Etheridge Knight often said it is “a valid ambition to want the words you strung together to live on the lips of ordinary people.” Today, four emerging African-American poets echo that sentiment with each line they write. Reginald Dwayne Betts, Randall Horton, Marcus Jackson and John Murillo have come together to form the Symphony. The collective’s name is a nod to Marley Marl and the Juice Crew’s classic posse cut of the same title, which featured Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Craig G and Masta Ace.
These four poets combine their voices into four movements that form one song: a multitudinous story of love, prison, fatherhood and the denizens of cities often absent from American verse. Over the past six months they’ve been conceptualizing and putting together their homage to the work and memory of Etheridge Knight: The House that Etheridge Built. Part lecture, part poetic suite. It is an introduction to the work of Etheridge Knight and an introduction to the voices of his literary descendants; all who aim to have their words live on the lips of ordinary people. Over the past three months The Symphony has read at the University of South Carolina, Chicago State University and Yale University.
About The Symphony’s Members
R Dwayne Betts
R Dwayne Betts has been awarded the 2010 Soros Justice Fellowship and 2010 NAACP Image Award for Literary Debut. A Cave Canem fellow, his poetry and prose has been widely published. HIs memoir, A Question of Freedom, was published by Avery/Penguin in 2009 and in May 2010 Alice James Books will publish his poetry manuscript Shahid Reads His Own Palm, which won the Beatrice Hawley Award.
Marcus Jackson was born in Toledo, Ohio. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Harvard Review, The Cincinnati Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, among many other publications. He has received fellowships from New York University and Cave Canem. His chapbook, Rundown, was recently published by Aureole Press. A professor at Rutgers University, his debut collection of poems, Neighborhood Register, was released in the Fall of 2011.