Performing the Word offers readers of African American poetry a way of understanding and appreciating body of work that has received little critical attention. While African American literary tradition begins with eighteenth-century poets like Lucy Terry, Jupiter Hammon, and Phillis Wheatley, critical discussions of African American Poetry have been sparse. Aside from a few studies of "major" poets, such as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, Rita Dove, or period histories of phenomena such as the Harlem Renaissance, there has been little sustained critical inquiry into African American poetry as a body of literature- until now.
Fahamista Patricia Brown examines elements of African American expressive culture- its language practices, both fold and popular. Her book is an excellent introduction to a diverse group of poets and the common basis of their work in language practices and performativity, in the expressive culture of a people. Performing the Word is an important contribution to the understanding of African American culture and American poetry as a whole.