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Recorded at the office of the Academy of American Poets, 2015

About this poet

Quraysh Ali Lansana was born September 13, 1964, in the town of Enid, Oklahoma, and received his MFA in creative writing at New York University.

Lansana is the author of mystic turf (Willow Books, 2012); They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems (Third World Press, 2004); Southside Rain (Third World Press, 2000); and the children’s book The Big World (Addison-Wesley, 1999), as well as four poetry chapbooks. He coauthored, with Christopher Stewart, the book The Walmart Republic (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014), and has coedited a number of anthologies, most recently The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015).

In his work, Lansana travels back to his origins in the southwestern United States and takes a look at the politics, contradictions, injustices, and inequalities—in race, ethnicity, and social status—present in what he refers to as “The Walmart Republic.”

In his review of mystic turf, Major Jackson says, “In these poems that lyrically insinuate in brief yet lasting notes, Quraysh Ali Lansana tags the nervous streets, American foothills, domestic rooms, and memories that constitute our bluesy soul, and asks, ‘Why can’t we speak the grace we all avoid?’ We’ve no slipperiness here, just the solid walkings and meditations of a man poised in his life to speak the grace he’s earned and to speak his journey with enormous dignity and artfulness.”

The recipient of the 1999 Henry Blakely Award and the Chicago Black Book Fair’s 2000 Poet of the Year Award, Lansana is the former director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where he was also taught English and creative writing. He is currently a faculty member of the creative writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth MFA creative writing program. He lives in Chicago.


Selected Bibliography

The Walmart Republic, with Christopher Stewart (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014)
mystic turf (Willow Books, 2012)
They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems (Third World Press, 2004)
Southside Rain (Third World Press, 2000)
The Big World (Addison-Wesley, 1999)

male bonding

for Adrian, J., Christopher, Matthew, Greg, Roger, Major & Randall

i want my sons to know
men who smile

i want my sons to know men
who own their imperfections

i want my sons to know
men who listen

i want my sons to know
men who hear hearts, see words

i want my sons to know men
who honor women

i want my sons to know
men who appreciate the arts

i want my sons to know
men who adore their mamas

i want my sons to know men
who aren’t afraid of tears

i want my sons to know
men who respect their fathers

i want my sons to know men
who use fists in self-defense only

i want my sons to know
men who value and dignify men

men who work hard, can’t
spell quit, understand no

i want my sons to know
men who apologize

i want my sons to know men
who have relations with The Divine

men who question everything
men who know humility

i want my sons to know
men who read books

i want my sons to know men
who laugh at themselves

i want my sons to know
men who see possibility

Originally published in reluctant minivan (Living Arts Press, 2014). Used with permission of the author.

Originally published in reluctant minivan (Living Arts Press, 2014). Used with permission of the author.

Quraysh Ali Lansana

Quraysh Ali Lansana

Quraysh Ali Lansana was born September 13, 1964, in the town of Enid, Oklahoma, and received his MFA in creative writing at New York University.

by this poet

poem

okie white men

are a curious herd

never sure if cowboy

or cracker  skin coated

in dust from 1830 or 1921 

hard to tell  they grow

whiter with age

2
poem

perhaps in a sincere gesture of protest
the managing editor decided it best
i welcome the grand imperial wizard
to channel nine, guide him back to
the senior producer’s glass cube
where he would proceed to engage
in heated words with the general
manager, whose robe hung upstairs

poem

Pro-Black doesn’t mean anti-anything.

            El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

 

there are at least twenty-seven
white people i love. i counted.

four from high school, five from
undergraduate years, maybe

three from grad school
(one gay=bonus

2