“Is the American Sonnet Black” traces the history of Black poetry in the United States from the 18th Century forward, beginning with Phillis Wheatly and ending with Terrance Hayes. It makes the case that work by Black poets has been not only present but essential to the development of American poetry and our understanding of how all poets must work to position themselves simultaneously as outsiders and as insiders to their tradition. In the cases of those poets whose bodies (by virtue of gender and/or race) mark them visibly and culturally as “outsiders,” this positioning is more difficult and complex in a way that may lead to creative breakthroughs in how those poets use form to navigate the content specific to their experience.


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