Tribute to African American Poets
Toi Derricotte & Terrence Hayes
Releasing in June, 2009, issue #31 celebrates the work of 30 African American poets. The very act of compiling an issue like this raises a number of difficult questions: What does it mean to be an African American poet? Do African American poets have to write about their racial experiences? Is there any justification for grouping poets together by race in the 21st century? Should white editors and scholars be free to participate in black literature? Does an issue like this do more harm than good?
In Rattle #31 we can’t answer any of these questions, but we can enter into a dialogue on the intersection between race and poetry. The course is introspective, and our guides are provocative essays by Meta DuEwa Jones and Susan B.A. Somers-Willett, intimate conversations with Toi Derricotte and Terrance Hayes, expressive photography by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and a wealth of poetry in a wide range of styles and subjects. The result, for us, has been a transformative experience, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to share it with a wider audience.
As always, the Tribute is the focus of the issue, but not the totality of it. Rattle #31’s open section features the work of 55 poets, whose proclivities are as varied as their backgrounds. And in the back pages, our first-person contributor notes are almost as fun to read as the poems themselves.