Thursday, December 03, 2009

BLACK NATURE launches in San Francisco

BLACK NATURE, a new anthology of African American nature poetry, launches today with editor Camille Dungy and contributors C.S. Giscombe, Patricia Spears Jones,devorah major, and Indigo Moor at the San Francisco State University Poetry Center and afterward at the Green Arcade.

The pathbreaking book will also be the focus of a three-day symposium at Berkeley in March, featuring contributors including Clarence Major, Harryette Mullen, Ed Roberson, Evie Shockley, Natasha Trethewey and Al Young.

As noted by contributor Evie Shockley:
This anthology is a major correction to a dismal record. It addresses the fact that the genre of "nature poetry" in this country has been constructed for hundreds of years as though African American poets had not produced any to speak of. With rare exceptions, if you look at collections of and scholarship/criticism about nature poetry throughout the last century and before, you will find very few black folks included or discussed -- often none.

There are reasons for this, which Dungy outlines, briefly and elegantly, in her introduction; one important one involves the need for us to understand "nature poetry" as a much broader category than the traditional pastoral. (Just because a poem is critical of nature doesn't mean it isn't about nature!) But those reasons do not include "because black poets don't write about nature," and Dungy gives us approximately 350 pages of proof that they (we!) do.

Look for a review of the book in the January/February issue of Orion magazine.