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“Poet Etheridge Knight Discusses Life of Writing” - December 20, 1986

This clipping comes from weekly Black newspaper New Pittsburgh Courier, December 20, 1986. The New Pittsburgh Courier, founded in 1966, is named after the original Pittsburgh Courier (1907-1965), one of the largest Black newspapers in the United States.

In this interview, Knight says that meeting Gwendolyn Brooks as a mentor and friend helped him find concision, and he began to receive acceptance letters from editors soon after. He was accepted into a society (or community) of poetry that began to offset his rejection by society because of his disappearance into the penitentiary for his crimes and addiction, and his rejection outside of prison “‘because of the existence of institutionalized racism’” he experienced as a Black man.

For Knight, poetry was, through the sharing and speaking of experiences and feelings, a “psychological freeing or liberation” from his loneliness, his (former) carceral status, and his experience of antiblack racism. He became free, then, to reclaim and find other communities, from his start with the toast telling oral tradition to the arts and poetry communities of cities like Pittsburgh or Indianapolis.

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