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Tyehimba Jess

Born: Detroit, Michigan
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Jess graduated from the University of Chicago and taught at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

Biography: Tyehimba Jess is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. His fiction and poetry have appeared in many journals, as well as anthologies including: Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, Beyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First Century, Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Power Lines: Ten Years of Poetry from Chicago's Guild Complex, Slam: The Art of Performance Poetry. Jess has taught at the Juilliard School, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

  • """Leadbelly"""
  • -- Winner, National Poetry Series, 2004
  • -- Best Poetry Books List, Library Journal, 2005
  • -- Best Poetry Books List, Black Issues Book Review, 2005
  • """Olio"""
  • -- Winner, Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 2017
  • -- Winner, Anisfield-Wolf Award in Poetry
  • -- Poetry Award, Society of Midland Authors
  • -- Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation, Black Caucus of American Library Association
  • -- Finalist for poetry, National Book Critics Circle Award, 2016
  • -- Finalist, PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, 2017
  • -- Finalist, Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, 2017
  • -- Top poetry book of spring, Library Journal, 2016
  • -- Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
  • -- Starred Review, Library Journal

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; History; Non-Fiction; Poetry

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

Leadbelly /
ISBN: 0974635332 OCLC: 58546476

Portrays the life of Huddie Ledbetter by telling the story of this Louisiana native and son of a cotton picker in a series of persona poems. The collection of poetry is divided by titles of Leadbelly's recorded songs: "What kind of soul has man?" "What you gonna do when the world's on fire?" and "The blood done signed your name."

Olio /
ISBN: 1940696208 OCLC: 913572962

"With ambitious manipulations of poetic forms, Tyehimba Jess presents the sweat and story behind America's blues, worksongs and church hymns. Part fact, part fiction, Jess's much anticipated second 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 minstrelize them"--Publisher's website.