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Extraordinary Measures, Extraordinary Measures, 0817310150, 0-8173-1015-0, 978-0-8173-1015-8, 9780817310158, , Modern and Contemporary Poetic

Extraordinary Measures
Afrocentric Modernism and 20th-Century American Poetry
by Lorenzo Thomas

Quality Paper
2000. 288 pp.
Price:  $24.95 s

This broad overview by an established poet and cultural critic reveals the rich tapestry of African American poetry as it has emerged over the past century.

From early 20th-century writings to present-day poetry slams, African American poetry exhibits an impressive range of style and substance. Lorenzo Thomas has written an important new history of the genre that offers a critical reassessment of its development in the 20th century within the contexts of modernism and the troubled racial history of the United States.

Basing his study on literary history, cultural criticism, and close readings, Thomas revives and appraises the writings of a number of this century's most important African American poets, including Margaret Walker, Amiri Baraka, Askia M. Toure, Harryette Mullen, and Kalamu ya Salaam. Thomas analyzes the work of Fenton Johnson within the context of emerging race consciousness in Chicago, contributes to critical appraisals of William Stanley Braithwaite and Melvin B. Tolson, and examines the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout the book, Thomas demonstrates the continuity within the Afrocentric tradition while acknowledging the wide range of stylistic approaches and ideological stances that the tradition embraces.

By reassessing the African American poetry tradition, Thomas effectively reassesses the history of all 20th-century American literature by exploring avenues of debate that have not yet received sufficient attention. Written with intelligence and humor, his book is itself an extraordinary measure that reflects years of scholarship and opens up African American poetry to a wider audience.

Lorenzo Thomas is Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown.

"Here is the poet in the catbird seat. Long a maker of literary history, Lorenzo Thomas pauses now to give readers a report of the story so far, his accounting of some of America's most significant poetic past. Seldom has our writing had such an attentive reader. This is not the history you thought you knew, nor is Lorenzo Thomas your grandfather's poet-critic. Thomas's Extraordinary Measures essays a measure of the American idiom as it has sounded in our century."
—Aldon Nielsen

2000 Choice Outstanding Academic Book, sponsored by Choice Magazine
1998 The Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature, sponsored by University of Alabama Press

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