Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tyehimba Jess's Olio and contemporary African American poetry

Tyehimba Jess's remarkable book Olio didn't come out of thin air. In addition to emerging from Leadbelly and Jess's extensive scholarship and artistry, the book connects to a wide range of contemporary volumes of poetry.  As I reflected on Olio, I thought about several books from the past several years that got me to this point. Books like:
2008 - Patricia Smith's Blood Dazzler
2009 - Rita Dove's Sonata Mulattica
2009 - Marilyn Nelson's A Wreath for Emmett Till
2010 - Elizabeth Alexander's Crave Radiance
2011 - Nikky Finney's Head Off & Split
2011 - Evie Shockley's the new black
2012 - Lucille Clifton's The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010
2012 - Monica Hand's me and Nina
2012 - Reginald Flood's Coffle
2012 - Patricia Smith's Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah
2013 - Jason McCall's Dear Hero,
2013 - Adrian Matejka's The Big Smoke
2013 - Frank X. Walker's Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Ever
2013 - Reginald Harris's Autogeography
2013 - A. Van Jordan's Cineaste
2014 - Marilyn Nelson's How I Discovered Poetry
2015 - Major Jackson's Roll Deep
2015 - Amiri Baraka's S O S: Poems 1961-2013
2015 - Robin Coste Lewis's Voyage of the Sable Venue
2015 - Treasure Shields Redmond's chop: a collection of kwansabas for fannie lou hamer
 In small and large ways, those books paved the way for me to absorb Olio in the ways that I've have. Some sonnet sequences here. Some thoughtfulness about design there. Persona poems over here. Those ongoing engagements with black histories, everywhere. All those things seemed to be working on my mind as I thought about ways that Jess's new book entered and began reshaping the networks.   

A Notebook on Tyehimba Jess
Tyehimba Jess and the outstanding Olio

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