Afro-Blue: Improvisations in African American Poetry and Culture

Tony Bolden

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Book DescriptionIn Afro-Blue Tony Bolden traces the ways innovations in black music and poetry have driven the evolution of a variety of other American vernacular artistic forms. The blues tradition, Bolden demonstrates, plays a key role in the relationship between poetry and vernacular expressive forms.

Through an analysis of the formal qualities of black poetry and music, Afro-Blue shows that they function as a form of resistance, affirming the values and style of life that oppose bourgeois morality. Even before the term "blues" had cultural currency the inscriptions of style and resistance embodied in the blues tradition were already a prominent feature of black poetics.

Bolden delineates this interrelation, examining how poets extend and reshape a variety of other verbal folk forms in the same way as blues musicians play with other musical genres. He identifies three distinct bodies of blues poetics: some poets mimic and riff on oral forms, another group fuse their dedication to vernacular culture with a concern for literary conventions, while still others opt to embody the blues poetics by becoming blues musicians--and some combine elements of all three.

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