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Poetry Series: Tyehimba Jess


Poetry Series: Tyehimba Jess

This is a reading and lecture by Tyehimba Jess, presented in collaboration with the Bagley Wright Lecture Series. Jess will read from his latest, Olio, and discuss the genesis and stories behind his poems. The Q&A will be moderated by Anastacia Renee Tolbert, Seattle's Civic Poet.

Born in Detroit, Tyehimba Jess is the author of leadbelly, winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series selected by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, and Olio, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize.

leadbelly, which explores the life and times of the legendary blues musician through a biography in poems, was named one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005” by both Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review, and Publishers Weekly noted that “the collection’s strength lies in its contradictory forms; from biography to lyric to hard-driving prose poem, boast to song, all are soaked in the rhythm and dialect of Southern blues and the demands of honoring one’s talent."

Olio, published last year, presents the stories behind America’s blues, worksongs, and church hymns. The collection weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War, up to World War I, and is an effort to understand how these performers met, resisted, and complicated attempts to minstrelize them.

In addition to his Pulitzer Prize and National Poetry Series award, Jess’s accomplishments include a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award. A former artist-in-residence with Cave Canem, Jess has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, as well as a Lannan Writing Residency.

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