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About this poet

Born in 1967, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is the author of three books of poetry: Red Clay Suite (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007); Outlandish Blues (Wesleyan University Press, 2003); and The Gospel of Barbecue (The Kent State University Press, 2000), which was selected by Lucille Clifton for the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize.

Her work has been anthologized in Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, edited by Sheree R. Thomas (Warner Aspect, 2000); Identity lessons: Contemporary Writing About Learning to Be American edited by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan (Penguin Books, 1999); At Our Core: Women Writing About Power edited by Sandra Haldeman Martz (Papier-Mache Press, 1998); and Dark Eros edited by Reginald Martin (St. Martin's Press, 1997).

Jeffers has been a resident at the MacDowell Colony and won awards from the Rona Jaffe Foundation for Women Writers and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for Women. She earned an MFA from the University of Alabama. She now teaches at the University of Oklahoma, where she serves as Associate Professor of English.


Bibliography

Poetry

Red Clay Suite (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007)
Outlandish Blues (Wesleyan University Press, 2003)
The Gospel of Barbecue (The Kent State University Press, 2000)
 

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, Great-Niece of Lord Mansfield, and Her Cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, c. 1779 (by unknown artist)

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
A Black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies...Lord M...calls her Dido, which I suppose is all the name she has. He knows he has been reproached for showing fondness for her...

        From The Diary and Letters of His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson,
        August 1779

Dido moves quickly—
as from the Latin anime.

Breath or soul.
Beside her, the generations-free kin,

a biscuit figurine in pink.
Dido standing in irony—

the lowest are taller here—
Elizabeth should provide

an unkind contrast: pretty, blond,
pale in uncovered places—

but no.
The painter worships the quickened other.

Dido, his coquette of deep-dish
dimples, his careless, bright love.

Forget history.
She's a teenager.

We know what that means.
Cocky, stupid about reality.

No thought of babies—
feathers in her arms.

She might wave them, clearing
dead mothers from the air—

and surely, she's special—
her uncle dressed her with care,

hid her from triangles and seas
outside this walled garden.

Let her be.
Please.

No Dying Mythical Queen
weaving a vivid, troubled skin—

but Dido, full of girlhood,
and Elizabeth reaching

a hand. Behave, cousin,
she begs.

Don't run away from me.

Dido was the great-niece of William Murray, First Earl of Mansfield; as Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, he is responsible for the Somersett ruling (1772), which essentially outlawed slavery in England, though not in the colonies.

Copyright © 2011 by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2011 by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Used with permission of the author.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Born in 1967, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is the author of multiple books of poetry

by this poet

poem

for Billie Holiday

There's fairness in changing blood for septet's
guardian rhythm, the horn blossoming
into cadenza. No good pimp's scowl, his
baby's voice ruined sweet for the duration.

Yes, these predictable fifths. O, the blues
is all about slinging those low tales out
the back door (
poem

for Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784)





                                [amnesiac wood]

[nostrils of girls]	        [who was bought]	        [uncle’s hand]
[guts on the air]	        [who was sold]		[defeated man]
[history’s charnel]	        [i say