Published: Oct. 9, 2020

by Hollis Robbins (MEngl'98)
(University of Georgia Press, 264 pages; 2020)

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 Influence and the African American Sonnet CoverForms of Contention argues for the centrality of sonnet writing to African American poetry, focusing on significant sonnets, key anthologies, and critical debates about poetic form to show that the influence of black sonnet writers on each other challenges long-standing claims that sonnet writing is primarily a matter of European influence. The banishment of much nineteenth- and twentieth-century formal poetry from the black poetry canon in the 1960s because it was too “traditional” long concealed the African American sonnet’s legacy. In the twenty-first century, the sonnet has blossomed as a black poetic form, even while sonnet writers rarely acknowledge the rich history of black sonnets. With digital technology, a century of sonnets published in African American newspapers has reemerged to reveal surprising patterns of influence.