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Poetics of the Enclave

Poetics of the Enclave

The Sonnet in the Age of Black Nationalism

(p.91) Chapter 5 Poetics of the Enclave
The African American Sonnet
Timo Müller
University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines the previously neglected role of the sonnet in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Leading theorists of the movement denounced the sonnet as a paradigmatic “white” form that constrained black self-expression and had to be excluded from the black nation. The demand for an oral, authentic, collective poetry led poets to dismantle the traditional sonnet structure and adapt the form to cultural nationalist demands. The chapter reviews the role of traditional poetic forms in the black aesthetic and discusses strategies of camouflaging or demarcating the sonnet in the work of June Jordan, Joe Mitchell, Conrad Kent Rivers, Quincy Troupe, and Margaret Walker. These strategies confirm the view in recent scholarship that the Black Arts movement exerted both a confining and a creative influence on poets of the time.

Keywords:   black nationalism, black aesthetic, Black Arts movement, June Jordan, Conrad Kent Rivers

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