Events

Black Poetry: A Conference is a truly historic international and inter-generational gathering. Over the span of 3 days, more than 40  black poets will come together to read from their work and consider the most urgent social, political and artistic questions of our time.  This is a boon for scholars, artists, and book-lovers in Princeton and beyond.”

Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate and Director of Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing

FEATURING:

Elizabeth Alexander, Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother), Jericho Brown, Mahogany L. Browne, Kwame Dawes, Toi Derricotte, Rita Dove, Camille Dungy, Cornelius Eady, Eve Ewing, Nikky Finney, Vievee Francis, Joanne V. Gabbin, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Myronn Hardy, Terrance Hayes, Tyehimba Jess, Taylor Johnson, Saeed Jones, Douglas Kearney, Yusef Komunyakaa, Deana Lawson, Robin Coste Lewis, Nathaniel Mackey, Haki Madhubuti, Dawn Lundy Martin, J Mase III, Shane McCrae, Jessica Care Moore, Fred Moten, Harryette Mullen, Morgan Parker, M. NourbeSe Philip, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Koleka Putuma, Roger Reeves, Ed Roberson, Sonia Sanchez, Lemn Sissay, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Simone White, and Kevin Young.

ORGANIZERS:

Tracy K. Smith, Joshua Kotin, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko

SPONSORS:

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts/Program in Creative Writing, Bain-Swiggett Fund/Department of English, Humanities Council, Department of African American Studies, University Center for Human Values, Department of Comparative Literature, Program in Canadian Studies, Program in American Studies, and Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities.

Free; conference registration is full. JOIN WAITLIST HERE

Conference panels on Friday and Saturday are now full with a waitlist, however the conference activities will be simulcast to the James Stewart Film Theater at 185 Nassau Street on the Princeton campus, which is free and open to the public. Guests are encouraged to attend Black Poetry: A Gala Reading on Thursday, February 14 at 7 pm at the Matthews Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center where nine of the Conference poets will be reading and most of the Conference poets will be in attendance with a book sale following where many of the poets will be available to sign copies of their books.

CONFERENCE FAQs:

If the conference is full, should I register for the waitlist?
Yes, please register for the conference if you would like to attend. Additional tickets may become available. The seating capacity of the James Stewart Film Theater is 190. People on the waitlist will be given priority.

What happens if extra tickets become available?
People on the waitlist will be notified by email. You will have 24 hours to reserve your ticket after receiving notification.

What happens if extra tickets do not become available?
If we cannot accommodate everyone on the waitlist, we will simulcast the conference in the James Stewart Film Theater at 185 Nassau St. in Princeton.

Is the James Stewart Film Theater accessible?
Yes, the newly renovated James Stewart Film Theater is accessible. If you are in need of specific accommodations, please write to lewisctr-comm@princeton.edu at least two weeks in advance of the event.

I’m on the waitlist for one day, but not the other. Can I switch my ticket?
No. Due to limited availability, we cannot switch tickets.

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE:

Thursday, February 14
7 pm – 9 pm | Gala Reading
Elizabeth Alexander
Kwame Dawes
Toi Derricotte
Rita Dove
Yusef Komunyakaa
Haki Madhubuti
Harryette Mullen
Sonia Sanchez
Kevin Young

Friday, February 15
10 am – 10:30 am | Provocation 1
M. NourbeSe Philip: Zong!

10:30 am – 12:30 pm | Panel 1
History/Ritual
Moderator: Roger Reeves
Panelists: Joanne V. Gabbin, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Shane McCrae, Haki Madhubuti

Jay Wright’s essay “Desire’s Design, Vision’s Resonance” (1987) opens with the statement, “Ancestors enjoy the disturbances they create in us. They have special ways of twisting the spirit and inhibiting contrary desire.” On this panel, we hope to consider the various ways Black poets have sought to create out of a state of “disturbance.” How does Black poetry serve as a means of confronting the actual (history, politics, social reality) and conjuring the possible (joy, revolution, hope)?

Positioned as we are, just over 50 years following the Second Black Writers Conference at Fisk University, we also want to examine the very real history that has been lived, written and wrestled with in the intervening decades. What has Black poetry fostered, altered and laid the groundwork for, and how have traditional and non-traditional practices informed this process?

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm | Break

2 pm – 2:30 pm | Provocation 2
Tyehimba Jess: “No Roots, No Fruits: The Primacy of the Blues in African American Poetry”

2:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Panel 2
Words/Music
Moderator: Vievee Francis
Panelists: Cornelius Eady, Douglas Kearney, Jessica Care Moore, Fred Moten, Sonia Sanchez

The lyric has always been a form of celebration and commemoration, and a source of shelter from the various psychic and actual foreclosures of the world. In times of great global violence, we continue to write, sing, make music, and tell stories. In this panel, we consider the myriad possibilities set into motion by words and music, as well as what these practices are reflective of and conducive to in Black life and Black art.

5 pm – 6:30 pm | Break

8 pm | Reading in Forum
Jericho Brown, Camille Dungy, Nikky Finney, Taylor Johnson, Jessica Care Moore, Ed Roberson

Saturday, February 16
10 am – 10:30 am | Provocation 3
Jaamil Olawale Kosoko: Séancers (excerpt)

10:30 am – 12:30 pm | Panel 3
Embodiment/Disembodiment
Moderator: Saeed Jones
Panelists: Deana Lawson, Robin Coste Lewis, Dawn Lundy Martin, J Mase III

A disembodiment is defined as “a soul, spirit, or consciousness that otherwise lacks a physical form.” But experience tells us that disembodiment might also be a state of refusal to accept forms of embodiment that have been delineated by hetero-normative bias and white supremacy. In other words, disembodiment is not a lack, but a way of engendering new understandings of what it means to live within a body.

On this panel, we will seek to discuss the queering of shared space and spatial awareness. We also wish to examine what notions of conscious embodiment mean to artists working today. How have a poetics of embodied experience relocated art’s engagement with the mind or imagination to the body itself? How might such a poetics foster healing and community in a moment of fractious social division?

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm | Break

2 pm – 2:30 pm | Provocation 4
Nathaniel Mackey: “The Long Song: On Seriality”

2:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Panel 4
National/International
Moderator: Eve L. Ewing
Panelists: Mahogany L. Brown, Myronn Hardy, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Lemn Sissay, Patricia Smith, Camae Ayewa

Is there such a thing as Global Blackness? What might be the nature and function of Black identity and cultural production in the different contexts within which Blackness exists–as well as those where it is not thought to exist? Are there specific modalities that the history of Black life might alert us to? What is amplified or altered by the intersection of Black experiences from different cultures and social contexts? What new possibilities for community and survival might Blackness give birth to in America and elsewhere? This is a panel for considering the nature of Blackness as a tool, a text, a force, a manner of community, a belief system, a set of aesthetic values, and an expanding reality.

5 pm – 6:30 pm | Break

8 pm | Reading in Forum
Natasha Trethewey, Morgan Parker, Simone White, Koleka Putuma, Terrance Hayes

For additional information on the conference and for instructions on how to register, please write to blackpoetry@princeton.edu.

MAP + DIRECTIONS

The Lewis Arts complex is located at 122 Alexander Street in Princeton, NJ.

Click here for general directions to the University, maps, and other campus visitor information.

PARKING

PARKING BEFORE 5 PM WEEKDAYS

Guests are invited to park for free in University Lot 20. To reach this lot from Alexander St., turn onto Faculty Road to the circle, go three-quarters around circle onto Elm Dr. and continue to next circle. Go three-quarters around this circle onto South Dr. At stop sign make left turn to Visitor Parking, Lot 20is the last large lot. From Washington Road, turn onto Faculty Road (toward Alexander St.) to first circle and follow directions above.

Metered parking is also available in the NJ Transit Princeton Station parking lot off Alexander St., on Alexander St., and on University Place.

 

PARKING AFTER 5 PM AND WEEKENDS

Guests are invited to park for free in the West Garage. To reach the garage from Alexander St., turn onto Faculty Road to the circle, go three-quarters around circle onto Elm Dr. and continue to next circle. Go three-quarters around this circle bearing left. At stop sign make right turn into the West Garage. From Washington Road, turn onto Faculty Road (toward Alexander St.) to first circle and follow directions above.

Metered parking is also available in the NJ Transit Princeton Station parking lot off Alexander St., on Alexander St. and on University Place.

 

ACCESSIBLE PARKING

The arts complex is across the drive from the NJ Transit Princeton Station, the metered transit parking lot, and the West Garage. The Garage is open and free to the public evenings and weekends with accessible spaces on each level, served by an elevator. Parking is also available at meters on University Place and Alexander Street, including disability-designated spaces available on a first-come, first-served basis for vehicles with handicapped placards and/or license plates.

 

ACCESSIBILITY

WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBILITY AND MOBILITY

The Lewis Arts complex is an accessible venue.

 

ACCESS INTO THE ARTS COMPLEX

From the train station, West Garage and transit parking lot, sidewalks with curb cuts lead to the Forum level entrance. A gently sloping walkway leads from the sidewalk to the Forum’s entrance, which has power doors. The Forum functions as a lobby for the main venues and as a gathering and informal performance space.

The complex is also accessible from the Plaza level, on the same elevation as McCarter Theatre Center’s Berlind Theater and the nearby restaurants, Cargot Brasserie and the Dinky Bar and Kitchen. From campus walkways, sidewalks and metered parking on University Place and Alexander Street, curb cuts provide access to the Plaza level. From the Plaza one can enter at the base of the Arts Tower (this is also the location of the exterior Roth Box Office); into the main entrance to the New Music Building; and into the Wallace Dance Building and Theater on flat walkways.

 

INTERIOR ACCESS

Once inside the Forum, gently sloping ramps that are part of the architectural design provide direct access (no steps or obstacles) into the Wallace Theater, the Hearst Dance Theater, the Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room, the CoLab, and the interior day-of box office and concession counter, one section of which is lowered.

Two elevators in the Forum go to all other floors in the Wallace Dance Building and Theater and the Arts Tower. One level up on the mezzanine level is the Hurley Gallery. To access the Gallery from the elevator, go to the double doors ahead and to the left.

Another elevator in the Forum provides access to all other floors in the New Music Building.

The seating in all venues is flexible and can accommodate wheelchair and wheelchair-companion seating. Patrons are encouraged to call in advance to inquire about the seating set-up, reserve a floor-level seat or wheelchair space (with companion seating) or let the house staff know of your need when you arrive (please try to arrive at least 15 minutes before curtain time).

Exhibitions in the Hurley Gallery may sometimes include three-dimensional works on the floor of the gallery, however effort is made to assure full access around and through the exhibition and to provide markers of work that may extend out from the walls.

Elevators are nearby the other entrances to the arts complex buildings, which serve all floors of the complex’s buildings.

All public restrooms in the arts complex are accessible. The complex features hard floor surfaces – wood and concrete – throughout. The complex is equipped with audio and visual fire alarm systems. Designated disability refuge spaces are positioned in various areas of the buildings.

 

Guests in need of additional access accommodations should contact the Lewis Center for the Arts at least two weeks before the event at lewisctr-comm@princeton.edu.

LODGING

For guests attending the conference, rooms are available at a discounted rate. To inquire, email blackpoetry@princeton.edu.

EVENT ARCHIVE

Presented By

  • Lewis Center for the Arts
  • University Center for Human Values
  • Department of Comparative Literature
  • Program in Canadian Studies
  • Department of African American Studies
  • Humanities Council
  • Program in Creative Writing
  • Department of English
  • Program in American Studies