When contemplating such issues as the current protests against the trend of white policemen killing unarmed black men (or boys in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice) and the unceasing escalation of war and terrorism across the globe, some might consider poetry an insignificant subject to address as the year 2015 approaches. Others, however, might contend that just like black lives in the past, present, and future–– poetry matters.
One important reason poetry matters is because it often helps to expand humanity’s capacity for putting brutal and sublime experiences alike into usable, meaningful, contexts. What may be the oldest known Christmas poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas (often referred to as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) was first published anonymously on December 23, 1823, and later attributed to Clement Clark Moore. The year was a relatively peaceful one compared to the year before and that which followed. The poem, then, in addition to celebrating the holiday spirit of giving, could have been the poet’s way of affirming grace in a world too often overrun by grief.
The forthcoming poetry anthology entitled Black Gold, edited by playwright and composer Ja A. Jahannes, is not a collection of holiday verse. But it does offer a powerful counterbalance to the current mainstream images documenting what it does or does not mean to be a person of African or Latin descent in these early years of the 21st century.
With its mixture of multigenerational, gender inclusive, and intercontinental voices, Black Gold in some ways accomplishes through poetry what various government, educational, and community institutions have not. That is to say it successfully replicates the principle of unity, or Umoja, which many celebrate on the first day of Kwanzaa (December) and then generally ignore throughout the rest of the year. This should not be taken to mean the poets presented in the book are without their own brand of diversity.
“In this volume,” editor Jahannes states on the cover notes, “my greatest desire was to have the generations of poets of the African Diaspora living In America, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean represented in a single volume and these pools of the 21st century that speak brilliance, boldness, Imbued with Intellectual prowess.”
For example, the talented contributors range from such venerable veterans of the Black Arts Movement (mid 1960s–1980s) as Sonia Sanchez, Eugene B. Redmond, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Everett Hoagland, and Marvin X. Jackmon, to those who may be more readily identified with contemporary (early 21st century) poetry. Within the second category are such acclaimed scribes as Nancy Mercado, Tony Medina, Evie Shockley, Valjeanne Jeffers, and Crystal Simone Smith among others.
In his assessment of the book, Medina observed the following:
“In Black Gold poet-scholar Ja Jahannes manages to launch a javelin of intergenerational voices into the woefully socially-politically negligent second decade of the 21st century of America. This big bad bold amalgamation of African Diaspora voices and visions may not be the cure-all for American schizophrenia and its cognitive dissonance: but one thing is for certain—and you’ll see and know that I ain’t lyin’—Black Gold is Indestructible and undeniable!”
For more information on the book’s availability, please write to: Turner Mayfield Publishing, 1618 Foxhall Road, Savannah GA 31406. Or contact editor Ja A. Jahannes on Twitter via @JaJahannes.
NEXT: ‘Tis the Season for the Magic of Poetry part 2: Angels and Poets
author of Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World
and co-author of ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love
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