Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn
The Collected Letters
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
Sales Date: 2024-06-15
Winner of the 2014 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature
From the end of the 1950s through the middle of the 1960s, Amiri Baraka (b. 1934) and Edward Dorn (1929-1999), two self-consciously avant-garde poets, fostered an intense friendship primarily through correspondence. The early 1960s found both poets just beginning to publish and becoming public figures. Bonding around their commitment to new and radical forms of poetry and culture, Dorn and Baraka created an interracial friendship at precisely the moment when the Civil Rights Movement was becoming a powerful force in national politics. The major premise of the Dorn-Jones friendship as developed through their letters was artistic, but the range of subjects in the correspondence shows an incredible intersection between the personal and the public, providing a schematic map of what was so vital in postwar American culture to those living through it.
Their letters offer a vivid picture of American lives connecting around poetry during a tumultuous time of change and immense creativity. Reading through these correspondences allows access into personal biographies, and through these biographies, profound moments in American cultural history open themselves to us in a way not easily found in official channels of historical narrative and memory.
"Baraka and Dorn were at the very heart of two of the most significant developments in American literature in the decades after World War II, the so-called New American Poetry and the Black Arts Movement. That fact alone makes this book one that will interest scholars and poets in many otherwise divergent communities. The letters commence near the beginnings of these two artists' careers. We not only witness the poetic development of these two crucial figures, but we witness it against the background of the evolution of the Civil Rights Movement into the Black Power era. And both writers have much to say about the unfolding revolution in jazz that was taking place alongside the explosive social transformations of American society. The book is filled with significant surprises."--Aldon Lynn Nielsen, author of Reading Race
"These two poets had to struggle to make a living. Baraka was making a transition during the years he corresponded with Dorn from the predominantly white New York avant-garde scene to the black nationalist politics of the mid and late 1960s. Through much of this period Baraka worked tirelessly on Dorn's behalf just to get his manuscripts published. These letters give readers a sense of the generous collaboration of avant-garde poets in the 1960s."--Robert von Hallberg, author of American Poetry and Culture, 1945-1980