At least I'll see Thomas Sayers Ellis in New York. He is joining me and Yusef Komunyakaa for a reading to celebrate the redesign & release of American Poet on Thursday, April 26 at the DUMBO powerHouse Arena. With that lineup, it's gonna be epic.
Anyway, back to DC and April 30. A funny thing has happened ...Tracy K. Smith won the Pulitzer for Life on Mars. Go Tracy! So not only is this the place to be, you better get your tickets in advance. If you want a sneak peek of what you might expect, here's a report from their initial reunion reading in Chicago.
O.B. Hardison Poetry Series presents
“Nothing Personal: The Dark Room Collective Reunion Reading Tour”
Renowned African American Poets Look Back on 25 years
(WASHINGTON, DC) The O.B. Hardison Poetry Series at the Folger Shakespeare Library presents an evening of poetry with The Dark Room Collective on Monday, April 30 at 6:30pm. Nothing Personal features Collective members Tisa Bryant, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Major Jackson, John Keene, Tracy K. Smith, Sharan Strange, Natasha Trethewey, and Kevin Young. In 1996 The New Yorker deemed them “…a group that could turn well out to be as important to American letters as the Harlem Renaissance.” The evening will also include a discussion moderated by Meta DuEwa Jones and a reception with book sales and signing. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7.50 for students and may be purchased at Folger box office, 202.544.7077, or online at www.folger.edu/poetry.
Founded in Boston in 1987 by Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharan Strange, The Dark Room Collective began as an informal community of African American poets. Poet and member Major Jackson described the Collective as “a group of aspiring black writers and artists who spanned outwards with large arms to embrace any black writer who had a sophistication and commitment to art and artfulness.” The group has gone on to distinguished careers, winning awards and marking literary achievements for their exuberant works.
Tisa Bryant works with innovative hybrid formats, including essays, prose poetry, cinematic novels, and ekphrastic writing. She explores the relationships between artist, art, and viewer with a focus on ethnicity, sexuality, identity, and myth. She wrote Unexplained Presence and Tzimmes, and is co-editor of War Diaries, an anthology of black gay male desire and survival, which was nominated Best LGBTQ anthology by the LAMBDA Literary Awards. She is a faculty member at California Institute of the Arts.
Multi-talented Thomas Sayers Ellis is a poet, photographer, and co-founder of The Dark Room Collective. “The fine and noble tradition of protest poetry is in safe, strong hands with this latest collection,” wrote the New York Journal of Books about Ellis’ recently published SKIN, INC.: Identity Repair Poems. Ellis is the author of The Maverick Room, which won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award, and was a recipient of a Mrs. Giles Whiting Writers’ Award. Ellis is an assistant professor at Sarah Lawrence College, a faculty member of the Lesley University, and a Caven Canem faculty member.
With his story-telling poetry, Major Jackson celebrates the complexities and subtleties of the American landscape, its people, and their environment. He has written several collections of poetry, including Hoops and Leaving Saturn, which was winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Jackson is a professor at University of Vermont and a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. He serves as the poetry editor of the Harvard Review.
John Keene explores identity and its many facets, from race and social class to sexuality, with the rhythmic craft of his poetry and prose. He is the author of the award-winning novel Annotations and of the poetry collection Seismosis. He has received many fellowships, a 2005 Whiting Foundation Award in Fiction and Poetry, and a 2008 Fellowship for Distinguished First Collection from the inaugural Pan-African Literary Forum. He is an associate professor of English and African American studies at Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, Northwestern University.
Tracy K. Smith’s poetry questions love, loss, and social justice, as well as examining God, death, and the impact people have on each other and the planet. She has written three books of poetry: Life on Mars, Duende, and The Body's Question. Smith is the recipient of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a 2004 Rona Jaffe Writers Award, a 2005 Whiting Award, and the 2006 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets, and was Literature protégé of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. She is an assistant professor or creative writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.
With Southern wit and direct eloquence, poet Sharan Strange describes the beauty and pain of life, family, neighborhood, childhood wonder, and innocence lost. Strange, a co-founder of The Dark Room Collective and a contributing and advisory editor of Callaloo, is the author of Ash, a collection of poems. Strange has been a writer-in-residence at Fisk University, Spelman College, the University of California at Davis, and the California Institute of the Arts. She is a professor of English at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga.
Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey writes about the working-class in the South, showing personal journeys in the landscape of history, and drawing on her own experiences for enrichment. Her first collection of poetry, Domestic Work, was the winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and won both the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. Trethewey’s other works include Native Guard, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Bellocq's Ophelia and a book of creative non-fiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She is a professor of English at Emory University.
Kevin Young draws inspiration from African American music and American history in his poetic tales full of sorrow and insight. The New York Times Book Review described his book Black Maria as “highly entertaining, often dazzling, and, as book reviewers like to say—but rarely about contemporary poetry—compulsively readable.” Young has written seven books of poetry, including Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebellion and Jelly Roll: A Blues, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize. He is a professor of creative writing and English, and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.
Moderater Meta DuEwa Jones, Ph.D specializes in poetry of the 20th and 21st centuries, particularly in relation to gender, sexuality, performance, and music. Her book, The Muse is Music: Jazz Poetry From the Harlem Renaissance to Spoken Word, was noted as “an important addition to the growing literature about jazz poetry” by Choice. Jones is co-director of the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies, as well as an associate professor of English and African American studies at University of Texas at Austin.
DATE & TIME: Monday, April 30 at 6:30pm
LOCATION: Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC
TICKETS: $15 adults / $7.50 students
Purchase at the Folger box office, 202.544.7077, or www.folger.edu/poetry
METRO: Capitol South (blue/orange lines), 4 blocks
PARKING: Street parking in neighborhood