“Internationally Known”

James Smethurst

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195398779
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

“Internationally Known”

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



The impact of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) of the 1960s and 1970s on subsequent poetry in the United States is profound. One might expect this impact to be obvious to readers, writers, and critics. However, as has often been the case with respect to African American literature and U.S. literature, BAM has been seen through a racial filter that makes a very large percentage of white writers and critics reluctant (or unable) to acknowledge that impact—unlike, say, the cases of basketball and jazz where white participants are willing and even proud to cite black models and mentors. In fact, many white writers are more likely to point to a black musician as a model and inspiration than to a black literary artist. This article discusses this impact of BAM within the context of a dramatic demographic shift in the United States as a result of worldwide migrations of African-descended peoples that has completely transformed the environment for poetry here as well as greatly complicating notions of social identity. The study focuses on how BAM poetry, in its aesthetics, practice, transmission, and reception within the context of this movement of African-descended peoples and culture, influenced and inflected the rise of rap and hip hop, creating a truly mass audience for poetry and spoken word in the United States, a phenomenon that all U.S. poets working after the late 1970s have had to take into account.

Keywords: African American literature; modern poetry; black poetry; social identity; rap

Article.  7738 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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