Black History 365, National Poetry Month edition: James Emanuel

Since there are so many facets of the history that people of African descent have made in this country, I’ve decided to continue my “Black History 365″ series from my poetry blog here on my AfrocentriqueAZ blog. In honor of National Poetry Month, I’ll be posting a new Black poet every day this month. Every Wednesday for the months after that I will post other Black history figures (I’ll go back to my “first Black” series). 

Today’s poet is James Emanuel (video at the end of the post)

James Emanuel

James Emanuel


From Famous Poets and Poems and Wikipedia:

James Emanuel (born June 15, 1921 – September 28, 2013) was a poet and scholar from Alliance, Nebraska. Emanuel, who is ranked by some critics as one of the best and most neglected poets of the 20th century, published more than 300 poems, 13 individual books, an influential anthology of African American literature, an autobiography, and more. He is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku, often read with musical accompaniment.

Emanuel was a published poet, scholar, and critic. As a poet, Emanuel published more than 300 poems and 13 individual books. Emanuel has been called one of the best, and most overlooked, poets of his time. Critics have put forward several reasons for Emanuel’s poetry being neglected by the larger literary world, including the fact that Emanuel wrote more traditional poetic forms, that he left the United States, and the fact that he refused to take part in the politically correct world of Black academia.

Emanuel is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku, which he has read to musical accompaniment throughout Europe and Africa. For this creation he was awarded the Sidney Bechet Creative Award in 1996. He was also awarded the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Achievement in 2007 from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and has also been honored with a John Hay Whitney Award, a Saxton Memorial Fellowship, and a Special Distinction Award from the Black American Literature Forum.

In addition to his poetry, Emanuel also edited (with Theodore Gross) the influential anthology of African American literature Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America. The anthology, published in 1968 by Free Press, was one of the first major collections of African American writings. This anthology, and Emanuel’s work as an educator, heavily influenced the birth of the African American literature genre.

In 2000 a collection of Emanuel letters and writings were placed in the United States Library of Congress. Included in the letters were correspondence with Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Benjamin O. Davis, Ossie Davis, W. E. B. Du Bois, and many others.

Emanuel also edited five Broadside Critics books (1971–1975) and wrote a number of critical essays. His other published works include a memoir, The Force and the Reckoning, published in 2001.




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