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Root Work Journal - Navigating the Ocean - Volume 1, Issue 2

Black Women's Avant-Garde Poetics: Politics, Creative Survival & the Afro Surreal



Ashunda Norris 




I am Ashunda. A country Black girl who loves the ocean, obscure cinema and the star Sirius. Born and raised in the heart of rural, red clay Georgia, my art and mind space imagines Black futures, Black fugitivity and Black womxnhood as a freedom site. I believe in myth and the root as healing. I am a Black feminist, filmmaker, poet, intellectual, arkivist and teacher who enthusiastically answered the journal’s Call to share my work with already free, trying to be free, bout to be free, getting to be free, staying free Black folk.

This writing meditates on the afro surreal and how the avant-garde poetics of Black womxn blow up a colonized, imperialist canon.

Black Women's Avant-Garde Poetics: Politics, Creative Survival & the Afro Surreal  

“What good do your words do if they can't understand you/Don't go talkin' that shit Badu,  Badu” …& On ~Erykah Badu, Mama’s Gun 

In this analysis, I strive to create a way to see Black Women’s avant-garde poetics as  creative survival with an emphasis on the Black female body as spectacle, an inherently political  notion, in a quest to name Afro-surrealism as the lens from which to view the work itself. I aim  to highlight, build from and focus on the experimental poetry of Black women which has been  marginalized in the canon. Unlike a great deal of scholarship on Black experimental poetics, this  reading will not focus on the lack of inclusion in a colonized canon, but instead, will delve into  the notion that Black women’s avant-garde poetics are, of themselves, the canon. An argument  shall be made that the existence of Black women’s avant-garde poetics is a decolonization, a  transmuting of language. This study shall provide a way to see how afro surrealist poetics decenters colonized language and combats madness with an analysis that leaves room for the  ancestral lineage to continue. An exploration of poems, politics and poetics of where I see my  own work belonging in the tradition.  

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