Race and Form in American Poetry


ACLS Fellowship Program




Various efforts to racialize poetic forms in America have entailed claims about correspondences between cultural identity and literary form. I explore how and why US poets have argued for the racial content of poetic forms, in theory and in the practice of their poetry. Rather than concentrate on familiar claims about racial and formal essentialism (that the poetry of a certain people must employ culturally specific and sanctioned forms), I focus on the process of granting poetic forms racial legitimacy, a legitimacy sometimes considered accessible to white writers.