On Painting While Black
The Kent State University Press
Winner of the 2022 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize
Fraternal Light: On Painting While Black is a lyric evocation of the life and work of the great African American artist Beauford Delaney. These poems pay homage to Delaney’s resilience and ingenuity in the face of profound adversity. Although his work never garnered the acclaim it deserves—and is finally receiving—Delaney was well known and highly respected in African American cultural circles, among bohemian writers and artists based in Greenwich Village from the 1930s to the early 1950s, and in Parisian avant-garde and expatriate enclaves from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s.
Drawn to Delaney’s painting and personal history through her emotional response to his work, especially his portraits, Arlene Keizer has crafted a diasporic ceremony of remembrance for this Black, gay male visionary. Fraternal Light offers back an answering complexity to Delaney’s life and work. One form of art calls out; another answers.
Keizer’s poems make the contours and challenges of Delaney’s life visible, which is especially urgent in a world still frequently hostile or indifferent to Black creative brilliance.
Arlene Keizer, an Afro-Caribbean American poet and scholar, writes about the literature, lived experience, theory, and visual art of the African Diaspora. The recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, she is the author of Black Subjects: Identity Formation in the Contemporary Narrative of Slavery, and her poems and articles have appeared in African American Review, American Literature, the Kenyon Review, Poem-a-Day, and TriQuarterly, among others.