"The Ringing Ear brings together a wonderfully diverse group of African American poets under the aegis of the now widely known Cave Canem workshops, which have enabled dialogue and opened doors for hundreds of Black poets in the last decade. In this anthology, extraordinary emerging poets join honored ones like Yusef Komunyakaa, Sonia Sanchez, Harryette Mullen, Cornelius Eady, and those whose names—Thomas Sayers Ellis, Natasha Trethewey, Kevin Young—are becoming indelible. Their focus is the "magnetic South," vexed and compelling as it is in the Black American imagination. Narrative, lyric, surreal, or hyper-real, using meter, multiple voices, verbal deconstruction, informed by jazz, blues, cutting-edge pop, string quartets, and schoolyard rhymes, by history learned in books and told in kitchens, this book pieces a mosaic of American life and of the poem's possibilities."
—Marilyn Hacker, author of Desesperanto: Poems 1999–2002
Voices new to the scene appear in The Ringing Ear alongside some of the leading names in American literature today, including Sonia Sanchez, Yusef Komunyakaa, Harryette Mullen, Nikki Giovanni, Kevin Young, Cornelius Eady, and Al Young. The southern worlds opened up by these poets are echoed in how their poems are grouped, under headings like "Music, Food, and Work: Heeding the Lamentation and Roar of Things Made by Hand," or "Religion and Nature: The Lord Looks Out for Babies and Fools," or "Love, Flesh, and Family: The Hush and Holler Portraits."
"Not all of us on these pages have come to or from the South by the same dirt road," says anthology editor Nikky Finney. "We have not chosen our dark olive words from the same patch of earth. Some have come by way of birth and others have followed street musicians and urban corner preachers, dream and myth, to stand before its pine and iron gates."
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