Black History Month

A look at Lorenzo Thomas and Calvin C. Hernton

The month of February is an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions of the Black community. We are taking this opportunity to highlight the poetry of Lorenzo Thomas and Calvin C. Hernton.

Lorenzo Thomas

The Collected Poems of Lorenzo Thomas
edited by Aldon Lynn Nielsen and Laura Vrana Available Now

The Collected Poems of Lorenzo Thomas is the first volume to encompass his entire writing life. His poetry synthesizes New York School and Black Arts aesthetics, heavily influenced by blues and jazz. In a career that spanned decades, Thomas constantly experimented with form and subject, while still writing poetry deeply rooted in the traditions of African American aesthetics. Whether drawing from his experiences during the war in Vietnam, exploring his life in the urban north and the southwest, or parodying his beloved Negritude ancestors, Thomas was a lyric innovator.

LORENZO THOMAS (1944–2005), was a critic and poet, and published volumes of scholarship as well as numerous essays, including several histories of the Umbra group. ALDON LYNN NIELSEN is the author of Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation. He is the George and Barbara Kelly professor of American literature at Penn State University. LAURA VRANA is assistant professor of English specializing in African American literature and poetry at the University of South Alabama.

Calvin C. Hernton

Selected Poems of Calvin C. Hernton
edited by David Grundy and Lauri Scheyer
foreword by Ishmael Reed

This volume includes a generous selection of Hernton’s previously published poems, from classics such as the often anthologized “The Distant Drum” to the visionary epic “The Coming of Chronos to the House of Nightsong,” reprinted in full for the first time since 1964, alongside uncollected and unpublished material from the Calvin C. Hernton papers at Ohio University, a new critical introduction, and detailed notes, chronology, and bibliography. It promises to be the definitive guide to Hernton’s unparalleled career in poetry, re-introducing readers to a major voice in American poetry.

CALVIN C. HERNTON (1932–2001) was a cofounder of the Umbra Poets Workshop; a participant in the Black Arts Movement, R. D. Laing’s Kingsley Hall, and the Antiuniversity of London; and a teacher at Oberlin College who counted amongst his friends bell hooks, Toni Morrison, and Odetta.

This recent essay by Ishmael Reed (New York Review of books, 1/14/2023), “A New Flame for Black Fire,” will be of interest to those wanting to read more about the Black Arts Movement.

Calvin C. Hernton, Ishmael Reed, Amiri Baraka, Quincy Troupe photo by Eugene B. Redmond, 1981. As seen in the “Selected Poems of Calvin C. Hernton.”

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