Tyehimba Jess is the author of leadbelly and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Olio. leadbelly was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the "Best Poetry Books of 2005." Jess's second book, Olio, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the 2017 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Poetry, and the 2017 Book Award for Poetry from the Society of Midland Authors. It was also a finalist for the 2016 National Books Critics Circle Award, 2017 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Library Journal called it a "daring collection, which blends forthright, musically acute language with portraiture" and Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, called it "Encyclopedic, ingenious, and abundant" and selected it as one of the five best poetry books of 2016.
Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU alumnus, received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a 2004-2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Jess is also a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill Poetry Slam Team, and won a 2000 – 2001 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry, the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a 2006 Whiting Fellowship. He exhibited his poetry at the 2011 TEDxNashville Conference. Jess is the Poetry and Fiction Editor of the African American Review and is Associate Professor of English at College of Staten Island.
Jess' fiction and poetry have appeared in anthologies such as 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. His poetry has appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Brilliant Corners, Ploughshares, Obsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora, Warpland: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas, Mosaic, American Poetry Review, Indiana Review, Nashville Review and 580 Split.
(Author photo by John Midgley)
Tyehimba Jess...coaxes an astonishingly rich world from the wood and steel scraps of the life he finds before him...Jess is an extraordinarily good poet. Employing an impressive variety of voices and forms, he plays all twelve strings strapped to the box. —David Daniel, Ploughshares
Jess’s work displays a deep sense of cool black consciousness, especially in regard to musicality. He works with an expressive tradition that blends sensibilities of field holler, spiritual encodings, gospel moan and groan, work song cadence, blue notes, and jook joint jazz. Simply put, for Tyehimba Jess, music is serious possibility. —Howard Ramsby II, Sou'wester
- Poetry Foundation with Tyehimba Jess reading “Sissieretta Jones” - A conversation between Tyehimba Jess and Rachel Zucker on Commonplace podcast. - A conversation between Tyehimba Jess and David Naimon on Between the Covers podcast. - A conversation with Tyehimba Jess and F. Douglas Brown on The Missouri Review Soundbooth podcast. - An archive of readings at the Fishouse - Studio A with Tyehimba Jess on WKCR 89.9 FM NY
Reading "Blind Boone's Escape" at Merrimack College:
Reading at Fred Wildlife Refuge in Seattle:
Performing “Another Man Done” as part of the Migration Series Poetry Suite in support of the Museum of Modern Art exhibit "One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North":
Performing “Negro Migration” as part of the Migration Series Poetry Suite in support of the Museum of Modern Art exhibit "One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North":
Reading and discussion for the Pan African Literary Forum at the New School
Arts@UNH interview by Randall Horton:
Reimagining Poetry's Form: lecture presented at the 1st Festival of the New Black Imagination: