Cover Photo Image

The inaugural exhibit of the Furious Flower Broadside Gallery highlighted poetic Dynamic Duos who, through inspiration, mentorship, comradeship or combined labor, made lasting impacts on the legacies of Black poetry.

Gwendolyn Brooks and Dr. Joanne Gabbin

Gwendolyn Brooks, one of the most prolific and influential poets of the 20th century, was the first Black person to win a Pulitzer Prize. She also served as U.S. Poet Laureate, Poet Laureate of Illinois, and was the first Black woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Brooks befriended and mentored Dr. Joanne Gabbin in Chicago, and has been a life-long inspiration. In 1994, Dr. Gabbin convened the now-historic Furious Flower Poetry Conference in Brooks’ honor, named after a line from Brooks’ poem, “The Second Sermon on the Warpland.” The conference convened Black poets from around the country in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and paved the way for Gabbin’s founding of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University–the first academic center dedicated to Black poetry in the nation. The Center’s publications and programming–including its flagship decennial conference–continues to highlight the excellence of Black poets and preserve Black poetic legacy.

Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady

Inspired, in part, by the first Furious Flower Poetry Conference, award-winning poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady founded Cave Canem in 1996 to “remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape.” The Cave Canem week-long retreat and workshop for Black poets was led by the pair for over two decades. The residency has since blossomed into a non-profit literary service organization that offers artistic and professional development opportunities to more than 400 fellows and more than 900 workshop participants. Fellows have produced more than 250 books in print, enlarging the American literary canon, and won top prizes such as the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Award, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and the Whiting Writers’ Award.

Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka

Renowned poets, longtime friends, and creative collaborators, Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka were artists committed to combining their creative pursuits with activism to effect change in arts, culture and society. Sanchez is among the earliest poets to use Black English in her poems, and was one of the first advocates of African-American Studies in academia. Baraka, an author of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism, founded several literary journals and presses as a means of practicing and advocating for racial justice. Sanchez met Baraka when she attended one of his readings and he invited her to submit to an anthology he was editing; Baraka attended Sanchez’s writer’s workshop in New York’s Greenwich Village. Comrades in the work of writing dedicated to Black liberation, Sanchez and Baracka are considered pioneers of the Black Arts Movement (1965-1975), one the most influential literary movements of the 20th century, which, in addition to influencing young and emerging writers of the time, also significantly impacted established poets like Gwendolyn Brooks.

Back to Top