Kevin Young

The ABR Podcast 

Released every Wednesday, the ABR podcast features our finest reviews, poetry, fiction, interviews, and commentary.

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Theodore Ell and Beejay Silcox

Episode #67

‍On writing ‘Façades of Lebanon’

 Theodore Ell, winner of the 2021 Calibre Essay Prize, in conversation with Beejay Silcox

On 4 August 2020, Theodore Ell was living in Beirut, Lebanon, when an explosion erupted at the local port, killing more than 200 people and injuring more than 7,500. Ell and his wife, a diplomat, survived, but were badly shaken. At the encouragement of his close friend Beejay Silcox, Ell turned his experience into the essay ‘Façades of Lebanon’, a harrowing, intimate piece of reportage, and the deserving winner of the 2021 Calibre Essay Prize. In today’s episode, listen to Ell in conversation with Silcox about the inception of his prize-winning work, the balancing act of writing trauma and place, the historical complexities of Beirut, and more.

 

 

   

 

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African American Poetry is an ambitious and wide-ranging collection of Black poetry. Edited by Kevin Young, a fellow poet and poetry editor of The New Yorker, the collection spans contemporary writers such as the Pulitzer Prize-winner Jericho Brown to literary giants such as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Derek Walcott. As David Mason writes, 'It needs to be said and said again just how profoundly American this poetry is, how it enriches culture and should not be ignored among the more conventionally canonised.' 

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The Library of America has published massive anthologies of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry that include work from multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds, so why now another large book devoted exclusively to African Americans? Because it needs to be said and said again just how profoundly American this poetry is, how it enriches culture and should not be ignored among the more conventionally canonised. The fact that this book appeared in 2020, the year when Black Lives Matter protests went global, only underlines its importance as a historical marker. Poetry by Black Americans is not only unignorable but central to American literary life. Reading African American Poetry: 250 years of struggle and song may change your way of reading poetry, particularly modern poetry. It is that rare thing among anthologies, a moving book, enlivened by fire and soul.

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