Furious Flower

Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry

Wed, 28 Sep 1994 1:00 PM - Sat, 1 Oct 1994 10:30 PM

In 1994, JMU’s Dr. Joanne Gabbin (professor of English) hosted the first Furious Flower Poetry Conference, featuring the most accomplished and admired black poets of the day. The Washington Post called it a historic gathering because never before had so many African American poets, critics, and other scholars gathered in one place to perform, study, and celebrate this art form.

The event was dedicated to Gwendolyn Brooks and spotlighted the powerful writings of the 1950s to the early 1990s. The video below gives you a sense of how momentous this was:

At 1:40, Amiri Baraka puts blackness into contention.

At 2:11, Dolores Kendrick explains why (and when) poetry is meaningful; Gwendolyn Brooks follows immediately, acclaiming “my people.”

At 3:53, Michael Harper does something marvelous—just watch.

At 6:29, Sonia Sanchez explains how indelible poetry is in personality.

At 6:46, “Fallen Leaves” begins. This tribute memorializes those who attended the 1994 Furious Flower Conference but had passed away by 2004, when the second conference was held. (The third Furious Flower Poetry Conference took place at James Madison University in 2014.)

Video by John Hodges for James Madison University.

For additional footage of the readings and panel discussions, as well as the same from the 2004 conference, visit https://mdid.lib.jmu.edu/explore/explore/?s=title_sort+asc&v=thumb&c=allcollections:37 

The conference program, opening remarks, and other conference materials are available at http://www.jmu.edu/furiousflower/archives/94program.shtml.

Educational resources (books, films) about this event are available from http://www.jmu.edu/furiousflower/market/publications.shtml.

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