Praise Songs for Dave the Potter
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Praise Songs for Dave the Potter

Art and Poetry for David Drake

Edited by P. Gabrielle Foreman

Foreword by Kwame Dawes

Introduction by P. Gabrielle Foreman

Afterword by Evie Shockley

Title Details

Pages: 248

Illustrations: 48 color and b&w images

Trim size: 8.500in x 10.500in



Pub Date: 01/15/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6249-6

List Price: $34.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Sarah Mills Hodge Fund

Praise Songs for Dave the Potter

Art and Poetry for David Drake

Edited by P. Gabrielle Foreman

Foreword by Kwame Dawes

Introduction by P. Gabrielle Foreman

Afterword by Evie Shockley

The artistic legacy of one of the most innovative and creative Black artists of the nineteenth century

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Contributors

David Drake is recognized as one of the United States’ most accomplished nineteenth-century potters. Yet, though his pots—many inscribed with original verse—sit in museums across the nation, he is too often passed over when considering the early foundations of African American poetry. Born in South Carolina at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Drake produced hundreds of pieces while under the surveillance of the enslavers who claimed him and his work as their property. Still, asserts P. Gabrielle Foreman, he is perhaps the only Black person in all of the free or slave states whose literary work was preserved in neither books nor pamphlets nor newspapers. His pots and jars served as pages as well as ceramic vessels.

This book examines how Drake’s pottery and poetry have inspired visual artists and poets who claim him as an artistic ancestor. It features the Sir Dave (1998) series by artist Jonathan Green, including thirteen paintings that have never been exhibited or published together before. Accompanying and in dialogue with Green’s paintings is a twenty-poem cycle called All My Relation (2015) by Glenis Redmond.

Praise Songs includes the editor’s interview of Redmond and Green and essays by Redmond, Foreman, and Lynnette Young Overby, the artistic director of a 2014 collaboration and performance featuring both Green’s and Redmond’s work. As one of the first volumes to focus on David Drake’s legacy as a writer, it also includes an updated compilation of all of his poetic inscriptions. This volume presents the artistic legacy of one of the most well-known Black potters, and one of the most innovative and underappreciated enslaved poets, of the nineteenth century.

Through the glorious and brilliant words of the artists who came after him, Dave the Potter is remembered. Praise Songs for Dave the Potter is a long overdue love letter to one of the few enslaved folks whose art made it into this moment in time. It is a calling to the ones whose work got lost in the plunder of Black bodies. It is an ode. A ‘because of you, we are.’ A nod to Black genius. A prayer.

—Jacqueline Woodson, author of the National Book Award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming

P. Gabrielle Foreman’s Praise Songs for Dave the Potter is a glorious exploration and reclamation of the work of a poet and master artisan whose influence can be measured, not only in the beauty and richness of his own pieces, but as a present and vibrant ancestor inspiring new work. In a highlight of this book, Foreman brings together Glenis Redmond and Jonathan Green and places them in conversation, illuminating the life and work of David Drake to restore his legacy to our collective imagination. In this volume, one of the first to give equal weight to his writing and his vessels, Foreman has given us a praiseworthy work that is both timely and necessary.

—Natasha Trethewey, nineteenth Poet Laureate of the United States

This book is a unique compendium of contemporary art, poetry, performance, and scholarship inspired by the life and works of David Drake, AKA Dave the Potter, an enslaved artist and poet in antebellum South Carolina. Historically rich and artistically inviting, the book is sure to be of interest to readers seeking to explore how Dave's experiences and artistic creations continue to resonate with contemporary practitioners and audiences.

—Rebecca Zorach, Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History, Northwestern University

With Praise Songs for Dave the Potter, P. Gabrielle Foreman and her collaborators have conceived an innovative and necessary work of art and scholarship. . . . This volume is essential.

—Shelly Jarenski, author of Immersive Words: Mass Media, Visuality, and National Literature, 1839-1893

Praise Songs for Dave the Potter explores David Drake's legacy in contemporary poetry, visual art, and performance, presenting art as a means of animating the historical record.

—Rachel C. Kirby, The Journal of Southern History

Jonathan Green

Glenis Redmond

Lynette Young Overby

About the Author/Editor

P. GABRIELLE FOREMAN is a poet’s daughter and interdisciplinary scholar raised on the southside of Chicago and Venice Beach, California. She is the author or editor of five books, including The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century. She is the founding director of the Colored Conventions Project and professor of English, African American studies, and history at Penn State University, where she holds the Paterno Family Chair of Liberal Arts and co-directs the Center for Black Digital Research/#DigBlk.