February is Black History Month. Wesleyan University Press is celebrating by highlighting recent publications by Black authors.
Dancing between lyric and narrative, Hafizah Geter’s debut collection Un-American moves readers through the fraught internal and external landscapes—linguistic, cultural, racial, familial—of those whose lives are shaped and transformed by immigration. The daughter of a Nigerian Muslim woman and a former Southern Baptist black man, Geter charts the history of a black family of mixed citizenships through poems imbued by migration, racism, queerness, loss, and the heartbreak of trying to feel at home in a country that does not recognize you. Through her mother’s death and her father’s illnesses, Geter weaves the natural world into the discourse of grief, human interactions, and socio-political discord.
Based on fifteen years of archival research, The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of renowned American poet Phillis Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley’s “age”—the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade. For the first time in verse, Wheatley’s relationship to black people and their individual “mercies” is foregrounded, and here we see her as not simply a racial or literary symbol, but a human being who lived and loved while making her indelible mark on history.
Kamau Brathwaite is a major Caribbean poet of his generation and one of the major world poets of the second half of the twentieth century. Wesleyan University press has published three of his collections: Born to Slow Horses, Elegguas, and The Lazarus Poems. These poems speak of appropriation, theft, isolation, and exploitation, all within a context of an American hegemony that intensifies racial politics. Filled with longing, rage, nostalgia, impotence, wisdom, and love, Brathwaite’s poems are moving in every sense of the word.
Award-winning poet Ed Roberson confronts the realities of an era in which the fate of humanity and the very survival of our planet are uncertain in his collection Asked What Has Changed. Departing from the traditional nature poem, Roberson’s work reclaims a much older tradition, drawing into poetry’s orbit what the physical and human sciences reveal about the state of a changing world. These poems test how far the lyric can go as an answer to our crisis, even calling into question poetic form itself. Reflections on the natural world and moments of personal interiority are interwoven with images of urbanscapes, environmental crises, and political instabilities. These poems speak life and truth to modernity in all its complexity. Throughout, Roberson takes up the ancient spiritual concern—the ephemerality of life—and gives us a new language to process the feeling of living in a century on the brink.
Samuel R. Delany is an acclaimed writer of literary theory, queer literature, and fiction. His “prismatic output is among the most significant, immense and innovative in American letters,” wrote the New York Times in 2019; “Delany’s books interweave science fiction with histories of race, sexuality, and control. In so doing, he gives readers fiction that reflects and explores the social truths of our world.” This anthology of essays, lectures, and interviews addresses topics such as 9/11, race, the garden of Eden, the interplay of life and writing, and notes on other writers such as Theodore Sturgeon, Hart Crane, Ursula K. Le Guin, Holderlin, and a note on—and a conversation with—Octavia Butler. The first of two volumes, Occasional Views Volume 1 gathers more than twenty-five pieces on films, poetry, and science fiction.