Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press
And as I groped in darkness
and felt the pain of millions,
gradually, like day driving night across the continent,
I saw dawn upon them like the sun a vision.
--Dudley Randall, from "Roses and Revolutions"
In 1963, the African American poet Dudley Randall (1914-2000) wrote "The Ballad of Birmingham" in response to the bombing of a church in Alabama that killed four young black girls, and "Dressed All in Pink," about the assassination of President Kennedy. When both were set to music by folk singer Jerry Moore in 1965, Randall published them as broadsides. Thus was born the Broadside Press, whose popular chapbooks opened the canon of American literature to the works of African American writers.
Dudley Randall, one of the great success stories of American small-press history, was also poet laureate of Detroit, a civil-rights activist, and a force in the Black Arts Movement. Melba Joyce Boyd was an editor at Broadside, was Randall's friend and colleague for twenty-eight years, and became his authorized biographer. Her book is an account of the interconnections between urban and labor politics in Detroit and the broader struggles of black America before and during the Civil Rights era. But also, through Randall's poetry and sixteen years of interviews, the narrative is a multipart dialogue between poets, Randall, the author, and the history of American letters itself, and it affords unique insights into the life and work of this crucial figure.
While Wrestling with the Muse is clearly an homage [to Dudley Randall], it doesn't slip into sentimentality or fluff.
As his one-time assistant editor and literary executor, poet and professor Melba Joyce Boyd is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Detroit's late poet laureate.
This is an imaginative work illuminating the life and influence of African American poet and publisher Dudley Randall.
Boyd has penned this definitive biography and celebration of [Randall's] poetry.
Boyd celebrates the life and times of African-American poet Dudley Randall in Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press.... Boyd's sensitive portrait introduces us to a colleague many of us never had the opportunity to know.
[ Wrestling with the Muse]... is a memoir within a memoir capturing not only the life of Randall, one of the greatest success stories in American small press history, but also the history of a turbulent century rife with racial injustice and discrimination.
Boyd provides an intimate and critical examination...along with a valuable study of many of the personal, politcal, and institutional bases of mid-20th-century African American Poetry...Highly recommended.
her book is an engaging and important contribution.. taking its place alongside the autobiographies of Nikki Giovanni and Amiri Baraka and too few others
W. Kim Heron
Muse integrates aesthetics and politics with the vividness of an eyewitness and the conscience of a good journalist.
Kim D. Hunter
This is an indispensable book for anyone interested in American intellectual and cultural history during the second half of the twentieth century, as it recalls the work of an accomplished poet largely missing from contemporary anthologies and convincingly recounts the development and impact of a crucial cultural institution of the black arts-black power era.
James Edward Smethurst, University of Massachusetts
A serious, delightful and unpredictable exursion into the vibrant and volatile social life of Detroit.
Introduction. Wrestling with the MuseBeginnings and EndingsThe Fertile Black Bottom of Paradise ValleyPoets of Black Bottom: Dudley Randall Meets Robert HaydenWar at Home and AbroadThe Return: Poetry and ProphecySojourn and ReturnThe Emergence of the Second Renaissance in Detroit"Ballad of Birmingham'': The Founding of Broadside Press and the Black Arts Movement"Ya Vas Lyubil'': Alexander Pushkin, Dudley Randall, and the Black Russian ConnectionCultural Wars and Civil Wars"Prophets for a New Day'': Diversity and HeritageThe New Black PoetsDudley Randall's Poetic Dialectics and the Black Arts Movement"After the Killing'': Dudley Randall's Black Arts PoetryPoetry as Industry"Shape of the Invisible'': The Rise and Fall of Broadside Press"In the Mourning Time'': The ReturnA Poet Is Not A JukeboxAt Peace with the Muse"The Ascent''EpilogueAppendix I. Translating Poetry into FilmAppendix II. Worksheets for "Frederick Douglass and the Slave Breaker''