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Etheridge-Knight

Etherige Knight (1931-1991). Courtesy NCArts.

Etheridge Knight (April 19, 1931 - March 10, 1991) was an African-American poet who became notable in 1968 with his debut volume, Poems from Prison. The book recalls in verse his eight-year-long sentence after Etheridge was arrested for robbery in 1960. He is considered one of the major poets of the Black Arts Movement, which flourished from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s.

LifeEdit

Knight was born to a poor family in rural Corinth, Mississippi, but spent time growing up in Paducah, Kentucky. He was one of seven children. Knight decided to drop out at the age of 16.[1] At such a young age, he realized that without an education, his opportunities were limited. In his hometown, he could only find menial jobs such as shining shoes and spent much of his time at juke joints, pool halls, and underground poker games. This took an emotional toll on Knight. Desperate to relieve himself of the despair of reality, he slipped into drug addiction.

In an attempt to find himself and a purpose in life, Knight decided to join the U.S. Army in 1947. Knight served as a medic in the Korean War until he was discharged from service in 1951, after suffering from a shrapnel wound that caused him to fall deeper into his drug addiction. After his time in the Army he settled in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he picked up the art of telling toasts, which are traditional, black, oral narrative poems acted out in a theatrical manner. During this time, he still maintained his addiction to heroin.

In 1960, Knight snatched an elderly woman’s purse in order to support his addiction, and was sentenced to serve a ten to twenty-five year term in the Indiana State Prison. Enraged by his lengthy prison sentence, which he believed to be unjust and racist in nature, Knight, during his first year of prison became hostile and belligerent in his ways. However, in the following years of incarceration, he turned to books such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the poetry of Langston Hughes. Inspired by them, he redirected his embitterment into the writing of poetry so as to liberate his soul. By drawing from his experience in toasting, Knight developed his verse into a transcribed-oral poetry.

By 1963, Knight began identifying himself as a poet. He also started establishing contacts with significant figures in the African American literary community. These contacts included Gwendolyn Brooks, who visited him in prison and critiqued his work. The poems he had written during his time in prison were so effective that Dudley Randall, a poet and owner of Broadside Press, published Knight’s first volume of verse, which he called Poems from Prison, and hailed Knight as one of the major poets of the Black Arts Movement. The book’s publication coincided with his release from prison. Other poets such as Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, and Sonia Sanchez aided Knight in obtaining his parole in 1968.

Upon his release from prison in 1968, Knight married poet Sonia Sanchez. Over the next few years, he held the position of writer-in-residence at several universities, including two years, 1968 and 1969, spent at the University of Pittsburgh. While living in Pittsburgh with wife and their family, Knight spent time as poetry editor for Motive magazine. As a result of his ongoing drug addiction, his marriage to Sanchez did not last long, and they were divorced in 1970 while still in Pittsburgh.

He continued writing his third book, Belly Song, and other poems, which was published in 1973. His third work incorporates new life experiences and attitudes about love and race, and Knight was praised for the work’s sincerity. Belly Song was nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Knight’s time in Pennsylvania was very important to his career: his work during this period won him both a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1972 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974.

He married Mary McNally in 1972, and fathered her two children. They settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota until they separated in 1977. He then resided in Memphis, Tennessee where he received Methadone treatments. Knight rose from a life of poverty, crime, and drug addiction to become exactly what he expressed in his notebook in 1965: a voice that was heard and helped his people. Knight died in Indianapolis, Indiana, of lung cancer on March 10, 1991.

Knight continued to write throughout his post-prison life. Belly Song and Other Poems (1973) dealt with themes of racism and love. Knight believed the poet was a "meddler" or intermediary between the poem and the reader. He elaborated on this concept in his 1980 work Born of a Woman. The Essential Etheridge Knight (1986) is a compilation of Knight's work.

In 1990, he earned a bachelor's degree in American poetry and criminal justice from Martin Center University in Indianapolis. Knight taught at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Hartford, and Lincoln UniversityTemplate:Disambiguation needed, before he was forced to stop working due to illness. He also continued to be known as a charismatic poetry reader.

PublicationsEdit

  • Poems from Prison. Detroit, MI: Broadside Press, 1968.
  • Black Voices from Prison (with others). New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970.
  • Belly Song, and other poems. Detroit, MI: Broadside Press, 1973.
  • Born of a Woman: New and selected poems. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.
  • The Essential Etheridge Knight. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986.
  • Genesis (broadside; illustrated by Kent Aldrich). Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Center for Book Arts, 1988.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[2]

Audio / video Edit

For Malcolm, A Year After-a poem by Etheridge Knight01:20

For Malcolm, A Year After-a poem by Etheridge Knight

  • Etheridge Knight reads Poems from Prison (LP). Detroit, MI: Broadside Press, 1969.
  • Etheridge Knight (cassette). Kansas City, MO: New Letters Magazine, 1986.
  • So My Soul Can Sing (cassette). Washington, DC: Watershed Foundation, 1986.
  • Etheridge Knitht II (cassette). Kansas City, MO: University of Missouri, 1989.
  • Poetvision presents Etheridge Knight (VHS). Philadelphia: Rohm & Haas, 1988.

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[2]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Anaporte-Easton, Jean. "Etheridge Knight: Poet And Prisoner: An Introduction." Callaloo: A Journal Of African-American And African Arts And Letters 19.4 (1996): 941-946. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Carroll, Rachel. "Invisible Men: Reading African-American Masculinity." Masculinities in Text and Teaching. 141-154. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Collins, Michael. "The Antipanopticon Of Etheridge Knight." PMLA: Publications Of The Modern Language Association Of America 123.3 (2008): 580. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Crowder, Ashby Bland. "Etheridge Knight: Two Fields Of Combat." Concerning Poetry 16.2 (1983): 23-25. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Hill, Patricia Liggins. "'Blues For A Mississippi Black Boy': Etheridge Knight's Craft In The Black Oral Tradition." Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal Of Southern Culture 36.1 (1982): 21-33. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Hill, Patricia Liggins. "'The Violent Space': The Function Of The New Black Aesthetic In Etheridge Knight's Prison Poetry." Black American Literature Forum 14.3 (1980): 115-121. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Hurd, Myles Raymond. "The Corinth Connection In Etheridge Knight's 'The Idea Of Ancestry'." Notes On Mississippi Writers 25.1 (1993): 1-9. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Johnson, Thomas C. "Editor's Note To The Poems." Worcester Review 19.1-2 (1998): 128-131. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Johnson, Thomas C. "Excerpts From Notes Of An Oral Rhapsodist: An Introduction To The Poetry And Aesthetic Of Etheridge Knight." Worcester Review 19.1-2 (1998): 79-83. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Johnson, Thomas C. "Interview With Yusef Komunyakaa." Worcester Review 19.1-2 (1998): 119-127. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Joyce, Joyce Ann. "The Poetry Of Etheridge Knight: A Reflection Of An African Philosophical/Aesthetic." Worcester Review 19.1-2 (1998): 105-118. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Komunyaka, Yusef. Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews, And Commentaries. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2000. 16-21. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Laws, Page R. "'Shaped By The Cages That Kept Us': The Prison Poetry Of Etheridge Knight And Dennis Brutus." MAWA Review 13.2 (1998): 78-87. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Madhubuti, Haki R. "Etheridge Knight: Making Up Poems." Worcester Review 19.1-2 (1998): 90-104. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • McCullough, Ken. "Communication And Excommunication: An Interview With Etheridge Knight." Callaloo: A Journal Of African American And African Arts And Letters 5.1-2 (14-15) (1982): 2-10. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • McKim, Elizabeth Gordon. "Etheridge Knight In Conversation." Worcester Review 19.1-2 (1998): 132-139. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • McKim, Elizabeth Gordon. "Freedom and Confinement." Worcester Review 19, no. 1-2 (1998): 140-147. MLA International Bibliography. Web. December 5, 2011).
  • Nelson, Howard. "Belly Songs: The Poetry Of Etheridge Knight." Twayne Companion to Contemporary Literature in English, I: Ammons-Lurie; II: Macleod-Williams. 601. New York, NY: Twayne; Thomson Gale, 2002. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Pinckney, Darryl. "You're In The Army Now." Parnassus: Poetry In Review 9.1 (1981): 306-314. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Pinsker, Sanford. "A Conversation With Etheridge Knight." Black American Literature Forum 18.1 (1984): 11-14. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Price, Ron. "The Physicality Of Poetry: An Interview With Etheridge Knight." New Letters 52.2-3 (1986): 167-176. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Quinn, Fran. "The Worcester Poetry Scene And Etheridge Knight." Worcester Review 19.1-2 (1998): 84-89. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Rowell, Charles H. "An Interview With Etheridge Knight." Callaloo 19.4 (1996): 967-980. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Rubeo, Ugo. "'In The Inner Ear': Genealogy And Intertextuality In The Poetry Of Etheridge Knight And Michael Harper." GRAAT: Publication Des Groupes De Recherches Anglo-Américaines De L'université François Rabelais De Tours 18.(1998): 23-31. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Rubeo, Ugo. "Voice As Lifesaver: Defining The Function Of Orality In Etheridge Knight's Poetry." The Black Columbiad: Defining Moments in African American Literature and Culture. 275-285. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Seelow, David. "Loud Men: The Poetic Visions Of Robert Bly, Ice Cube, And Etheridge Knight." Journal Of Men's Studies: A Scholarly Journal About Men And Masculinities 6.2 (1998): 149-168. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Tracy, Steven C. "A MELUS Interview: Etheridge Knight." Melus 12.2 (1985): 7-23. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
  • Werner, Craig. "The Poet, The Poem, The People: Etheridge Knight's Aesthetic." Obsidian 7.2-3 (1981): 7-17. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.

NotesEdit

  1. Etheridge Knight, Poets.org, Academy of American Poets. Web, Oct. 25, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Search results = au:Etheridge Knight, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Oct. 25, 2014.

External linksEdit

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