University of New Mexico Press title Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn: The Collected Letters, edited by Claudia Moreno Pisano, won the 2014 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature. The PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Awards were created 20 years ago to honor writers of exceptional works often not acknowledged by the mainstream literary community.
Judged by respected writers, the awards honor books published the previous year that both reflect a multicultural or marginalized viewpoint and represent the highest standards of literature. The award ceremony is in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 5, from 1–5 p.m., at the Rockridge Branch Library, 5366 College Avenue.
The letters of avant-garde poets Amiri Baraka (b. 1934) and Edward Dorn (1929–99) offer a vivid picture of American lives connecting around poetry during a tumultuous time of change and immense creativity. From the end of the 1950s through the middle of the 1960s, Baraka and Dorn fostered an intense friendship primarily through correspondence. The early 1960s found both poets just beginning to publish and becoming public figures. Bonding around their commitment to new and radical forms of poetry and culture, Dorn and Baraka created an interracial friendship at precisely the moment when the Civil Rights Movement was becoming a powerful force in national politics. The major premise of the Dorn-Jones friendship as developed through their letters was artistic, but the range of subjects in the correspondence shows an incredible intersection between the personal and the public, providing a schematic map of what was so vital in postwar American culture to those living through it.
Claudia Moreno Pisano is an associate professor of English at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York.
Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn: The Collected Letters is available at bookstores or directly from the University of New Mexico Press. To order, call 800.249.7737 or visit, UNM Press.