Poets of Color Syllabus Status: Done!

Whew! It’s taken me about two weeks to create a syllabus for my Poets of Color course at Mills College. Classes start this week, and as some of you may know, I very suddenly found myself being offered this Fall semester teaching position. So it’s been a scramble.

I’ve been thinking about not just poetry by writers of color, but poetics essays, and essays about writing life as well. Two that will join Carlos Bulosan’s “The Writer as Worker,” to kick off the semester:

  • Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (1926). What strikes me about this essay is its relevance in 2010. I don’t know that a classroom full of emerging poets needs to be immersed so much in “po-biz,” but I believe writers of color experience this on a consistent basis — can we ever be regarded and read simply as writers, or will ethnic identifiers always take precedence. And if ethnicity will always take precedence, then how is it handled, by editors, by fellow writers, by educators teaching the work of writers of color?
  • Meta DuEwa Jones, “Descent and Transcendence in African American Poetry: Identity, Experience, Form” (2009). I feel like this essay is an elaboration of Hughes’s essay; Hughes envisioned generations of African American writers into the next century, and in Jones’s essay, we see similar issues still being discussed among these generations subsequent to Hughes.

Later on in the semester, we’ll read Hayan Charara’s “Animals: On the Role of the Poet in a Country at War.” I haven’t yet read it in its entirety, but am glad to have found it. I hope it’s clear that I do want to talk about political poets and political poetry, about social responsibility, about the reach and effect of a poem upon an individual and upon a populace.

OK. I am still scanning and uploading PDF’s, and I’ve found some good multimedia. So as much as done can be done, the syllabus is done. My first class is this Wednesday evening. What a rush.

Addendum: Um. How could I forget to mention that we will also be reading Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” from her collection of essays, Sister Outsider. Also, an excerpt of Allison Hedge Coke’s Seeds. Saul Williams’s “The Future of Language,” from DJ Spooky’s anthology, Sound Unbound. Finally, Thomas Sayers Ellis’s “The New Perform-A-Form.”

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Barbara Jane Reyes

Author of Gravities of Center, Poeta en San Francisco, and Diwata. Adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco.

2 Comments

  1. BJR,

    This looks good. I hadn’t read Meta’s essay, but glad to have found it. I’m teaching a class on form and theory this semester and found that I couldn’t find many essays by folks on color that went into the craft of a poem – a lot of stuff that talked subject, but not as much that talked craft. It might be I’m not looking in the right places though, but I don’t know.

    Good luck with the class.

    • Thanks Dwayne. There’s also an interview Meta conducted with me and Matthew Shenoda re: poets of color and form (among other things) in the most recent issue of MELUS. You can access thru JSTOR or Project MUSE. That *may* help a bit? Good luck to you as well.

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