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About this conversation and reading

Watch the video recording of this event here:

Listen to the Harmony Holiday's "Haunting Refrains" playlist for the event here:

How is the technique of sampling, pervasive in Black music, used in poetry and literature at large? Does poetry sample music, does it sample other poetry, does it do either well or effectively or do poets need to catch up to music in this regard? And what is the relationship between sampling practice and free improvisation in both poetry and music? Poets, writers, and cultural critics Harmony Holiday and Hanif Abdurraqib will discuss this, looking at their own work and that of poets whose work they admire, as well as music they love that helps answer and refine these questions. They’ll also read some of their work if time allows.


Harmony Holiday

Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, director, and the author of four collections of poetry, A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (Birds, LLC, 2019) and the audio-book version of A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (Birds, LLC, 2020), Hollywood Forever (Fence Books, 2017), Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues (Ricochet Editions, 2014) and Negro League Baseball (Fence Books, 2011). She founded and runs Afrosonics, an archive of jazz and everyday diaspora poetics and Mythscience a publishing imprint that reissues and reprints work from the archive. She worked on the SOS, the selected poems of Amiri Baraka, transcribing all of his poetry recorded with jazz that had yet to be released in print and exists primarily on out-of-print records and she is now editing a collection of his plays. Harmony studied Rhetoric and at UC Berkeley and taught for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She received her MFA from Columbia University and has received the Motherwell Prize from FenceBooks, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a NYFA fellowship. She is currently completing a book of poems called M a à f a and an accompanying collection of essays and memoir, Love is War for Miles, as well as a biography of jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. Her work is deeply rooted by Black music, and collective improvisation with Black people, in the tradition of her father who was a Northern Soul singer and songwriter and introduced her to artists he worked with like Ray Charles, The Staples Singers, and Bobby Womack.

Hanif Abdurraqib, photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. With Big Lucks, he released a limited edition chapbook, Vintage Sadness, in summer 2017 (you cannot get it anymore and he is very sorry.) His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest with University of Texas press in February 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller, was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released in 2019 by Tin House, and won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Prize. In 2021, he will release the book A Little Devil In America with Random House. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School.

Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters / Celebrating African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song

This event is sponsored by The Center for the Humanities, Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, and The James Gallery at The Graduate Center, CUNY in collaboration with One Book One Bronx, Literary Freedom Project, and Leonard Lief Library at Lehman College, CUNY, who are hosting a series of eclectic programs and reading groups as part of a nation-wide initiative, Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters. Lift Every Voice is a yearlong national public humanities initiative sponsored by the Library of America and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture that seeks to engage participants in a multifaceted exploration of African American poetry, the perspectives it offers on American history and the on-going struggle for racial justice, and the universality of its imaginative response to the personal experiences of Black Americans over three centuries. These events are also in celebration of the recent publication of African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, a literary landmark: the biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period to the present. Edited by Kevin Young.