The Ringing Ear
Black Poets Lean South

Edited by Nikky Finney

A new anthology from Cave Canem


"The Ringing Ear reminds us that sometimes regionalism does not mean provincialism or myopia, but instead offers an opportunity for people to find their true songs and sing them with the assurance and power of knowing. There is something strikingly expansive about the range and complexity of the poems collected in this anthology. This is a distinctly southern book, a distinctly black book, a distinctly American book—it is all these things and more."
—Kwame Dawes, author of Wisteria: Twilight Poems from the Swamp Country

"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

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The South: to render all that it means to an African American takes someone with acutely tuned senses, someone with a patience, a passion even, for the region's history and contradictions. It takes a poet. In this new anthology, the first of its kind, more than one hundred contemporary black poets laugh at and cry about, pray for and curse, flee and return to--the South.

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."


Published in association with Cave Canem

Page count: 432 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $26.95

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Nikky Finney is a professor of creative writing at the University of Kentucky and the author of three collections of poetry: On Wings Made of Gauze; Rice, which won a PEN America Open Book Award; and The World Is Round. She is also the author of Heartwood, a collection of short stories. Cave Canem is a national nonprofit organization committed to the discovery and cultivation of new voices in African American poetry. From its beginning in 1996, Cave Canem has offered a safe haven for black poets-whether schooled in MFA programs or poetry slams-to come together to work on their craft and engage others in critical debate.

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