Category: Poetry

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove Wins $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award From Academy of American Poets

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, received the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, according to jbhe.com. The award is given annually to recognize “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.” Established in 1994, the award comes with a $100,000 prize.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1987 for Thomas and Beulah, Dove also served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995. She is the only poet to receive the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts.

Dove has published 10 collections of poetry including her latest book Collected Poems, 1974-2004 (2016). In addition to poetry, Dove has published a book of short stories and the novel Through the Ivory Gate (1992).

Dove is a summa cum laude graduate of Miami University in Ohio, where she majored in English.  She holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa, and joined the faculty at the University of Virginia in 1989.

Maya Angelou and Rupaul to be Inducted into State of California Hall Of Fame

California Hall of Fame Inductees Maya Angelou, Rupaul

Author Maya Angelou and performer/television series host RuPaul are among the inductees for the 2019 class of California Hall of Fame, according to sfgate.com.

California’s governor Gavin Newsom and his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom announced the inductees on Wednesday.

The class includes civil rights leader James M. Lawson Jr., actor and comedian George Lopez, soccer player and two-time World Cup champion Brandi Chastain, skateboarder and entrepreneur Tony Hawk,  chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, astrophysicist France A. Córdova, author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston,and winemaker Helen M. Turley.

The class will be inducted during a ceremony on December 10. The California Hall of Fame started in 2006 and inductees are selected each year by the governor and first partner.

Read more: https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Maya-Angelou-RuPaul-among-California-Hall-of-14832054.php

John Warner Smith Appointed Poet Laureate of Louisiana, 1st Black Man to Hold the Position

John Warner Smith (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to jbhe.com, professor and writer John Warner Smith has been appointed by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the state’s Governor, John Bel Edwards, to serve as the next Poet Laureate of Louisiana. This appointment makes Smith the first African American man to hold the position.

“John Warner Smith’s writing captures the human experience through meaningful, passionate poetry that moves your emotions. John is not only a talented and gifted poet, he is a trailblazer who devotes himself to education and the greater good of the community,” Gov. Edwards said.

“He is making history today as the first African American male appointed as Louisiana Poet Laureate, and I’m confident that John will serve our great state well. I want to thank the LEH for leading this search, and I congratulate all of the nominees whose writings tell the unique stories of Louisiana, the place we call home.”

Currently, Smith teaches English at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has published four collections of poetry: Muhammad’s Mountain (Lavender Ink, 2018), Spirits of the Gods (University of Louisiana Lafayette Press, 2017), Soul Be A Witness (MadHat Press, 2016), and A Mandala of Hands (Kelsay Books-Aldrich Press, 2015). His fifth collection, Out Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in Americais forthcoming this year from MadHat Press.

Read more: https://www.jbhe.com/2019/08/john-warner-smith-is-the-first-black-male-poet-laureate-for-the-state-of-louisiana/

Jeffrey C. Stewart, Elizabeth Acevedo and more Authors of Color Sweep National Book Awards

“The Poet X” and “The New Negro: The Life of Alaine Locke” cover art

by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

The National Book Foundation announced Thursday that five literary works by writers of color earned all of its 2018 National Book Awards. Here are the winning novels and collections, as noted on the foundation’s website:

Fiction: “The Friend,” by Sigrid Nunez. The novel explores a woman’s grief after her best friend and mentor dies and leaves her his Great Dane.

Nonfiction: “The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke,” by Jeffrey C. Stewart. The Black studies scholar chronicles the life and relationships of the first African-American Rhodes Scholar and Harlem Renaissance leader.

Poetry: “Indecency,” by Justin Phillip Reed. This collection features several poems of varying forms that explore incarceration, White supremacy, masculinity and other social and racial justice issues.

Translated Literature: “The Emissary,” by Yoko Tawada and translated from original Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani. This novel takes place in Japan, after a major disaster prompts the country to isolate itself from the world. In this society, children like Mumei are born frail, while elderly people like his great-grandfather Yoshiro have the energy to care for the youth. “The Emissary” follows the pair’s day-to-day activities and fun in the face of dystopia.

Young People’s Literature: “The Poet X,” by Elizabeth Acevedo. A Dominican-American teenage girl navigates adolescence, crushes, harassment and her Harlem community while finding her voice through slam poetry.

Source: Authors of Color Sweep National Book Awards

Duke University Instructor Jaki Shelton Green Becomes 1st African American Woman to be Named North Carolina’s Poet Laureate

Jaki Shelton Green (photo via Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University)

via jbhe.com

Jaki Shelton Green, an instructor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, was named the ninth poet laureate of the state of North Carolina. She is the third woman and the first African American to hold the position.

In making the announcement of Green’s appointment, North Carolina Governor Roy Copper said that “Jaki Shelton Green brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities to her role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature. Jaki’s appointment is a wonderful new chapter in North Carolina’s rich literary history.”

In 2014, Green was inducted into the state’s Literary Hall of Fame and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2009, she served as the North Carolina Piedmont Laureate. In 2016, Green served as the writer-in-Residence at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina.

Green has penned eight books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies, and written one play. Her poetry collections include Dead on Arrival (Carolina Wren Press, 1983) and Breath of the Song (Carolina Wren Press, 2005).

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/07/the-first-african-american-poet-laureate-of-the-state-of-north-carolina/

Langston Hughes Documentary, ‘I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled’ to Explore His Life & Work

Scholars and directors of I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled, Darren Canady, award-winning playwright, and Randal Maurice Jelks, award-winning Professor of American Studies and African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas, recently spoke with Black Perspectives about their forthcoming film, which is slated for a 2020 release.

“Our film project is built off the work that my colleague Maryemma Graham did back in 2002 at the University of Kansas (KU),” Canaday and Jelks said to Black Perspectives contributor and University of Kansas PhD candidate, Imani A. Wadud. “At the time, she organized the Langston Hughes Centennial Celebration, a conference that featured many distinguished writers, scholars, and actors, including Alice Walker, Danny Glover, and Farah Jasmine Griffin.”

“As a fellow Kansan, I’ve always believed that Hughes desperately loved everyday Black folks,” Canaday, Associate Professor of English at the University of Kansas, said when asked about how Hughes workmanship in relationship to the black public. “You see it time and again in his writing; who he spoke to and for, who he moved among during his everyday life. He loved regular Black folks. Sometimes we forget how revolutionary it still is to focus time and energy on the Black working class.”

Jelks added that I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled is also ushered by music from hip-hop, blues and R&B.

Also, Black Perspectives contributor and PhD candidate at Brown University, N’Kosi Oates penned an excellent review of Wallace D Best’s Langston’s Salvation: American Religion and the Bard of Harlem, which examines how religion affected Hughes literary work.

Read both, Wadud’s and Oates articles over at Black Perspectives by clicking here and here, respectively.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/06/langston-hughes-i-too-sing-america-langston-hughes-unfurled/

A New Generation of African-American-Owned Bookstores; Numbers No Longer in Decline

Mahogany Books opens in Washington D.C. (photo via publishersweekly.com)

by Alex Green via publishersweekly.com

When Troy Johnson began tracking the number of black-owned bookstores in the U.S. in 1999, there were more than 325. By 2014, that number had dwindled to 54, a decline of 83%.

“They were closing left and right, and the major ones were struggling,” said Johnson, who runs the African American Literature Book Club, an online book database. Today, Johnson estimates, there are at least 108 black-owned independent stores, a number of which have opened in the past six months, marking a substantial reversal. “Last year was the first year I added more stores to the list than I took away,” he noted.

The surge in black-owned indie bookstores is notable at a time when both bookselling and publishing are wrestling with issues of workforce diversity.

Ramunda and Derrick Young, wife-and-husband owners of the newly opened MahoganyBooks, looked for a physical location for years, but a wave of gentrification in Washington, D.C., left them with few promising options. That changed in early 2017, when they found a location in the Anacostia Arts Center, in the historically African-American neighborhood of Anacostia in Southeast D.C. Ramunda, a former general books manager of the Howard University Bookstore, said opening a store was a logical step toward diversifying the couple’s business after having run a books website serving predominately African-American readers for a decade.

MahoganyBooks opened in February and is the first bookstore in Anacostia in 20 years. The 500-sq.-ft. store has an adjacent events space for large readings. With tablets for readers to locate books online while they browse, the store fulfills the couple’s vision of “a bookstore 2.0,” Derrick said.

“Bookstore 2.0” is shorthand for the Youngs’ effort to integrate the physical store and the long-standing digital operation, creating independent sources of revenue that stand alone but point to one another. In-store technology points to the website, and the website now points to the physical store’s events. “We thought, if there were another big crazy economic downturn, how would we prepare ourselves so that we would have multiple streams of income?” Derrick said.

Opening the bookstore is also a homecoming. Derrick’s grandmother lived in Anacostia when he was a child, and he frequented the neighborhood’s black-owned bookstores. He later worked at the black-owned Karibu booksellers with Ramunda. Speaking about himself and Ramunda, he paid tribute to those earlier stores: “We were both kind of nurtured in that way. We both made an effort to be mentored and to understand the experience that readers want when they come into a bookstore.”

When forensic anthropology professor Christina Benton opened Janco Books in Las Vegas in October 2017, readers asked if she would model her store after Native Son, a neighborhood African-American specialty bookstore that closed in 2008. Benton expanded the store’s African-American section, but she said her interest is in catering to as broad a community as possible. “It’s a general bookstore owned by an African-American person,” she said. With a selection of new and used books, Janco caters most of all to families that homeschool in the area. “They buy the most, because they need to have the resources,” Benton said.

In Brooklyn’s rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights neighborhood, a general bookstore is as far from what Afro-Latina owner Kalima Desuze and her Caribbean husband, Ryan Cameron, wanted to open when they launched the Afro-feminist Cafe Con Libros in late December. Desuze, a retired U.S. Army JAG corps member with master’s degrees in social work and public administration, grew up in Prospect Place and credits her trajectory in life to reading feminist African and African-American authors.

“A lot of the reason why I opened up the store is because feminism has not always been the province of women of color,” Desuze said. “Part of my challenge as a black woman, calling my bookstore a feminist bookstore, is that some black women do not identify with the word feminism. But if they took the time to explore they would discover that they are already living it.”

To read more, go to: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/76545-a-new-generation-of-african-american-owned-bookstores.html

Malachi Jones, 17, Wins Prestigious $10,000 Scholastic Art & Writing Award for 2018

Teen Wins Prestigious Writing Award That Stephen King, Capote, and Other Famous Writers Won
Malachi Jones (Charleston County School of the Arts Middle & High School)

Malachi Jones, the 17-year-old wunderkind who is heading to Columbia University this fall, has been awarded a Gold Medal Portfolio, the highest honor of the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards presented by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

The high school senior, who attends the Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston, South Carolina, says he greeted the news, which he received by phone, with a “loud silence.”

“I felt like a siren was going off inside my head, but I was speechless,” Malachi is quoted as saying in a Charleston Chronicle article. “I had been submitting work to Scholastic since 7th grade, so it is insane to me to think an audience outside my family and peers wants to read and appreciate my work.”

The honor includes a scholarship of $10,000.

Malachi has joined a prestigious group of former youth winners, now all household names, including Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, and Stephen King, according to the Post and Courier website.

None of them, however, have grappled in their writing with the constraints of race in the arresting way Malachi has. According to the Post and Courier, Malachi has rejected the trope of the stereotypical black man and instead chosen to forge his own way of being black in the world.

The article states, “Jones’s award-winning work—a collection of lyric essays and free-verse poems—revolves around his experience as a black teenager struggling with and finally coming to terms with his identity.

“In a poem titled ‘Pantoum for my Mother,’ Jones writes, ‘Stripped of my blackness, / uprooted by judgement. / I was never dark enough for you / or for the ones who called me whitewashed.’

“It’s about the questions and judgment he endures from both his white and black peers for not fitting the stereotypical ‘formula of a black male.’”

According to the Poetry Foundation, a pantoum is a Malaysian verse form.

To read more: http://www.blackenterprise.com/17-year-old-wins-prestigious-writing-honor-10k-scholarship/

Scholars Lorna Goodison, John Keene, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Suzan-Lori Parks to Receive $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prizes From Yale University

via jbhe.com

Lorna G (photo via tallawahmagazine.com)

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University has announced the eight winners of this year’s Windham-Campbell Prizes in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. Each winner will receive a $165,000 prize at an international literary festival at Yale in September.

Four of the eight winners of this year Windham-Campbell Prizes are Black. Three have ties to academic institutions in the United States.

Lorna Goodison, a winner of a poetry prize, is a professor emerita at the University of Michigan, where she served as the Lemuel A. Johnson Professor of English and African and Afro-American studies. She currently serves as poet laureate of the nation of Jamaica. Professor Goodison has published 13 collections of poetry including Supplying Salt and Light (McClelland & Stewart, 2013).

John Keenes (photo via vice.com)

John Keene, a professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark is the recipient of a Windham-Campbell Prize in the fiction category. He is the author of the short story collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015) and the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995). Professor Keene received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master of fine arts degree from New York University.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (photo via lareviewofbooks.com)

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, a native of Uganda who now lives in England, won a prize in the fiction category. Her debut novel Kintu (Transit Books, 2014) tells the parallel stories of the fall of a cursed bloodline—the titular Kintu clan—and the rise of modern Uganda. Dr. Makumbi earned a Ph.D. in African literature from Lancaster University in England. She has taught creative writing at several universities in the United Kingdom.

Suzan-Lori Parks

Suzan-Lori Parks won an award in the drama category. She is a professor of creative writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Parks is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She is a former MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” winner. Professor Parks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her play “Topdog/Underdog.” In addition to her plays, Parks is the author of the novel Getting Mother’s Body (2003).

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/03/four-black-scholars-to-receive-165000-windham-campbell-prizes-from-yale-university/

CUNY Professor Patricia Smith Wins the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Patricia Smith is the 2018 winner of the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for her collection “Incendiary Art: Poems.” (Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

via jbhe.com

Patricia Smith, who teaches in the English department at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York System, has been selected to receive the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. The award, which comes with a $100,000 prize, is given annually by Claremont Graduate University in California to a poet who “is past the very beginning but not yet reached the pinnacle of his or her career.” The $100,000 prize is the largest in the world for a single volume of poetry.

Professor Smith was honored for her poetry collection Incendiary Art: Poems (Northwestern University Press, 2017), which explores tragedy and grief in black communities across America. It is her eighth published poetry collection.

Professor Smith was a finalist for the Neustadt Prize, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history.

Smith will receive the award April 19 at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The award is one of the largest annual monetary prizes given to a single book of poetry by a mid-career poet, according the Kingsley Tufts website. The award was established at Claremont in 1993 by Kate Tufts to honor her husband, an executive in Los Angeles-area shipyards who also wrote and published poetry.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/02/patricia-smith-wins-the-100000-kingsley-tufts-poetry-award/