Covering 46 poets from more than two centuries of African American literary history, this biocritical dictionary is an important contribution to any reference collection. The poets are situated within their historical and literary context, and for each a brief biographical sketch is given, with information on the poet's personal history, education, influences, and accomplishments. Each entry examines the poet's work as a whole, with a discussion of selected important poems and their recurrent themes. Students and interested readers will gain a good appreciation for the stylistic features and artistic contributions made by these African American poets. For further research, each essay concludes with a list of the poet's published book-length works, anthologies where their poetry appears, and information on reference resources. This reference work is introduced with an insightful overview of the significant developments and contributions in African American poetry, from the 18th century poetry of Phillis Wheatley, through the major arts movements including the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movements of the 1960s, up to the present time. This thoughtful dictionary explores both the aesthetic and the social functions of the literary movements, as well as the individual poet's contributions to the body of poetic output. Covered here are numerous contemporary African American voices such as Maya Angelou, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Rita Dove. Alongside the names synymous with the Harlem Renaissance, such as Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes, are lesser kwn poets about whom students often have trouble finding information but whose contributions are less significant.
JOYCE PETTIS is Professor of English at North Carolina State University where she teaches courses in African American Literature.