Bibliography

Ashbery, John. Other Traditions: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001. Bloom, Harold, ed. John Ashbery. New York: Chelsea House, 1985.

Schultz, Susan, ed. The Tribe of John: Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995. Shapiro, David. John Ashbery: An Introduction to the Poetry.

New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. Shoptaw, John. On the Outside Looking Out: John Ashbery's Poetry. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994

Dean Taciuch

ATKINS, RUSSELL (1926- ) Russell Atkins, who has been at the center of African-American avantgarde poetics since the late 1940s, has been among the most active small-press publishers, editors, and critics. Early on Atkins discovered, as he has remarked, that "just as contemporary composers had challenged western diatonicism with chromatic dissonance, I could distort grammar to a similar purpose" (12). Such commitments set Atkins outside the mainstream of popular verse, with its emphasis upon confessional experience and voice, and yet his poetics of conspicuous technique and his aversion to the dominance of "natural language" in so much American verse show his independence even from the main course of experimental poetries.

Atkins was born on February 25, 1926, in the city that was to remain his home, Cleveland, Ohio. He established early correspondences with poets, such as Langston hughes and Marianne moore. In 1949 Hughes wrote to Atkins, advising him not to try to be a "social" poet but to write as he felt compelled. In 1951 Moore recited Atkins's poem "Trainyard by Night" on the radio, later writing to tell Atkins that his poem had been the standout of the program. Atkins published his first of eight books of poetry in 1961. Also a composer, playwright, and critic, he has been invited to the Bread-loaf Writers Conference (1956), has been a writer in residence at Cuyahoga Community College (1973), and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Cleveland State University (1976). For two decades, Atkins was an editor of the Free Lance, one of the longest-lived journals with a black editorship, a determinedly innovative small magazine that grew out of the Free Lance writers workshop. His poetry has been set to music by the composer Hale Smith and has recently been repub-lished in new poetry journals.

Atkins wrote often of his theories of "psychovisual-ism" and "deconstruction," writing of the latter as early as 1956, well before the term had become popularized in academic circles. He may have been the first African-American concrete poet, and in poems as early as 1947 his writing departed from the standards of high modernism, pointing the way for much that would follow. A late poem, "Shipwreck" (1976), shows his sense of his own independence: "With today's sympathetics who can dare? / in the old days when sailed struck, / sank, who knew? few, comparatively." Though Atkins has been nearly alone in his aesthetic explorations, his work has attracted an increasing number of sympathizers as it has become more widely known.

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