Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Q: What's "African American" about African American poetry?
A: The reader.
This has long been difficult to grasp. But that which is "African American" about African American poetry is—as it must be—any reader. The aesthetic semblance between poet and poem works toward the purpose of building nations and institutions. But it is the aesthetic semblance between poem and reader that modifies, changes and enhances. This is the great grammar of lyric poetry's most powerful possibility: how it declines into conjugations of transformative empathy.