DRUMVOICES: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry by Eugene B. Redmond

DRUMVOICES: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Professor Redmond, Poet-in-Residence at California State University, surveys black American poetry from Lucy Terry's ""Bars Fight"" of 1746 to the present. In each designated period--1746-1865, 1865-1910, 1910-1960, 1960 on--he finds some poets who kept alive an affirmation of blackness if only in preserving the folk materials and themes of African and Afro-American culture. He defends several pre-Sixties poets--e.g. Phyllis Wheatley, George Marion McClellan, Anne Spencer, Melvin B. Tolson--who have been criticized for lacking racial consciousness and significance, in some cases pointing out their subtle expressions of pride (African carryovers, religious metaphors for race) or their more formal contributions. Besides the hundreds of poets covered in some detail, Redmond mentions hundreds more, including Creole poets and poets from the Caribbean, and lists books by and about them or their times. For each period, moreover, he summarizes events important to blacks and sometimes to poetry; he introduces other folk arts (music, dance) and discusses their development, usually in relation to the poetry; and he offers an overview of the achievements of black poets and some white poets. In treating the white poets he may be misleading or completely wrong (as when he groups George Oppen with Michael McClure and others equally unlikely as ""Black Mountain Poets""); there are also abrupt jumps from one era to another, and brief, relatively obscure references without footnotes. But considering the almost exhaustive lists, this must be the most comprehensive guidebook yet. And it succeeds in demonstrating that the flowering of black poetry in the Sixties and Seventies has roots extending back to colonial times.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1976
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday