Joanne V. Gabbin

Preferred Citation:

Joanne V. Gabbin Interview, 9/24/2004 (FF153). Transcribed and edited by Evan Sizemore, 2021-2022, part of the Mellon-funded AudiAnnotate Audiovisual Extensible Workflow Project. Based on video recordings made by WVPT to document the second Furious Flower Poetry Center decennial meeting, September 23-25, 2004. Part of the Furious Flower Poetry Center Conference Records, 1970-2015, UA 0018, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University Libraries, Harrisonburg, Virginia, media file FF153. Collection finding aid:

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Time Annotation Layer
0:39 - 0:41 [Laughter] Environment
17:36 - 17:38 [Muffled mic] Environment
17:55 - 18:02 [Laughter] Environment
22:37 - 22:45 [Audio cuts out] Environment
0:04 - 0:10 Joanne Gabbin, September the 25th, 2004. Transcription
0:12 - 0:15 Angela Shannon, S-h-a-n-n-o-n. Transcription
0:19 - 0:29 Angela, Angela your hair's [inaudible] sort of, like just hang it to the side. Transcription
0:29 - 0:39 The side. There it is. Yeah. Yeah that's pretty. Say that's a pretty person. Transcription
0:41 - 0:54 Dr. Gabbin, before I even came to Furious Flower, I had heard so much about it. And still I don't really know the history of it as new writer. Can you tell me about the history of Transcription
0:54 - 0:55 Furious Flower? Transcription
0:55 - 1:16 I'd be happy to. I think Furious Flower really began in Chicago. As I remember, in 1971, I taught at Roosevelt University. I was a new teacher, very navy. And I was teaching a course Transcription
1:16 - 1:29 called 'Revolutionary Self-consciousness in Literature'. And I was teaching the new works of Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, you know, new turks on the block. Transcription
1:30 - 1:47 And I realized that I had this treasure trove of writers in Chicago: Gwendolyn Brooks, Haki Madhubuti, Margaret Burroughs. And I decided to invite Margaret Burroughs and Gwendolyn Brooks to Roosevelt Transcription
1:47 - 1:50 University. Well, I wanted to invite Gwendolyn Brooks first. Transcription
1:52 - 2:04 And when I was telling a colleague that I wanted to do this, he said, Well, you know, we had the opportunity of having her come here to teach creative writing. And I said, Well, what happened? He Transcription
2:04 - 2:16 said, some of my colleagues decided that because she didn't have the credentials, she didn't have the degree, that she wouldn't be invited to apply. Transcription
2:17 - 2:35 Well, you can imagine, Angela, that shocked me. I was thinking: here I am, very navy, just received my MA in English and I'm teaching at Roosevelt University. This woman had just received her-- had Transcription
2:35 - 2:49 just written books, she had received the Pulitzer 20 years before that. And she was not invited to teach at Roosevelt University. Transcription
2:50 - 3:05 So I decided at that moment that I would do everything I could to get her to come to Roosevelt to, if not teach, to speak. Well, I invited her there to speak. And I vowed when she was there, because Transcription
3:05 - 3:15 she was so wonderful, so dynamic, so kind to the students, that every place I taught, she would come to speak. I would invite her to speak. Transcription
3:15 - 3:33 Well, that happened when I taught at Roosevelt. When I taught at Lincoln, when I taught at Chicago State. I invited her to come. So in 1986, when I was just here for a year, I invited Gwendolyn Brooks Transcription
3:33 - 3:37 to come. And she spoke and she did a wonderful job. Transcription
3:37 - 3:52 And so now we have to fast forward to 1993. She is teaching at-- she's not teaching, but she's working at Chicago State. I think she is teaching creative writing. She came to Piedmont Community Transcription
3:52 - 4:07 College to do a reading. And I took my students there. And the students were so taken with this woman, she was so gracious and giving and generous in her time. And I called her the morning before she Transcription
4:07 - 4:12 left from this area. And I said, Gwen, you have to come to JMU to speak. Transcription
4:13 - 4:29 Well, that was 1993, and she said, I won't come this year, but I'll come next year. And so I had a whole year to think about her coming to JMU. And in thinking about her coming to JMU I decided to Transcription
4:29 - 4:41 build around her visit a small conference, what I thought was going to be a small conference of people who enjoyed her work, who would come to honor her. Transcription
4:42 - 4:59 And that's how it began. I invited Sonia. I invited Nikki, then I had to invite Haki Madhubuti, then I had to invite Amiri Baraka. Then it just mushroomed. And as I was thinking about what I would Transcription
4:59 - 5:15 call this conference-- would I call it the Gwendolyn Brooks conference?-- I decided that it was going to be something that would end up being a tribute to her, but probably even bigger than her. Transcription
5:16 - 5:29 And I looked at her poetry and I saw these lines in her poem, The Second Sermon on the Warpland: 'The time/ cracks into furious flower. Lifts its face/ all unashamed. And sways and wicked Transcription
5:29 - 5:47 grace.' And I realized that that term Furious Flower really had some resonance, if you will. I could see not only in that phrase, something about the woman Gwendolyn Brooks herself, but also something Transcription
5:47 - 5:52 about poetry, especially poetry that was written since 1950, 1960. Transcription
5:53 - 6:10 So it became a wonderful metaphor for what she was doing and what other poets were doing. And I invited first 10 poets, then 20, then 30. And before it was over, I had 35 poets and critics who were Transcription
6:10 - 6:23 coming, in 1994, to this conference. So that's how it started. And then, once we had the conference, we realized that those poets who came to this conference really needed it. Transcription
6:24 - 6:37 Michael Harper, I remember his telling me, Joanne, you're setting up the ingredients for a time bomb. You're inviting all of these people to come to one place, people with different ideologies, people Transcription
6:37 - 6:52 from different generations, people who have different ways of thinking about poetry and different preferences, you're going to set up a very negative opportunity for clashing. And I said, well, I'll Transcription
6:52 - 6:59 have to take that risk. And as it turned out, this was almost a lovefeast in 1994. Transcription
6:59 - 7:12 And it's been a lovefeast in 2004. And the wonderful thing I think also about the term Furious Flower is that it's all-inclusive, and it has-- it carries with it Gwendolyn Brooks' Transcription
7:12 - 7:13 spirit. Transcription
7:13 - 7:13 Yeah. Transcription
7:13 - 7:27 And it's wonderful that there's such a wide range of writers. There's such a wide range of voices, the voices are so diverse. There isn't one type of writer, so there's no one role Transcription
7:27 - 7:32 model for a Black writer, but we're able to write outside of the box. Transcription
7:32 - 7:33 Right. Transcription
7:33 - 7:37 And Furious Flower is an example of how that can be done. Transcription
7:37 - 7:58 Well, I'm glad you think that. I hope that is the case. I did not choose people from one political position or one type of poetry. I was inclusive. I chose good poets to come to this Transcription
7:58 - 8:12 conference. And they're good poets who are elders, they're good poets who are younger people, good poets who are I suppose those who have their own style. Transcription
8:13 - 8:29 I was thinking about Kalamu's reading yesterday and how dynamic it was. He has his own style, and he's on the same program with Jessica Care Moore, who has her own unique style-- more performance Transcription
8:29 - 8:41 poet. Both of them performance poets, but she has her way of reaching her audience and he has his. So it is eclectic in that sense. Transcription
8:41 - 8:55 And in every way. There's the generational diversity that you have. There's the range, there's the types of voices-- there's Rita Dove, and Baraka, and Sonia Sanchez, and Brenda Osbey Transcription
8:56 - 9:03 and Lucille Clifton. And it's like a huge anthology-- living anthology. Transcription
9:03 - 9:21 And as a writer to witness that. It's empowering. Because as a writer, when you see so many different voices in front of you that are acknowledged and recognized, it empowers others in the sense that Transcription
9:21 - 9:34 we don't have to write in any one particular style, but we could truly write from our own voices because all the voices are there. And we don't have to imitate. So it's a wonderful example, to model Transcription
9:34 - 9:41 for a conference to have out there. There's nothing else I think that touches it. Transcription
9:41 - 9:53 Well, you know, we were hoping that when we came together to do the first conference, that something would come out of it. And so many good things came out of that conference-- we Transcription
9:53 - 10:06 had an anthology of African American poetry that came out of the conference, we had a collection of essays coming out of the conference, and a video series. There were also things that we can't put Transcription
10:06 - 10:13 our hands on that came out of this conference. I know that careers were launched at Furious Flower. Transcription
10:14 - 10:29 Poets, who were probably not sure that they were poets, became poets because of Furious Flower. Organizations that may not have existed came into existence because of Furious Flower. I give you two Transcription
10:29 - 10:43 examples. Cave Canem, and we have a reunion of Cave Canem poets here at 2004 Furious Flower. Well, that organization didn't exist in 1994. Transcription
10:43 - 10:60 It was founded in 1996, by Cornelius Eady and Toi Derricotte. And I think Toi Derricotte had the idea that she wanted to have a workshop for writers of poetry. And I think that idea occurred to her, Transcription
11:01 - 11:07 or at least, it was energized when she came to Furious Flower in 1994, Transcription
11:07 - 11:19 because two weeks after the conference she called me and she said, 'Joanne, that was just wonderful. We have to continue this. We have to have a place for poets to write, and to feel safe writing Transcription
11:20 - 11:32 their work.' And I really think that was the little seed that was planted in Capri when they decided, she and Cornelius Eady, to found Cave Canem. Transcription
11:34 - 11:51 Trudier Harris, critic at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, said we don't have an anthology that-- or a collection, I should say-- of critical pieces on the teaching of poetry, especially Transcription
11:51 - 12:02 African American poetry. So I set out to take the papers from that conference, and put them into a volume that teachers could use to teach African American poetry. Transcription
12:02 - 12:16 And so that became The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry. The video series that came out of this conference and 1994 conference, has been used by teachers all over the United States Transcription
12:16 - 12:20 and I dare say some places outside of these borders. Transcription
12:21 - 12:35 Some woman told me that she was told about Furious Flower by a Turkish woman who had the video series. So that made me feel extremely good that, you know, Furious Flower has an impact internationally. Transcription
12:35 - 12:41 In fact, that was the reason for the themes for the 2004 conference, this conference. Transcription
12:41 - 12:60 We're looking at three distinct themes during these three days, we want to look at our vernacular tradition. We have one that's called Roots and First Fruits, where we honor our cultural heritage and Transcription
12:60 - 13:10 we honor those poets who were first, I suppose, to-- first representing what we call genius works. Transcription
13:11 - 13:29 And then the second day, we looked at Cross-pollination in the Diaspora. Looking at the influence of African American poetry on poets and writers in other countries, and vice versa. How that-- does a Transcription
13:29 - 13:37 poet in Afghanistan, or Pakistan see what we're doing in this country. Transcription
13:37 - 13:50 And then the final day is Blooming in the Whirlwind. We know that many of our younger poets still have to deal with the political issues that face us today. So how do they do that in an atmosphere of Transcription
13:50 - 14:06 chaos and an atmosphere of war? So those are, those are the things we're pursuing, and we're finding that our poets are energized by talking about these. And these themes that are simple on the Transcription
14:06 - 14:13 outside, become layered and textured and really rich when you get them in the mouths of our poets. Transcription
14:14 - 14:26 Also, it's also been a wonderful place to just be around the elders. There are-- the people that are here are so esteemed. Baraka and Lucille Clifton, Sonia Sanchez that we mention Transcription
14:26 - 14:37 going just to be able to sit next to them and to touch them and to have a-- sit down and have a conversation with them. There are all these torches that are here. There's not one light, but there are Transcription
14:37 - 14:42 many, many lights and there's a sense that they are passing it on. Transcription
14:42 - 14:55 Sonia Sanchez, she's an incredible model, and she's so giving to the younger generations. She's not only just passing the torch. She's, she's forcing you to take it. You know, she's saying stand up. Transcription
14:55 - 15:03 It's okay, do what do what it is that you want to do. Write your poems. And she demands it, and it's wonderful. Transcription
15:03 - 15:03 Right, yes. Transcription
15:03 - 15:15 But you know, it's interesting that you say that. Yes, you're right. There are many, many lights here. But if you could judge by the coverage that we got in the local newspaper, there was only one Transcription
15:15 - 15:29 poet here and only one poem read. Baraka's poem, Somebody Blew Up America is the only poem that they were interested in because they wanted to find something controversial about it. They don't Transcription
15:29 - 15:36 see the richness that we have gathered here in this place at this particular time. Transcription
15:37 - 15:48 And that's why it's important that we document our own-- because there are so many writers here and Baraka is an incredible voice but he's one voice. Transcription
15:48 - 15:49 He's one voice. Transcription
15:50 - 15:57 And like I said incredible. Genius. But there's so many others here and we are fed through all of them. Transcription
15:58 - 15:58 That's right. Transcription
15:58 - 16:08 And the others we-- the others couldn't be, or-- It takes the group for there to be a Baraka, and for there to be a Lucille Clifton there should be a Baraka and there should be a Rita Transcription
16:08 - 16:20 Dove. And for there to be a Rita Dove there needs to be a Marilyn Nelson. So because there is a group, we have these others, these ones that can stand. But there's a community here. Transcription
16:20 - 16:24 Yeah, yeah exactly. Exactly. I, you know, I'm tired. Transcription
16:25 - 16:25 We're over 15. Transcription
16:26 - 16:28 I was thinking that. Transcription
16:28 - 16:34 I want you guys to do one re-ask for me, because, Angela if you would-- this was great and we can cut it [inaudible]. Transcription
16:34 - 16:34 Okay. Transcription
16:34 - 16:36 About the conference being made into a video series. Transcription
16:36 - 16:37 Okay, Okay. Transcription
16:37 - 16:48 But if (I can't read my own)-- oh, when you were talking Joanne about the Furious Flower speaks to the wide range of writers, right after [inaudible] poetry, I want you to, I want you Transcription
16:48 - 16:60 to give that kind of answer, but Angela, you ask her by saying what does the video series represent? You know that we have this collective under Furious Flower that we're representing in this series Transcription
16:60 - 16:60 that are... Transcription
17:01 - 17:03 So what does the video series represent? Transcription
17:04 - 17:13 The video series really represents. Oh, I should start again. I get-- I'm not sure. I thought you were, now what-- Transcription
17:18 - 17:20 What does the video series represent? Transcription
17:20 - 17:31 Well, you know, I thought it would be my opportunity to show a wide variety of poets, those who really are speaking to many of the important issues that we have facing us today. Transcription
17:32 - 17:47 I have invited people like Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Cornelius Eady, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Toi Derricotte, and the list goes on and on. And they all have different perspectives that we should Transcription
17:47 - 17:58 hear. And we will hear those perspectives on these videos. Oh I mentioned some that we probably won't hear. I just thought, I just thought about that. Transcription
17:58 - 18:03 Now say the whole thing again, but don't mention any names. We know the names becuase they come up [inaudible]. Transcription
18:03 - 18:11 That's right, that's right, that's right. Now, who's-- the new ones, Cornelius Eady, and... I have to put on this dress again, maybe. Transcription
18:13 - 18:14 Or a new dress and new setup. Transcription
18:14 - 18:14 Different setup I think. Transcription
18:15 - 18:18 Okay, alright. Okay. Transcription
18:20 - 18:22 What does the video series represent? Transcription
18:23 - 18:36 Well, I think it represents the opportunity to see a variety of poets doing their thing, in this venue where we have gathered poets from around the country, and indeed from around Transcription
18:36 - 18:48 the world to respond to the importance of the word, the power of the word, if you will. Furious Flower for me is a metaphor of poetry, for poetry. Transcription
18:48 - 19:05 Poetry that is beautiful, poetry that is a poetry of resistance, therefore fierce, therefore sometimes dangerous. You will see in this particular video series, an opportunity for poets to talk about Transcription
19:06 - 19:16 the war. To talk about... I'm tired, I'm tired. Yeah, let me, let me just, let me just, let me just stop. Transcription
19:16 - 19:26 Just say you will see in this series, a variety of viewpoints on a variety of political, historical, social, artistic, aesthetics, and stop. Transcription
19:26 - 19:28 Okay. Just, okay. Transcription
19:30 - 19:34 The first part of the work is, all Angela and you kept saying is "you will see here..." Transcription
19:34 - 19:46 Okay. You will see in this video series a variety of perspectives. You'll see poets talking about the war, you'll see poets talking about our community. Some of the problems in our Transcription
19:46 - 19:60 community, like Sonia Sanchez, talking about a crack mother, who takes her child into a crack house, you will hear Baraka doing his poem Somebody Blew Up America. You will see Rita Dove talking Transcription
19:60 - 20:09 about swing dancing. You will see the energy that these poets bring to bear on those things that are near and dear to them. Transcription
20:11 - 20:18 Is that alright? Alright. Well, we really, I really changed it that time. But I think I-- Transcription
20:18 - 20:18 But it worked. [Inaudible] I'm coming back. Transcription
20:18 - 20:25 Yeah, it worked. Okay. Yeah, you know what I started thinking, you know what I started thinking about? Transcription
20:25 - 20:25 Time. Transcription
20:25 - 20:26 Yeah. Transcription
20:26 - 20:27 No, no, no don't move. Don't move. Transcription
20:27 - 20:32 Okay, okay, okay. Okay. Good. Thank you Transcription
20:32 - 20:34 Take it down. [Inaudible]. Transcription
20:36 - 20:43 Oh my goodness. Well you know I feel unplugged right now. And I hope you can use something. Transcription
20:44 - 20:49 Wherever, wherever you, wherever it's coming out of [inaudible]. Here it is. Transcription
20:51 - 20:52 Angela, you did well! Transcription
20:52 - 20:58 You did. You did great. Thank you. And thank you for coming up with the idea, because your right [inaudible]. Transcription
20:58 - 20:60 I wouldn't be in it but it's important that you know, she [inaudible]. Transcription
20:60 - 21:02 We're gonna do it, we're gonna do it, we're gonna get it right. Transcription
21:02 - 21:03 Yeah. Transcription
21:03 - 21:05 But I just thought, I just thought mostly she-- Transcription
21:05 - 21:08 And you know you, and you're sounding more concise and cogent in your thinking [inaudible]. Transcription
21:09 - 21:11 Oh, I don't feel like I'm cogent right now. Transcription
21:11 - 21:17 Beause you're overwhelmed, you got a lot on your mind, you're tired, but it sounded-- even up until when you stopped yourself, it was like all [inaudible]. Transcription
21:19 - 21:19 [Inaudible] again? Transcription
21:19 - 21:26 They're from Wednesday's four-frames and specs. And to me [inaudible] same thing, but I told them the items you requested are backstage. Transcription
21:26 - 21:27 They haven't started yet? Transcription
21:27 - 21:30 No, there're still people filtering in. Transcription
21:30 - 21:31 Oh my goodness, okay. Transcription
21:31 - 21:32 See you later. Transcription
21:32 - 21:33 Alright, thank you so much! Transcription
21:34 - 21:37 So Joanne, is tonight going until how long? Till 8? Transcription
21:38 - 21:39 Until about 10:30. Transcription
21:39 - 21:46 Thank you, thank you. [Inaudible], but I'll call you. Transcription
21:46 - 21:46 But call me. Transcription
21:46 - 21:46 [Inaudible] Transcription
21:53 - 21:53 All right. Transcription
22:09 - 22:12 Thank you. It was an experience. Transcription
22:12 - 22:16 It was. I think it was, that other's a wrap. Transcription
22:16 - 22:17 It's a wrap. Transcription
22:18 - 22:19 If we need to go on [inaudible]. Transcription
22:20 - 22:33 Ok well I'm just gonna [inaudible] because this is my [inaudible] Transcription
22:33 - 22:37 Let me, let me label the last two tapes. And all the tapes-- Transcription
0:04 - 0:10 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
0:12 - 0:15 Angela Shannon Speaker
0:19 - 0:29 Speaker Unknown Speaker
0:29 - 0:39 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
0:41 - 0:54 Angela Shannon Speaker
0:54 - 1:16 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
6:59 - 7:12 Angela Shannon Speaker
7:13 - 7:13 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
7:13 - 7:27 Angela Shannon Speaker
7:32 - 7:33 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
7:33 - 7:37 Angela Shannon Speaker
7:37 - 7:58 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
8:40 - 8:55 Angela Shannon Speaker
9:41 - 9:53 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
14:14 - 14:26 Angela Shannon Speaker
15:02 - 15:03 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
15:37 - 15:48 Angela Shannon Speaker
15:48 - 15:49 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
15:50 - 15:57 Angela Shannon Speaker
15:58 - 15:58 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
15:58 - 16:08 Angela Shannon Speaker
16:20 - 16:24 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
16:25 - 16:25 Speaker Unknown Speaker
16:26 - 16:28 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
16:27 - 16:34 Speaker Unknown Speaker
16:34 - 16:34 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
16:34 - 16:36 Speaker Unknown Speaker
16:36 - 16:37 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
16:37 - 16:48 Speaker Unknown Speaker
17:01 - 17:03 Angela Shannon Speaker
17:04 - 17:13 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
17:18 - 17:20 Angela Shannon Speaker
17:20 - 17:31 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
17:58 - 18:03 Speaker Unknown Speaker
18:03 - 18:11 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
18:13 - 18:14 Speaker Unknown Speaker
18:15 - 18:18 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
18:20 - 18:22 Angela Shannon Speaker
18:23 - 18:36 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
19:15 - 19:26 Speaker Unknown Speaker
19:26 - 19:28 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
19:30 - 19:34 Angela Shannon Speaker
19:34 - 19:46 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
20:18 - 20:18 Speaker Unknown Speaker
20:18 - 20:25 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
20:25 - 20:25 Speaker Unknown Speaker
20:25 - 20:26 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
20:26 - 20:27 Speaker Unknown Speaker
20:27 - 20:32 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
20:32 - 20:34 Speaker Unknown Speaker
20:36 - 20:43 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
20:52 - 20:58 Speaker Unknown Speaker
20:58 - 20:60 Angela Shannon Speaker
20:60 - 21:02 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:02 - 21:03 Speaker Unknown Speaker
21:03 - 21:05 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:05 - 21:08 Angela Shannon Speaker
21:09 - 21:11 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:11 - 21:17 Speaker Unknown Speaker
21:19 - 21:19 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:19 - 21:26 Angela Shannon Speaker
21:26 - 21:27 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:27 - 21:30 Speaker Unknown Speaker
21:30 - 21:31 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:31 - 21:32 Speaker Unknown Speaker
21:32 - 21:33 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:34 - 21:37 Angela Shannon Speaker
21:38 - 21:39 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:39 - 21:46 Speaker Unknown Speaker
21:46 - 21:46 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
21:46 - 21:46 Speaker Unknown Speaker
21:52 - 21:53 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
22:09 - 22:12 Speaker Unknown Speaker

Joanne V. Gabbin Interview, 9/24/2004 (FF153) at JMU Scholarly Commons.

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