Rita Dove, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou are just a few of many poets who have left their indelible mark on American literary culture and society at large. The work of these writers create narratives to the feminine, masculine and universal human experience in black. Their command of language simultaneously encompasses the collective and speaks to the individual.

Poetry is magic that way.

In an effort to honor this extraordinary legacy, Professors Dawn Lundy Martin, Terrance Hayes and Yona Harvey launched the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP). Located at the University of Pittsburg, the trio serve as instructors for the university’s Masters of Fine Arts program. The mission of the CAAPP is to highlight, promote, and share the poetry and poetic work of African American writers.

CAAPP is the first institutionally supported center dedicated specifically to the sharing and studying of African American poetry and poetics. The first course will be offered to undergraduate and graduate students during the 2017–2018 academic year. The program will eventually expand to include a residency and fellowship track. In addition to academic course offerings, the center held its first event in March, “Poetry and Race: How the Humanities Engage with Social Problems.” The forum, which included open dialogue, panel discussions and poetry readings, was well received. In November the center will host a second event, “Black Poets Speak Out”.

Photo: caapp.pitt.edu
Photo: caapp.pitt.edu

In an interview with Poets & Writers, CAAPP Co-Director, Dawn Lundy Martin talked about what inspired the three poets to open such a center. “We recognized that there was this huge impact that African American and African diasporic poets were making on American arts and letters,” she said.

Thanks to the work of these creatives, there is now a think tank for poets, artists and writers to brainstorm, create and archive the work of African American poets for generations to come.

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