Online Reading Group: Olio by Tyehimba Jess

Tuesdays, Feb. 2, 9, and 16

Join us on Tuesdays in February for a three-part discussion of Olio by Tyehimba Jess. Part fact, part fiction, the book 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. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstralize them. It won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and The Midland Society Authors Award in Poetry. The book also received an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Jean Stein Book Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Tyehimba Jess

A Reading and Conversation With Pulitzer-Prize Winner Tyehimba Jess

Tuesday, Feb. 23
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A month-long reading group centered around Jess’s award-winning book Olio culminates in this exciting event, where Jess himself joins the conversation.

A Detroit Native, Jess is described by the Poetry Foundation as “the rare poet who bridges slam and academic poetry.” He earned his MFA from New York University and his BA from the University of Chicago. In addition to Olio, he is the author of the 2005 volume of poetry leadbelly, which chronicles the life of blues musician Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter and won the 2004 National Poetry Series, and African American Pride: Celebrating Our Achievements, Contributions, and Enduring Legacy. Jess is currently an English professor at the College of Staten Island.

Tara Betts

Tara Betts: Black Language and Music

Wednesday, Feb. 17
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Tune in for a riveting lecture on African American poetry and music by poet and scholar Tara Betts. Betts is the author of Arc & Hue and the chapbooks 7 x 7: kwansabas and THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali. A Cave Canem alum, she received her Ph.D. at Binghamton University and her MFA from New England College. Betts has performed her poems across the country and internationally, and her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She has taught writing at Rutgers University, Binghamton University, and the University of Illinois-Chicago. 

The Last Poets

The Last Poets: Abiodun Oyewole, Umar bin Hassan, and Felipe Luciano

Monday, Feb. 22
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Join Lehman College lecturer Hank Williams in conversation with The Last Poets—Abiodun Oyewole, Umar bin Hassan, and Felipe Luciano—and Woodie King Jr., the former head of the New Federal Theater who produced albums featuring two different iterations of The Last Poets in the early 70s. 

Haunting Refrains: Sampling Practice in Black Poetry and Music with Harmony Holiday and Hanif Abdurraqib

Haunting Refrains: Sampling Practice in Black Poetry and Music with Harmony Holiday and Hanif Abdurraqib

Wednesday, Feb. 24
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How is the technique of sampling, which is pervasive in Black music, used in poetry and literature at large? And what is the relationship between sampling practice and free improvisation in both poetry and music? Poets, writers, and cultural critics  Hanif Abdurraqib and  Harmony Holiday  will discuss this, looking at their own work and that of poets whom they admire, as well as music that may help refine and answer these questions. They’ll also read some of their work if time allows.

Flag representing Black and queer/cuir in the Americas

Black Cuir Revolutions: Reflections on Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, and the Bronx

Thursday, Feb. 25
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This panel discussion, organized by Lehman College Professor Sarah Ohmer, celebrates Black History and Women's History Months with perspectives from the American Hemisphere and Global South. Speakers Tanya L Saunders, Ochy Curiel, Juliana Costa, and Grisel Y. Acosta will offer their reflections on being Black and Queer/Cuir in the Americas, focusing on what it means to be revolutionary and how to contribute to current revolutions with Black Queer/Cuir experiences. The event will include a reading and discussion of Audre Lorde’s “Learning from the 60s.” “Palabreando,” an interactive performance hosted by Lyrical Bliss and Bocafloja Quilombo, will follow.

African American Poetry

Black Poetry & Performance: Poems as Songs that 'Send' Us: Considering Selections from 'Black Language & Music' in Kevin Young's African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song

Friday, Feb. 26
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Poet Gwendolyn Brooks, in her 1967 occasional poem “The Chicago Picasso,” observed that: “Art hurts. Art urges voyages-/ and it is easier to stay at home, / the nice beer ready.” This notion invites the consideration of a lyric: Darling, you send me. Written in 1955 by the late singer Sam Cooke and released in 1957, “You Send Me” is timeless in theme and durability. How might a poem ‘send’ us? Leafing through Kevin Young’s repertoire of poets and poems, we’ll situate ‘sending’ as an effect responsive to desire and surrender. Featuring poets Rodney Terich Leonard, Lise Esdaile, Trapeta B. Mayson, and Monnette Sudler.

A literary landmark, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song is the biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period to the present. Calling the book a historic achievement, Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings, said, “Kevin Young has given us the most expansive anthology of African American poetry to date, magnificent in its breadth and scholarly in its depth. Including the well-known and the forgotten, this astonishing collection casts the widest net possible, making it evident that so much of the center of American poetry is Black poetry.”

Sisters in Struggle and Song

Sisters in Struggle and Song: A Reading and Conversation with Mariposa Fernández, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, and Patricia Spears Jones

Tuesday, April 20
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Join New York-based poets Mariposa Fernandez (Bronx), LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs (Harlem), and Patricia Spears Jones (Brooklyn) in celebrating the publication of the Library of America’s history-making anthology, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, edited by Kevin Young, and their place within the Black poetic tradition.