The great god Shango in the African sea
reached down with palm oil and oozed out me.
Henry Dumas, “Knees of a Natural Man” (1989)
Dumas’ Rebirth in Word-Deed
Awake as a quake, dreamin’ Henry wrought
Hank into “Ankh,” Dumas into “Samud.” Named
his poems “sabas” & “ikefs,” his friends
“Headeye” & “Jonoah,” his settings “Sweetwater” &
“Harlem,” his vessels “afro-horn” & “soul-
boat,” his heroes “Probe” & “Sun Ra”
& his brothers “Fon” & “cosmic arrows.”
Eugene B. Redmond, “Arkansippi Memwars . . .” (TWP 2013)
Writer Henry Lee Dumas (1934-1968)–whose posthumously published works include “Ark of Bones,” “Jonoah and the Green Stone,” “Knees of a Natural Man” (poems) and “Echo Tree”–would have been 80-years-old today (July 20). Born in Sweet Home (Arkansas), and raised in Harlem from the age of 10, he was a teacher at Southern Illinois University’s Experiment in Higher Education (East St. Louis).
Among his colleagues at EHE were Katherine Dunham, Edward Crosby, Joyce Ladner, Oliver Jackson, Hale Chatfield and yours truly. As literary executor of the Dumas estate (with the consent of his widow, Loretta Dumas), I have received invaluable support from Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin (among scores of others) over the past 46 years. Morrison, who called Dumas “magnetic” and “a genius, an absolute genius,” published his works while an editor at Random House, noting that a “very deserved cult” had grown up around him. One “cult” member, the late Jayne Cortez, referred to collective efforts to keep his work before a reading-listening-studying public as “the Henry Dumas Movement.” The Henry L. Dumas Foundation, whose goal is to create a namesake Library and Cultural Center, has been established in Sweet, Arkansas.
HD is patron saint of the East St. Louis-based EBR Writers Club which turned 28 this year. –EBR