Letter From the Director

Dear Colleagues:

My interest in this topic derives from a long career in teaching African American literature, recognizing that I, like many of my colleagues, continue to place less emphasis upon poetry than I do on fiction or autobiography. More recently, we began working with scholars, like Anthony Grooms, who has been recovering the black poetry community in Sweden. For the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW), it means that our recovery work must continue, shifting to other genres, but remains committed to the development of the critical resources needed to make meaning out of this new work as it emerges.

Collaborative scholarship is central to all of my work, a practice that has carried over most successfully to NEH institutes and public programs, and my extensive conference organizing for three decades. Learning and transmitting ideas more easily through collective, focused discussion is part of the paradigm shift we hope to emphasize by providing greater opportunities for sharing knowledge. Teaming up with Resident Faculty Howard Rambsy, who actively engages technology in his story of poetry, helps us to move the discourse to the shifts in print culture and production matters more generally, just as he helps to make stronger connections between born-digital generations and those who remain wedded to print. Resident Faculty Evie Shockley forces us to shift our thinking away from the idea of a black aesthetic to black aesthetics, opening up a new dialogue about poetics: the contours and consequences of poetic innovation and mastery of conventional forms, especially among writers who operate inside and outside of multiple traditions. We use poetics as both a cultural and formal practice, evident in theme, subject matter and modality.

The Institute presents a welcoming environment, partnering with KU’s Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center and with our supporters, KU Libraries, Spencer Museum of Art, the Offices of the Chancellor, Provost, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and KU Center for Research. The Institute will benefit from the many strengths of HBW, a recognized leader in inclusion efforts in higher education and the public humanities, and is committed to social innovation, a KU strategic initiative.

I’m excited to have you join us and look forward to meeting you in July 2015!

Maryemma Graham
Institute Director