The historic long-form poem “Hawk” by South Carolina native Vivian Ayers Allen will be formally published for the first time this year by Clemson University Press. The poem, which was originally self-published by Allen in 1957, is an allegory of freedom made analogous to space flight.
Allen, who just celebrated her 100th birthday, is a native of Chester, S.C. She is a poet, a cultural activist and an American classicist. A 1939 graduate of the historic Brainerd Institute in Chester, she attended Barber-Scotia College and Benedict College. She has received honorary doctorate degrees from Bennett College and Wilberforce University.
Allen is also the author of a poetry collection titled “Spice of Dawns.” “Hawk” earned praise from NASA and enlarged reproductions of the poem are exhibited at their Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“Clemson University Press is honored to publish two new editions of Vivian Ayers Allen’s wonderful poem “Hawk.” Dr. Ayers Allen’s vibrant and evocative writing resonates as well today as it did in 1957, when it foreshadowed the first successes in space travel,” said Clemson University Press Director Alison Mero.
Allen is the mother of actresses Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen. The City of Chester recently held a celebration for Allen’s 100th birthday, where Rashad gave a reading of “Hawk,” with musical accompaniment by the Claflin University Choir. Click here to watch a video of that reading.
In addition to the 100th birthday party in Chester, an event was held in Los Angeles, which included readings by Angela Bassett, Jesse Williams, Alexis Floyd, Norman Nixon Jr. and Debbie Allen and performances by Cory Henry, Brandon O’Neal, Wilkie Ferguson and Emily Carr.
There is also an art exhibit of the original Hawk illustrations by John Biggers and works by three other artist at The Rhimes Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles. The exhibit will be on display through October. Contact the Debbie Allen Dance Academy for appointment (310-202-1711).