Teaching Brathwaite without a text

Jacob Edmond, editor of PennSound’s extensive Kamau Brathwaite author page, has published an essay on teaching Brathwaite without a text — by doing close listening through the audio archive. “This essay demonstrates the utility of this close listening approach by taking advantage of the digital platform of archipelagos journal to interweave its text with Brathwaite’s recorded voice.” Here is a paragraph from the essay, one in which Edmond mentions the poets recording of the poem “Negus,” which was the topic of the episode of PoemTalk in which Edmond and two others discussed in detail the performance of that poem:

Through close listening, students encounter rich examples of Brathwaite’s versioning and rearrangement of poems. “The Rwanda Poems,” for instance, exists, in a published version under that name, only as an audio recording of a 1994 performance, although the closely related cycle “Rwanda” appears in print as part 3 of “New Gods of the Middle Passages” in Brathwaite’s 2001 Kamau Monograph. In the “New Gods” version, however, not all of “The Rwanda Poems” falls into the “Rwanda” section, and the poems are reordered and arranged alongside additional poems and other print material. The performed cycle “The Rwanda Poems” is itself an amalgam of poems from The Arrivants, including “Negus” and part of “Caliban,” and newer work, again reflecting Brathwaite’s practice of refashioning his existing material. In the recording of “The Rwanda Poems,” Brathwaite explains how his versioning practice includes both his Sycorax video-style and his performances. He describes how the poems “are layered or interfaced with some earlier material . . . to create another effect from that earlier material.”