Arts & Culture / The Reading Room / Vol. 2 No. 1-2

Introduction to Furious Flower Profile

Nanette Carter, Cantilevered #42 (Teetering)

Image Credit: Nanette Carter, Cantilevered #42 (Teetering), 2018, oils on Mylar, 1′ x 1′ 9.75″

Introduction
I am excited to introduce the readers of the A-Line: a journal of progressive thought to the work of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. Furious Flower, the very name speaks to the literary activism and agency that birthed the nation’s first academic center dedicated to African American poetry. Our name comes from Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Second Sermon on the Warpland,”: “The time/cracks into furious flower. Lifts its face/all unashamed. And sways in wicked grace.” Whether Brooks intended it or not, the term furious flower is a stunning metaphor for African American poetry because it implies a literature that is both rageful and resolute in its truth and beauty. From the earliest attempts of Black poets in the eighteenth century to express their existence in a society that debated and debased their humanity to the intense exploration of their voices in the racially charged twenty-first century, African American poetry has been the aesthetic chronicle of a race struggling to lift “its face all unashamed.”

Gwendolyn Brooks identifies an urgency that is still palpable in today’s society as we witness the continuing destructiveness of a political order that has stoked the fires of fear, violence, brazen attacks on human rights and the obscene disregard of common decency. In this environment, there is an urgent need to represent the diverse voices of our poets because poetry has the potential to facilitate compassion and understanding by asking readers to open themselves to experiences of individuals who are different from themselves. Read in this issue Black poets who rage against the inability of parents to protect their children, the corporate tycoons creating sewers where they don’t live, the wanton attack on Black bodies, and the paucity of hope barely surviving ruination, among other things. Fortunately, the Furious Flower Poetry Center creates opportunities for people to encounter and celebrate differences, hear the stories of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, and forge understanding and compassion across racial lines. Through our 25 years of success with decade-defining conferences, seminars for teachers, creativity camps for children, collegiate summits, and the creation of books, videos, an on-line journal, and poetry prizes, we have witnessed participants transformed by these events that challenge their assumptions about people of color.

We will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Furious Flower in Washington, DC at the Grand Hyatt and the National Museum of African American History and Culture on September 27 and 28, 2019. Featuring a benefit gala and a day of programs, culminating in an all-star reading, this weekend of events celebrates the work Furious Flower has done, and raises funds to endow the center and cement its future. Details are available at www.furiousflower25.com.

As a part of our mission to support and promote Black poets at all stages of their careers, we are excited about having the platform of A-Line to reach readers who model progressive thought and action. I want to thank editors Hortense J. Spillers and Rich Blint for providing this opportunity and Lauren K. Alleyne for gathering together this wonderful selection of Furious Flower- affiliated poets.

Joanne V. Gabbin
Executive Director
Furious Flower Poetry Center

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