24 NEH Summer Scholars and “Don’t Deny My Voice: Reading and Teaching African American Poetry”
As a Project on the History of Black Writing Board member, I thank you for helping us to explore new territories in the contact/combat zones of African American poetries. Your questions and comments have deepened exploration of the nature of reading from diverse angles. You have enlarged considerations of how to teach in ways that may enable students to become more secure in shaping their critical thinking. Your thinking about engaged scholarship, following the exploratory work of Lorenzo Thomas, reminds us how crucial our agency is in managing chaos. Agency is all when chaos is everything!
Let us remember what Dr. Maryemma Graham said about climate, community, and culture in her letter of July 14, 2013. If Lorenzo Thomas’s guiding spirit convinces us not to deny our voices, we must remember
1) Climate refers “to where poetry come from, under what conditions is it being produced, and by whom”
2) Community refers “to the relationship between audience, the poet, and the poem,” or, to quote from Eugene Redmond’s “Parapoetics”
Poetry is an applied science:
Re-wrapped corner raps
Rootly-eloquented cellular, soulular sermons
As we practice poetic community, we may find Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as needful as C. P. Snow’s The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. Ought we not be able to say whether the second law of thermodynamics is applicable to any poem Langston Hughes wrote?
3) Culture refers “to the meaning of poetry, and what values it espouses, drawing attention to the multiple sites and forms of black poetry.” In the emerging culture of our conversations, our voices constitute our values.
Entering the third week of our dialogues, I urge that we supplement three “c” words with three “r” words -----research and relentless reflection. Please ask me off-schedule what I have in mind as a response to a question in Pluck! (Issue 9, 2013) ---- “Is activism truly dead?” Perhaps not, but I must conquer a mountain for an answer.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
July 25, 2013