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Understanding Michael S. Harper

Michael Antonucci

Published: Apr 6 2023


Published: Apr 6 2023


Published: Apr 6 2023

OA Ebook
Published: Apr 6 2023


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

A fresh examination of Harper's body of work as an archive of Black life, thought, and culture

The first book devoted to the groundbreaking poet's work, Understanding Michael S. Harper locates Harper's poetic project within Black expressive tradition. The study examines poems drawn from the eleven volumes of verse that Harper (1938-2016) produced between 1970 and 2010, bringing attention to his poetry's sustained engagement with music, literature, and the visual arts. Author Michael Antonucci offers readers an account of the poet's career while assessing his verse and providing a sense of its perspective on Black America and the American experience.

Throughout his examination of Harper's verse, Antonucci builds on the critical attention the poet received at the outset of his career—he was twice nominated for the National Book Award. Exploring the poet's celebrated examinations of history, kinship, and Black music, Understanding Michael S. Harper develops and expands critical dialogues about the poet and his body of work, which, Antonucci argues, presents a counternarrative about the composition and origins of the United States, reshaping prevailing discourse about race, nation, and identity.

Michael Antonucci is professor emeritus at Keene State College where he taught courses on Black literature and culture in the American Studies program and English department. His scholarship has appeared in African American Review, Callaloo, and Obsidian, as well as other journals and publications.

"Michael Antonucci's sustained engagement with Michael Harper's extensive oeuvre has paid off in this richly textured and highly illuminating study of one of the major American poets of the late twentieth century. Antonucci deftly navigates Harper's vast canon and epigrammatic approach to poetic language with dexterity and aplomb. In coining the terms 'generative kinship' and 'convergent history,' he expertly traverses the multiple landscapes and diverse populations in Harper's aesthetic universe, and he skillfully deploys them as an analytic to unfold and explicate Harper's superb mastery of American and African American formal poetics and oral traditions while showcasing Harper's love of the sounds and rhythms of African American music and musical vocality. A gift for readers at all levels, Antonucci's compelling reading of Harper provides the necessary resources for accessing the complexity and for understanding the magnitude of Harper's poetic vision and cultural underpinnings."—Thadious M. Davis, author of Southscapes: Geographies of Race, Religion, and Literature

"Michael Antonucci truly 'Understands' how Michael S. Harper sings a self intensely replete with 'poetic multivocality.' This excellent discussion draws on other scholars' work while building its own arresting, informative contribution. These close readings of Harper present how he imagined and sought 'A Love Supreme.' Antonucci indeed 'Understands' Michael S. Harper!"—Robert B. Stepto, Professor Emeritus, Yale University, and coeditor of Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art, and Scholarship, with Michael S. Harper

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