Words of [Poetic] Wisdom: Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen (1903-1946), 'Epitaphs', Poetry Magazine (July 1925)

Countee Cullen (1903-1946), ‘Epitaphs’, Poetry Magazine (July 1925)

As a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance, poet Countee Cullen’s insisted that art should eclipse race and function as a vehicle for equality, not dichotomy:

If I am going to be a poet at all, I am going to be POET and not NEGRO POET. This is what has hindered the development of artists among us. Their one note has been the concern with their race. That is all very well, none of us can get away from it. I cannot at times. You will see it in my verse. The consciousness of this is too poignant at times. I cannot escape it. But what I mean is this: I shall not write of negro subjects for the purpose of propaganda. That is not what a poet is concerned with. Of course, when the emotion rising out of the fact that I am a negro is strong, I express it. But that is another matter. [Brooklyn Eagle (10 Feb. 1924)]

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