Andy Fitch:Renegade Poetics outlines what “black aesthetics” might mean amid the ongoing legacy of the Black Arts Movement. I notice a basic tension in your book between wanting to confirm that the BAM’s reductive tendencies have had a constrictive impact on both creative and scholarly production and wanting to assert that our own conception of the BAM itself is a reductive one—this movement remained much more multifarious, complex, and diverse than subsequent critics have assumed. Could you provide a brief summary of current critical approaches to the BAM? Then could you point to common limitations in our conception of the BAM’s ideological or aesthetic range?
Evie Shockley: You’ve given a good sense of two of this book’s main goals. I guess they might seem in tension with each other, though I’d like to think of them as complementary.
Interview with Evie Shockley, from CCP Episode #233: The New Black. April 7, 2011. Transcribed by Kelly Bergeron. Schwartz’s previous interview with Shockley can be read here.
Leonard Schwartz: Welcome to Cross Cultural Poetics. Poets and writers from all over the world talk about their art and their language. I’m Leonard Schwartz. Today’s guest on the phone from Jersey City, I’m very happy to say, is Evie Shockley. She’s a poet and return guest to Cross Cultural Poetics. She’s an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University and the author of a half-red sea,The Gorgon Goddess and the forthcoming study Renegade Poetics. Her most recent book is thenew black. It’s published by Wesleyan University Press. About the book Claudia Rankine writes:
Evie Shockley’s the new black is our contemporary passage through a mosaic of historical and literary constructions. This stunning collection remembers all that has moved through the black body to bring us into the 21st century; and not since Jean Toomer’s Cane has the black female body in particular been portrayed with such compassion and love. This formally inventive work makes signifyin’ its casting call, as Shockley becomes the master “composer of genealogies.”
From CCP Episode #77: Four Across, originally conducted in 2005. Transcription by Kelly Bergeron.
Leonard Schwartz: Today’s guest on the phone from North Carolina is Evie Shockley. She’s the author of The Gordon Goddess, and a new manuscript, a half-red sea, poems, which have been published in numerous literary periodicals. She’s got a new job teaching at Rutgers University and will be moving to New Brunswick soon. Welcome, Evie Shockley.
Evie Shockley: Hi!
LS: Hi. Great to have you on the line. I’ve really been enjoying the poems in a half-red sea. You begin the book with two epigraphs: one from a letter from Phillis Wheatley, and the second a poem from Lucille Clifton. Can you say a little bit about the influence or the relationship of these two figures to your poems?