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SHERLEY ANNE WILLIAMS
Sherley Anne Williams and Deborah McDowell share their views of the impact of black music, especially rap, on contemporary poetry.
1. What is Williams saying about Black community in "The Black Back-Up"? Why did she choose the refrain for the poem? Can you identify musical elements in the poem?
2. How does she differentiate poetry and fiction? Which is more difficult to write and why?
3. What is her creative process?
4. What is her opinion of rap music? What difference in accountability does she identify between rappers and poets?
Sherley Anne Williams, who has been described as a brilliant critic and moving poet, began writing seriously after she received a bachelor's degree in history from California State University at Fresno in 1966. Her first story, "Tell Martha Not to Moan," was published in 1967 while Williams continued graduate study at Howard University. She earned her master's degree in 1972 from Brown University, where she taught in the Black Studies Program. Her volume of literary criticism, Give Birth to Brightness, was published the same year. Williams is the author of two volumes of poetry titled The Peacock Poems and Some One Sweet Angel Chile. Describing Some One Sweet Angel Chile, she sees it as a "series of self-affirmations, each rooted in a sense of the sisterhood of black women and dealing with some aspect of self-image. Each arises out of a deeper and wider sense of the group experience." Williams often renders that sense of group experience with the poignance and transcendence of the blues. Author of the novel Dessa Rose, she has published several books, as well as stories, criticism and a play. Her children's book Working Cotton is a Caldecott Honor Book. Girls Together, which she coauthored with Varnette P. Honeywood, is due for release in February 1999. Williams currently teaches at the University of California at San Diego.
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