Лекция: African-American Poetry

Contemporary black Americans have produced many poems of great beauty and considerable range of themes and tones. It is the most developed ethnic writing in America and is extremely diverse. Amiri Baraka (1934- ), the best known African-American poet, has also written plays and taken an active role in politics. Maya Angelou's (1928- ) writings have taken various literary forms, including drama and her well-known memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), in addition to her collection of verse, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971). Angelou was selected to write a poem for the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Another recently honored African-American poet is Rita Dove (1952- ), who was named poet laureate of the United States in 1993. Dove, a writer of fiction and drama as well, won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Thomas and Beulah, in which she celebrates her grandparents through a series of lyric poems. She has said that she wrote the work to reveal the rich inner lives of poor people.

Michael Harper (1938- ) has similarly written poems revealing the complex lives of African-Americans faced with discrimination and violence. His dense, allusive poems often deal with crowded, dramatic scenes of war or urban life. They make use of surgical images in an attempt to heal. His «Clan Meeting: Births and Nations: A Blood Song» (1971), which likens cooking to surgery («splicing the meats with fluids»), begins «we reconstruct lives in the intensive / care unit, pieced together in a buffet....» The poem ends by splicing together images of the hospital, racism in the early American film Birth of a Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, film editing, and X-ray technology:

We reload our brains as the cameras,
the film overexposed
in the x-ray light,
locked with our double door
light meters: race and sex
spooled and rung in a hobby;
we take our bundle and go home.

History, jazz, and popular culture inspire many African- Americans, from Harper (a college professor) to West Coast publisher and poet Ishmael Reed (1938- ), known for spearheading multicultural writing through the Before Columbus Foundation and a series of magazines such as Yardbird, Quilt, and Konch. Many African-American poets, such as Audre Lorde (1934-1992), have found nourishment in Afrocentrism, which sees Africa as a center of civilization since ancient times. In sensuous poems such as «The Women of Dan Dance with Swords in Their Hands to Mark the Time When They Were Warriors,» she speaks as a woman warrior of ancient Dahomey, «warming whatever I touch» and «consuming» only «What is already dead.»

Asian-American Poetry Like poetry by Chicano and Hispanic writers, Asian-American poetry is exceedingly varied. Americans of Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino descent may have lived in the United States for seven generations, while Americans of Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese heritage are likely to be fairly recent immigrants. Each group grows out of a distinctive linguistic, historical, and cultural tradition. Recent developments in Asian-American literature have included an emphasis on the Pacific Rim studies and women's writing. Asian-Americans generally are resisting the orientalizing racial stereotype as the «exotic» and «good» minority. Aestheticians are beginning to compare Asian and Western literary traditions — for example comparing the concepts of tao and logos.

Asian-American poets have drawn on many sources, from Chinese opera to zen, and Asian literary traditions, particularly zen, have inspired numerous non-Asian poets, as can be seen in the 1991 anthology Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry. Asian-American poets span a spectrum, from the iconoclastic posture taken by Frank Chin, co- editor of Aiiieeeee! (an early anthology of Asian-American literature), to the generous use of tradition by writers such as novelist Maxine Hong Kingston (1940- ). Janice Mirikitani, a sansei (third-generation Japanese-American) evokes Japanese- American history and has edited several anthologies such as Third World Women, Time to Greez, and Ayumi: Four Generations of Japanese in America.

Chinese-American Cathy Song's (1955- ) lyrical Picture Bride (1983) also dramatizes history through the lives of her family. Many Asian-American poets explore cultural diversity. In Song's «The Vegetable Air» (1988), a shabby town with cows in the plaza, a Chinese restaurant, and a Coca-Cola sign hung askew become an emblem of rootless multicultural contemporary life made bearable by art, in this case an opera on cassette:

then the familiar aria,
rising like the moon,
lifts you out of yourself,
transporting you to another country
where, for a moment, you travel light.

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