             Introduction by Carl Phillips

6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.                 Dinner On Own

6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.                                                                    Duke Hall

Masks of AfricaExhibit Opening and Reception

8:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.                Poetry Reading                         Wilson Hall
                                                   Amiri Baraka
                                                   Mari Evans
                                                   Michael S. Harper
                                                   Sonia Sanchez
                                                   Introduction by Askia Toure


Friday, September 30

 

8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.                    Registration &                         Taylor Hall Lounge
                                                    Book Exhibit

8:30 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.                    Signature Party                     Taylor Hall Lounge

9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.                  Critics' Roundtable               Grafton-stovall Theatre

Critical Theories and Approaches in African American Poetry

The work of literary theory and of theorizing in other areas of the human sciences is to specify what conditions obtain among those who create, those who make use of creations, and the languages (or signs) that enable creators and consumers to negotiate in a world of social constructions.  In short, theory is obligated to explain relations between people and artifacts in the contexts of history and culture.  In that sense, theory is necessary for rigorous examination of African American poetry.  How might theory advance the study and appreciation of African American poetry?  Within the frame of this question, scholars on the panel will be asked to address what kind of critical or cultural theory seems most appropriate for understanding poetry, how such theories influence interpretive methods and approaches, and how must theorists themselves grapple with their own historicity in light of African American poetry's evolution from orature to literature to newer genres that mix orality and literacy.  The aim of the panel is to clarify some problems of theory and poetry as they affect various audiences. (Jerry W. Ward, Jr.)

Chair: Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
          Joyce Anne Joyce
          Aldon Nielsen
          Arnold Rampersad
          Lorenzo Thomas

11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.              Luncheon                                                Phillips Hall

1:00 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.                   Keynote Speeches                               Wilson Hall
                                                  Rita Dove
                                                  Gwendolyn Brooks
                                                  Introduction by Joanne V. Gabbin and Dolores Kendrick

3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.                  Poetry Reading                                     Wilson Hall
                                                  Dolores Kendrick
                                                  Nikki Giovanni
                                                  Sterling Plumpp
                                                  Eugene Redmond
                                                  Introduction by Gloria Wade Gayles

7:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.                  Tribute Banquet                                    Phillips Hall
 
 

Presentations by
Eugenia Collier
Maryemma Graham
Haki Madhubuti
Deborah McDowell
Opal Moore
Eugene Redmond
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
 
 

Music by "The Spoken Word"


Saturday, October 1

 

8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.                Book Exhibit                                    Taylor Hall Lounge

8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.              Registration                                      Taylor Hall Lounge

8:30 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.                Signature Party                              Taylor Hall Lounge

9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.              Critics' Roundtable                        Grafton-Stovall Theatre

Writing a Literary History of African American Poetry

As the drum stands at the crossroads of traditional African and African American culture, so the poets stand at the center of the drum providing the cadence, connections and continuity that define their literary history.  Panelists on this roundtable will speak on periodicity and identify significant literary movements from the Harlem Renaissance through the Black Arts Movement to hip-hop.  In an attempt to provide a valid historical framework for the poetry, panelists will discuss major literary milestones and important poets emerging during the twentieth century. (Eugene Redmond)

                            Chair: Eugene Redmond
                                      Jabari Asim
                                      Raymond Patterson
                                      Clyde Taylor

11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.               Lunch On Own

2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.                 Poetry Reading                           Grafton-Stovall Theatre

Jacqueline Brice-Finch, James Madison University
Jeannette Drake, Richmond, Virginia
Roy L. Hill, Saint Augustine's College
Sybil Kein, The University of Michigan-Flint
Adam David Miller, Berkeley, California
Brenda Marie Osbey, New Orleans, Louisiana
Kalamu ya Salaam, New Orleans, Louisiana
Gloria Wade Gayles, Spelman College
Introduction by Eugene Redmond

4:15 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.                                                                    Grafton-Stovall Theatre

"The Dark Room Collective: A Fisted Reading"

Vera Beatty
Thomas Sayers Ellis
Major Jackson
Sharan Strange
Natasha Tretheway
Kevin Young
Introduction by Daryl Cumber Dance
 
 
 

 

 

5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.                Dinner On Own

8:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.               Conference Finale                    Wilson Hall

Bernice Johnson Reagon
Sonia Sanchez
Val Gray Ward
JMU Contemporary Gospel Singers
Introduction by Joanne V. Gabbin


 

 About The Conference

 

    The conference, "Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry" will examine the significance and scope of African American poetry written since 1960 through the discussion of its folk and cultural origins, interpretive approaches, critical theories and literary movements.  The last 40 years have witnessed a "furious flowering" of black poetry in this country.  The African American poets writing during this period have challenged the status quo and raised their voices in the struggle against racism, sexism, political and economic exploitation, violence and injustice.  They have created lyrical beauty, while experimenting with language and form.  They have explored and exposed private and public concerns with a relentless insistence upon the truth.  Sometimes quietly and sometimes stridently, they have transformed society and reflected that transformation in their poems.

    Though their contribution to social change is well known, scholarship on their poetry and the literary milieu that it represents is difficult to find.  This conference will make a significant contribution to this scholarship and to increasing public understanding of the impact of African American poetry in this country and abroad.  More than 30 major poets and critics have come together to read their poems, talk about new approaches to African American poetry, begin the serious business of writing a literary history of the poetic outpouring over the last four decades, and make the necessary connections with the cultural and folk traditions that ever inform and enrich black poetry.

    Out of this conference will come a video documentary that will trace the major trends in African American poetry since 1960, a series of videotaped interviews between poets and critics which will be used as educational guides by college and high school teachers, and a collection of scholarly articles which will stimulate initial exploration of the field.  In all, this conference has the opportunity to advance significantly the understanding of appreciation of one of the most dynamic areas of American literature.

Joanne V. Gabbin


About the Organizer

Joanne V. Gabbin

 

    Joanne V. Gabbin is a professor of English at James Madison University where she directs the university's Honors Program.  She is author of Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition which was recently published in a new edition by the University Press of Virginia (1994).  Gabbin has published essays in Wild Women in the Whirlwind, edited by Joanne M. Braxton and Andree Nicola McLaughlin and Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, edited by Tonette Bond Inge.  Her articles have also appeared in The Dictionary of Literary Biolgraphy, The Zora Neale Hurston Forum, the Langston Hughes Journal, Callaloo, and Black Books Bulletin.  A dedicated teacher and scholar, she has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship.  Among them are the College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award for her book Sterling A. Brown (1986), the JMU Faculty Women's Caucus and Women's Resouce Network Award for Scholarship (1988), and the Outstanding Faculty Award, Virginia State Council of Higher Education (1993).  She is also the founder and organizer of the Wintergreen Women Writers' Collective, which meets every year in Wintergreen, Virginia.


Furious Flower Presenters

Elizabeth Alexander    ï    Sam Allen    ï    Jabari Asim    ï    Alvin Aubert    ï    Amiri Baraka    ï    Gerald Barrax    ï    Gerri Bates    ï    Vera Beatty    ï    B.J. Bolden    ï    Joanne Braxton    ï    Jacqueline Brice-Finch    ï    Margaret Bernice Smith Bristow    ï    Gwendolyn Brooks    ï    Chezia Thompson Cager    ï    Eugenia Collier    ï    Daryl Cumber Dance    ï    F. Elaine DeLancey    ï    Toi Derricote    ï    Ikenna Dieke   ï    Rita Dove    ï    Jeannette Drake    ï    Thomas Sayers Ellis    ï    Hazel Arnett Ervin    ï    Mari Evans    ï    Joanne V. Gabbin    ï    Nehassaiu de Gabbin    ï    Nehassaiu de Gannes    ï    QuoVadis Gex-Breaux    ï    Carmen R. Gillespie    ï    Nikki Giovanni    ï    Sandra Govan    ï    Maryemma Graham    ï    Michael S. Harper    ï    Roy L. Hill    ï    Major Jackson    ï    Regina Jennings    ï    Lonnell E. Johnson    ï    Joyce Ann Joyce    ï    John R. Keene    ï    Sybil Kein    ï   Dolores Kendrick    ï    Pinkie Gordon Lane    ï    Naomi Long Madgett    ï    Haki Madhubuti    ï    Kelly M. Mason    ï    Deborah McDowell    ï    Adam David Miller    ï    E. Ethelbert Miller    ï    Lenard D. Moore    ï    Opal Moore    ï    Aldon Nielsen    ï    Brenda Marie Osbey    ï    Raymond Patterson    ï    Carl Phillips    ï    Sterling Plumpp    ï    Arnold Rampersad    ï    Bernice Johnson Reagon    ï    Eugene Redmond    ï    Margaret Ann Reid    ï    Gwendoline Lewis Roget    ï    Mariann Russell    ï     Kalamu ya Salaam    ï    Sonia Sanchez    ï    Mark A. Sanders    ï    Darrel Stover    ï    Sharan Strange    ï    Elizabeth Swanson    ï    Clyde Taylor    ï    Lorenzo Thomas    ï    Julius Thompson    ï    Askia Toure    ï    Eleanor Traylor    ï    Natasha Tretheway    ï    Gloria Wade Gayles    ï    Jerry W. Ward, Jr.    ï    Val Gray Ward    ï    Mary Helen Washington    ï    Eric A. Weil    ï    Niama Leslie JoAnn Williams    ï    Sherley Ann Williams    ï    Jon Woodson    ï    Kevin Young    ï    Reginald S. Young


Biographies

 

Elizabeth Alexander

    Elizabeth Alexander was educated at Yale University and Boston University, where she studied with Derek Walcott.  Having previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania, she currently teaches at the University of Chicago.  Her first collection of poems, The Venus Hottentot, published in 1990, reveals poems that often explore the interior lives of historical black figures, exposing emotions and experiences that strikingly illuminate public concerns.  Her poetry and fiction have appeared in such publications as The Southern Review, American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Callaloo, Black American Literature Forum, and The American Voice.  She also reviews contemporary literature for The Village Voice.  A 1992 recipient of the NEA artist grant, she has been anthologized in InThe Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers edited by Kevin Powell and Ras Baraka and Every Shut Eye Ain't Asleep, edited by Michael S. Harper and Anthony Walton. Her latest book is Body of Life (1996).

Samuel W. Allen

    Samuel W. Allen's poetry has been published in four collections: ElfebeinZahne; Ivory Tusks and Other Poems;Paul Vesey's Ledger and Every Round.  His poems have also appeared in more than 200 anthologies.  Known for merging African and African American culture in his poetry, he roots his poetry in the heritage of black people with the oral tradition, African survivals and the Southern black church as his major influences.  Allen is also a prominent figure in Africa and African American criticism as a reviewer, translator, editor and lecturer.  His translations of Jean-Paul Sartre's OrpheeNoir and Leopold Senghor's Anthologiede la Nouvelle Poesie Negre made these important works available to non-French-speaking readers.  Working as an attorney until 1968, he accepted the position as Avalon Professor of Humanities at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and has since devoted himself to teaching and writing.  Allen taught at Wesleyan University, 1970-71, and at Boston College from 1971 until he retired in 1981.  He has also served as writer-in-residence at Tuskegee and at Rutgers University.  Allen has lectured extensively on black affairs both literary and political at major national and international conferences, and he has read his poetry at institutions throughout the United States and abroad.
 
Jabari Asim

    Jabari Asim is book editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the only African American to hold such a position at a major metropolitan daily.  He is an assistant editor of Drumvoices Revue, a journal published by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.  He is founding editor of EYEBALL, a new literary arts journal that was recently awarded a Gregory Kolovakos Seed Grant.  His poetry has appeared in Black American Literature Forum, Obsidian II, Painted Bride Quarterly, Catalyst and Shooting Star Review, among others.  His plays include "Caribbean Beat," produced by Muny Student Theatre Project; "Peace, Dog," produced by The New Theatre; "Believe I'll Testify," produced by Gettys Productions; and "New Blood Symphony" and "Didn't It Rain," both staged by Pamoja Theatre Workshop.  His fiction and poetry are both included in In The Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writing. In 1995, he became the arts writer for the new Post-Dispatch entertainment magazine Get Out, and his reviews have appeared in various publications, including The Hungry Mind Review and Salon magazine. He is currently the assistant book editor at the Washington Post.

Alvin Aubert

    Alvin Aubert is an award-winning poet and a playwright, editor and literary critic.  In 1993 he retired from Wayne  State University where as professor of English he taught creative writing and African American literature and served two years as interim chair of the Department of Africana Studies.  In 1975 he founded and edited the journal Obsidian, now Obsidian II, aimed at publishing works in English by and about writers of African descent worldwide.  This outstanding journal continues to debut the works of many African scholars and creative writers.  Engaged in teaching since 1960, he taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge, his alma mater; the University of Illinois; the University of Oregon and the State University of New York's Fredonia campus.  He received the A.M. degree in English from the University of Michigan, which he attended as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and studied at the University of Illinois.  He was a Bread Loaf Scholar in poetry (1968) and received two creative writing fellowship grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for his poetry (1973, 1981).  He also received an Editors Fellowship Grant (1979) from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for small press editing and publishing, and the 1988 Callaloo Award for his contribution to African American cultural expression.  His poems, articles and reviews have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies.  South Louisiana: New and Selected Poems, which includes new poems along with poems from two previous collections Against the Blues (1972) and Feeling Through (1975), was published in 1985.  If Winter Come: Collected Poems, 1967-1992 was published in 1994. His latest book is Harlem Wrestler: And Other Poems (1995). He is currently professor emeritus at Wayne State University.

Amiri Baraka

    Amiri Baraka, poet, activist, and playwright, is one of the most exciting and prolific auhors in America.  Considered an architect of the Black Arts Movement, he has published 12 books of poetry including Preface To A Twenty Volume Suicide Note, The Dead Lecturer, It's Nation Time, Spirit Reach, and Reggae or Not, a novel, five books of essays, 24 plays, and four anthologies.  Baraka, born LeRoi Jones, was educated at Rutgers University and Howard University.  Since 1962 he has combined his artistic and literary activities with teaching and has taught poetry and drama at The New School for Social Research, Columbia University, University of Buffalo, Yale University and George Washington University.  He was the professor of African Studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  Amiri Baraka has also been a prime and dynamic force in the Black Arts Repertory Theater School in Harlem and Spirit House in Newark.  From 1968 until 1975, he was one of the founders and chairmen of the Congress of African People, a nationalistic Pan-Africna organization, and one of the chief organizers of the National Black Political Convention in 1972.  He also edited Cricket, a magazine of African-American music, and directed and publication of new literature through Jihad Press and Peoples War Publications.  He is currently editor of The Black Nation. His most recent work includes appearing in Warren Beatty's political satire Bulworth as a prophetic homeless man and writing the liner notes for the Ravi Coltrane's (son of John Coltrane) first album Moving Pictures.

Gerald Barrax

    Gerald Barrax, a poet of exceptional perception and stunning poetic technique, has been writing poetry since the 1960s.  His early poems appeared in a volume entitled Another Kind of Rain (1970) and stylistically link him to the young black poets who experimented with new typographical techniques, a poetic diction laced with street talk, and metaphors of political urgency.  Since then he has published three other volumes: An Audience of One: Poems (1980), The Death of Animals and Lesser Gods (1984), and Leaning Against the Sun (1992).  Barrax was born in Attalla, Ala., and grew up in Pittsburgh.  After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he attended Duquesne University where he earned his B.A. degree in English.  He continued his studies at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina.  Barrax, a widely recognized poetry critic and editor, won the 1983 Callaloo Creative Writing Award for Non-Fiction Prose and edited the poetry section of Callaloo from 1984-1986.  In 1985 he assumed editorship of Obsidian II at North Carolina State University, where he is a professor of English. His latest work From a Person Sitting in Darkness: New and Selected Poems is scheduled for release in 1998.

Joanne M. Braxton

    Joanne M. Braxton is a poet, lecturer, keynote speaker and workshop leader.  She challenges her reading and listening audiences by expressing the essence of the black experience through her sense of humor, vast knowledge and her strong convictions about the importance of African American culture in America.  Her tone is almost always private and reflective as she makes extensive use of symbolism.  Braxton earned her bachelor's degree in literature and writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 1972 and he doctorate in American Studies from Yale in 1984.  She is currently the Cummings Professor of American Studies and English at the College of William and Mary, where she has taught for more than 13 years.  She has received several awards for college teaching, including the Outstanding Virginia Faculty Award in 1992.  She also authoredThe Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1993).  Her other books include Sometimes I Think of Maryland (1977), Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition (1989), and Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance (1990), which she coedited with Andree Nicola McLaughlin. She also contributed the introduction to Out of the Depths, Or, The Triumph of the Cross (African-American Women Writers, 1910-1940). Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook will be released in 1998 as part of the Casebooks in Contemporary Fiction series.

Gwendolyn Brooks

    Gwendolyn Brooks, to whom the Furious Flower Conference is dedicated, describes writing poetry as "delicious agony," a process that has produced some of the most outstanding poetry written in the 20th century.  Her career has garnered a magnificent array of achievements.  In 1950 Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for Annie Allen, becoming the first black writer to win this award.  In 1968 she was named Poet Laureate of Illinois, succeeding the late Carl Sandburg, and holds that post to this date.  Brooks was named Consultant-in-Poetry to the Library of Congress, 1985-1986, and was the first black woman to be so honored.  She is the recipient of over 70 honorary doctorates, and in 1980 she was nominated to the Presidential Commission on the National Agenda for the Eighties.
    She has authored more than 20 books including A Street in Bronzeville, Annie Allen, The Bean Eaters, In the Mecca, Blacks, Maud Martha (a novel) and Report From Part One (an autobiography).
    In 1988 she was selected for an award by Essence Magazine-one of seven internationally renowned Black women to be so honored.  The next year the Poetry Society of America bestowed on her the Frost Medal, its highest honor; and that same summer she was the focus of an entire issue of the Colorado Review which was devoted to her in conjunction iwht a conference celebrating her life and work.  In 1986, Gwendolyn Brooks, Poetry and the Heroic Voice, a comprehensive biocritical study, was authored by Dr. D. H. Melhem.  In 1990, the long-awaited book by the late Dr. George Kent, A life of Gwendolyn Brooks was published and is a full-scale biography of this major poet.  She was named the 1994 Jefferson Lecturer by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in 1995 President Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Arts. Her Selected Poems were published in 1995, and the second half of her autobiography, Report from Part Two, was released in 1996.
    Currently a chair has been named in her honor at Chicago State University: The Gwendolyn Brooks Distinguished Chair in Black Culture and Literature, and she serves as writer-in-residence at that university.

Toi Derricotte

    Toi Derricotte has published three collections of poetry, The Empress of the Death House (1978), Natural Birth  (1983), and Captivity (1989).  She says of her poetry, "truthtelling in my art is a way to separate my 'self' from what I have been taught to believe about my 'self,' the degrading stereotypes about black females in our society."  Because of this poetic approach, her poetry emerges as strong, sensuous, courageous and poignantly personal.  Derricotte is the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1985 and 1990), as well as the recipient of the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society fo American (1985), a Pushcart Prize (1989) and the Folger Shakespeare Library Poetry Book Award (1990).  Her poems have been published in a significant number of journals including American Poetry Review, Callaloo, IowaReview, MassachusettsReview, New England Review and Bread Loaf Quarterly and Ploughshares.  Derricotte is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and has taught in the graduate creative writing programs at New York University, George Mason University and Old Dominion University. In 1997, Norton published her autobiography, written in journal form, The Black Notebooks.

Rita Dove

    Rita Dove, Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993-5, is one of the most gifted poets of the last half century.  Her poems show an expansive and eclectic intelligence and impressive lyrical and linguistic gifts.  Dove was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, and was educated at Miami University and the University of Iowa.  She is the author of a novel, Through the Ivory Gate, and a collection of stories, Fifth Sunday (1985), as well as a book of essays, The Poet's World (1995).  Best known for her poetry, she is the author of six books of poetry: The Yellow House on the Corner (1980); Museum (1983); Thomas and Beulah, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1987; Grace Notes (1989), Selected Poems, (1993), and her most recent work, Mother Love: Poems was pubished in 1996.   Her other honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1996, she received the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities and the Charles Frankel Prize. In that year, her play The Darker Face of the Earth was first produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Currently Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, she lives in Charlottesville.

Mari Evans

    Mari Evans, educator, writer, and musician, resides in Indianapolis.  Formerly Distinguished Writer and Assistant Professor, African American and Resource Center, Cornell University, she has taught at Indiana University, St. Louis, the State University of New York at Albany, the University of Miami at Coral Gables and at Spelman College, Atlanta, over the past 20 years.  She is the author of numerous articles, four children's books, several performed theater pieces, two musicals and four volumes of poetry, including I Am A Black Woman, Nightstar, and A dark and Splendid Mass, published in 1992.  She also edited the highly acclaimed Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation.  Her work has been widely anthologized in collections and textbooks, and her poems have appeared in several languages including German, Swedish, French and Dutch.  In 1998, she published Singing Black: Alternative Nursery Rhymes for Children. Her poetry is a superb distillation of the black idiom, capturing tones from the exquisitely humorous to the hauntingly poignant.  It also reveals a skillful grasp of craft that shows to advantage the elegance and dignity that pervade her lines.

Nikki Giovanni

    Nikki Giovanni is one of America's most widely read and controversial poets.  The visionary, truth-telling qualities that have come to be associated with poetry of the sixties and early seventies are yet alive in her writings.  Giovanni entered the literary world at the height of the Black Arts Movement and quickly achieved not simply fame but stardom.  Truth Is On Its Way, a recording of her poems recited to gospel music, was one of the best-selling albums in the country in 1971.  All but one of her books are still in print with several having sold more than 100,000 copies.  Named woman of the year by three magazines, including Ebony, and recipient of a host of honorary doctorates and awards, Nikki Giovanni has read from her work and lectured at colleges around the country.  Her books include Black Feeling; Black Talk/Black Judgement; My House; Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People; The Women and the Men; Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day; Those Who Ride the Night Winds; Sacred Cows...and Other Edibles, Racism 101, and Love Poems, her most recent work.  Giovanni is a professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Michael S. Harper

    Michael S. Harper, the poet laureate of Rhode Island, is one of the country's most prolific writers.  Author of eight books of poetry, he began his distinguished career with Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1977).  His other books include History Is Your Own Heartbeat (1971),won the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award for poetry,NightmareBegins Responsibility (1975), Images of Kin: New and Selected Poems (1977), Images of Kin, New and Selected Poems which won the 1978 Melville Cane Award from the Poetry Society of America, and Healing Songs for the Inner Ear: Poems (1984).  Harper has also made a significant contribution as the editor of Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature of Art and Scholarship, which he edited with Robert B. Stepto, and Every Shut Eye Ain't Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945, edited with Anthony Walton.  Nominated twice for the National Book Award, he has been honored by the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995. He won the 1996 George Kent Poetry Award for Honorable Amendments, and in 1997 he was awarded the Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in Arts.  He is University Professor of English at Brown University, where he directs the writing program.

Joyce Ann Joyce

    Joyce Ann Joyce, Professor of English and Associate Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University, is the author of Richard Wright's Art of Tragedy (1986), Warriors, Conjurers and Priests: Defining African-centered Literary Criticism, and coeditor, along with Arthur P. Davis, of The New Cavalcade: African American Writing from 1760 to the Present, 2 volumes.  Her latest book is Ijala: Sonia Sanchez and the African American Tradition (1996).  Her articles have appeared in such journals as New Literary History, The MississippiQuarterly, The IndiaJournal of American Studies and the Journal of Black Studies.

Dolores Kendrick

    Poet, playwright and educator, Dolores Kendrick has been published in the BeloitPoetry Journal, the Indiana  Review, Open Places and several other anthologies.  Author of Through the Ceiling (1975) and Now is the Thing to Praise (1984), she has received great acclaim for The Women of Plums (1989).  This book won the Ansfield-Wolf Award in 1990, it was listed as the New York Public Library Best Book for Teenagers in 1991 and it was the inspiration for an original production by Karamu Theatre in Cleveland.  The poem "Peggy in Killing" from The Women of Plums has been adapted for an opera which will open in New York in the spring of 1995.  Kendrick has also recorded her poetry as a part of the Contemporary Poets' Series by the Library of Congress and has read at The Folger Shakespeare Library, the Library of Congress and the Gertrude Whittall Series.  She has received a Fulbright to Ireland and a National Endowment for the Arts Award (1989).  She is the Bira I. Heinz Professor Emerita at Phillips Exeter Academy and a National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Award recipient (1992).

Pinkie Gordon Lane

    For Pinkie Gordon Lane, the title of "first" has spanned her professional career.  She was the first black woman to receive a doctorate from Louisiana State University in 1956 and the first black poet laureate of Louisiana, an honor she held from 1989-92.  Described as "a poet of lyric space," Lane and her work have garnered awards and praise, and she has been inducted into the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame and has been cited for her work as an educator, poet and humanist by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English.  Representative of one of the quieter strains of poetry over the past two decades, the English professor emerita of Southern University in Baton Rouge has found a wide audience for her volumes of poems, Wind Thoughts (1972), The Mystic Female (1978), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1979, I Never Scream: New and Selected Poems (1985), and Girl at the Window (1991).  Some of her poems first appeared in such periodicals as Callaloo, Journal of Black Poetry, Ms. Magazine, Negro American Literature Forum, Nimrod, Obsidian, The Black Scholar and The Southern Review. Her forthcoming book is titled Elegy for Etheridge.

Naomi Long Madgett

    Writer, editor, teacher and publisher, Naomi Long Madgett has been the moving force behind Lotus Press, Inc., the leading publisher of distinguished poetry by African Americans.  Responsible for the publication of 77 titles, she was senior editor of the Lotus Poetry Series of Michigan State University Press from 1993-1998 while continuing as publisher and editor of Lotus Press in Detroit.  An award-winning poet in her own right, Madgett has published eight collections of poetry including Pink Ladies in the Afternoon (1972, 1990), Exits and Entrances (1978), Phantom Nightingale: Juvenilia (1981), and Octavia and Other Poems (1988) which was national co-winner of the College Language Association Creative Achievement Award. She has also won the American Book Award, the Michigan Artist Award, a George Kent Award, and a Robert Hayden Runagate Award.  Black Scholar Magazine gave her the Award of Excellence in 1992, and in 1993 the Hilton-Long Poetry Foundation offered its first annual Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award for excellence in a manuscript by an African American poet. This award is now sponsored by Lotus Press and has had six winners.  Madgett's poems have been included in well over 160 anthologies in this country and abroad and have been translated into several languages.

Haki R. Madhubuti

    Haki R. Madhubuti, born Don L. Lee, moved to Chicago as a teenager, thus beginning a period of growth, service and commitment that would have a significant impact on the literary and cultural life of Chicago.  Madhubuti, one of the most distinctive and searing voices in contemporary poetry, has divided his time among a variety of activities.  Best known as a poet, he works as an essayist, critic, publisher, social activist and educator.  He is the founder and editor of Third World Press and Black Books Bulletin and directs the Institute of Positive Education, an organization that brings nation-building ideas to the youth of Chicago.  A founding member of the Organization of Black American Culture Writers Workshop (OBAC), he honed his early poetic style in the circle of other OBAC poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Carolyn Rodgers, Johari Amiri, and Sterlimg Plumpp.  His books include Think Black; Black Pride; Don't Cry, Scream; We Walk the Way of the New World and Dynamite Voices: Black Poets of the 1960's.  His more recent work includes Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption (1995), Heartlove: Wedding and Love Poems (1998), and editing Million Man March/Day of Absence: A Commemorative Anthology (1996). He is currently a professor of English and director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University.

E. Ethelbert Miller

    E. Ethelbert Miller is the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University, a position he has held since 1974.  Miller is the founder and director of the Ascension Poetry Reading Series, one of the oldest literary series in the Washington area.  Author of Migrant Worker, Season of Hunger/Cry of Rain, Women Surviving Massacres and Men, and Where are the Love Poems for Dictators?, he most recently published First Light: Selected and New Poems and In Search of Color Everywhere.  Miller is a Washington, D.C. treasure.  In 1979, the Mayor of Washington, D.C. proclaimed September 28, 1979 as "E. Ethelbert Miller Day."  Awarded the Mayor's Art Award for Literature (1982), he has received the Public Humanities Award (1988) and the Columbia Merit Award (1993).  Miller has served on the D.C. Community Humanities Council and as senior editor for theWashington Review of the Arts. His most recent work includes editing the acclaimed anthology In Search of Color Everywhere: A Collection of African-American Poetry (1996) and authoring Whispers, Secrets, Promises (1998).

Aldon L. Nielsen

    Aldon L. Nielsen, professor of English at San Jose State University, is the author of Reading Race: White American Poets and the Racial Discourse in the Twentieth Century (1988) and Writing Between the Lines: Race and Intertextuality (1994).  Nielsen's two collections of poetry are Evacuation Routes and Heat Strings.  Nielsen is producer, director and host of a San Jose State, California radio program, The Incognito Lounge, and publishes a poetry newsletter.  Nielsen also served as director of poetry writing workshops at the Martin Luther King Public Library in Washington, D.C. His latest work is C.L.R. James: A Critical Introduction (1997).

Raymond R. Patterson

    Raymond R. Patterson is the author of 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man and Other Poems (Award Books) and Elemental Blues (Cross-Cultural Communications), as well as an unpublished book-length poem on the life of Phillis Wheatley and an Opera Libretto, David Walker.  His poetry has appeared in The Transatlantic Review, The OhioReview, The West Hill Review, The Crisis, The BeloitPoetry Journal and elsewhere.  Many of his poems have been anthologized and can be found in The Poetry of the Negro, New Black Voices, Soulscript, The Norton Introduction to Literature and A Geography of Poets, and they have been translated into a number of languages.  In addition, they have been performed over PBS.  In 1985 the Hale Smith composition "Three Patterson Lyrics" received its world premiere at Alice Tully Hall.  For his poetry, Raymond Patterson has received a National Endowment for the Arts award and a Creative Artists Public Service fellowship.  He has served on the executive boards of the Poetry Society of America and PEN American Center and is a trustee of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association.  He was born in New York City and educated at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, and New York University.  He is a professor emeritus of the City College of the City University of New York, where he taught for many years in the English Department and directed its annual Langston Hughes Festival.

Sterling D. Plumpp 

    Sterling D. Plumpp describes himself as a poet who writes out of his experience and sees the blues and black folklore as intimate family members.  Writer, editor and educator, Plumpp has lived most of his life in Chicago.  He has taught at the University of Illinois since 1970 where he is currently a professor in the departments of African American Studies and English.  Among his works are Black Rituals, a partly autobiographical publication on black psychology; Portable Soul and Half Black, Half Blacker, books of poetry; Somehow We Survive, a 1982 anthology of South African poetry, Blues: The Story Always Untold (1989) and Johannesburg and Other Poems (1993).His forthcoming children's books are Harriet Tubman and Paul Robeson.  In 1983 he received the Carl Sandburg Literary Prize for Poetry for The Mojo Hands Call, I Must Go.  His most recent books are Hornman(1996) and Ornate with Smoke (1998).   His poems have also appeared in Black Scholar, Black World, Obsidian and Black Books Bulletin.
 
Arnold Rampersad

    Arnold Rampersad, scholar, literary critic, biographer, and MacArthur Fellow, is the author of a two-volume biography of Langston Hughes and an earlier study of the life and works of W.E.B. DuBois.  The Life of Langston Hughes has won numerous awards, including the American Book Award in Biography of the Before Columbus Foundation in 1990 and the Clarence Holt Award in 1988.  The work was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1989; and the first volume I, Too, Sing America, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1987.  Rampersad is Woodrow Wilson Professor of English and director of American studies at Princeton University.  Earlier he taught at the University of Virginia, Stanford, Rutgers and Columbia.  In 1991, he edited Richard Wright: Early Works and Richard Wright: Later Works for the Library of America series. He assisted Arthur Ashe in writing his Days of Grace: A Memoir (1994), and his biography of Jackie Robinson was published in 1998.

Bernice Johnson Reagon

    Bernice Johnson Reagon is a curator in the Division of Community life at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, and Distinguished Professor of History at American University.  She is a specialist in African American oral, performance, and protest traditions.  Her current research includes documentation of early twentieth century gospel repertoire and performance traditions and nineteenth century worship traditions.  During the Civil Rights Movement, Reagon was a member of the original SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) Freedom Singers.  She founded and currently serves as artistic director of Sweet Honey In The Rock, an internationally acclaimed African American women a cappella quintet, whose repertoire specialty is African American song and singing traditions.  Reagon's publications include: We Who Believe In Freedom: Sweet Honey In The Rock: Still On The Journey (1993); "We'll Understand It Better By and By;" Pioneering African American Gospel Composers (1992); the landmark documentary anthology, Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1965; and Compositions One: The Original Compositions and Arrangements of Bernice Johnson Reagon (1986).  Her recordings as a singer include "River of Life," a solo multi-track recording (1986) and Sweet Honey In The Rock recordings: "Selections (1976-1988)" (1997), "Sacred Ground" (1995), "We All. . . Everyone of Us" (1995), "Still On The Journey" (1993):  "In This Land," (1992); "Live at Carnegie Hall" (1988); "All for Freedom," (for children); "Feel Something Drawing Me On;" (1985) and"Good News" (1980).  In 1989 she was a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Award.  In 1995, she received the National Medal of the Arts at the White House when Gwendolyn Brooks also received the same award. She resides in Washington, D.C.

Eugene Redmond

    The first and only official poet laureate of his native East St. Louis, Ill., since 1976, Redmond teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, his alma mater.  He has written several books, including Songs from an Afro/Phone: New Poems and Drumvoices:  The Mission of Afro-American Poetry, A Critical History.  He, along with Henry Dumas and Sherman Fowler, founded Black River Writers Publishing Company, which has published most of his poetry.  His boundless energy has propelled him into countless creative projects including his work with Katherine Dunham at Southern Illinois University's Performing Arts Training Center and his biographical study of the late poet and fiction writer Henry Dumas.  Redmond has been poet-in-residence at Southern Illinois University, Oberlin College, California State University, Southern University in Baton Rouge, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  Redmond is the founding editor of Drumvoices Review, a multicultural literary magazine.  He is also a playwright whose works have been produced by colleges in Illinois, California, Louisiana and New York.  The recipient of the 1993 American Book Award for his collection of poems The Eye in the Ceiling, he received the 1993 Pyramid Award from the Pan African Movement USA for his writing achievements and his lifetime dedication to multiculturalism.  He is presently at work on a poetic biography of former premiere ballerina Katherine Dunham.

Sonia Sanchez

    Sonia Sanchez is one of the most deeply moving and committed poets to emerge from the Black Arts Movement in the late sixties and seventies.  A poet, activist, playwright, editor and teacher, Sanchez has significantly influenced African American literature and culture by the urgency of her sustained and powerful voice.  From 1969 to the present, she has authored eight books of poems including Homecoming (1969), We a BadddDDD People (1970), A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women (1974), homegirls& handgrenades (1984), and Under a Soprano Sky (1987), Wounded in the House of a Friend (1995), Does Your House Have Lions? (1998), and Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems (1998).  A recipient of numerous awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Award, 1985 American Book Award for homegirls & handgrenades, the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities for 1988, and the Peace and Freedom Award from the Women International League for Peace and Freedom for 1989, she recently received the Pew Fellowship in the Arts for her outstanding literary achievement.  Sanchez has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, China, Europe, Canada, and the Caribbean.  She currently holds the Laura Carnell Chair in English at Temple University.

Clyde R. Taylor

    A member of the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley since 1972, Clyde R. Taylor is a contributor of poems, articles and reviews to Black World, Black Folk, Criticism, Blake Studies, Dasein and Journal de l'Universite de Sherbrooke.  He is associate editor of Blackfolks and a contributor to Modern Black Poets: Twentieth Century Views and Vietnamand Black America.  Taylor earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Howard University and his doctorate from Wayne State University.  He was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Study William Blake at the University of Manchester in 1963-64.  He received the Richard Wright Award for Literary Criticism from Black World in 1973. The Mask of Art: Breaking the Aesthetic Contract--Film and Literature is scheduled for publication in 1998.

Lorenzo Thomas

    Lorenzo Thomas, assistant professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown, was a member of the legendary Umbra workshop in the 1960s.  This workshop drew young writers to the Lower East Side of New York City in search of their artistic voices.  Reflecting on those years in a 1978 Callaloo essay, Thomas observes, "cultural black nationalism of our moment did not spring forth from inspiration of the New York Times or the Late News," but was the result of cultural transmissions from the griots of the folk tradition to these young writers.  Now an internationally acclaimed poet and critic, he continues to receive inspiration from this source.  His collections of poetry include Chances are Few (1979), The Bathers (1981) and Sound Science (1992). He edited Sing the Sun Up: Creative Writing Ideas from African American Literature (1998). He is a recipient of two Poets Foundation awards and the Lucille Medwick Prize.

Eleanor W. Traylor

    Eleanor W. Traylor is professor of English and chair of the department of English at Howard University.  Adjunct professor of English at The Catholic University of America, she is also Project Director of From Text to Stage to Text: Great Moments in African American Literature, a multimedia resource for the teaching of African American literature in secondary schools.  Essayist and critic of African American literature, she has prepared historical and biographical scripts for the Program in Black American Culture of the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, and she has developed and directed the Larry Neal Cultural Series in literature at the African American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia.  She is the recipient of The Marcus Garvey Award for community service, the Hazel Joan Bryant Award of the Midwest Black Theatre Alliance for service in community theater, and the Catholic University Alumni Achievement Award in literary criticism.  Her publications are numerous and multi-faceted, among them The Humanities and African American Literary Traditions.  Her articles have appeared in every major collection of essays on African American literature since 1980.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr. 

    Jerry W. Ward, Jr., Lawrence Durgin Professor of Literature at Tougaloo College, is coeditor of Redefining American Literary History (1990), Black Southern Voices (1992), and Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African-American Poetry (1997).  His works-in-progress include JAZZ SOUTH, a collection of poems, and Reading Race, Reading America: Social and Literary Essays.  Ward has published essays, poems and critical reviews in New OrleansReview, Obsidian, The Southern Quarterly, Black American Literature Forum and Callaloo.  His work is included in the anthologies Sturdy Black Bridges, MississippiWriters:  Reflections of Childhood and Youth, Vol. III and Black Women  Writers 1950-1986: A Critical Evaluation. In 1998, he contributed the introduction to Black Boy: (American Hunger).

Val Gray Ward

    Val Gray Ward is an internationally-known actress, producer and theater personality who has made major contributions to the cultural life of Chicago and America through her work as dramatist, founder and artistic director of the Kuumba Theatre.  Since its founding in 1968, Kuumba has never missed a season in which plays were offered to a grateful Chicago audience.  Kuumba has also produced many shows that toured in cities such as Louisville, Atlanta, San Antonio, Milwaukee, Montreal, and Osaka, Japan.  As the principal creative force behind the Kuumba Theatre, Ward has produced and directed such plays as Sister Son / ji by Sonia Sanchez, Ricky by Eugenia Collier, Five on the Black Hand Side by Charles Fuller, and The Image Makers by Eugene Perkins.  She also created the Emmy Award Winning Precious Memories: Strolling 47th Street which aired over the PBS network in September 1988.  Val Gray Ward has also appeared in her one-woman show, I Am A Black Woman from 1966 to the present at colleges and universities, conferences and educational  meetings across the country.  She currently lives in Syracuse, New York.

Sherley Anne Williams

    Sherley Anne Williams, who has been described as a brilliant critic and moving poet, began writing seriously after she received a bachelor's degree in history from California State University at Fresno in 1966.  Her first story, "Tell Martha Not to Moan," was published in 1967 while Williams continued graduate study at Howard University.  She earned her master's degree in 1972 from Brown University, where she taught in the Black Studies Program.  Her volume of literary criticism, Give Birth to Brightness, was published the same year.  Williams is the author of two volumes of poetry titled The Peacock Poems and Some One Sweet Angel Chile.  Describing Some One Sweet Angel Chile, she sees it as a "series of self-affirmations, each rooted in a sense of the sisterhood of black women and dealing with some aspect of self-image.  Each arises out of a deeper and wider sense of the group experience."  Williams often renders that sense of group experience with the poignance and transcendence of the blues.  Author of the novel Dessa Rose, she has published several books, as well as stories, criticism and a play. Her children's book Working Cotton is a Caldecott Honor Book. Girls Together, which she coauthored with Varnette P. Honeywood, is due for release in February 1999. Williams currently teaches at the University of California at San Diego.


PATRONS

Dr. Ralph A. Anderson

Ms. Judith Bond

Mr. Charles A. Brown

Ms. Rejena Carreras

Cellular One, Harrisonburg

Mr. Willie J. Dell

Mr. Murry N. DePillars

Ms. Joy Nero Ferguson

Dr. and Mrs. Francis M. Foster

Mr. Richard W. Foster

Mr. Wilbert F. Foster

Mrs. Joan C. Griffin

Mildred & Carl M. Ivery

Fire Chief and Mrs. Ronald C. Lewis

Ms. Vera B. Rembsburg

Mr. John Ritchie, Jr.

Mr. Wallace Stettinius

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Ms. Marilyn H. West

Mr. Robert W. Woltz, Jr.

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Ronald E. Carrier

President, James Madison University

Bethany S. Oberst

Vice President for Academic Affairs

Calvin P. Otto

Charlottesville, Virginia

Wintergreen Women Writers' Collective

Division of University Advancement

James Madison University

Honors Program Advisory Board

English Department

James Madison University

Office of Media Relations

James Madison University

NAACP, JMU Chapter

Office of University Relations

James Madison University

Office of Information Technology

James Madison University

John Keogh, MCI

Tom Lair, GTE

Women of Color, JMU Chapter

Sigma Gamma Omega and Lambda Chi Chapters

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Office of Multicultural Student Services

James Madison University

JMU Student Ambassadors

Students of Major Black Writers: Poetry


Furious Flower Planning Committee

Todd Alexander, EnterpriseTravel, Harrisonburg

Tom Bonadeo, Office of Information Technology

Sandra Bowman, Special Events

Jacqueline Brice-Finch, Department of English

Lynn Cameron, Carrier Library

C. B. Claiborne, Department of Marketing

Stuart Downs, Sawhill Gallery

Joanna Dubois, Honors Program

Phil Easley, WVPT, Harrisonburg

Susan Facknitz, Department of English

Annette Federico, Department of English

Alexander L. Gabbin (Chair), School of Accounting

Joanne V. Gabbin, Honors Program and Deparment of English

Peter Hager, Deparment of English

Johlene Hess, Carrier Library

John Hodges, WVPT, Harrisonburg

David K. Jeffrey, Deparment of English

Bruce Johnson, Department of English

Laurie Kutchins, Department of English

Rachel Saury, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

Sang Y. Yoon, School of Art


In Memoriam

James Baldwin

Richard K. Barksdale

Sterling A. Brown

Melvin Dixon

Ralph Ellison

Sarah Webster Fabio

Hoyt Fuller

Addison Gayle, Jr.

Robert Hayden

George Kent

John Oliver Killens

Etheridge Knight

Audre Lorde

Larry Neal

Sun Ra

J. Saunders Redding

Darwin T. Turner