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Poets celebrate the rich, wide-ranging voice of African-American poetry with an evening of readings


Nikki Giovanni took the audience to Mars with her reading.

Click here to watch the poetry readings on BUniverse.

Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center and the Poetry Society of America team up to celebrate the rich, wide-ranging voice of African-American poetry with an evening of readings. Introduced by Boston’s inaugural poet laureate Sam Cornish, poets include a Pulitzer prize winner and several nominees and the founders of the poetry group Cave Canem, among many others. Cosponsored by the Boston Review and Cave Canem, the event honors the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59) on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his assassination.

Cornish, author of 13 books of poetry and Boston’s first poet laureate, introduces the evening of poetry by African-American poets “who have had such impact on our social and political thinking.” The roster includes such giants in the field as Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Yusef Komunyakaa, as well as rising talents Major Jackson, Elizabeth Alexander, and Dawn Lundy Martin.

“If the poets here today were reading in chronological order, perhaps you’d get a sense of their influence on me and on many of today’s younger writers,” Cornish says. “For example, the oral traditions that have prevailed in the Black Arts movement are evident in today’s vigorous performance arts, both written and spoken. So, as you listen to these poets, ask yourself, are they writing and speaking to one another, to you? And what are they saying? This is, after all, a poetic conversation.”

The event is held in conjunction with a panel discussion earlier in the day on the state of African-American poetry.

April 2, 2008, 6:30 p.m.
Metcalf Ballroom

About the speakers:

Elizabeth Alexander is the author of four books of poems, including American Sublime, which was one of three finalists for a 2005 Pulitzer Prize.

Sam Cornish is Boston’s inaugural poet laureate, an NEA fellow, and author of 13 books of poetry.

Toi Derricotte, a Cave Canem cofounder, is an NEA fellow and winner of two Pushcart Prizes.

Cornelius Eady, a cofounder of Cave Canem, is author of Brutal Imagination, a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry, and The Gathering of My Name, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Nikki Giovanni is a National Book Award and Grammy nominee and winner of three NAACP Image Awards for Literature.

Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry, Hoops and Leaving Saturn, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Yusef Komunyakaa won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems.

Dawn Lundy Martin was awarded the 2006 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and is the author of The Morning Hour.

Carl Phillips (GRS’92) is the author of numerous books of poetry, including The Rest of Love, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Sonia Sanchez is a Pew fellow and the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including Homegirls and Handgrenades.

Quincy Troupe is the former poet laureate of California and winner of the American Book Award for Snake-Back Solos: Selected Poems and Miles: The Autobiography.

Afaa Michael Weaver is a NEA fellow and author of eight books of poetry, most recently Plum Flower Dance.

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