This creative-critical PhD research will combine analysis with creative writing in a study of formulations of blackness in contemporary art and poetry, together with the production of a new collection of thematically linked poetry-prose work entitled ‘Annotations’.
The general question proposed by this thesis is: ‘In what ways do portrayals of black people in contemporary art and in poetry converge?’ What are the literary instruments and the linguistic motifs that poets employ and what are the artistic techniques and methods that artists use to ‘picture blackness?’ How are black women poets and black women artists picturing blackness? This will lead to more specific enquiries such as ‘what meanings do representations of black people in art evoke?’, ‘what is black ekphrasis?’ and ‘how are poetic instruments and artistic techniques being used to define and describe blackness?’
Here is an excerpt from my recent dissertation that led to these questions:
‘I am aware that much of my work as a black woman poet unpacking and engaging with representational idioms of blackness often necessitates paying close attention to myriad other forms of blackness - pictured blackness and all types of physical black ‘stuff’. As a child I remember reading Mistress Masham’s Repose and feeling particularly pleased that the (white) protagonist had ‘marmite coloured’ eyes, not only because marmite is a black-brown substance but also because I too have marmite-coloured eyes.’
These types of recognitions have spawned a form of oblique, meta-lingual engagement with blackness in the work of contemporary black writers that often involves a lexicon that is rich, subliminal, often sensory, restorative and multi-layered – ‘black-subtextual’ if you will. The research may touch upon raciolinguistics, ebonics, the links between the poetic line and the drawn line, prosopopoeia (voicing the dead) as black literary instrument as well as explore ‘visual literary’ as thematic.