The BreakBeat Poets
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How to Cite

Oler, A. (2024). The BreakBeat Poets: Translocal Placemaking from the Windy City. American Studies, 62(4).


The introduction to the Haymarket Books collection, The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (2015), asserts that the anthologized poems are attentive to the spaces of hip-hop, not just the music. The BreakBeat Poets has been followed by three volumes in the BreakBeat Poets series: Black Girl Magic (2018), Halal if You Hear Me (2019), and LatiNext (2020). Between the publisher, editors, and contributors, this series has deep ties to Chicago and the Midwest, but poems represent experiences and scenes that take place all over the world or are disconnected from place entirely. As a result, none of the volumes can be categorized as simply local, regional, national, or global. This essay argues that the BreakBeat Poets is a translocal project balancing its transnational cultural narrative with the localized placemaking of lyric poetry, particularly by Black, Latinx, and Muslim poets. That the series has such clear links to Chicago but resists explicitly locating itself there acknowledges the complexities of constructing contemporary identity in a single place, particularly one at the center of a sprawling, amorphous region. It unsettles the Midwestern imaginary by showing how translocal histories and experiences are essential to critically examining regional placemaking and identities.

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