E. Ethelbert Miller
Before one can define American poetry, one must first define America. It is best that we find a definition that is fluid as well as elastic. It should be a definition that embraces our unique history and our common mythology. America, its true meaning, is found in our important documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Here we will find the beginnings for American poetry, and the language of Walt Whitman. If we consider Whitman the father of American verse, then we acknowledge a body of work that celebrates the individual voice, the physical body, the land as well as the ideas of democracy, freedom and equality.
American poetry is an expression of freedom in content as well as form. As an African American poet I am aware that one of the great underlining themes in African American literature is the theme of liberation. The African American tradition is an essential factor in the shaping of the American identity as well as this nation's poetic voice. Along with being the children of Whitman, we are also the children of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes.
America is a great and noble experiment, and so our poetry must reflect this experimentation in the language we choose to express ourselves with. American poetry embraces tradition as well as the future. It brings together the two rivers of oral and written artistic expressions.
Our poetry is a multicultural quilt of voices, a blending of humanity, a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit and the acknowledgment of all that is beautiful in the world.