Archive Provides Incomparable Record of the Contemporary African American Poetry Community
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University has acquired the records of Cave Canem Foundation, among the nation’s most influential organizations supporting African American poetry.
“The Cave Canem archive is an incomparable record of the African American poetry community over the past two decades,” says Nancy Kuhl, curator of poetry for the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Library. “We welcome the opportunity to both serve the Cave Canem community as steward and caretaker of its archival record, and to collaborate as partners in preserving and promoting the archive for future poets, readers, students, and scholars.”
Poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady founded Cave Canem in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in MFA programs and writing workshops. The organization has become an influential movement with a renowned faculty and a national fellowship of nearly 400 poets. Its programs include an annual weeklong writing retreat, book prizes, community-based workshops, publications and national readings.
“Our records chart the growth of Cave Canem the community and Cave Canem the organization, and also tell the story of a rapidly changing literary landscape,” says Cave Canem’s executive director Alison Meyers. “Our hope is that the archive will help illuminate the essential contributions of contemporary Black poets to American art and thought. We’re very pleased that Cave Canem’s history will live on in the Beinecke’s James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection, a fitting home.”
Cave Canem Foundation archive, which approximately covers from 1997 to 2012, contains paper and digital office files and records, including correspondence, financial reports, and operational materials documenting such activities as fundraising, governance, programming, and publication projects. As part of The James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters, the archive will join a world-class collection of materials documenting African American arts and culture.
“Since its inception, Cave Canem has been a pioneering force in shaping contemporary African American letters,” says Jacqueline Goldsby, Yale professor of English and acting chair of the Department of African American Studies. “Its records are an important and exciting resource for innovative research and scholarship in African American literature and culture of the late 20th century and beyond. I can’t wait for our literature faculty and students to teach with and write about these archives.”
The Beinecke Library has also recently acquired the archives of Cave Canem co-founder Cornelius Eady, an award-winning poet, dramatist, and literary activist. Eady’s papers document his literary life and activities, his creative practice, and his social engagement with arts communities. The collection includes drafts of poetry and prose, working manuscripts, and notes associated with all major published work; and correspondence with editors, collaborators, and fellow poets.
Derricotte and Eady will give a reading at the Beinecke on Thursday, Oct. 9, at 4 p.m. The event is cosponsored Yale’s Department of African American Studies and the Yale Collection of American Literature.