Extraordinary Measures: Afrocentric Modernism and 20th-Century American Poetry

Overview

This broad overview by an established poet and cultural critic reveals the rich tapestry of African American poetry as it has emerged over the past century.

From early 20th-century writings to present-day poetry slams, African American poetry exhibits an impressive range of style and substance. Lorenzo Thomas has written an important new history of the genre that offers a critical reassessment of its development in the 20th century within the ...

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Overview

This broad overview by an established poet and cultural critic reveals the rich tapestry of African American poetry as it has emerged over the past century.

From early 20th-century writings to present-day poetry slams, African American poetry exhibits an impressive range of style and substance. Lorenzo Thomas has written an important new history of the genre that offers a critical reassessment of its development in the 20th century within the contexts of modernism and the troubled racial history of the United States.

Basing his study on literary history, cultural criticism, and close readings, Thomas revives and appraises the writings of a number of this century's most important African American poets, including Margaret Walker, Amiri Baraka, Askia M. Toure, Harryette Mullen, and Kalamu ya Salaam. Thomas analyzes the work of Fenton Johnson within the context of emerging race consciousness in Chicago, contributes to critical appraisals of William Stanley Braithwaite and Melvin B. Tolson, and examines the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout the book, Thomas demonstrates the continuity within the Afrocentric tradition while acknowledging the wide range of stylistic approaches and ideological stances that the tradition embraces.

By reassessing the African American poetry tradition, Thomas effectively reassesses the history of all 20th-century American literature by exploring avenues of debate that have not yet received sufficient attention. Written with intelligence and humor, his book is itself an extraordinary measure that reflects years of scholarship and opens up African American poetry to a wider audience.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Here is the poet in the catbird seat. Long a maker of literary history, Lorenzo Thomas pauses now to give readers a report of the story so far, his accounting of some of America's most significant poetic past. Seldom has our writing had such an attentive reader. This is not the history you thought you knew, nor is Lorenzo Thomas your grandfather's poet-critic. Thomas's Extraordinary Measures essays a measure of the American idiom as it has sounded in our century."
—Aldon Nielsen
Library Journal
In this volume, well-regarded poet Thomas (English, Univ. of Houston) examines African American poetry in the 20th century, ranging from the Harlem Renaissance through the Black Arts movement to contemporary poetry slams. He provides perceptive, jargon-free readings of numerous texts while demonstrating how black writers have negotiated an often tenuous balance between the goals of modernism and their own views of race and class. In doing so, Thomas makes a convincing case for a continuum within the African American poetic tradition. His provocative readings invite us to re-examine the ways in which writers as diverse as Fenton Johnson, William Stanley Braithwiate, Margaret Walker, Amiri Baraka, Alvin Aubert, and Harryette Mullen use their art. Recommended for all libraries with an interest in poetry and/or African American literature.--Louis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn Campus Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817310158
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Series: Modern and Contemporary Poetics Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lorenzo Thomas is Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown.

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