We visited both Etheridge Knight’s archival collections at both the University of Toledo and Butler University and looked through his papers. The publication “Poems from Prison” by Broadside Press was a turning point in Knight’s life as a poet.
We headed up to Indianapolis to discover Etheridge Knight’s story and found a rich community of poets, jazz musicians, and artists where still today keep arts alive and kicking. Carl Hines, poet and jazz musician, let us spend a morning listening to him play and recorded some poems for us.
While in prison Etheridge Knight corresponded with the revered poet Gwendolyn Brooks. In this 1986 talk with Alan Jabbour, director of the Library of Congress’ American Folklore division, and E. Ethelbert Miller, poet and director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University Brook’s shares some background on her life Brooks was the Library of Congress’ 29th consultant in poetry, and tells the story in this program of winning the Pulitzer at age 32, and getting the phone call in the dark because the electric company had cut off their power because they couldn’t afford to pay the bill. She recites “We Real Cool,” a poem she says has lasted because of its “insouciance and staccato effect.”
Waiting for Etheridge Knight when he was released from prison was poet Gwendolen Brooks. Here we share with you the essential Brooks with “We Real Cool.”