Happy Black History Month! Many years ago I wrote my Harlem Renaissance story, “Conjuring Shadows,” to celebrate the movement and shine a light on the queer subculture surrounding that surrounded it. It’s still free to read at Expanded Horizons!
My story “Conjuring Shadows” was inspired by the Harlem Renaissance writer and artist Richard Bruce Nugent. As a writer, Nugent’s work was strongly influenced by modernism. It was highly elliptical and poetic. His most famous piece, “Smoke, Lilies and Jade” is a stream of consciousness mediation on art, racial and sexual identity. “Smoke, Lilies and Jade” is also a pioneering work of black gay writing. Nugent was also a painter and illustrator. His illustration work has the sinister eroticism of Cocteau’s scribbles, and the wicked decadence of Aubrey Beardsley, while his paintings are influenced by the Romantics. Like Oscar Wilde, Nugent also penned retold Biblical tales and myths. Nugent was also born in Washington, DC, like yours truly.