Category: Poetry

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

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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/

Northwestern Professor and Poet Natasha Trethewey Wins the $250,000 Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities

Natasha Trethewey (photo via creativeloafing.com)

via jbhe.com

Natasha Trethewey, the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has been selected to receive the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities. The award comes with an unrestricted $250,000 prize. Teresa Heinz, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, stated that Professor Trethewey’s “writing captivates us with its power and its ability to personalize and fearlessly illuminate stories of our past as a people and a nation. We honor her not only for her body of work, but for her contributions as a teacher and mentor dedicated to inspiring the next generation of writers.”

Professor Trethewey is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and three other poetry collections. She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press, 2010). Professor Trethewey served two terms as poet laureate of the United States. A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, Professor Trethewey is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She holds a master’s degree from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Professor Trethewey will be honored with three other Heinz Award winners at a ceremony in Pittsburgh on October 18.

Source: Natasha Trethewey Wins the $250,000 Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

CULTURE: Poet and Activist Nikki Giovanni featured on “On Being with Krista Tippett” Podcast

Nikki Giovanni (Image by Furious Flower Poetry Center / Flickr)

via onbeing.org

Nikki Giovanni was a revolutionary poet of the Black Arts Movement that nourished civil rights. She had a famous dialogue with James Baldwin in Paris in 1971. As a professor at Virginia Tech, she brought beauty and courage by the way of poetry after the shooting there.

Today, she is a self-proclaimed space freak and a delighted elder — an adored voice to hip-hop artists and the new forms of social change this generation is creating.

Check out Ms. Giovanni’s On Being Podcast from August 24, 2017 by clicking below:

Source: Nikki Giovanni — Soul Food, Sex, and Space | On Being

Tracy K. Smith Named New U.S. Poet Laureate by Library of Congress

Tracy K. Smith (Photograph © Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

by Sophia Nguyen via harvardmagazine.com

Tracy K. Smith has been named the new U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress, succeeding Juan Felipe Herrera. While the role doesn’t carry many specific official duties, it has traditionally involved raising awareness of, and increasing access to, poetry. “I am excited about the kinds of social divides that poetry may be able not just to cross but to mend,” Smith said in an interview with the library.

“One of my favorite things in the world is to sit and talk quietly about the things poems cause me to notice and remember, the feelings they teach me to recognize, the deep curiosity about other people’s lives that they foster. I am excited about carrying this conversation beyond literary festivals and university classrooms, and finding ways that poems might genuinely bring together people who imagine they have nothing to say to one another.” Smith has authored four books of poetry, the most recent of which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Her memoir Ordinary Light was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015.

In later chapters, she describes going to Harvard (where she joined the Dark Room Collective) as her mother’s health began to fail. In poetry workshops, she writes, “I had discovered that sitting down with an idea and letting it unfold in words and sounds offered me not just pleasure but an indescribable comfort.” Her new collection, Wade in the Water, comes out next April.

To read full article, go to: Library of Congress names Harvard alumna Tracy K. Smith as new Poet Laureate | Harvard Magazine

Pulitzer Prize Winners: Colson Whitehead, Lynn Nottage, Hilton Als and Tyehiimba Jess Earn Awards for 2017

2017 Pulitzer Prize winners Hilton Als, Colson Whitehead, Lynn Nottage and Tyehimba Jess (photo via mic.com)

article by Sarah A. Harvard via mic.com

The Pulitzer Prize committee announced its 2017 winners at its 101st annual ceremony on Monday. Among the 21 winners of the prestigious literary award, four black writers were commended for their work. BuzzFeed News’ executive editor Saeed Jones tweeted that Tyehimba Jess, Hilton Als, Lynn Nottage and Colson Whitehead were among the new class of winners.

Jess won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Olio, a collection of his sonnets, songs and narratives that highlight the lives of “unrecorded African-American performers” before the Civil War up to World War I.

Nottage won the Pulitzer Prize in drama for her Broadway show Sweat. The play, a political drama, centers on a group of friends who spent most of their lives working with each other in a factory and follows their friendship’s tumultuous friendship as rumors of layoffs begin to stir. According to Playbill, Nottage is the first female playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize twice. Nottage tweeted out thank yous for her award.

Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his 2016 novel The Underground Railroad. The novel tells the story of a teenage heroine, Cora, in 1850s Georgia who tries to escape a cotton plantation and start her journey toward freedom.

Als, a theater critic for the New Yorker, won a Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

Source: 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners: 4 black writers take home the coveted award