Like fellow black writers of the “post-renaissance” school that followed the Harlem Renaissance, Dudley Randall embraces not only the concerns of modernism in discovering new modes of expression and technique but also the increasing awareness of a black literary heritage that begins in slave songs and spirituals. Although much of his earlier work experiments with classical forms, primarily the rhymed lyric and the sonnet, Randall also works in free verse and with the terseness of folk expression. He cherishes the freedom of the individual poet to explore ideas and forms central in his poetry. Although he is primarily lyrical in his tone, his work demonstrates sensitivity to the ordinary experiences of the working class, the political struggles of black Americans, and the sanctity of personal relationships. Cognizant of new developments and “trendy” fashions in poetry, Randall never allows himself the comforting isolation of an art-for-art’s-sake poetics; instead, he insists on the integrity of the fundamental values of joy, music, and craft in his poetry while lyrically rendering common experiences in the form of new insights that are comprehensible for the majority of readers. He embodies, in short, that sometimes too-often-neglected maxim of Sir Philip Sidney’s in Defence of Poesie (1595) that poetry ought “to teach and delight.” That Randall achieves both while using an essentially modern black idiom ensures him of a significant place...
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