Sunday, May 13, 2012
Poet Allen Polite
I first saw the name Allen Polite in an old issue of Yugen, that great little mag edited by LeRoi Jones and Hettie Jones. Years passed before I saw the name in print again, by which time LeRoi Jones had become Amiri Baraka. If you read Baraka's autobiography, you'll learn that the young Jones regarded Polite as one of his early mentors. Aside from a few magazine appearances and anthologies such as Sixes and Sevens, though, Polite sightings were all too rare, and the poetry was as much an elusive legend as was the poet himself. I knew that he had been married in early years to the remarkable novelist Carlene Hatcher Polite, whose book The Flagellants is still an amazing work crying out for critical attention. We often heard about Allen Polite. Trumpeter Bill Dixon included a composition titled "Ritratto Di Allen Polite" on his collection Papyrus.
Now, thanks to Polite's widow, Helen, and the good work of Maryemma Graham and her colleagues at the Univeristy of Kansas, Polite's major works of poetry are available for new generations of readers. For more information about Allen Polite, navigate to the website for the collection of his papers at the University of Connecticut at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/Polite/MSS20100117.html
You will also find more information at the History of Black Writing Project at the University of Kansas.