What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America is the second book in a landmark two-volume anthology that explodes narrow definitions of African American poetry by examining experimental poems often excluded from previous scholarship. The first volume, Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone, covers the period from the end of World War II to the mid-1970s. In What I Say, editors Aldon Lynn Nielsen and Lauri Ramey have assembled a comMechcvr_Nielsen.inddprehensive and dynamic collection that brings this pivotal work up to the present day.

The elder poets in this collection, such as Nathaniel Mackey, C. S. Giscombe, Will Alexander, and Ron Allen, came of age during and were powerfully influenced by the Black Arts Movement, and What I Say grounds the collection in its black modernist roots. In tracing the fascinating and unexpected paths of experimentation these poets explored, however, Nielsen and Ramey reveal the tight delineations of African American poetry that omitted noncanonical forms. This invigorating panoply of work, when restored, brings into focus the creatively elastic frontiers and multifaceted expressions of contemporary black poetry.

Several of the poets discussed in What I Say forged relationships with members of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry movement and participated in the broader community of innovative poetry that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s and continues to exert a powerful influence today.

Each volume can stand on its own, and reading them in tandem will provide a clear vision of how innovative African American poetries have evolved across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. What I Say is infinitely teachable, compelling, and rewarding. It will appeal to a broad readership of poets, poetics teachers, poetics scholars, students of African American literature in nonnarrative forms, Afro-futurism, and what lies between the modern and the contemporary in global and localized writing practices.


Wil Alexander / Ron Allen / T. J. Anderson III / Tisa Bryant / Pia Deas / C. S. Giscombe / Renee Gladman / Duriel E. Harris / Harmony Holiday / Erica Hunt / Kim D. Hunter / Geoffrey Jacques / Douglas Kearney / John Keene / Nathaniel Mackey / Dawn L. Martin / Mark McMorris / Tracie Morris / Fred Moten / Harryette Mullen / Mendi Lewis Obadike / G. E. Patterson / Julie Ezelle Patton / Claudia Rankine / Deborah Richards / Evie Shockley / giovanni singleton / Tyrone Williams / Ronaldo V. Wilson


Aldon Lynn Nielsen is the author of Black Chant: Languages of African-American Postmodernism and Integral Music: Languages of African-American Innovation. Lauri Ramey is the author of Slave Songs and the Birth of African American Poetry and The Heritage Series of Black Poetry, 1962-1975. Nielsen and Ramey also coedited Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans.


“This anthology offers a uniquely valuable range of poems by contemporary writers that is as necessary and expansive as air while as imaginatively fluid as the equally essential property of water. What I Say deserves a prominent place on the shelves of readers, writers, and scholars interested in the literary and aesthetic future of black American poetics. Yet, since it is such a compelling read, it won’t stay on those shelves!”

–Meta DuEwa Jones, author of The Muse is Music: Jazz Poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to the Spoken Word

What I Say makes an original and important contribution to the fields of American and African American arts and letters and to the more general field of poetry and poetics.”

–Nathaniel Mackey, author of Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing


Quality Paper
6 x 9, 344 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-5800-6 Quality Paper
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8800-3 Ebook
Retail Price: $39.95

Modern and Contemporary Poetics / Charles Bernstein and Hank Lazer, series editors

When you purchase What I Say for the sale price of $27.95, you are eligible to purchase the following titles for $10 each!What I Say imageTo order, call 800-621-2736 through July 15, 2015 and
reference discount offer ‘SAY2015.’