If you are post-weary of post-human discourses about contemporary African American poetry, you will find reading
Jahannes, Ja A. WordSong Poets: A Memoir Anthology. Savannah: Turner Mayfield Publishing, 2011
to be refreshing.
WordSong Poets is a pre-future book.
Jahannes, a scholar and accomplished poet, speaks to people not to promotion and tenure committees or to the prison guards of deconstructed intelligence. His language is not besmirched by the jargon of post-reason. He invites us to live with poetry.
His memoir anthology is a thoughtful and original genre, and we can profit from his selection of works by Langston Hughes, Larry Neal, Ron Welburn, Everett Hoagland, Keorapetse William Kgositsile, Gil Scott-Heron, and himself. We can profit most, however, from his insights about seven word song poets and how their lives and works are interrelated by their experiences at Lincoln University (Pennsylvania).
Jahannes honors his alma mater as a site for acquiring and using literacy to affirm humanity and to triumph over a hostile world. His book encourages us to meditate on an oral/print/aural/visual lineage extending from the cultural articulations of Langston Hughes to the cultural recuperations of Gil Scott-Heron.
WordSong Poets is a crucial contribution to our study of poetry as an act of human necessity. As Tony Medina has aptly noted, the book “is bridge and foundation — an aggregated Black fist of love and fury.”
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
April 3, 2012