ADAM DAVID MILLER
Keep Sending Love Out
Dices or Black Bones: Black Voices of the Seventies, edited by Adam David Miller.
(Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA: 1970). Illustration by Glenn Myles.
Among the very first modern anthologies of newer African-American poetry, Dices or Black Bones received the California Teachers of English Award for Best Anthology, 1970. This book was precedent setting in several ways. The editor was allowed to control the illustrator and thereby control the cover image, important at the time because so many contemporary publications then used lurid and often violent imagery to depict African-American experiences. Dices, instead, used art that expressed an African sensibility in keeping with the spirit of the movement-era of the early 1970s.
The book premiered poetry by several of the younger Black writers who later became well-known: Al Young, Lucille Clifton, Ishmael Reed, Etheridge Knight, Victor Hernandez Cruz, David Henderson, Conyus, and Clarence Major, as well as many other writers deserving of attention.
Dices challenged the prejudice there was no publishable Black poetry. Publishers had certainly not discovered it, and had not anticipated a market for it. Such thinking excluded Black voices from being heard in anthologies and kept them from potential readers.
The book was unique in how it expressed the Afro-experience without extolling typical ideas of "Blackness," and instead focused on the variety and richness in African-American life in ways that had not been previously explored or chronicled.
from the Introduction to Dices
black poets come from everywhere, have been everywhere, have
as they will tell you
poets rapping, cutting, singing
of love, of lust, of ambition;
of being black, pained, proud;
to be all that, absorb all that return all that
Listen to them and as you listen to them, try to hear the music they heard
These are not poems anybody could have written, nor would any poet here be pleased by such praise. Merely because each line these poets write does not declaim the 'blackness' of the poet in the by now highly stylized manner expected of them, it does not mean that the poets are not writing out of an Afro experience, that is, black life in the U.S., which provides more in common than otherwise, They are writing out of such experience. What may throw the pre-set is the diversity and complexity of such experience, its richness, its variety . . .
all that talent was there all this time
What passes for most criticism today is bad news. Baaad news. Too shallow. Assertion, assertion. Ego-tripping at the expense of poets. Too little scholarship, meaning too much ignorance.
Our thanks to the forerunners.
Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, LeRoi Jones. Hughes and Miss Brooks for their production and the exacting standards they set. Miss Brooks and Jones for their teaching, their help to younger and newer poets. Etheridge Knight, in a poem of praise, says that Miss Brooks' verses "stir us on to search for light." Jones for his production and his courage. The one U.S. poet in this century jailed for what a judge said was the content of his verse.
And to those who created places for the work to be presented. Joe Goncalves with The Journal of Black Poetry, David Henderson with Umbra Anthology, Abdul Karim and Edward S. Spriggs with Black Dialogue, Donald Freeman with Soul Book, David Rambeau and Willie Thomas with The Black Arts Quarterly, Al Young with Loveletter, Tom Dent with Blkartsouth, countless others unknown who with a mimeographed sheet here or there, a broadside, a throwaway, a small press or underground sheet provided a place. To Julian Richardson with Marcus Books in San Francisco where you can read and rap, and who prints your stuff cheap. To Hoyt Fuller with Negro Digest, which for nearly two decades has provided a free forum for many points of view.
It is no accident that besides the musicians, the earliest Afro artists to establish themselves were the poets, because poems are songs and Afro audiences have always been close to song. During U.S. slavery and for some time after, the Anglo did not permit the Afro to learn to read or write, so the Afro's art had to be transmitted by ear. And so in the poems that follow, the reader should be aware of music. Play some black music before reading, play some while reading, keep it in the head . . . listen. . .
Dices has not been on the market, except on rare-book websites, and at the occasional yard sale. Look for it online. We hope in the future, there will be interest in bringing it back into print in an expanded and updated edition, with a new introduction.
Poems from Dices
The Distant Drum
by Calvin C. Hernton
I am not a metaphor or symbol.
This you hear is not the wind in the trees.
Nor a cat being maimed in the street.
It is I being maimed in the street.
It is I who weep, laugh, feel pain or joy.
I speak this because I exist.
This is my voice.
These words are my words, my mouth
Speaks them, my hand writes --
I am a poet.
It is my fist you hear beating
Against your ear.
by Etheridge Knight
Night Music Slanted
Light strike the cave
of sleep. I alone
tread the red circle
and twist the space
Come now, etheridge, don't
be a saviour; take
your words and scrape
the sky, shake rain
on the desert, sprinkle
salt on the tail
of a girl,
can there anything
good come out of