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On "For Black Poets Who Think of Suicide"


Patricia Alveda Liggins Hill

In much of his more recent poetry, Etheridge Knight still draws from elements of creativity of suffering and pain. However, he attempts to portray what he considers to be an essential ingredient of the new Black aesthetic: that is, he believes it to be an art which celebrates life, not death, in the midst of suffering. In doing so, he feels that he is counteracting the elements of suffering and aloneness, which he considers to be the major themes of the Western aesthetic. Therefore, in his poem "For The Black Poets Who Think of Suicide" in Belly Song, he proposes that

Black poets should liveónot leap
[. . .]

This poem, specifically, calls for the new Black poets to continue to offer a new humanism to a society bent on suicide and destruction. The Black poet's voice must serve as various musical instruments such as flutes, organs and trumpets, to resound the width and depth of the B1ack life experience which celebrates life, not death: "Let all Black Poets die as trumpets/And be buried in the dust of marching feet."

The Black poet's voice and musical instrument, therefore, must be one and the same; his words must be music and his music, words.

from "The New Black Aesthetic as a Counterpoetics" The Poetry of Etheridge Knight. Diss., Stanford University, 1977.


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