Edited by Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin
The collection, Letters to the Future: Black WOMEN / Radical WRITING celebrates temporal, spatial, formal, and linguistically innovative literature. The anthology will collect late-modern and contemporary work by Black women from the United States, England, Canada, and the Caribbean—work that challenges readers to participate in meaning making. Because one contextual framework for the collection is “art as a form of epistemology,” we envision the writing in the anthology will be the kind of work driven by the writer’s desire to radically present, uncovering what she knows and does not know, as well as critically addressing the future.
Why is this important now? Simone White, one of our contributors, says this on Harriet, The Poetry Foundation blog:
“I had been thinking for a long time about what people mean when they say that US poetry that is not interested in reproducing the familiar (call it what you want: experimental, innovative) is a white practice, a white thing, dominated by white poets and white institutions […] And, I’d been thinking about it as a woman poet who writes poems that could never belong to any tradition but a black tradition.”
This anthology will help re-write the misnomer that innovative writing is white writing and do it with a particularly interest in gender. Is it a coincidence that #blacklivesmatter was coined and put into action by black queer women in the same moment that there is a proliferation of black women writing experimental work? We don’t think so. This anthology is part of our means of investigation, or of simply looking at, what we are doing together to re-write the future world as unfamiliar. Indeed, it is the familiar, the well-worn racial and racist past that is killing us.”
Erica Hunt (b. March 12, 1955) is a U.S. poet, essayist, teacher, mother, and organizer from New York City. She is often associated with the group of Language poets from her days living in San Francisco in the late 1970s and early 80s, but her work is also considered central to the avant garde black aesthetic developing after the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements. Her notion of an “oppositional poetics” has been influential in the direction of thought about the confluence of radial aesthetics and political concerns. As she defines the term, “oppositional poetics” consists of “a field of related projects which have moved beyond the speculation of skepticism to a critically active stance against forms of domination. By oppositional, I intend, generously, dissident cultures as well as ‘marginalized’ cultures, cutting across class, race and gender.”
Through the 1990s and 2000s, Hunt worked with several non-profits that encourage black philanthropy for black communities and causes. From 1999 to 2010, she was executive director of the 21st Century Foundation located in Harlem. Currently, she is devoting herself full-time to writing. She is the author of four poetry books and chapbooks: Time Slips Right Before the Eyes (New York, Belladonna Chapbooks, 2006); Piece Logic (Durham, North Carolina, Carolina Wren Press, 20020; Arcade with prints by Alison Saar (Berkeley, California, Kelsey Street Press, 1996); and, Local History (New York, ROOF Books, 1993, reprinted 2003). She has been published in many anthologies and journals.
Dawn Lundy Martin earned a B.A. from the University of Connecticut, an M.A. in creative writing from San Francisco State University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Martin’s first full-length collection, A Gathering of Matter / A Matter of Gathering (University of Georgia Press, 2007), was selected by Carl Phillips for the 2007 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her second collection, Discipline, won the 2009 Nightboat Books Poetry Prize, chosen by Fanny Howe (Nightboat Books, 2011). She is also the author of three chapbooks, Candy, (Albion Books, 2011), The Undress (Belladonna Books, 2006), and The Morning Hour (Poetry Society of America, 2003), which was selected by C. D. Wright for the Poetry Society of America’s National Chapbook Fellowship. In 2004, she co-edited, alongside Vivien Labaton, The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism (Anchor Books, 2004), a collection of essays on modern theories of activism in America. She also wrote the Afterword, titled “What, Then, is Freedom,” to Harriet Ann Jacobs’ 19th century slave narrative, Incidents of a Slave Girl (Signet Classics, 2010).
Martin is co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation in New York, a national grant making organization led by young women and transgender youth, which focuses on social justice activism. She is also a member of the Black Took Collective, a group of experimental black poets embracing critical theory about gender, race, and sexuality. She has been the recipient of two poetry grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and was awarded the 2008 Academy of American Arts and Sciences May Sarton Prize for Poetry.
She has taught at Montclair State University, The New School, and the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College. She is currently an assistant professor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh.