What I Say is an anthology of formally experimental and innovative poetry by black writers in America from 1977 to the present that al-lows readers to map the independent routes by which various poets reached their particular modes of aesthetic experimentation.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 comprehensive 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 fasci-nating and unexpected paths of experimentation these poets explored, however, Nielsen and Ramey reveal the tight delineations of African American poetry that omitted non-canonical 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 partici-pated 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 ap-peal to a broad readership of poets, poetics teachers, poetics scholars, students of African American literature in non-narrative forms, Afro-futurism, and what lies between the modern and the contemporary in global and localized writing practices.
Aldon Lynn Nielsen is the author of Black Chant: Languages of African American Postmodernism and Integral Music: Languages of African Ameri-can 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.