CFP: [20th] Activist Poetry / Poetic Activism

full name / name of organization: 
David Marquez
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David Marquez, Graduate Student
University of Texas at Brownsville
1180 Squaw Valley Drive Unit B
Brownsville, TX 78520
(956) 533-0825

Leisure Writer Turned Activist: Claude McKay Responds to the Cry for
Foul with Harlem Shadows

When Claude McKay wrote If We Must Die, the work for which he is largely
known today, he responded to his kinsmen’s cry for foul. However, his
first collection of published poems, Songs of Jamaica, played to a
different tune. Almost entirely about his native island of Jamaica where
he was born and raised, he gained wide praise and admiration. Not so
much the case with his later collection of poems, Harlem Shadows. Though
the later would end up being the works for which he is most recognized,
many have sought to discredit him as a militant whose words were only an
attempt to beget violence. Violence was already present and had been
long before Claude McKay left his native Jamaica. But, it was his
experiences in the United States that would lead him to answer the
calling and stroke the pen and flex his literary muscle in an attempt to
bring voice to a tired scream.
With no shortage of anger, he communicated in his poetry the rage felt by
those who were growing voiceless by screaming injustice in the more
traditional way. Those who attempt to negate the power of poetic
political activism may be failing to recognize its strength as well as
failing to empathize with another’s life experiences. At least Winston
Churchill believed this was so, otherwise his address of the United
States Congress may have been a few lines shorter than what was needed.
An in depth examination needs to be brought forth in order to support and
properly credit Twentieth Century poets with the role that they have
played in major political changes.


David Marquez, Graduate Student
University of Texas at Brownsville
1180 Squaw Valley Drive Unit B
Brownsville, TX 78520
(956) 533-0825

        I am currently pursuing a Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary
Studies at the University of Texas at Brownsville. The program I chose
is composed of three disciplines. English is my area of concentration
while Sociology and Public Policy are supporting fields. I completed a
Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology also from the University of Texas
Brownsville. My research interests include examining major historic
events and movements in relation to the mental state and roles of
contributing major figures and individuals. My goal is to prepare the
foundation for a new discipline that seeks to understand the incursions
from the traditional schools across each other’s boundaries establishing
a new dimension in academia based on fact and intuition.


In response to:

CFP: [20th] Activist Poetry / Poetic Activism (9/15/08; NeMLA 2/26-3/1/09)

From: Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega <>
Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2008 15:32:46 -0400 (EDT)
Activist Poetry / Poetic Activism
Northeast MLA Conference
Boston 2/26/09-3/1/09
Over the course of the 20th century, poetry has been a fundamental part
political activism, complicating Auden's controversial claim that "poetry
makes nothing happen." To name a few: Carl Sandburg's Chicago lines spoke
for the urban underclass, Amiri Baraka's claim that "poems are bullshit
unless they have teeth" gave the Black Arts Movement a political fist,
Martin Espada's poetic narratives record a Puerto Rican history of
political conflict. Globally, poets continue to respond to the politics
war, conflict, inequality, and oppression in important ways which record
histories and activist dissent, and do not, necessarily, deny a
or innovation of poetics.
For this panel, I seek papers which turn rigorous attention to the
intersection of poetry and politics; of poets and activism. The
of politics to spoken word and slam poetry--and their growing
popularity--reminds us of the value of political poetry, despite critical
claims otherwise. Papers may engage such questions as: What happens to
poetry when it has a political agenda (when poets expect their words to
make something happen)? How has activism affected poetry? How has poetry
affected activism? How has activism shaped a particular poet's work? How
has a political poet's work made a difference?

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Received on Mon Aug 04 2008 - 18:09:58 EDT