African-American Poets: 1700s-1940s (Bloom's Modern Critical by Sterling Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom

By Sterling Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom

Specializes in the critical African-American poets from colonial occasions to the Harlem Renaissance and the realm warfare II period. This identify covers poets that come with Phillis Wheatley, writer of the 1st quantity of verse released through an African American, and the seminal figures Gwendolyn Brooks, Countee Cullen, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Langston Hughes.

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In his essay, “Race and the Negro Writer,” Gloster affirms his position as a staunch idealist for integration by outlining the ways in which an effusive use of “racial subject matter has handicapped the Negro writer” (369). He sees the Black writer as falling literary prey to the menace of “certain critics and publishers” who would “lure him into the deadly trap of cultural segregation by advising him that the Black ghetto is his proper milieu and that he will write best when he is most Negroid” (369).

To briefly recall earlier argumentations revolving around these two writers: The failure/success debate of the Harlem Renaissance and the debate whether McKay used outmoded forms like the sonnet or blackened these forms (Baker, 85) mask ideological debates about a racial formation. The cubism debate about the poems in Cane implies an affiliation of Toomer outside Harlem (Bush and Mitchell). I shall try to show that McKay and Toomer take far more complex positions even in their early poetry and that their ambiguities on race are reactions to various pressures from an early modernist field.

The Georgia poems, some of which were published before Cane, belong to Toomer’s ancestral-consciousness period and date roughly from September 1921 to Black Modernism? The Early Poetry of Jean Toomer and Claude McKay 43 December 1923 ( Jones and Latimer, xiv). Of the poems first published in Cane, only “Cotton Song” and “Prayer” show a clearly spiritist vocabulary. The bulk of the leaves in Cane falls between the two phases, marking the earliest and latest texts assembled in Cane. A convincing case has been made for a cubist technique in some of them (Bush and Mitchell).

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