The Living Archive: African American Poetry

Suffolk University’s Clark Collection of African American Literature is the inspiration for “The Living Archive: African American Poetry,” a series of panel discussions organized by Suffolk History Professor and Clark Collection Director Robert A. Bellinger and Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges, who is a professor at Lesley University.

Poets and writers speaking on the program’s panels will examine a range of topics, including the importance and significance of African American literature, the ways in which literature has examined and illuminated Black identities, the connection between spoken and written word, language styles and culture in Black poetry, and the relationship between writers of the past and the present.

Suffolk University has assembled a collection of works by and about African-American writers from the 18th century to the present. The Clark Collection of African American Literature, housed in Suffolk’s Sawyer Library, includes more than 6,000 titles, representing 15,000 African-American writers. The holdings range from oral histories and personal essays to poetry, musical lyrics, drama, and fiction. The collection is named for its founder, English Professor Emeritus Edward Clark, who, frustrated with the dearth of African-American literature in print during the 1960s, forged partnerships with the Museum of African American History and the National Park Service to build a literary treasury.

The first panel discussion, “Blackness in the 21st Century,” will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, in the Rabb Lecture Hall at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.

Panelists will explore the question of Black identity as it is negotiated and articulated by contemporary African American poets.

Dutton, Lewis, Menkiti, Payen, Surin

The panel includes:

  • Nicole Terez Dutton: Poet, educator, inaugural poet laureate of Somerville, and editor at The Baffler and Transition Magazine
  • Barbara Lewis: Writer, professor of English and director, William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black History and Culture, University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Ifeanyi Menkiti: Poet, professor emeritus of philosophy, Wellesley College, and owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop
  • Nikòl Payen: Writer, professor of English, Quinsigamond Community College, and activist
  • Enzo Silon Surin: Poet, advocate, publisher of Central Square Press, and professor of English, Bunker Hill Community College

Danielle Legros Georges will moderate the discussion.

The second event, Black Style, Black Language, an exploration of the styles and impulses found within the body of both written and spoken Black poetry, will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 3, also in the Rabb Lecture Hall. Bellinger, who also is director of Suffolk University’s Black Studies Program, will be the moderator

All discussions are free and open to the public.

The series is sponsored by the Boston Poet Laureate Program and Suffolk University’s Clark Collection of African American Literature.