A Selection of African American Poetry

Instructor:  Juliet Baker

  • Zoom Class
  • 6 sessions, Tues: 9:30 AM-11:00 AM, April 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18, 25 Postponed, date TBA
  • Limit 25
  • $20

Whether African slaves were first brought to America in 1619, or even before then by Portuguese slave traders, the African voice has been present in this hemisphere for centuries. The first known literary printing in English of that voice, a very formal one, occurred in 1773 with the posthumous publication of a volume of poetry by Phillis Wheatley. As with a number of early published African American poets, Wheatley modeled her work on classical British figures. Since then, African American poetry, ‘250 Years of Struggle and Song,’ has prospered, representing many voices—formal, colloquial, in dialect, folkloric, and definitely American.

For six hour-and-a-half sessions this spring, once-a-week, we will read and discuss a number of these poets, focusing closely on six: Paul Laurence Dunbar;ROBERT HAYDEN; Gwendolyn Brooks; Lucille Clifton; Yusef Komunyakaa; and Rita Dove. Class sessions on ZOOM will involve close reading and discussion. Our Host will be Deirdre Good. Always aware of a poet’s place in the USA and in history, we will also look closely at poetic structure, language, voice, tone, and at emerging themes. Students will prepare specific poems for class. There will be regular readings and at home listenings to recordings of poets reading their own works.

Poems will be emailed to students.

Juliet Baker has studied and taught English language and literature for forty years. She hold a B.A. and M.A.in English and pursued a PhD at Berkeley. She has taught several well-received courses at Senior College. Driven by a penchant for close reading and for literature as a reflection of all human experience, she loves being associated with Senior College.