Al Young, Tyrone Williams, and William J. Harris joined Al Filreis in the Wexler Studio to discuss Young and his work. The conversation covered the relationship between Young’s poetry and the Black Arts Movement, the role of music and jazz in his writing, and other figures with whom he was acquainted, such as poets Ishmael Reed and Bob Kaufman. Young spoke of his time at Stanford, where he met Harris; of having resided in various parts of the country; and of the role of writing about lived experiences beyond writing about writing. Young also gave readings of some of his poems: “A Dance for Militant Dilettantes,” “Yes, the Secret Mind Whispers” (which was written in honor of Kaufman), and “January.”
This interview tracks my genesis and early development as a poet and intellectual. My artistic and cultural education occurs during the late ’50s, the ’60s and the early ’70s and takes place primarily in and around academic institutions: the liberal college, Antioch, which is in my hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and the nearby black state university, Central State, in Wilberforce, and the story, if not exactly concluding, comes to “a momentary stay against confusion” at Stanford University in Northern California where I did my MA in creative writing and a PhD in English.