Aldon Lynn Nielsen and Lauri Ramey’s anthology What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America seeks to expand the contours of contemporary American and African American poetry by collecting the work of twenty-nine experimental black poets published since the late 1970s. Placing well-known innovators like Nathaniel Mackey, Harryette Mullen, and Claudia Rankine alongside many younger poets, the anthology presents an impressive array of formal experimentation in order to dispel canon-centric notions of aesthetic conservatism in post-war African American poetry. By privileging poetries that use conceptual, philosophical, visual, and appropriative techniques, the collection also implicitly challenges current views of contemporary avant-garde poetry as an overwhelmingly white endeavor. Seeking to re-map the inheritance of an interracial, cross-arts modernism, What I Say makes a crucial contribution to contemporary poetry and poetics by emphasizing the wide range of forms and content present in innovative black poetries.


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pp. 169-176
Launched on MUSE
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