Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

James A. Emanuel’s first book was written in prose, not poetry. His book Langston Hughes (1967) was one of the first detailed studies of Hughes’s work. Unsatisfied with the scant critical attention given to black authors, Emanuel worked with Theodore L. Gross and edited Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America (1968), the first book of its kind in nearly thirty years. A few years later, in 1972, he collaborated on another book, How I Write Two, this time with MacKinlay Kantor and Lawrence Osgood. How I Write Two explores the writing processes of several black poets, including Emanuel, Sonia Sanchez, and Gwendolyn Brooks. He served as general editor of the Broadside Critics series from 1970 to 1975. He has written a memoir, The Force and the Reckoning (2001), complete with poems and photos. Many of Emanuel’s literary essays and book reviews appeared in books, periodicals, and journals.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although James A. Emanuel has been called one of the most overlooked poets of modern times, he has garnered some recognition as a critic. Arguably, his most notable achievement is the promotion of critical attention for black writers’ work. He received the John Hay Whitney Fellowship (1952, 1953) and the Saxton Memorial Fellowship (1964). In 1966, Emanuel developed the first course in African American poetry to be offered at City College of New York. He also ran for a position on the Mount Vernon, New York, school board, but was defeated. “For ’Mr. Dudley,’ a Black Spy” (from Black Man Abroad) describes the difficult experience. He was awarded two Fulbright scholarships, a professorship at the University of Grenoble in France from 1968 to 1969 and a professorship at the University of Warsaw in Poland from 1975 to 1976. Emanuel also received a Black American Literature Forum Special Distinction Award for poetry in 1978. In 1979, the American Biographical Institute named him among its Notable Americans. Emanuel invented the jazz-and-blues haiku during the 1990’s. The form combines elements of jazz, blues, and the Japanese haiku. For his invention, he received the Sidney Bechet Creative Award in 1996. In 2007, he was honored with the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Achievement from Columbia University.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bloom, Harold. Modern Black American Poets and Dramatists. New York: Chelsea House, 1995. Provides a biography of Emanuel and excerpts from book reviews and critical essays about his work. It also includes an excerpt from “The Task of the Negro Writer as Artist: A Symposium,” an essay Emanuel wrote explaining that all writers, regardless of race or ethnicity, must create work that is beautiful, powerful, and true.

Emanuel, James A. “James A. Emanuel.” http://www .james-a-emanuel.com. The official Web site for Emanual contains a brief biography, a bibliography, and interviews with the author.

Fabre, Michel. From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France, 1840-1980. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1993. The chapter titled “James Emanuel: A Poet in Exile” discusses Emanuel’s life in France, particularly how people, sights, and experiences in and around Paris inspired his creativity, leading him to write poems such as “Lovelook Back,” “Clothesline, Rue Marie,” and “For Alix, Who Is Three.”

Hakutani, Yoshinobu. Cross-Cultural Visions in African American Modernism: From Spatial Narrative to Jazz Haiku. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006. The chapter titled “James Emanuel’s Jazz Haiku and African American Individualism” focuses on Jazz from the Haiku King. The author describes how Emanuel uses haiku to convey elements of the African American experience and explains how Emanuel’s work was influenced by other writers.

Holdt, Marvin. Review of Black Man Abroad. Black American Literature Forum 13, no. 3 (Autumn, 1979): 79-85. Offers an extensive examination of the work and its message.

Watson, Douglas. “James Andrew Emanuel.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Poets Since 1955, edited by Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris. Vol. 41. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 1985. Provides a well-developed biography and criticism of Emanuel’s work.