Etheridge Knight Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Etheridge Knight almost exclusively wrote poetry. A few articles by him appeared in African American magazines such as Black Digest (with a format similar to Reader’s Digest), Emerge (similar to Time magazine), and Essence, the foremost black women’s periodical publication.

Etheridge Knight Achievements

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Etheridge Knight opened the eyes of a nation to the views and experiences of prisoners, a previously ignored population. The initial acclaim lavished on Poems from Prison and the praise of honored authors such as Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Bly opened the door to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1972. His third collection, Belly Song, and Other Poems, was nominated for the 1973 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974 and won the Shelley Memorial Award in 1985. His last book, The Essential Etheridge Knight, earned the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 1987.

Etheridge Knight Bibliography

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Cullum, Linda L. Contemporary American Ethnic Poets: Lives, Works, Sources. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Contains a short biography of Knight that looks at his life and works. Includes bibliographical material.

Ford, Karen. “These Old Writing Paper Blues: The Blues Stanza and Literary Poetry.” College Literature 24, no. 3 (October, 1997): 84-103. Ford weighs Knight’s use of written and oral form in “For Malcolm, a Year After.” She says that the “reciprocal, mutually informing and accommodating relationship” between them “dramatizes playful adaptation and rich potential.”

Hill, Patricia Liggins. “The Violent Space: The Function of the New Black Aesthetic in Etheridge Knight’s Prison Poetry.” Black American Literature Forum 14, no. 3 (August, 1980): 115-121. Hill analyzes how Knight’s perspective, as seen in “Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane” and other prison poems, fits within the aesthetic that often treats writing as a political act.

Knight, Etheridge. “A Poet Comes to the People.” Interview. In Master Class: Lessons from Leading Writers, edited by Nancy Bunge. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005. Knight defines poetry as an “oral utterance” and notes that the poet creates in isolation but strives to transcend it by connecting with others.

Koontz, Tom. “The Poetry of Etheridge Knight.” In Masterplots II: African American Literature, edited by Tyrone Williams. Rev. ed. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2009. Examines Knight’s poetry, particularly his prison poetry, and his life.

Neville, Susan. Sailing the Inland Sea: On Writing, Literature, and Land. Bloomington: Quarry Books/Indiana University Press, 2007. This collection of essays on writing, particularly by midwestern, landlocked writers, has a chapter on Knight.

Premo, Cassie. “Etheridge Knight.” In The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, edited by William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. A brief profile of Knight, assessing his poetry’s contribution to American writing. Premo concludes that his poetry expresses “our freedom of consciousness and attests to our capacity for connection to others.”

Randall, Dudley. Broadside Memories: Poets I Have Known. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1975. Randall discusses a number of poets, including Knight. He saw Knight’s work as closer to the pulse of the African American masses than that of most members of the Black Arts movement in the late 1960’s.